“You are out of business if you don’t have a prospect.” — Zig Zigler
As a small business owner, you probably don’t need the late author, speaker, and salesman Zig Zigler to tell you this one simple fact: no prospects = no business.
It’s a concept so simple, you understood it from the time you were a little kid with a lemonade stand. If none of your neighbors stopped their cars and got out, you had no chance of making any money, right?
Generating leads is important for every business. The more revenue a company has, the more leads they generate. 82% of companies that have $250,000 or less in annual revenue generate less than 100 leads per month. But only 8% of companies generating $1 billion in annual revenue have less than 100 leads per month.
Chart courtesy of Hubspot
Things have changed a little since the days when a hand-drawn “Lemonade: 50 cents” sign would pull in enough revenue, though. Presumably, your business goals are now bigger than earning enough for some candy or a new bike.
The way you find and qualify leads has to change. And since the world is online, online lead generation has become essential.
Generating leads online is not only important, it’s effective.
Before we get into some strategies that make it easy to take action with your online lead generation, let’s define lead generation and take a look at what kind of leads are important.
What is online lead generation?
Lead generation refers to the process of identifying and cultivating prospective customers, or leads, for your business. Online lead generation, specifically, acquires new leads through online or digital means.
A lead is someone (either an individual or an organization) who has an interest in the product or service you are selling. Lead generation isn’t only about finding these individuals — it’s also about cultivating a relationship with them and stimulating their interest in whatever you have.
Lead generation is an essential part of any marketing funnel. After all, if you never generated any leads, you would never have any business. But if lead generation is a struggle for you, you’re not alone: according to the following graphic (taken from a study by IDG), 61% of marketers reported that generating high quality leads was difficult for their organization.Chart courtesy of Marketo
Many companies didn’t have the financial resources, staff members, or time to carry out effective marketing campaigns, the IDG study showed. And according to a BrightTALK study, things are even worse: 80% of marketers said their lead generation efforts were only slightly effective. Lead generation is important, but it’s not always a walk in the park.
When it comes to online lead generation, there are two important things to know:
- You don’t want just any leads, you want to generate quality leads.
- These days, a big percentage of lead generation happens online.
High quality leads
Not every lead is a good lead. In fact, according to Gleanster Research, only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales. This means you need to identify as many leads as possible, so your percentage of high quality leads will be greater.
To determine what qualifies as a quality lead for your company, figure out your ideal customer profile — who is most likely to buy from you? Don’t be afraid to be a little picky about which leads to pursue. And take a look at your data to figure out what’s working and what is not.
In general, a high quality lead is a lead that is very likely to convert and become a customer.
Courtesy of LeadSquared
The buyer process is changing; the world is online. To reach your leads, your lead generation efforts need to be focused online, too. A good online lead generation campaign will include elements such as website optimization, social media, content marketing, trade shows or live events, PPC (paid per click) ads, webinars, and more.
Ready to take action and ramp up your online lead generation efforts? Here are five ways to do just that.
5 Steps For Generating Online Leads
What is the process of lead generation? Here are 5 areas that can help you generate more (and better!) leads:
- Analyze your competition
- Refine your Instagram strategy
- Optimize your email opt-in form
- Include strong CTA’s on your blog
- Invest in a YouTube channel
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of online lead generation in the previous sections, we’ll dive into how you can effectively generate high-quality leads for your business using the steps listed above. We’ll review each method individually and examine how your business can implement each strategy in order to generate more reliable leads and sales on your products/services.
1) Analyze Your Competition
Professional sports teams spend a lot of time huddled around a television screen, watching film of their opponents. At first glance, this might not seem like the best way to win games. Wouldn’t they be better off in the weight room or on the field, running drills?
No. Because unless they’ve spent time watching footage of the competition, athletes don’t know which drills they should run to beat their competition.
Image courtesy of SEMrush
Similarly, it’s important for you to study your competition. A competitive analysis helps you sneakily find out what your rivals are doing.
And once you know what they’re doing, you can do it better.
So how do you perform a competitive analysis? First, make sure you know who your competitors are. In general, your opponents will be companies that are similar to yours in industry, target audience, and size.
If you’re a startup selling yoga apparel, Lululemon isn’t going to be your competition; not yet. But maybe there are a dozen companies that have around the same number of employees as you, sell high-quality leggings and tank tops, and are targeting the same demographic of people as you. They are your competition.
Once you know who your competition is, check out their marketing strategy. What kinds of content are they focusing on? Take notes on their efforts to attract customers online (content marketing, SEO strategy, social media marketing) and which efforts appear to be working the best.
For instance, maybe a competing company of yours puts out two new blog posts each week and gets hundreds of comments…and maybe you don’t have a blog. That would mean it’s time to start one.
Scoping out the marketing methods of your competition can give you a better sense of the big picture and help you figure out how you can generate leads.
If you know what your competition is doing to improve their online lead generation, you’ll know what you need to do to improve yours.
Take action: Start with something simple and easy, such as keeping an eye on your competitors’ social media accounts and their customers’ complaints. This can help you devise a strategy to resolve those complaints. And then you can easily pull in new leads.
2) Refine Your Instagram Strategy for Greater Online Lead Generation
Instagram is an important tool in any marketing strategy. One billion people use Instagram, and if your brand caters to a younger demographic, this social platform is especially essential for you.
59% of U.S. users are under 30. And 72% of all teens use Instagram every day. Teens have more purchasing power than you may think, too.
Chart courtesy of SproutSocial
To top off those stats, 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram. And over 200 million users visit at least one Instagram business profile daily.
So if you’re using Instagram, you’re already ahead of the game. But to really ramp up your online lead generation, you have to do more than use Instagram… you have to use it the right way.
Take a good, hard look at your Instagram strategy. To generate the maximum number of leads possible, you need to do a few key things.
First of all, include your face! Studies have shown that photos with faces are 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more likely to receive comments than photos without a face. Posting photos of yourself or your employees will result in more engagement and more leads.
Second, make sure your bio (in your profile) is top-notch. You can only share one clickable link, so think carefully about what you want it to be (you can always change it later). What link would bring you the most leads? Maybe a link to a landing page on your website that’s customized for a discount you’re running right now?
Don’t forget to send people to this link by mentioning it in your posts or Instagram stories. And make sure your bio also has an on-brand profile photo. Clearly explain what you do and give viewers an action to complete. Such as “click below” or, as online fashion retailer ASOS says, “Tag your looks #AsSeenOnMe to get featured”.
And third, don’t forget to track what’s working and what’s not so your lead gen can become even better. You can keep an eye on your Instagram metrics by using a tool such as bit.ly to track stats such as clicks to the link in your bio.
Take action: Set up a business Instagram account and start mapping out a strategy. To improve your lead gen, make sure your strategy includes plenty of photos with faces, create an intriguing bio with a relevant link, and then monitor what’s going on.
3) Optimize Your Email Opt-in Form
When it comes to email marketing, you’ve already won half the battle. After all, if someone has agreed to let you email them, that means they’re already curious about what you do. The only remaining hurdle is creating a strong call-to-action that will convert this lead into a customer. Piece of cake!
89% of marketers say email is their most-used channel for generating leads. Your competition is using email, too, so optimize your email efforts and make them the best they can be.
One good way to improve your online lead generation through email is to never, ever mention the word “spam.” Many brands include a line at the bottom of an email sign-up form that says something like, “We promise to never spam you.” A study from Michael Aagard, though, showed that this actually reduces conversions by 18%.
What can you say instead? Opt for something along the lines of, “We value your privacy and will never share your information.” Whatever you do, though, don’t suggest that spam might be an option.
To make your email opt-in form even more likely to convert, add some arrows pointing to it. You can also take a more subtle route and simply add a photo of a person, positioned where the person is “looking” at the form. This will naturally lead your website’s visitor’s eyes to the form, too.
Take action: Optimize the email opt-in form on your website to get more leads via email. Revamp your vocabulary and don’t include the word “spam.”
4) Include Strong CTA’s on Your Blog to Increase Online Lead Generation
An SEO-optimized blog from a high-quality website that puts out consistent posts can help attract high-quality leads. Once you have those leads on your site, though, you don’t want them to just read your blog post and then leave.
Instead, you want them to stick around and hopefully opt-in to your email newsletter or a free resource. And one way to do that is by including good calls to action.
Blogs are an excellent way to improve your online lead generation because blog posts are a simple and natural place to include calls to action. As you might guess, a call to action is designed to prompt someone into taking action.
Inbound links (a hyperlink back to your site from another website) are a great place to slip in strong CTA’s. For instance, instead of just saying “visit Mark’s website,” try, “click here to download Mark’s free handy resource.” Make it easy for the reader to say yes.
Courtesy of Optin Monster
How exactly does one write a strong, persuasive, and effective call to action? There are psychological tricks behind getting people to say yes that you can slip into your CTA’s. Using the word “because” is an important one. Normally the word “because” is followed by information, and people like to have a reason. Reasons help inform their decisions.
Giving people something for free is another way to get a yes. Many companies offer a free resource to their blog’s visitors. If you’re a fitness company, this could be a short five-page eBook with strategies to help lose weight. People who download this free resource will be more likely to purchase from you later, because in a way, they’re now indebted to you.
Try using the foot-in-the-door technique: ask for a little yes first, and then gradually ramp things up. If you get a small commitment from someone (such as answering a survey question), you can continue asking for more, and there’s a greater chance you’ll get whatever you ask for. Online lead generation can be increased with these techniques for persuasive copywriting.
Here are some other words and phrases to use on your landing page and in your blog:
- Get started (this makes it sound like your visitor will be able to take action and change after just one click)
- Sign up free (the word “free” always boosts conversion rates!)
- Join us today (everyone wants to be part of something)
- Learn more (this shows people there is no commitment necessary yet)
- Shop now (again, this is effective because you’re not asking people to buy yet — just to take a look)
- Schedule a visit (send them to a contact form when they click this)
- Act now (creating a sense of urgency spurs people to click)
- Don’t miss out (no one wants to miss out on what everyone else has)
A good call to action is short and to the point; it clearly tells your reader what to do. It’s overwhelmingly persuasive without being too pushy. Writing a good call to action is an art form, but once mastered, it can do wonders for your online lead generation.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Your CTA can be hyper-customized to stay on-brand. For instance, Uber’s CTA is “Start riding with Uber,” and Panthera (an organization dedicated to the conservation of wild cats) uses the phrase, “Join the pride today.”
In addition to using calls to action within your blog post, you can add additional calls to action on your website’s header, footer, or sidebar. These CTA’s will be easily visible while your readers are perusing your blog.
If writing persuasive copy — or any kind of copy at all — is a struggle for you, hire a content writer to produce consistent posts. The financial investment will be well worth it.
Take action: If you don’t have a blog, create one! Hire a writer to help you get posts out on time. If you do have a blog, read back through your old posts and make sure they include good calls to action; if they don’t, add them. Brainstorm a list of words and phrases that align with your brand to use in writing strong calls to action moving forward.
5) Invest in a YouTube channel
When you think about strategies to improve your online lead generation, you may not think of a YouTube channel… but YouTube is a fantastic way to generate leads.
You probably know by now that video marketing has been aggressively progressing over the last few years. As a matter of fact, Cisco forecasted that by the year 2022, global video traffic will make up to over 80% of all web traffic. In another report, it was stated that there was a 17% increase in video content usage in 2018. This translates to users watching over 90 minutes of videos everyday.
However, when it comes to small businesses, only 9% of SMB’s in the U.S. even have a YouTube channel. If you’re among that second statistic, now is the time to start one!
For small businesses that may not have top-notch video production capabilities, there are two choices: outsource the content creation, or remember that it’s okay to keep things simple. As long as your videos provide excellent and in-depth information or entertainment, you can get away without having expensive video equipment. Let’s talk about how.
Remember how we learned to craft a strong call to action for your blog post? CTA’s are important for YouTube videos, too.
YouTube allows you to add a card to videos with a link. You may have seen this feature before while watching videos yourself: as the video winds down, a smaller image appears on the screen, inviting you to watch another video or head to the company’s website.
For example, Wong Fu Productions uses a card to send people to their Shopify.
Courtesy of Social Media Examiner
Making a card is simple… go to the video manager within your channel, edit a video, and select “cards.” From there, things are pretty self-explanatory.
In addition to CTA’s, you can generate leads on YouTube by using SEO keywords. Put extra detail into your video’s description to help it get picked up by Google and YouTube searches. Include multiple versions of keyword phrases and a link to your website in the description.
What kind of content should you produce? Rival IQ did a case study on Cupcake Jemma, the YouTube channel of Crumbs and Doilies, a bakery in London. Cupcake Jemma’s channel makes recipe and how-to cooking videos, and it’s racked up over a million subscribers.
Cupcake Jemma’s helpful videos provide something of value to her viewers, and you can bet that anyone who watches these delicious videos will take a detour to Crumbs and Doilies if they’re ever in London. Cupcake Jemma also leaves a link to her merchandise in the description of every video. YouTube isn’t just good for generating leads — it can even help you convert them.
YouTube videos are a good conversation piece to share on social media, either as a post or as a Facebook ad. Just make sure to capture your viewer’s attention immediately: 47% of the value of Facebook ads happens in the first three seconds.
Chart courtesy of Sprout Social
Don’t overlook YouTube ads, either. They have the highest click-through rate of all digital ad formats, so they’re a great tool for online lead generation.
YouTube videos provide a way for you to generate lots of leads with only a small amount of work.
Take action: Start a YouTube channel and begin producing videos. Before uploading a video, ask yourself these three questions:
- Is the content of this video valuable to my viewers?
- Have I included a CTA?
- Is the description optimized for SEO?
If you answer yes to all of those questions, upload your video, share it on social media, and watch the leads roll in.
The road to online lead generation
If you weren’t already, then you’re now well on your way down the path to online lead generation. We’ve given you some great tools, tips, content advice, and more to help make your website, emails, blog, and social media a winning online lead generation strategy.
Want more advice or help from us? No problem! We’d love to help. Just drop us a line at 404-596-7925 or contact us here.