You have goals for bringing in new leads. As a savvy marketer, you’re focusing on building a system that attracts people to your brand and entices them to become customers. Inbound lead generation is critical to organizations looking to build a true pipeline. Keep reading for tips and guidance on creating, assessing, and improving your strategy for lead generation marketing.
Step 1: Make Sure Your Personas Are Your Top Priority
Whether you’re auditing specific conversion paths, or reviewing the full scope of your lead generation strategy, understanding your personas is critical to your success.
Your personas are not trophies sitting on a shelf to be admired. They are ever-evolving representations of your ideal customers’ pains, needs, and motivations.
Stay Tuned In to Your Target Audience
Start with the buyer persona(s) you are targeting in your lead gen marketing, and ask yourself what that individual wants and needs from you. Every decision you make and every question you ask during your audit should be informed by your personas.
Before you dive into marketing channel performance, content updates, and pipeline review, you need to understand what the current needs are in your market. The number of new contacts you’ve generated, downloads of content marketing collateral, and engagements with emails mean nothing if you aren’t in tune with your target audience.
Relevance is key.
If your leads have dropped recently, is there something in your overall message that no longer resonates with your target audience? Has your target audience changed in some fundamental way that you can identify and adapt to? Has the industry or a specific competitor pivoted in a way that makes your offer no longer as relevant as it was?
Study, adapt, and test to make your strategy as powerful and productive as possible.
Consider a Persona Refresh
If your lead generation strategy isn’t hitting home or performing as well as you thought, you may need to re-engage in persona development.
Your personas are getting smarter and adapting to the availability of information and advancements in your market. There’s always a new tool, new solution, new service that is trying to fill their needs.
If you aren’t confident that your overall message is resonating with the right audience, ask yourself these questions to start realigning:
- What problems does my product/service solve?
- For whom does it solve these problems?
- What are most of my satisfied customers like?
- Are there people in certain industries, job functions, or stages of life that particularly benefit from this product/service?
By answering these questions, you’re beginning to build very basic buyer personas that you should flesh out with more information about your ideal customers.
>> Related Content: How to Build a Buyer Persona—The Quick and Dirty Guide
Perform a Buyer’s Journey Workshop
Once you know who your buyer is, you need to consider how your buyer makes purchasing decisions. This is important for auditing your lead generation strategy as you identify gaps in your current content and messaging and make note of opportunities to fill a specific need for your personas.
In general, buyers go through three phases when making a decision: Awareness, Consideration, and Intent.
- Awareness: At this point, buyers are just beginning their research process and becoming aware of the solutions available to solve their problem, but they’re not ready to buy anything.
- Consideration: Here, the buyer has already identified that he has a problem and needs to solve it. Now, he’s considering his options.
- Intent: By now, your buyer is well versed in the available solutions for her problem and thinks your solution is the right fit (of course, it is!). She’ll want a little more information to solidify this decision.
You can generate leads at all stages of the Buyer’s Journey, but remember the funnel. You’ll attract more leads with awareness-stage offers than intent-stage offers—but that’s okay, because leads from the intent stage are often higher quality.
Does that mean you should only create one type or the other? Of course not! Offering content at all stages of the Buyer’s Journey gives you the opportunity to engage with more potential leads and nurture existing leads into customers.
During your Buyer’s Journey workshop, take notes on content that you may need to create for each stage to help move your leads through those stages.
Review Lead Qualifications
A common mistake marketers make in lead qualification is assuming every action a prospect takes qualifies them as a lead for sales.
One simple action taken by a prospect, like clicking an email or downloading a tip sheet, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ready to buy your product or speak with someone in sales.
Handing those kind of leads over to a sales rep doesn’t instill confidence in your lead gen marketing and won’t be conducive to success for the sales team which is expected to convert those leads into sales.
Remember what you found in your persona research and Buyer’s Journey workshop. Look for ways to gather more information about your contacts that indicates their fit as a potential customer. Rather than qualifying a lead based on the number of link clicks, qualify a lead based on what content they are engaging with through those links.
For example, a SaaS company that sells marketing automation software may use the following information to qualify their leads:
- Current technology used: Asked in a form to gauge what education is needed
- Annual revenue and/or budget: Asked in a form or pulled from company data in your CRM (like HubSpot) to identify if they are a fit for your target deal sizes
- Industry: Asked in a form or tracked through content engagement to identify high value leads based on persona research
- Specific challenges: Asked in a form or tracked through content engagement to identify leads who will see the highest ROI from the solution
- Job title: Asked in a form to identify decision makers
- Number of team members: Asked in a form to qualify them for a specific product or package
Consider updating forms to gather more than just contact information, or creating conversion paths and specific CTAs for tracking engagement on specific topics.
Review Forms for UI/UX and Actual Needs
In reviewing your lead qualification process, you may find you need to update your forms to gather more or different information about your website visitors. It’s important to keep the user experience in mind here and avoid using forms that are too long.
People don’t fill out forms that aren’t worth the effort.
Don’t miss out on conversions—and the key information you need from those conversions—because your forms are too long. The length of the form should only be as long as the perceived value of the offer behind it.
>> Related Content: UX Best Practices for Forms (and Higher Conversions)
Step 2: Clean Up Your Current Content and Make a Plan for Content Marketing Next Steps
A key part of lead generation is limiting distractions for your leads and providing them with reasons to trust your brand as a future vendor or partner. When looking at your lead generation marketing strategy, the content that supports your lead gen system and your prospects’ needs is a big deal.
Audit Conversion Paths for Premium Content
Your lead gen content could be good, even great, but it won’t matter if you don’t have clear paths driving website visitors toward your assets. Conversion paths should include awesome messaging that keeps visitors engaged and wanting more, and clear conversion opportunities like a form, website chat, or phone call. At a bare minimum, your conversion paths should include a call to action, landing page, thank you page, and follow-up email.
For example: A CTA is clicked on a website page for a worksheet that will help the visitor work through a problem they are having. That CTA links to a landing page with a form that redirects to a thank you page with a direct link to the worksheet. That form submission should also trigger a follow-up email with a link to the asset (to be helpful) and a nudge toward the next action you want them to take in their Buyer’s Journey.
When they hit “submit,” your visitor is redirected to a thank you page where they can download the offer. The thank you page may include a secondary offer or additional content to keep the visitor (who is now a lead!) engaged.
Remember to do the following when creating an effective conversion path:
- Ensure the CTA messaging is clear and corresponds to your landing page copy.
- Remove navigation from landing pages to help focus the visitor on why they are on the page.
- Include an image and form or chat bot on the landing page.
- Be brief, include bullet points, and explain the benefits of your offer on the landing page.
- Make sure your thank you page includes exactly what you promised in your CTA and landing page (such as a pdf of a guide) and promotes a next step like a secondary offer to nudge them down your funnel.
- Send a follow-up email that makes it easy for the lead to retrieve the content and that also includes another offer to encourage reconversion.
Analyze CTA Alignment and Placement
One common mistake made in optimizing your site for lead generation is failing to include a clear CTA for the next step on every page.
A call to action guides prospects through your marketing funnel by prompting them to take the next step toward a lead-qualifying action.
Maybe you want to highlight certain sections of your website for a first-time visitor, or offer premium downloadable content to a returning visitor. Or perhaps you want them to learn more about your products or services by seeing a demo or having a conversation with a sales rep.
Every page or landing page on your site should lead the reader to another section with some type of CTA. And you should have a CTA for each stage of the Buyer’s Journey that guides them toward taking the next step. Without a call to action, prospects are less likely to take any action or move forward at all.
Re-Optimize Existing Content
Also known as historical optimization, re-optimizing blog posts, downloadables, landing pages, and website pages you’ve already created is a great way to breathe new lead gen life into assets that may have been gathering dust on your site.
With Google algorithm updates affecting SEO, persona needs changing as your market adapts, the publication of new research, and the ongoing evolution of your brand, change is always in the air.
Audit your existing content for relevance, branding, SEO, and brand positioning on a regular basis. (Want to know how to do this? Check out our blog "What a Marketing Audit Is (and How to Do One)")
Although it’s a good idea to periodically re-optimize all your content, if you’re looking to meet this quarter’s goal and are short on time, you will get the most bang for your buck by focusing on optimizing the pages on your website that get a lot of traffic but have below-average conversion rates.
Once you’ve identified which pages meet these criteria, swap out stale CTAs for new offers, make sure your offers specifically address your persona and the correct stage of the Buyer’s Journey, and tweak conversion path language as much as possible to match what appears on the page. Voila! Better-than-new content.
Give Your Content a Facelift
They say “never judge a book by its cover,” but the fact is, most people do. Because of this, you must design a cover that engages the reader. They are constantly exposed to content. Make sure you stand out from the crowd.
Sometimes, the content is sound and the messaging resonates but the content still falls flat. If you are confident in your existing content, consider updating the visuals. You may need to research accessibility for your audience, test a larger font size, dress up your landing pages, revamp your CTAs, or simplify your email template design.
Repurpose Fan-Favorite Blog Content into a Lead-Generating E-Book
When you write a blog post, it is out there for the whole world to see. Blogs can build your authority within your industry through education and thought leadership, as well as improve your search ranks if you include targeted keywords (as you should). Blogs can serve many purposes, but the one thing they don’t inherently do is generate leads on the spot.
When you create an e-book where blogs of a certain topic are compiled into one comprehensive resource, you can have the ability to put it behind a form to generate leads.
This way, not only can you continue to promote the content after the initial hype has died down, but you can also obtain valuable information from the visitor in exchange for giving them the e-book.
Use Your Blog as a Way to Bring More Traffic to Your Lead Gen Content
Blog content is one of the most common ways marketers attract visitors to their websites. Every blog article addresses a specific problem and its solution. When one of your potential buyers has a problem and searches for help (literally—on Google or another search engine), your blog post may come up as a solution. They click on the result, read the post, and then, because you’re a savvy content marketer, they see a call to action at the end of the post inviting them to download an e-book that dives further into solving the problem.
Go Beyond the E-Book
Whether you call it premium content, gated content, or conversion assets, this content is deemed a cut above blogs, because it is geared toward augmenting your lead gen strategy.
Don’t get stuck in the rut of creating e-books. Give your lead gen content an edge by creating diverse content that truly meets a need for your leads:
- White papers and industry reports
- Live and on-demand webinars
- Templates and worksheets
- Interactive tools and calculators
- Product comparisons
- Lookbooks and spec sheets
- Pricing requests
- Consultation and demo requests
Promote Your Content (Again)
When the timing is right and your content has been updated, it’s time to promote it to your audiences. Ways to do this include:
- Sending the updated version to contacts who downloaded an earlier version via email
- Promoting the content to new contacts in your pipeline who have demonstrated interest in the topic via email
- Adding the content to existing lead nurture programs where it best aligns in the Buyer’s Journey
- Sharing your content as new and improved on your social media accounts, in groups on LinkedIn and Facebook where your target audience spends their time, and through social media ads
- Integrating the updated content into existing pages on your website through CTAs on blog posts, call-outs on website pages, and secondary offers on thank you pages
Brainstorm a Highly Targeted Email Campaign
When you are looking to beef up your lead generation marketing, include email marketing that is very specific. The days of sending broad, untargeted messages are long gone.
Without targeting your audience, your message is more likely to come across as an irrelevant spam message.
You’ve updated your forms or conversation bots to gather better data from your leads. You probably even have an intelligent CRM that helps you organize your lead information. Use that information to segment your leads and identify key groups to target for your campaigns.
If you feel like your message isn’t resonating, consider the audience. Low open and click-through rates are typically a sign that the messaging isn’t hitting home with the audience receiving the emails.
Targeted messages that speak directly to specific personas and their pain points will have more of an impact than messages that focus solely on your products and services. Writing content with specific personas in mind will help zero in on specific interests or pain points that resonate.
Seek Out New Channels
Whoever coined the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” clearly never had a lead gen goal to hit.
Although staying the tried-and-true course has its benefits, marketers looking to grow their databases with qualified prospects should utilize at least as many channels to share their content as their personas are on. This includes standard social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and especially LinkedIn and LinkedIn groups, but depending on your persona, could be expanded to include oft-forgotten networks like Quora and Reddit.
Review sites like G2 Crowd, Capterra, and even Google My Business can be great channels to harness for solidifying your brand and building trust to bring in more leads.
Finding new marketing channels to use goes beyond experimenting with different social media networks.
Look for opportunities to diversify how you are using your existing channels and external outlets. To get your lead conversion opportunities in front of a larger audience, consider adding one of your most popular articles to your email signature or even contacting industry news sources or partners to see if you can get a targeted piece of content in their newsletter. Public relations, partner marketing, and advertising can be great outlets for pushing your lead generation marketing strategy to the next level.
A/B Test and Test Again
For some marketers, hitting a lead goal isn’t about needing new content—it’s about making sure what you have to offer is positioned in the most effective way. This can be especially difficult for newer organizations or companies who are expanding into new markets, who may know less about their personas’ likes and dislikes.
Using A/B testing—in which two slightly different variations of an asset are tested to see which performs best—can help make sure that you identify and use the best positioning possible for each offer. A/B testing the CTAs or messaging on landing pages for lead generation offers can be a fast and easy way to make sure your offer click-through rates are as high as possible.
>> Related Content: 4 Ways to Use the A/B Testing Tools in HubSpot (Plus a Bonus Tip)
Step 3: Monitor Performance of Your Lead Generation Marketing Strategies
All of this work will be hard to justify if you aren’t tracking your performance. Analytics and reporting will not only help you communicate the value of your lead gen strategy, but will also help you optimize and prioritize your marketing activities.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Visitor-to-Lead Conversion Rate
Of the total number of visitors to your site, what percentage are converting to leads you can follow up with later? A successful conversion rate varies depending on a number of factors, but the key question to answer here is how does your current visitor-to-lead conversion rate differ from previous ones?
This seems elementary, but it’s an important metric if you’re going to identify the root cause of your drop in leads.
Answering this question will help you determine if your conversion funnel needs tweaking, or if you simply need to boost the number of visitors coming to your site. Those are, of course, very different processes.
If your number of visitors has dropped but the conversion rate has remained roughly the same, you’re going to want to look into PPC, awareness campaigns, social media outreach, general-purpose content, and other methods of increasing your visitor numbers.
Closely Track Your Landing Page Conversion Rates
The quantity and quality of your landing pages will have a huge impact on the number of leads you bring in. Studies have shown that companies see a huge increase in leads when they build additional conversion paths. In fact, HubSpot reported that increasing the number of landing pages from 10 to 15 has leads to a 55 percent increase in leads on average.
How are your landing pages converting? Are they generating the level of traffic they should, based on solid SEO efforts tied to supporting blogs, active promotion, and referrals? Are visitors able to quickly identify and respond to the call to action? Are the pages focused enough to eliminate unnecessary confusion? Are they short enough to get their message across in the 8-10 seconds your visitors offer?
Get Granular with Your Call-to-Action Conversion Rates
Are the calls to action on your landing pages carrying their fair share of the weight?
An effective call to action is:
- Dynamic and visually appealing
- Focused on a specific persona
- Worded as a solution to your persona’s problem
- Placed strategically on the page
- Constantly measured and optimized
Something as seemingly insignificant as the size or color of the button the visitor needs to click can have a dramatic impact on your call-to-action conversion rates, so these all-important items need to be tested and improved constantly.
Step 4: Give It Time. Don’t Give Up.
Gather Enough Data to Make a Smart Decision on Pivoting or Staying the Course
While some marketers will claim certain strategies to be the best, others will say those same strategies don’t work. The most important thing is to determine the best approach for you.
You can do some research and take advice from others, but the only way to find out what works for you is to try a strategy, and then dig into its success or failure to understand why it worked or why it didn’t. If it wasn’t successful, perhaps it wasn’t executed properly.
Consider factors like timing, audience, design, and copy to A/B test and adjust before simply abandoning a strategy that may have worked with a little more effort.
This audit and improvement exercise shouldn’t be a one-time event. The final tip I’ll share for beefing up your lead gen strategy is this: Never stop optimizing.
Like I mentioned above, your personas, your market, and even your brand is always evolving and it’s your job to make sure your strategy evolves in tandem. As you get into a rhythm of continuous improvement, it will become second nature to test and update your strategy and its corresponding assets on a regular basis.
About the author
Molly Rigatti was formerly an Inbound Marketing Strategist in Charlotte, NC. With the help of her mini Aussie, Remington, she is dedicated to helping businesses reach their goals through inbound marketing and sales enablement campaigns. She's helped businesses in many different industries around the country and enjoys the challenge of staying up-to-date on all things HubSpot. Read more articles by Molly Rigatti.