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.
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.