3 Best Practices for Online Lead Generation

Lead generation is a popular phrase in modern sales and marketing, and justifiably so. A number of traditional techniques such as cold phone calls or creative advertising can be used to focus interest and draw attention to a company’s products and services. Wrap a strong company or brand around that attention and interest and you have leads to pursue. Leads are the lifeblood in providing a continuous supply of new business to a company, as any sales manager can attest to.

Sales Funnel

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Cold calls and advertising can only reach a limited number of people. Many businesses hope (and expect) that their websites and social media accounts will expand their exposure and gather a greater number of leads for their sales pipelines. This can happen, but online leads are different than those gathered by traditional lead generation practices.

In the online world, interest is generally more focused towards your website and its content since the majority of online visitors are unfamiliar with you and your company. Many visitors don’t know you or care about you much – they want to check out your stuff, for a variety of reasons. Online interest in your website, blog or social media posts is not the same as successfully calling a business, asking some questions and getting an appointment. Initial online interest is not enough to take to the bank since most of these leads are not yet ready–to-buy.

1) Manage and Qualify Leads through Inbound Marketing

If most of the people who first visit your website are not yet ready to buy, how do you identify those that will likely buy later? This challenge is handled effectively by the methods within a structured inbound marketing approach. This approach will manage your website visitors and nurture many to a point where they are actual qualified leads, ready-to-buy. You need a process to manage it all – something with rules, structure and a degree of automation to manage your online traffic efficiently and effectively. Marketing automation is a suite of tools designed specifically for these purposes.

2) Assist the Buyer’s Journey

The online visitor is a different buyer than the traditional buyer of yesterday. The Internet has empowered modern buyers to inquire and buy on their own terms. People are less influenced by disruptive advertising and pressured sales tactics. We all do online research of the products and services we are interested in, checking out websites and online resources until we reach a point of interest and trust to engage with a vendor. This process is described, fittingly, as the buyer’s journey. Our job as an online resource is to guide this journey to a point where the buyer is ready to engage with us.

3) Sell to the Right People, at the Right Time

If we try to aggressively (and personally) sell to every website visitor we will run ourselves ragged for a disproportionate rate of return. Website visits and even online inquiries are a bit like a wild west shoot-out; lots of action from many directions and sources. A structured qualification process is needed to identify those that you actually have a chance to do business with. Your sales process is precious, as is your time, so give your sales people a break and give them qualified leads. Let them sell when qualified buyers are ready-to-buy.

Why Marketing Automation?: Eliminate Blind Spots with Smart Lists and Lead Scoring

Your current situation: you have a database with your company’s contacts, leads, including past and potential customers. This database contains a bit of contact information about each one but, have you ever asked yourself: What do you truly know about them? In particular, what do you know about them that is meaningful to your company?

For example, what is their current interest (and degree of interest) in your products/services, and do they have the potential to ever be or should they be considered a qualified lead? These questions might leave you at a bit of a loss.

Lastly, how do you avoid wasting company time on a long list of contacts (by sending out generic bulk emails or cold-calling, for example) that might not be ready to buy, and instead identify and refocus most of your attention on those with the greatest potential?

 

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Credit: iStock / Rawpixel Ltd

 

Forget Cold-Calling:
Use Smart Lists and Lead Scoring to Automatically Gather Meaningful, Actionable Information About Your Contacts’ Interests and Behaviour

Lead Scoring and Smart List are two features offered by many marketing automation platforms that help you to automatically and dynamically collect valuable information about your contacts’ online behaviour (e.g. what they click on, pages they visit from an email you send, forms they fill out etc.) resulting in actionable information for you and your company. Among other things, Lead Scoring and Smart Lists can let you know who is ready to buy, when they are ready to buy, and will provide you with the information you need about a contact’s behaviour and interests so you can tailor the appropriate message to close the deal.

And, if they’re not ready to buy, lead scoring and smart lists are a part of the marketing automation process that will help you (and the marketing automation platform) identify where they are in the buyer’s lifecycle, so those with potential can be moved closer to a sale.

How it Works

What is a Smart List?

A Smart List is a dynamic list of contacts and leads that self-populates and automatically updates over time based on “rules” you assign to it. If and when these “rules” match any of your contact’s or lead’s behaviour, they are added to the smart list. For example, you might include the following “rules” when setting up one of your smart lists: “Contacts in this list: have visited landing page ‘X’ on my site less than a week ago, and have visited my website’s pricing page less than a week ago.” Now, you can watch the list begin to populate with any contacts who have exhibited these behaviours! Depending on your current relationship with a contact or lead who appears on this smart list, their behaviour might indicate to you that they’re a hot lead who deserves more personalized attention. Armed with actionable information you wouldn’t have otherwise that will help you tailor your message (such as: their interests and stage in the buyer’s lifecycle), you might choose to give them a call or send them a personalized email to check-in on them.

Crucially, Smart Lists will keep you updated on: who you should invest your time in, when to act, and what the message should be, helping to increase the likelihood of closing a sale.

What is Lead Scoring?

Lead Scoring is a points-based system that allows you to automatically rank your contacts and leads based on variety of factors, including:

• Fit – How well a lead aligns to your target audience and ideal customer

• Completeness of Contact Information

• Engagement – # of page visits, # of clicks from emails sent to them, # of forms is filled out

• Specific Page Tracking – If they visit a specific page(s) on your website

You can then assign each factor any positive (+) or negative (-) number value you choose; depending on how important each is to you and your business (e.g. +5 for each webpage page visited, or -20 for people not living in Canada). The total is automatically calculated and updated automatically to make up each individual’s lead score.

You might then create a smart list that will only include people (a) with lead scores over a certain number and (b) who have visited your website less than a week ago.

In this way, lead scoring in combination with smart lists can help you keep track of and sort your “top” contacts and leads – helping you to focus your energy, time, and money on those who are most likely to result in a sale.

Eliminate Blind Spots, Waste Fewer Resources, and Make More Sales by Using Lead Scoring and Smart Lists

Both smart lists and lead scoring help to eliminate “blind spots” you might have in regards to your contacts’ and leads’ behaviour. This previously unknown data empowers you and your sales team to make informed marketing decisions that increase sales and waste less time and money.  

Lead scoring and smart lists are just a couple of the powerful features offered by many marketing automation platforms like SharpSpring. Follow the PROSAR Blog to learn more about inbound marketing and marketing automation.

Recommended Related Reading: 

5 Reasons to Choose Marketing Automation for Your Inbound Marketing Business Solution 

How to Find Your Ideal Client

Get Notified with Inbound Marketing

The ABCs of Tone

“Tone” is an abstract but critical concept for marketing. Just like perfect pitch is rare in singing, perfect tone is equally rare. In general, tone refers to how you’re delivering your message to the audience, and it’s important to understand the importance of the right tone. In the end, tone is the reason people keep listening.

While it’s impossible to create a sure-fire formula for the perfect tone every time, there are considerations to improving your tone across all platforms. Just remember ABC and you’ll be well on your way to better marketing.

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Image credit: kadirkaba / iStock / ThinkStock

Audience

As always, the more you know about your audience, the better your marketing message will be. Age, gender, relationship status, and more factors impact what tone will work best. However, do not focus on stereotypes and supposed best practice attempts (especially for groups such as millenials). Research your particular audience segment in depth and, preferably, read content generated by the target you want to hit. That will provide a better understanding of how to tailor your tone to your demographic.

Learn where your audience spends their time, what marketing messages they resonate best with, and the language the audience already uses. Once you do that, your message will go further.

Branding

Your own company’s brand guidelines should influence how you speak in advertising. Depending on the type of product and how you want to position yourself in the market, you could stick to terms like “informative” and “friendly,” or be more detailed about exact wording whenever you discuss the product or service. No matter what you do, keep it consistent throughout the marketing. It’s jarring to encounter wildly different tones within the same company, making consumers less likely to stick with your company.

Make sure your brand guidelines allow for the same general tone to translate across all channels you’re using.

Context

Each media channel out there has its own norms and best practices for effective language. While companies often go for similar messaging but different wording between traditional media channels— shorter, snappy headlines for outdoor and entertainment value for radio— they very frequently they fall flat online.  How often have you seen a tweet copied from Facebook, or a blog post that looks like it comes straight out of a magazine? You should be adjusting your tone to the environment you’re putting it in, which includes how people use the channels.

Learn online media as much as you learn traditional media. You cannot simply copy/paste your traditional marketing tone on the web and expect it to work. Take the time to adjust, especially considering how much of your audience is online.

Remember A, B, C, and you’ll find tone is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Add Your Website to Your Sales Team with these Steps

 

Organizations have come to realize that websites are not static, however many continue to treat their websites as a passive, though pretty, information piece. Your website is always available to anyone with Internet access. Wouldn’t it make sense to treat your website as your virtual salesperson, always at the ready to engage with any viable prospect who browses by.

 

Expect More From Your Website

Is your sales team directed to dress well, talk knowingly about the company, and then walk away from a prospect? I suspect your expectations are much greater. Salespeople are trained to ask questions and learn about the prospect, their goals and pain points, and determine how your company can help them. Then they are trained to ask for the sale. A salesperson must go beyond informing in order to make the sale. Why not include business development as an online goal and add your website to your sales team?

If you already have a well-functioning website that talks about your organization and has plenty of pretty photos and pithy marketing statements, then you may already be doing a decent job of supporting your brand. But that is still wasting what could be your organization’s greatest sales tool. Engaging with your market can certainly start with marketing-oriented positioning statements, along with photos and videos that highlight benefits of dealing with your organization. But that engagement can be moved through your sales funnel with the goal of nurturing a new customer. And that’s where inbound marketing comes into play.

The most effective route would be to subscribe to a structured inbound, or automated marketing software solution. There are many options and some are more suited for a specific size or type of organization, so do your homework. PROSAR deals mainly with SMEs; after our due diligence we partnered with and recommend SharpSpring. Regardless of which software you chose, there are inbound tactics that you can employ to make better use of your website.

 

Some Critical Steps to Make Your Website More Effective

Here are some basic, yet critical, steps to turn your website as an active and productive sales tool:

  • Determine goals and a process for your online sales nurturing
  • Develop a keyword and SEO strategy to guide your content and online efforts
  • Include (and continue to add) relevant and informative information targeted to your primary audience
  • Make sure that your site is accessible and AODA compliant (good for SEO and broadens your audience)
  • Support your online presence and drive website traffic with appropriate social media activity
  • Engage your audience with rich content (images, videos, interviews, infographics, animated presentations, etc.)
  • Provide additional, gated content and value-added resources (gather contact info and permission to contact)
  • Monitor website and online behaviour of your qualified leads
  • Develop automated email workflows to further engage and nurture your qualified leads
  • Determine the specific needs and pain points from your qualified needs, and demonstrate how you can help to address them
  • Include special offers and “sales asks” for leads as they progress through your sales funnel
  • Personal follow-up to gain more detailed information, hone your solution and close the sale (Yes, it typically still requires a person to make the sale.)

These are implemented via a content generation plan including regular blogging, calls-to-action, effective landing pages, dynamic email campaigns, ongoing website monitoring and assessment, and an over-arching strategic plan to guide the whole process. (A process which is structured and manageable with a good software solution.)

 

Make sure your website is accessibility compliant. Avoid significant fines and boost your SEO performance. Learn more now.

How to Find Your Ideal Client

Or, perhaps more to the point, how to make sure your ideal client finds you. All organizations face this issue, and it can be especially challenging for small businesses. But done right, online inbound marketing puts you in the driver’s seat – you just need a roadmap for success.

a smartphone with a maps app overlaid on top of a map with a compass and pen
Oleksiy Mark/iStock/Thinkstock

In the same way that not everyone who walks into your physical “bricks and mortar” store is actually going to be a client, not everyone who visits your website or your social media channels will be a client either. So, how do you drive the real clients to your website? And once you’ve achieved that, how do you find them amid all the other site visitors? Is there a way to not only identify them, but also to separate them out for closer attention? There is… and it involves two terms: Segmentation and Target Marketing.

 

Segmentation and Target Marketing Defined

The online Business Dictionary defines market “Segmentation” as: “The process of defining and subdividing a large homogenous market into clearly identifiable segments having similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics.” This dictionary goes on to say: “Its objective is to design a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment.” Which brings us to our second term…

Target Marketing involves breaking a market into segments and then focusing your marketing efforts on one or a few key segments so you can concentrate on understanding the needs and wants of that particular market intimately. The bottom line is that Target Marketing is about attracting customers who will buy what you’re selling.

 

Who is your Ideal Customer? The Art of Buyer Personas

If you’re going to target your ideal customer, obviously you need to know who that is. Before you try to identify specific people, groups, or organizations, take some time to define your ideal. What characteristics does your target buyer have? Go beyond just demographics such as age, gender, location, marital status, education level, and income bracket. What are some key personality traits that might make them a good fit for your products and services? What might their interests be? What motivates them? What might they be trying to achieve that your offering could help with? The more information you can determine about your ideal customer, the better you will understand them and the more effectively you will be able to tailor and deliver your messaging to them.

Use this information to develop one or more buyer personas. According to SharpSpring, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Be as detailed as you can. Give each persona a name – Frank the Farmer, or Connie the Coffee Connoisseur – and have some fun with personality traits. Done well, buyer personas help to focus your marketing content and hone in on the right audience to reach out to with your message.

 

The Advantage of Online Marketing

Working online using inbound marketing tactics gives you more power over your marketing efforts and outcomes. With an ad in a newspaper or magazine, you have no way to determine who has seen it, nor do you have any way to follow up with those who have. By contrast, online marketing allows you to discern who has seen your banner ad or other digital marketing content. Not only are you able to collect information about people who visit your ad, site, blog, or social media page, but you are also able to track that information over time, use it, and act on it:

  • follow up with a thank you for downloading an article,
  • respond with an email message or an offer, or even,
  • have a complete automated campaign set up that guides your prospect through several steps, providing gradually more detailed and more targeted information about your products and services.

You might start with an ad on social media or in an online publication, then provide a useful checklist that your buyer would find helpful in reaching their goals, and follow that up with a more detailed white paper on a topic they’ve expressed interest in during your interactions. This progression gives you more information about what they are looking for at the same time that you are leading them through your sales process and propelling them towards a buying decision.

 

Multi-faceted Results

If you do the following:

  1. develop strong buyer personas
  2. use these to define a relevant target audience
  3. streamline your online marketing message for this audience
  4. provide progressively more detailed or tailored content to meet the audience’s needs

You will see positive results on a number of different fronts:

  • Efficient use of time and resources
  • Cost effective marketing activities
  • More sales, increased revenues, and improved profit margins
  • Improved customer relationships and happier customers
  • Measurable progress and results throughout the entire customer engagement cycle

 

An important part of the mix is including smart SEO to help attract the right audience. Your content should follow and support your customer’s journey (for all target audiences). As a small business, it can be difficult to set aside the time needed upfront to establish solid buyer personas, to clearly define your target audience, and to create content that will resonate with them. However, experience tells us that these efforts will pay off in spades.

Get Notified With Inbound Marketing

Knowledge is power. This phrase speaks of knowledge as an opportunity to improves one’s potential, reputation and influence. This holds true in the marketing world where the more current and accurate the information we have about our prospects, the higher likelihood we have in conducting some business.

 

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Get Notified

At the core of inbound marketing is the knowledge of your online contact/visitor’s behavior.

This behavior can be as basic as when emails are opened or as exotic as when a visitor returns to your website. The idea here is to respond to these events with immediate efforts to help your contacts advance further with their interest in your company and your products/services. Timing is everything. With the right tools, you can be notified in real-time.

Software tools from SharpSpring do this.

SharpSpring Auto-Notify

Our friends at SharpSpring offer great functionality with their auto-notify features. Identifying return visitors to your website is a foundation feature within SharpSpring and enabling auto-notify will let you know in real-time when this happens.

You can set this up in a number of configurations. Notify when any visitor returns to your website at whatever frequency you specify — be it twice, thrice, or whatever you choose. You can also receive notifications for returns to any specific pages on your website, such as a pricing or promotions page. Perhaps there are specific visitors that you want to be notified about. No problem. The possibilities are limited only by how much info you want in real time to help advance your business online.

Knowledge is Power

Being notified in real-time is an important piece in an inbound marketing strategy, but with what you do with this knowledge comes the real power. A well-timed phone call can extend your contact/visitor’s interest, giving you an opportunity to garner some further engagement with your business.  If your contact is already and established client a well-timed email might be perfect (keeping CASL compliant and not spammy).

A prospect’s interest is gold in the sales process. Timing has always been critical in capitalizing on a prospect’s interest. Don’t leave it to chance. Instead of waiting for the orders to come floating in, power-up your online marketing by being proactive with your contact’s positive behavior.

3 Marketing Lessons I Learned on Stage

With dance recital season upon us, and my free time about to be sucked up by the theatre, I thought I’d pick apart all the marketing skills acquired from over a decade of dancing. While the skills appear worlds apart, they share many of the same principles. Marketing is, at the end of the day, performing for an audience. You have a company vying for the attention of customers, and you want everybody’s eyes on you. Your marketing is how you generate that attention.

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Guillermo Lobo / iStock / ThinkStock

1- Everything Builds

Starting off in beginner classes can be slow, frustrating, and not all that impressive. However, as you stick with it, the movements get more complex. You start to use the technique you’ve built into your body and mind. While all the endless practice seemed pointless at first, now that you’re leagues ahead you can see where all your practice was important.

In marketing, you’re often starting from 0, or close to it. You’re learning basic principles that sound like you can do in your sleep— like S.M.A.R.T. marketing goals— and you often feel like you’re going at a snail’s pace. You want to do the skills you see larger companies implementing.

However, until you learn the basic skills, and practice them until they’re second nature, you won’t be able to perform at the same level as more advanced marketers.

2- You Get What You Give

Dance requires a certain amount of commitment, and not just time wise. Mentally and emotionally, the best dancers lay their heart out on stage. If you start to resent the time commitment and physical toll, then your performances suffer. People who skip practice or only give half of what they’ve got don’t do as well. They get passed up for roles, don’t advance past mediocrity, and generally stay in the shadow of more passionate dancers.

Marketing requires similar commitment. If you don’t put your time into really utilizing the tools to their best advantages, developing a strategy, and generating prime content, then you lose out. Readers can tell when your heart’s not in it. And when they start to notice that, they will simply pass you by.

3- Be a Performer

There is a large debate in dance: is it better to be a performer or technician?

Ideally, you want to be both. The best of the best blend technical perfection with an emotive performance, rendering the audience enthralled because both their hearts and minds are captured. However, most people lean one or the other. A technician will create a masterful display of skill, but will almost always be passed up for the much more emotionally enchanting performer. Somebody who neglects the actual performance will end up with a soulless piece.

Marketing is the same. People are more likely to forgive improper technique than they are to forgive not connecting with the company. Maybe you didn’t hit the suggested practices every time, but you believed in what you produced and it showed. That will get you much farther winning the crowd than forgetting the bottom line of marketing: you want to connect with your audience.