Lead Generation & Lead Nurturing
Effective lead generation requires a strategic approach.
The hunt for the next customer can sometimes feel like a Whack-a-Mole game — a lot of hit and miss punctuated by furious searching for the next sign of a website visitor who’s ready to buy.
For some companies, this looks like an emphasis on cold calling or purchasing email lists. For others, every call to action on the website is a call to become a customer. In either case, these companies are skipping a critical step in the buying process: lead generation.
You can’t have an effective B2B marketing program without developing a robust lead generation strategy. It’s the engine that transforms your website visitors into customers.
What Is Lead Generation?
As HubSpot defines it, a lead is any person who indicates interest in your company's product or service in some way, shape, or form. A lead isn’t just anyone — they aren’t a cold call, they aren’t someone who might become interested, and they aren’t someone who you think of as an ideal customer.
This is a person who has found your company and has started thinking that you might be a good solution to their problem. In one sense, you don’t decide if someone is a lead — they do. Because it’s their interest in you that qualifies them as a lead.
The goal is for a lead to become a customer, but not every lead will do that. Some leads won’t be a good fit for you, or you won’t be a good fit for them. There are lots of reasons why leads don’t convert into customers, which is why it’s essential to keep generating new leads.
And that’s the trick, isn’t it? You’re looking for new leads, but you can’t simply pick them out of the New Lead aisle at the supermarket or take a website visitor and flip their Lead switch.
That’s where lead generation comes in. Lead generation is the Inbound methodology of converting a website visitor into a lead. It’s done by providing the right content to the right person at the right time.
Let’s unpack that.
Who Are You Targeting as Potential Customers?
If lead generation is done by providing the right content to the right person at the right time, then it’s important to be sure you know who the right person is! You don’t want to attract people who will never buy from you, or customers who make life difficult. You want to attract your ideal customers — the ones who love doing business with you and who you love doing business with.
Before your company does marketing of any sort, you have to know who your ideal customer is. Defining that target isn’t enough, though — you also have to understand who your target audience is, how they make buying decisions, and what their pain points are. You can do this by creating buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. A fleshed out persona will guide the content you create so that you’re targeting the right audience and speaking to their greatest concerns.
Every company has their own version of a buyer persona, but they typically include the following kinds of information:
- Relevant demographics
- Pain points and frustrations
- Description of their role
- Decision making inputs
- Common questions and objections
- Other important information to understand your audience
You may have multiple personas as you need to create content for different audiences. Use your buyer personas to inform every piece of content you write, from case studies to social media posts.
Analyze the Gaps in Your Content Marketing
Now that you’ve identified the right audience, let’s identify the right content — or, more specifically, the gaps in your content. These gaps are opportunities for you to create the right content that your audience will love. Once you find these opportunities, you can begin to create content that is specifically designed to generate new leads.
Your customers are on a Buyer’s Journey, and your content paves the way for them to go from visitor to lead to customer. If you have gaps in your content, it’s like a hole in the road. Larger gaps can make it difficult for your audience to keep moving along that Buyer’s Journey. Some may even hop off your path and find a competitor’s, instead.
A content gap analysis can help you identify gaps and weaknesses in your blog content, so that you can nurture your prospects through the marketing funnel more effectively. At Whittington Consulting, we use a five-step content gap analysis:
- Perform a competitor content analysis
- Identify content needed for the buyer’s journey
- Conduct a content audit of existing blog content
- Assess keywords that competitors rank for
- Find the gaps in your current content
Lead Generation Basics
Lead generation occurs during the second stage of the inbound methodology, after you’ve attracted someone as a visitor. You’re now engaging with them by presenting insights and solutions that help them to solve their problem.
Generally, a visitor becomes a lead through the lead generation process. First, the visitor discovers your business through one of your marketing channels such as your website, a blog post, or social media.
That visitor then responds to a call to action (CTA) — they do something that shows interest. This could be subscribing to your blog, downloading some content, registering for a webinar, or any number of possibilities.
The key to generating a lead is to capture their email address (and possibly other information) in exchange for the content they’re requesting. This is the moment when a visitor raises their hand to let you know they have some interest in your business. It’s also the moment when they convert from a visitor to a lead.
A lead’s email address is the most important piece of information to collect. When you have an email address, you can start a more personalized conversation with your lead and deliver content that fits their specific needs and interests.
Often, an email address will be the only piece of information that you ask for, because the perceived value of the content simply isn’t worth giving you more personal information than an email address.
Channels to Use for Generating High Quality Leads
Generating more leads is a B2B marketer’s biggest challenge, with 49% of marketers ranking it as their top priority in 2021. Knowing the best channels for lead generation will help you to identify the right strategy to capture new leads. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective lead generation channels.
Downloadable guides, white papers, and ebooks
One of the most traditional B2B lead generation tools is a downloadable PDF guide or white paper. These guides deliver valuable industry insight or original research, which makes them a low-risk way to get a taste of the content, brand experience, and value you offer. It’s also a good way to get decision makers to trust your brand before they even talk to you.
Checklists and templates
If your company helps customers with important, recurring problems, a print-and-use checklist or template that helps them move forward on the issue will make for a very attractive lead magnet.
Webinars and on-demand videos
If you have an interesting blog post, set of research, or concept that you can present on, consider hosting a webinar or recording a video and presenting it as a B2B lead magnet that customers can access when they provide their information. This format will meet the needs of both visual and auditory learners, as well as people that prefer to learn via face-to-face communication.
An email course is an automated series of emails or PDF downloads dedicated to teaching a prospect about a particular tool or problem over a set period of time. And if you already have marketing automation set up, creating a course can be as simple as creating a series of emails on the same topic. It’s also a great way to stay in contact with your lead!
Committing to a Lead Generation Strategy to Test
And here’s where the rubber meets the road. You understand the value of a lead, the concepts of generating a lead with valuable content, and the channels you can use to generate leads. But how do you put it all together?
As with most things, you want to be strategic about your lead generation, not just tactical. That means understanding where your opportunities lie, and tracking key metrics along the way. Start with the gap analysis you performed earlier and look for gaps that could be filled with lead magnets — content designed to attract and convert new leads.
The lead magnet you choose should support your goals and priorities for the coming quarter or the year. Otherwise, you aren’t helping your sales team to achieve their goals.
Also measure the content you’ve already created to determine how it’s performing. This will give you a clear picture of where you are in relation to your marketing goals — and it gives you a roadmap to follow as you move forward.
Metrics to track include:
- Website traffic. Website visitors become leads, but if you aren’t getting the traffic you need, you’ll have a difficult time generating leads.
- Conversion rates. If you have high website traffic but a low conversion rate, that’s an indication that you’re having trouble getting visitors to take action. Look for ways to improve your calls to action in order to capture more leads.
- New leads and new contacts. Is your lead gen content converting new leads, or only returning leads?
- New customers. This metric is an indication of the quality of your leads. If the leads that you pass along to sales don’t convert to customers, your lead gen content may be attracting the wrong leads.
Lead generation doesn’t need to be like a Whack-a-Mole game. By following these essential guidelines, you can build a lead generation strategy that converts more leads — and higher quality leads, as well.