According to a recent survey of 750 executive decision-makers, nearly 60% cited lead generation as a key issue that their company faces.
Can you say the same thing? If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you could be investing valuable marketing dollars in a strategy that just isn’t working.
A successful lead generation campaign has the capability to transform the way your team turns prospects into paying customers. Yet, it’s no secret that the sales funnel can be narrow, slippery and full of wrong turns.
Today, we’re sharing three common pitfalls that business leaders usually experience as they seek to generate as many new leads as possible. Knowledge and prevention go hand-in-hand, so use these tips to optimize your campaign, improve conversion rates, and build your bottom line.
What is Lead Generation?
Even the most loyal buyers start out as strangers.
It sounds overly simplified, but that’s the basic concept behind lead generation. In short, this is the process of converting anyone who shows interest in your company into a lead that could realistically purchase from you in the near future.
Of course, this transformation doesn’t happen overnight. There are a few different stages in the inbound marketing sphere, so let’s take a look at each one in greater detail.
First, you have to catch their eye in the first place. In the digital marketing realm, this means attracting them to your brand in a variety of methods, including:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Live events
All of the above are known as lead generators. These are the different methods that your digital marketing team uses to attract people to your business. Each one includes different incentives that help encourage a natural and organic connection to your brand.
In other words, it’s the process of allowing people to naturally warm up to your business, rather than appealing to them directly.
Converting Leads to Prospects
Once those initial strangers are pulled into your online content, the next step is to convert them into qualified leads.
There are a few different ways you can do this, but all of them have one thing in common: They all include a Call-to-Action (CTA) that encourages casual visitors to take the next step.
A CTA can take many different forms, including:
- An image to click
- A button to click
- A form to fill out
Once the visitor takes the desired action (i.e. presses the button or completes the online form), then they are taken to a landing page. This is a special web page that usually operates independently of your primary website. It appears when a user clicks on a link displayed on a search engine results page (SERP), marketing email, website link, or online ad.
Here, you can request that they share a little more about themselves in exchange for a special offer or incentive, such as a promotion, discount, or exclusive content. Other types of offers include ebooks, online courses, design templates or anything else that the visitor would consider valuable.
Why does it need to be valuable?
To receive the offer, the visitor will need to share a few personal details, such as their email address. This helps your team establish a database of interested prospects and can help make your marketing efforts more targeted and direct.
As digital marketing platforms continue to grow in size and scale, U.S. consumers are growing weary of sharing their sensitive data to just anyone. Rather, they’re reserving this step for brands that they consider truly relevant and worth the risk, and that’s a select few.
In fact, more than 80% of U.S. adults believe the potential risks of data collection outweigh the benefits they might receive in exchange for sharing their personal information. What does this mean for marketers?
The offer should be good, and the details around how you’ll use the data gathered should be transparent and easy to understand.
Once they’ve found your brand, clicked on your CTA, followed through to your landing page and filled out your form, the customer that was once a stranger is now considered a lead.
Sounds simple, right?
Today’s marketers know that while these steps sound simple in theory, they can actually be more than challenging to execute. The issue? You’re not dealing with machines.
Despite how automated and tech-savvy it may get, digital marketing is still marketing, which means it still revolves around real, human involvement and connection. It also means there is potential for even your best-laid plans to go awry.
Let’s get into a few reasons why this might be the case.
Three Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Lead Generation Campaign
You’ve done everything you thought you should. You created excellent online content and built a sleek-looking and user-friendly website that’s a cinch to navigate.
Then, you created a CTA, set up a form and advertised a can’t-refuse offer on your landing page.
Then, you sat back and waited for the leads to pour in. And, you’re still waiting. What’s going on?
Chances are, you lost track along the way, which is relatively easy to do. Let’s review three of the most common pitfalls you might encounter in your lead generation campaign.
1. Not Having a Dedicated Follow-Up Strategy
Do you have a set system in place that dictates what you’ll do with the information you receive on your landing pages?
The prospect has already received the incentive. They’re holding a discount code, a white paper, online course content, or the promotion that you extended in their direction.
In return, you have their email address, mailing address, or phone number.
Now, the ball’s in your court.
At this juncture, many marketers believe the requisite next step is to send the lead’s contact information over to the sales team. Yet, this isn’t always the best course of action.
Not every lead that comes in will be sales qualified. To be specific, according to research, while 61% of marketers send all incoming leads directly to sales, only 27% of them are actually qualified.
Put simply, a qualified lead is one that could realistically become a paying customer for your business. An unqualified lead, on the other hand, hasn’t yet made that connection. You’re not sure yet if they even need what you’re offering, or if they simply filled out your form and received a discount that they’ll never cash in or use.
Lead nurturing is where you find out the difference.
This is the process of building relationships with your leads and prospects to better understand their needs, wants and preferences. When marketers take this task on, they save the sales team from spinning their wheels and wasting their time reaching out to unqualified leads.
At the same time, they help boost sales and build stronger connections with the customers who are qualified, which can open more doors down the road.
In fact, experts reveal that nurtured leads generate around 20% more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads.
Knowing this, what does your lead nurturing and follow-up strategy look like? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but yours needs to be consistent and well-defined. Let’s review a few proven tactics that work.
1. Follow Up Quickly
If a visitor fills out your form, don’t hesitate to act on that information.
Although not every lead will be qualified and even fewer will turn into a sale, the old adage rings true: You don’t know unless you try.
In this case, it’s smart to try quickly. Industry data shows that a business rep who reaches out within one hour is seven times more likely to qualify a lead than one who waits beyond that timeframe. If the latter sales rep waits 24 hours, the one who acted faster is now 60 times more likely to qualify the same lead.
Perform an analysis to better understand how quickly your marketing team is currently following up on leads. If the answer isn’t clear or consistent, there are a few steps you can take to get on track. These include:
- Dedicating key team members to follow up with leads as soon as they submit an inquiry
- Setting time-sensitive email notifications to appear when a lead fills out a form
- Setting calendar reminders to follow up with leads
2. Say the Right Things
You could follow up at breakneck speed, but if your message turns prospects away, it doesn’t matter if time is on your side.
That’s why it’s so important to craft a compelling and convincing message that can propel your lead nurturing efforts. Whatever you say and however you say it, the primary goals that need to be accomplished are:
- Gaining consumers’ trust
- Sharing more about what your company does (including key differentiators)
- Encouraging the lead to share more about their preferences and pain points
Ultimately, the message you send must go past a catchy email subject. You have to not only pique your lead’s interest, but also keep it. You can conduct A/B testing to compare different messages for efficiency and interest, noting differences in open rates, phone call lengths, and time spent on your site.
One key to opening the conversation and keeping it going? Show empathy to the customer’s situation and look for ways that your business can help. For instance, a few of the top questions to ask include:
- What encouraged you to get in touch with our team?
- What pain points are you currently experiencing at work or home?
- What’s keeping you from realizing all of your goals?
- How do you define success?
These open-ended questions encourage dialogue and allow leads to open up beyond the standard “yes” or “no” inquiries.
3. Keep At It
Don’t get discouraged if you follow up with a customer and get your hopes up, only to wait weeks for any kind of reply.
Remember: The customer journey is multi-faceted. You’ll likely interact with them over myriad touchpoints and it can take time for everything to come to fruition. Moreover, some leads can take weeks before they ever respond to you at all!
Aim to keep your communications persistent, but never teetering on the point of badgering. If phone and email aren’t generating the results you want, you can also try connecting with leads across social media.
2. Not Aligning Sales and Marketing Efforts
Your sales and marketing teams have the ability to form an incredible partnership that can grow your business, improve your outreach efforts and result in a greater number of overall sales.
Yet, at so many companies, these two departments exist and operate in silos.
If this is the case at your organization, it’s time to align them.
According to a recent report, a significant 87% of sales and marketing leaders attribute their critical business growth to collaboration between their sales and marketing teams. There doesn’t need to be a rivalry between these two entities, but rather, a partnership.
When sales and marketing employees work in tandem, they can more effectively nurture leads from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom. In the end, this increases their chance of closing that deal, which benefits all parties.
Another benefit of working together? Most of the time, B2B buyers are not one individual person, but rather, teams. This means there might be a few different people reaching out to your company to learn more about what you do. The more positive touchpoints they can encounter, the better.
There are several different ways you can initiate this alignment. Let’s take a look at a few
One of the most proven tactics is simply to meet together regularly. In addition to weekly sales meetings, there should be also be weekly manager meetings, where leaders from each team can come together to share updates, analyze results, and discuss where they stand on key, shared metrics including:
- Lead generation
- Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Lead-to-buyer conversion rates
- Percent of leads nurtured and worked
Along the way, sales and marketing members can attend industry events and trade shows together to get a better sense of how the other team operates.
Is your digital marketing team attending a tech conference in a few months? Send your sales reps along to learn how they can better position their products to customers in the field. You can also send your marketing team along on sales presentations so they can better understand what happens to a qualified lead ones it leaves their department.
What happens if a lead contacts your marketing team but the recipient gets busy and never follows up? Or, what if a customer reaches out to a sales rep with a question that could be better answered by your marketers?
Operating on separate communication channels can lead to missed connections. Instead, consider setting up a shared team email alias that all parties have access to, as well as a shared calendar, shared templates, and shared reporting tools.
A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform can help centralize and organize all of this data and allow anyone to access it at any time, from anywhere.
3. Applying a Generic Approach Without Testing
Blog posts like these can help.
Yet, at the end of the day, your company is unlike any other one on the market. What works for your neighbor or your industry colleague might not work for you, and that’s OK.
There is no perfect lead generation strategy and you could spend far too long searching for it. Not only are your audience and products unique, but you approach customer pain points in a way that no one else does.
Your business is also at a different stage of growth than the next, and you have different marketing goals, budgets and resources. As such, you’ll need to find the lead generation tactics that work for you, not someone else.
That’s easy enough to say, but how do you do it? Testing is a great place to start.
Almost every aspect of your lead generation plan can be tested, as long as you know the steps to take to do so. Running tests is the only way to truly understand what’s working in your digital marketing campaign, as well as what isn’t.
You can conduct A/B testing to analyze the performance of both your lead generation rates, as well as your conversion rates. Let’s briefly review how this process works.
The concept of A/B testing is relatively straightforward. This is the process of creating two versions of one element and using each version on a different audience sector. Then, you can compare the results against each other.
This means you can test and tweak certain campaign components to see how they affect your number of qualified leads. A few of the ones most commonly tested include:
- Your lead generation campaigns
- Your web copy and online content
- Your email subject lines
- Your email sender aliases
- The time of day that you send your follow-up messages
- Your digital marketing design
- Images on your landing pages or emails
- Form fields and form lengths
For instance, you might send the same email to all of your leads, but change the subject line on half of them. Then, you could compare the open and click-through rates for each one. Or, you could create two different landing page layouts and see which one gets the most traffic.
Ultimately, the version that gets the most favorable response will be the one you use moving forward. In some cases, you might find that simply changing the location of the CTA button on your website can make a world of difference in your lead conversion rates!
How will you gauge which version works the “best”? Before you begin A/B testing, you’ll need to start by establishing a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that you’ll use to measure success.
From there, you can write a hypothesis and estimate which one you think will win out. This is also when you’ll determine the specific audiences that you’ll target with each version. At this time, you can set a timeline for your test, as well as establish which tools you’ll use to carry it out, such as Google Analytics.
In terms of A/B testing, controls are just as important as important as variables. Although you may change one element, there should be other elements of your lead generation tactic that remain the same.
For instance, you may change the subject line of an email, but the content and design in the body should stay the same. This way, you can easily discern specifically which element made the difference.
Get the Most From Your Lead Generation Campaign
You’ve invested time, money and resources into your lead generation campaign. The last thing you want is to realize that your efforts didn’t produce the outcome you deserve.
When someone makes contact with your company, you have an incredible opportunity to turn them into a believer, and a buyer. But first, you have to encourage them to take that first step forward.
A successful lead generation approach helps this movement happen organically, with the customer in the driver’s seat the whole time. By staying smart and avoiding the pitfalls described above, you can make sure you all arrive at the finish line together.
Looking for advice and guidance as you ramp up your campaign? We can help.
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