The generation and management of leads is an inbound marketing process. Inbound marketing is all about focusing on internal marketing tactics such as content marketing, social media marketing, blog posts, video content, search engine optimization and more — all meant to draw in customers and promote interest in your products and services. No matter what your business is providing to the customers, you will generate the best sales results with strategic inbound marketing tactics.
Management of leads bridges the gap between generating the leads and closing the sales. This is a customer relationship management strategy that involves identifying what the potential customer is interested in, educating them about your product or service, and maintaining an open line of communication that ideally ends in a sale. It is essential that businesses follow an organized lead management process that can accompany the lead generation strategies. Performing this task can improve the results that are coming from leads and also it will ultimately contribute towards more sales. Many businesses learn how to generate leads but do not manage those leads correctly, which then causes a loss of sale.
So, what should a business do to correctly generate, and then manage, quality leads? Follow these 6 steps to create an effective lead generation funnel.
1. Identify your target audience
This step is the first and arguably the most crucial one. This step identifies who your ideal potential buyers are. Who do you want to sell your products and services to? This is when you should sit down with your leadership team to identify these customers. Your marketing team should understand who these buyers are and what are the personas that they are presenting. This will
better help you understand what a potential customer wants and needs. The persona that is associated with each client or customer can be carved out by the demographics, behavior and motivation.
• Demographics are a way to break down your target audience into subcategories. Some questions you should think about are: Where do your ideal customers reside? What is the age, gender, income level or education level of your customer? These are some basic demographic categories. You can also break these down into very specific categories, such as the industry they work in, marital status, what types of foods they eat, hobbies, and more. Tackling all these questions proves to be a big advantage for generating leads that will result in sales, helping in the growth rate of the business.
• Customer behavior is another important aspect to consider in the process of identifying your audience. Although this can seem extremely difficult to identify, it’s equally important as any other persona-building identifier. You’ll want to understand how your ideal customer behaves. Do they shop online or in-store? Do they like to be the first to try a new trend? Do they share their favorites with friends and family? And you also need to know how your current customers interact with your business. How did they find your business? By blogs or written articles about your services? Or by searching for your company or business on the internet? These things are important to understand for a healthy client and customer relationship.
• The next important thing is the customer’s motivation. Normally, people don’t want to just buy products or services. They are looking to solve a problem. What can your business offer these customers? How can you position your company to help its clients? You need to know a customer’s why in order to correctly help solve and/or fix these problems. Using these key identifiers to build your buyer personas is a MUST in your marketing strategy. Understanding your customers can have a huge impact on the sales you secure from the leads you’ve generated.
2. Optimize your website and create content using tools such as landing pages to market to your target audience.
Once you’ve identified who you’re targeting with your marketing, you should create specific content that will attract those audiences. At this point in the lead cycle, businesses should have figured out why their audience wants or needs their products/services (remember, you need to address the specific problem a customer may be looking to solve), and can position themselves as the ideal problem-solvers. Landing pages that link back to your website are a fantastic tool for selling your business in an easy-to-follow format, allowing customers to understand what your specialties are and how those specialties can help them.
To build effective content, you’ll need to create a content marketing strategy. Content marketing helps the buyers at every stage throughout the marketing funnel. If you create a strategy, it helps keep messaging consistent with your business’s core values and mission, and allows you to creatively distribute those messages. This strategy should extend to your landing pages, where many potential customers will experience your content for the first time.
Before your landing page goes live, it’s critical to test with multiple calls-to-action. This step is not to be missed – it can change the way your entire campaign functions. Ensure that you do not create links to external pages — no social media links or buttons unless you’re an eCommerce brand. It’s important to note that a fundamental part of using these tools is to track where the leads are coming from (using website analytics) in order to effectively generate the content that your customers are searching for. Keep this in mind for each step in your lead generation campaign creation.
Many times you’ll find that businesses place their premium offers beside a lead capturing form on a landing page customers find through social media. The form can have an attractive offer such as free estimates, ebooks, a free webinar series, or other resources. These offers help in gaining traffic and converting leads to sales. The lead generation forms can help in generating leads and gather the data and information about a customer that can be used in the future to contact potential clients with new product info, updates, newsletters and more — all to secure more effective sales. Use tracking tokens along with marketable emails and the social media campaigns and this will lead you to know about the behavior and interaction of individuals with the content that you are putting up.
3. Determine your “workflow.”
This is where you decide your workflow. What will happen when the content you’ve created is launched into your lead generation campaign and potential customers submit a contact form? Will the contact information go directly into your customer relationship management (CRM) software? Will your sales team also receive an email with the customer’s information? Will you set up text message (SMS) alerts? This step is crucial in ensuring that the leads you’ve worked so hard to generate don’t fall through the cracks. This also ensures the potential clients don’t have to wait more than 24 hours to be contacted. You need to create a system and process that is flawless.
4. Decide which online lead generation strategies you will employ to drive traffic
There are multiple methods to generate leads online. You may choose internal marketing strategies, relying on your marketing team to create successful search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), or email marketing campaigns — or a combination of all of these. You may decide that you’d reach your target audience in a better way through external channels, by establishing an affiliate network to bring leads in. Or you may need to employ both internal marketing strategies as well as external strategies to best reach your goals. We’ll expand on these strategies further in the coming pages to help you better understand your options.
5. Test. Test. And test again
You absolutely must test your campaigns at this point. This is because if something is broken along the way, you can easily fix it before your campaigns go live. You will gain insight into the customer’s journey and you will ensure that your methods are working correctly. You’ll want to create a “dummy” lead to input into your lead contact form. Check to be sure the contact information is going where it needs to go, reaching any email addresses or CRM software it’s supposed to. This is where you validate your leads. When testing for validation you’re looking to make sure the data provided by the user or lead is accurate. There are many data providers that will validate the name, phone and email in real time. Check to be sure the 3rd party application you choose will validate that the name, address, phone number, etc. is real and belongs to the person inputting their information. If something drops off, you’ll know now, rather than when you’re losing a real potential customer.
6. Launch your campaign
You’re ready to launch! This is what you’ve been working toward. This step should address the who, when and how much. Who on your team is going to handle the leads, when you will begin your campaign and how long will it run, and how much you will budget for the campaign.
7. Measure and optimize
Measuring how well your campaign is performing is essential to the success of your lead generation campaign. Adopting lead scoring tactics will help in identifying the nature of the leads that are coming to buy your products or services. Potential factors that are included in determining the score of the leads are demographics and behavior of the people or the individuals looking at your business. You’ll determine how much of a “fit” the potential client is with your brand. This information is effective in understanding the qualifying criteria for the leads you will want your team to spend their valuable time on. You may want your rookies or new hires to spend their time working the lower scored leads and leave the high scored leads to your superstars. You can score leads from cold to warm to hot. Rookies work the colder leads while senior team members get the hot leads — because the higher the score of the lead, the higher the chance that lead is going to convert itself into a sale. You’ll also use analytics tools to determine click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, cost per customer and more to measure the success of your campaign.
Once you measure the performance of your campaign, you will want to optimize based on the results. You’ll see what’s working and what’s not working and make any necessary changes to help your campaign perform better. Optimization is a constant in your lead generation efforts — some tactics that once worked well will no longer work, and you’ll need to stay vigilant in optimizing your campaigns for optimal performance. This helps ensure you’re not wasting precious time and resources.
8. Nurture those leads!
The final step in your lead generation and management process is to nurture your leads. Lead nurturing is the process of creating relationships with the leads at the early life stages of the marketing funnel, and also through each stage that a lead passes through until becoming a customer. Lead nurturing campaigns are run to maintain relationships with the customers from their initial contact with your business through the time they become a customer. Through delivering content that addresses the concerns of your customers and responds to their interests, you will effectively introduce solutions to their problems and pave the way to delivering options that contribute to long-term consumer partnerships and revenue.
You may choose to use a marketing automation program to help you efficiently nurture leads.. 57% of vendors regard lead nurturing to be one of the content management program’s most critical components. While growing a company, it’s important to use automated tools to cultivate the leads and ensure that you reach your customers throughout every stage of the purchasing process. Studies show that businesses make 50% more revenue at a reduced expense of 33% when they focus on lead nurturing. This implies that the ROI is much higher if the company concentrates on nurturing, which is why lead nurturing is extremely important as part of your online lead generation plan. The time needed for the lead to be nurtured is well worth it, due to the high ROI.
Once a lead enters your system, your sales team has to manage the information it has gathered from the lead. You should track where the leads are converting – TOFU (top of the funnel), MOFU (middle of the funnel), or BOFU (bottom of the funnel). TOFU buyers are among the widest audience you’ll have — these buyers are just recently aware of a problem they’re seeking a solution for, are beginning their research and hence, they’re the least likely to convert. MOFU buyers are your target audience – they may already know about your product or service, your brand and may even already be a lead. BOFU buyers are in the decision-making stage. These are your most valuable leads, and ideally you’d have already established a relationship with them through the other stages in their customer journey.
While determining your nurturing practices, you’ll also need to consider that the sales cycle for your potential customers is different depending on the product or service you offer. For example, many customers shopping for a new car begin their research 3-6 months before they are actually ready to buy. With sales funnels prolonging, customers becoming more autonomous and life span diminishing, the demand for pragmatic, successful lead nurturing continues to expand. Since these clients will stay in the sales cycle for a longer period of time, that means you’ll likely need to communicate with them multiple times. Which brings us to communication channels.
How will you communicate with your leads? The communication channels you choose should allow you to interact with your potential customers in ways they prefer. Some prefer phone calls while others will interact better with email or SMS. You can determine these preferences by giving your leads the option to choose and respecting those choices.
A very important element of lead nurturing, engagement details how you will engage your customers through your chosen communication channels. For example, you may choose to send a coupon via SMS, or you may host a contest on social media, or you may send a rebate via email. If you keep the lead engaged through your sales cycle, you’ll continuously move them to the goal line and score that sale. Also a part of nurturing your lead, A/B testing is the process of comparing two marketing assets to determine performance. This is relevant because your communications must be constantly fine-tuned in order to achieve top performance. Many marketing automation platforms have A/B testing built into the system. This helps you understand how well or how poorly your communication channels are performing, and then tweak to improve.
Some leads respond well to communications such as free e-books related to your industry or periodic newsletters sent to their inbox. These methods can be effective in moving a lead down your funnel. Creating catchy content for these lead nurturing campaigns is a must, as ideally they are going to convert themselves into a sale in the future. Educating and demonstrating your services to potential customers is an integral part of all of the campaigns that the business is going to run. The goal of the business, in the end, should be to convert these leads into marketable sales. The content that is to be shared should have a maintained content map that will help in determining the type of content that is going to be published. Your sales team should be personal contact with the potential client to build a friendly relationship with them.
Do include a relevant call to action in every piece of content that is going to be delivered to the customer. Remember that nurturing is never about selling right away. Rather it is about encouraging true dedication and sharing your company’s core values and mission to your potential customers, beginning a hopefully long-lasting relationship. This is the cornerstone of a good lead management program.communication channels you’re employing. At this point, you’re ready to get the hot leads to your top salespeople. Make sure that the marketing team is providing correct and consistent information regarding the lead that is being generated, which helps maintain consistency between the team and the customer. Ensure that the research team of marketers is also researching the information regarding each lead proficiently so that further communication with the lead can be done by the means of whichever communication channels you’ve chosen to employ.