Marketers are like dragons. We have a penchant for princesses, poetry and press releases. And, we hoard leads like a precious pile of pennies.
Lead generation is, essentially, the name of the game. The whole idea of inbound content marketing is to attract potential leads to a business website and get them to give up a bit of information, like their name and an email address, to access some delicious morsel of content. That content could be a white paper, a calculator, a template, a tool or an e-book; it just has to be something valuable enough that it’s worth a tiny, noble sacrifice.
A lead is someone who has filled in a form on your website, or has initiated contact in some way, such as by calling, using a chatbot or contacting your business on social media. If you can keep track of them, they’re a lead.
You may have heard leads talked about like the food at a particularly unreliable diner, a.k.a. ‘cold’, ‘warm’ and ‘hot’ leads. Some dating advice: don’t ever call anyone a ‘warm lead’ to their face. It won’t end well.
- Cold lead: A lead that is in the system but hasn’t interacted with your site for a while. Maybe they don’t click on your emails anymore. Or, they’re so new that you don’t have enough information to know if they’re a good lead or not.
- Warm lead: A lead that had interacted with your site a few times. They’ve downloaded some offers, they’ve read a blog post or two. They seem keen.
- Hot lead: Call them. Call them now. They want you to. They’ve read your entire website and told all their friends. That might be them at the door now.
Typically, an MQL is a lead that has undergone some sort of further qualification process. This is defined by your business model, and is enforced by your marketing team. It’s up to you to set the criteria.
For example, at Articulate Marketing we define an MQL as: ‘A lead that meets bare minimum automated qualification requirements to send to a sales representative.’ That means we filter all leads through the automated system that we’ve set up on Hubspot, looking for qualifying characteristics, such as location of business or company size.
An SQL is a lead that has been qualified to the point that your marketing team has checked them and flagged that it’s time for a sales person to step in. You know they’re a good fit for your offering and they seem interested in what you have to say.
A hand-raiser is someone who explicitly asks to speak to a member of your sales team. They could be a lead, MQL or SQL. If someone raises their hand they are something of a wild card: they could be a great fit for your business, or they might not be right for you. You’re sales team will need to qualify this lead using the right set of questions, such as the BANT method (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline).
Bought or rented email lists are unlikely to be GDPR compliant, the contacts on them are probably not your target customer and you can do great damage to your authority as a business by using them. If you send marketing emails to people who haven’t explicitly opted in to that contact, then you risk being flagged as a spammer, harming any further ‘ethical’ lead generation tactics you might employ in the future. In short, you’re annoying people. Stop it.
B2B businesses are guilty of either over-stuffing their social media channels, or ignoring them altogether. You need to spend enough time sharing high-quality content (and not just blogs from your own site) and engaging with other people and companies, that you create a consistent brand voice. If people trust you and they like what you’re saying on social media, they’ll arrive at your website ready to convert on an offer.
If you promise something to your site visitors, you had better be ready to deliver on that promise. Your ‘Comprehensive guide to cloud computing’ should not turn out to be a badly formatted two-page PDF about why your company is so amazing at delivering Azure. Your leads will feel cheated. It’s likely they’ll enter your contact database only to go as cold as yesterday’s soup.
Click-bait isn’t necessarily ‘hype’, it’s just promising one thing and delivering something else. Hype like a call-to-action that reads, ‘Get the biggest, best, most amazing template that WILL SHOCK YOU five ways to Sunday!’, can be irritating and off-putting. Don’t try to bamboozle your leads. Instead, tell the truth, be positive and put the work in to deliver offers that will drive leads and value for your readers.
The opposite of over-hyped language is bog-standard, half-arsed (we said it) call-to-action copy. CTAs that convert leads need to be engaging, easy to read and understand, and there’s no room for empty words. Putting ‘click here’ on a button is pure laziness. We’re all guilty of it. So, from today, change things up. Try ‘Tell me more’ or ‘Download the PDF’ or even do something crazy, like ‘DON’T click here.’
Another common fault with the pop-up is the design trickery businesses use to hide the ‘x’ button. We know you want to generate leads but come on. Let’s not be underhanded. Make the option to close the pop-up a straight-forward process.
Whatever form of lead generation you’re using, whether it’s CTAs, buttons, pop-ups or on-page forms, please use the right language for the job – and, for your audience. Don’t follow bogus trends like the latest jargon, slang or off-colour humour.
Did you know that two-thirds of Brits hate when companies use slang in their marketing? The most hated word? Bae.
Businesses need to seize the chance to communicate authentically. #YOLO, right?
Yes, you can have this white paper about Office 365. I just need your name, email address, company name, phone number, last three known addresses, a complete history of your family tree, your cat’s name… you get the idea. People are much more likely to convert on an offer if they have to provide one or two pieces of information. The more valuable the offer, the more you might be able to ask for – such as this marketing assessment, where it’s clear why the information is needed.
If your B2B business uses Hubspot, even better. You can set up a smart landing page form with progressive fields, so that each time a lead converts on one of your offers, you learn something new about them.
Lead generation is like dating. You have to get to know each other before you tie the knot. Only driving site visitors to the contact page or ‘book a meeting’ widget (see what we did there?) will alienate potential leads who aren’t quite ready to make that connection. Some people are happy to hit the ground running; others, want to start slow, maybe with a guide to business grammar.
15. Not providing a variety of options
Don’t give your audience a chance to convert on just one offer. Give them the chance to convert on LOTS of offers! Lead generation leads to lead nurturing. Say that fast three times. The more you can qualify your leads, and the more those leads engage with your content, the better.
This is especially useful if you offer several different services. A lead might have been quite interested in your advice on disaster recover options for SMEs, but they’re very interested in your guide on machine learning. Aim to have several offers that are relevant to what you do as a business and what might interest different members of your target audience.
16. Making things hard for the user
If you’ve successful managed to get a visitor interested in your offer, then make sure it’s as simple and easy for that visitor to get the information.
A lot of the time we see businesses spending a lot of time working on having a beautiful landing page or website, but the execution of the user journey is clunky, slow and convoluted. That’s one of the great benefits with using Hubspot – it couldn’t be easier to enjoy the best of both worlds.
To turn website visitors into leads, first you need website visitors. Sure enough, if you build it, they will eventually come; but, when you’re starting out, it can help to put up a big sign that says, ‘hey, look here!’.
Pay-per-click (PPC) has a place within the inbound methodology. It can kick-start a campaign launch. However, be warned: PPC is a short-term solution. In the long-term, you want to be relying on organic traffic by conducting search engine optimisation (SEO) activities. Why? Because, unless you’ve got a huge budget, paying for every click is unsustainable. Once you stop feeding money into the machine, it’s game over.
Another way to drive potential leads to your site is to take advantage of other forms of media. If you’re launching a new product or service, tell the press about it. Writing an effective press release is its own work (so hire a pro!).
Still, if you do manage to get coverage, not only will you be building authority for your business in advance of people coming to your website, but you can link directly to a conversion point.
Speaking of linking directly, social media offers the unique opportunity to show an audience of followers exactly what you want them to see. You can post your latest blogs and make announcements. You can also curate content from third-parties and link directly to landing pages.
Why not pin a landing page link to the top of your Twitter page?
This is our way of letting you know there’s a way to do referral marketing that isn’t annoying and pushy. If you’ve treated your customers right, they’ll refer people to your site who don’t need to be convinced. You’re already a trustworthy authority. Not only are they open to become leads, they’re looking for a way to give you their contact details. Make it easy for them.
People love a party. If you have an event coming up, get people to sign up to it from your website. That way, you’ll have and idea of how many sandwiches to buy, and you’ll have a boatload of contacts in your database. The event could be a talk or a conference, or, alternatively, you could host something remotely, like a podcast, Q&A or a webinar.
Once you have traffic on your B2B website, what you need next are lead generation tactics. Yes, a website has to look good, but looks aren’t everything. If your site isn’t built around a logic that promotes conversion points, then you’ve created something rather useless.
Remember, you want to convert leads. You don’t want to push a sales message or do something fancy with the graphics just for the sake of it.
To generate more leads, give people options. Those options could include placing a variety of calls to action (CTAs) on different pages; trying out new designs and improving the copy on those CTAs; using on-page forms or newsletter subscriptions; trying out pop-ups or even experimenting with chatbots. The paths to conversion are many.
Not only can your blog benefit your SEO efforts, but it can provide a point of conversion with calls to action. Use CTAs within your blog posts as a non-invasive, relevant nudge towards an offer.
For example, if your blog is about lead generation, you might want to point people towards an offer about landing pages.
Now, we’re not saying multiple column sites are a good look in these modern times, but if you’ve got dead space on your website and you don’t think it would be an eyesore, put a sticky sidebar in there. The sidebar can contain whatever you like. Social sharing buttons, a newsletter subscription box or a call to action all work well.
Put all your highest converting content, landing page links and other high-value offerings in one place. Your resources page contains the cream of the crop. Keep updating it regularly with new links and critical information you want your prospects to read.
Don’t leave your landing page content as a last-minute task. You’re tired, it’s Friday afternoon, you just want to tick it off the list – we get it. The content that works alongside the form you want site visitors to fill in is a taster of the value you are promising. It has to be not just of the same standard as the guide or ebook you’ve slaved over, but of an even higher standard. By putting extra time and effort into landing page content, you are proving beyond a doubt that what you have to say is worth a little bit of data.
You need to create premium content that attracts. One of the best ways to get attention is to say something new, or to say something old in a new way. People are drawn to the opinions of those they trust and, conversely, they’re more inclined to trust those who have an opinion – that is, those who have something valuable to say or offer.
Of course, don’t use unethical marketing tactics or controversy to get clicks. Anything you have to say should be backed up with data, reasonable arguments and authoritative sourcing. Not all opinions are created equal.
We’ve written 101 lead generation tips to be useful. At least one of these points will give you something to think about (at least, we hope). You don’t have to offer something unique to get leads as long as you offer something useful. Try making a template, tool or a calculator. Give your leads homework.
Ultimately, the best lead generation tactic out there is a collective effort to prove your business is trustworthy. Your website has to demonstrate lead generation, your messaging has to align with generating leads, and your strategies have to be built on a foundation of genuine helpfulness.
You must believe that what you’re selling is worth buying (otherwise, why are you selling it?). Any marketing material that you create has to be part of an effort to help people find what they need. Which, naturally, may be exactly what you have to offer.
‘What is a “good” conversion rate?’ is like asking, ‘how long is a piece of string?’ – there’s no definite answer. Studies have shown that conversion rates for landing pages hover between 3 and 5.5 percent depending on the sector. To set your target conversion rates, consider historical data and industry averages, also align your goals with your wider marketing strategy. And, make sure you put a quarterly review process in place to go over these figures and make adjustments.
For example, when we checked in with our own progress, we saw that our landing page form has an average conversion rate of 24.83 percent, which has risen to an average of 31.09 percent in the last six months. We feel pretty chuffed with that! How did we do it? We diligently applied the following tactics.
When you create a multivariant or other form of A/B tested call-to-action (CTA), you are setting up a test to compare different aspects of that CTA and how your audience responds to those variations. That way, you use data from your own site visitors to improve your conversion rates. With a tool like Hubspot, you can add as many variations of a CTA as you need. We vary a number of elements to see how they impact conversion rates, such as:
- Sales copy
- Different offers
- Different shapes and style of CTA
This way you can narrow down which of your calls-to-action work best. Is it the image-heavy one that links to a Sales Playbook? Is it a simple button or hyperlink? Ensure you let tests run long enough to get sufficient data, which, depending on your traffic, may take weeks or even a few months.
In a blog, we suggest putting calls-to-action in the text and at the very end, as well as in a sticky sidebar. The CTA on the sticky sidebar should target a broad audience to ensure a good click rate, as it will be one of your most viewed CTAs. You can always use more targeted offers with your in-line CTAs.
To improve targeting, put a relevant CTA on most, if not all, of the pages on your website. This is where having multiple offers comes in handy! When you have different offers, you can choose a CTA to match the content of the webpage. This helps maximise conversion.
Landing pages are a great place to try out some contextual marketing. Contextual marketing involves personalising your content or using smart content to make a page more relevant to the visitor.
To start trying this out for yourself, A/B test a normal landing page with one that uses some personalisation, for example, start the page with (Hi [first name]). You can also personalize questions on the form to reflect how the visitor got there (email social media etc.). Remember, you only want to change one thing at a time to be 100 percent sure which change increased your conversion. And, as we’ve said before, let your test run for long enough to gather sufficient data. We recommend setting a reminder in your calendar to check the results of your A/B tests.
Have you considered spicing up your landing pages with a gif or video showcasing your offering? Increasingly, businesses are using video as part of their marketing strategy. Wyzowl reports that, in 2019, 87 percent of businesses are exploring video content, up from 63 percent in 2017. And, consumers love video, as demonstrated by YouTube being rated the second most popular media app in the world in 2018.
Video offers another opportunity to A/B test, so you can see if using it gives your landing page that premium feel that persuades your audience to convert.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: optimise everything to align with where the content sits on the buyer’s journey. Clarify who you’re talking to and provide a logical and valuable journey through your website and marketing funnel. Ultimately, you want to delight your audience at every stage, so they evangelise about your business and become your best customers.
Pop-ups must be used sparingly. I’ll say that again for those at the back: pop-ups must be used sparingly. That said, they are a powerful tool for showing off your latest offer or to encourage subscription to your blog. To make a real impact, why not make it a two for one, like in the example below. That way, you can swap out the offer every time you have a new one to promote:
We’ve found success in generating leads by allowing the reader to download the contents of a page as a PDF. How? We include a form or a slide-in pop-up on a few of our blogs. You’d think that since the content is all there ‘for free’, people wouldn’t want to fill in a form. But, we’ve found people love having the option. I’ll take my blog to go, please.
Although you may want all their information at once, you’ll increase conversion when you present people with a shorter form. It helps to use dynamic progressive fields to gather different information about leads every time they convert. To get people to return to your site so they can fill in these forms, encourage leads to return with a clever email strategy. It’s a better experience for your contacts and you’ll see more results over the long term.
If you’re trying to convince a lead to fork over their email address for some quality content, you’ll want to set out your stall properly. It’s difficult to convince leads that your offer is worth reading if the landing page supporting it is dull and unengaging. Instead, communicate what it is that leads will find in your offer, and why it’s useful.
Making sure the copy isn’t boring does not mean exaggerating and overpromising. Get enthusiastic about your offer, by all means, but manage expectations and don’t make it seem like a silver bullet. Leads now come with in-built lie detectors, and they might be turned off and leave the landing page. If they make it to the offer, they’ll be annoyed when it doesn’t match the promises you’ve made.
Your copy should be concise and convincing. Potential customers hate spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical hiccups. With shorter copy, it’s that much more incriminating when you do slip up, so triple-check what you’ve written.
The information you’re requesting should match the value of the offer you’re providing. Be honest with yourself – does that one-page checklist really merit a lead’s phone number? Often, asking for an email, a name and their job title is plenty, and most people are happy to share. If you request too much, you’ll risk sacrificing conversions and raising suspicion.
Your landing page should have one goal – getting people to submit their information in exchange for your offer. Just because a potential lead has made it to the landing page doesn’t mean they’re a captive audience to be bombarded with everything you’ve ever wanted them to know about your business. Keep it simple and make the purpose of the page as clear as possible.
45. Information underload(?)
There’s such a thing as too little information, as well. Make sure that leads know what they need to do in order to get the offer. Minimalist landing pages might look great, but don’t rely on people to puzzle out the process, because if it isn’t obvious they’ll quickly leave the page. Provide a clearly signposted progression for your leads to take.
Like the last two points, this one is all about making the landing page experience as smooth and straightforward as possible. If your website is difficult to navigate and slow to load, even the hottest of leads will quickly go cold. At Articulate, we’re fans of a short description and a simple form to make page speed and ease-of-use a priority.
With over 50 percent of website visits now coming from mobile devices, it’s essential to optimise for different screen sizes. If you don’t, you run the risk of presenting visitors with an impossible-to-navigate landing page. Whether it’s a form covered by a GDPR notice or an outsized heading taking up valuable mobile screen real estate, failing to account for users on other devices will hurt your conversions.
It isn’t one of the most visible pages on your website, but that doesn’t mean that your landing page can get away with being spartan and dull. Make sure it’s stylistically consistent with the rest of your site, and that there aren’t any glaring errors in the code. If you’ve got one, include a picture of the offer you’re pitching. If the landing page looks like an afterthought, leads will think that the offer hasn’t received much attention either.
The lead nurturing doesn’t end once you’ve secured an email address. Forgetting to link your landing page to a thank you page and follow-up email is a huge mistake, yet still people make it. And now, you’ve left users in the lurch – how are they supposed to download the offer you promised? They’ll leave your site disappointed and confused.
Not to mention, if your call-to-action doesn’t lead to the right landing page in the first place, you’ve tripped at the first hurdle. So, check your work, and get someone else to do a test run before you launch an offer.
Making it as easy as possible for leads to share your landing page with their colleagues and peers is a no-brainer. There’s no excuse for failing to include social sharing buttons; they gently suggest that leads spread your offer for you, without being intrusive. And, if they’re not there, visitors might not think to share.
(Side note: Whoa-oh, we’re half way the-re. Whoa-oh! Living on a prayer…)
GDPR compliance isn’t the most thrilling of boxes to tick, but it’s easy to do and the consequences of neglecting it can be serious. If your form doesn’t include data protection text that is compliant with European law, add it now.
Including a visual element, like a mockup of your offer’s ‘cover’, is usually a good idea. Content with accompanying images can get up to 94 percent more views than content without a visual element, so it’s worth doing. It only works if you’ve got a crisp, up-to-date visual to include, though. Featuring an image that’s pixelated or that feels dated will send the same message about the content you’re offering, so quality pictures or illustrations are a must.
Landing pages are designed to capture a lead’s attention and convince them to exchange their information for an offer. If you’ve kept your usual cluster of links in the navigation bar on your landing page, you’re giving visitors an easy way out of the progression you’d like them to take. It’s not about trapping leads (note, yes, everyone knows how to use a back button), but it is about keeping people in a distraction-free zone long enough for them to properly consider your offer.
You’re asking for something from your audience, so you’d better be giving them something of equal value in return. Premium content that’s just a longer blog post won’t do, and could alienate potential leads who feel that they’ve made a bad deal. Whether it’s an insightful case study, a printable template, an actionable checklist or an interview with an industry thought leader, your premium content has got to have something premium about it.
While quality content is the core of a gated offer, polished design is no less essential. If you’ve spent hours crafting genuinely valuable copy, it makes sense to present it in an equally refined way. Otherwise, you cheapen the entire offer. Then, leads will have a hard time believing that the substance of a white paper is useful if it arrives to their inbox poorly-formatted or looking like a run-of-the-mill Word document. Premium content will sit on your website for a long time, and if all goes to plan, it’ll get sent to a lot of leads. Make sure it’s dressed to impress.
Gated content is a chance to set out your stall as a thought leader and value-provider. If the copy isn’t well researched and supported by trusted sources, you’ll be sending the same message about the service you provide. Back up your most important points with statistics or opinions from well-respected voices in your industry, and you will be casting your organisation as a trustworthy voice itself.
Premium content tends to be longer, so it’s important to choose a format that engages your audience and keeps them interested in what you have to say. It’s no use adding value if the reader can’t be bothered to read it! There are endless options, but some of our favourites include:
A guide is probably the most popular form of gated content. White papers and ebooks need to be well-structured and offer in-depth thought leadership (more on white papers below!).
Here's an example:
59. The checklist
If your content’s goal is to teach readers how to do something, a printable checklist might be the way to go. If potential leads find it useful, they’ll keep it close to hand and you’ll have extended their interaction with your content far beyond the initial read. Just make sure your checklists are fully fleshed out and each step is explained.
Here's an example:
If you’re looking to offer a rundown of an entire subject or a collection of insightful statistics, the listicle is a safe bet. Accompany each entry with a short, 50 to 75 word explainer paragraph and include an introduction and conclusion to provide context. If you can provide an actionable step for each entry, you’re adding even more value.
For an example... well, you're looking at one!
61. The case study
Real-world examples keep readers engaged by showing them how the content in question might apply to them. Concrete, well-told stories make it easier for leads to relate to the insights you’re offering and lends credence to your opinions.
62. The calculator or test
When it comes to engaging people, you can’t go far wrong by making the entire offer about them. Crafting a calculator or test into which they enter their data and get a personalised result acts as a mini pitch – you’re showing them that you can diagnose their situation and can help them find answers.
Check out our marketing maturity matrix:
Providing your reader with a set of useful templates is a fantastic way to offer instant and recognisable value. Take the time to create document templates or checklists, or share those that you already use, and every time a lead uses one they’ll be reminded of your business, building brand authority and trust.
See the sales enablement playbook:
For time-sensitive offers like a webinar or an in-person event, extending an invitation in exchange for a lead’s name and email address is the way to go. It communicates the fact that you’ll be sharing valuable information, and can act as a reminder so that attendance soars on the day.
One of the major differences between blog posts and white papers is the importance of structure. We’re not suggesting that you leave subheadings and sensibly-sized paragraphs by the wayside on your blog, but when your content starts pushing the 2,000 word mark they’ve got to be at the forefront of your approach. Don’t present leads with a wall of text. Think about the story you’re trying to tell with your white paper, and structure it in logical, easy-to-follow progression.
It’s now a widely accepted fact that people don’t read online content (I’M LOOKING AT YOU). Instead, they scan it. Don’t try to swim against the current by expecting leads to scour your white paper for value from start to finish – give them a road map instead. A table of contents linking to the subheadings that should be breaking up your copy (see above) makes it far easier for readers to jump to the information they need and to get the most immediate value from your offer as a result.
Starting a story in medias res is great if you’re Homer trying to start The Odyssey with a bang, but when it comes to white papers a little exposition is a safer bet. Don’t leave it to readers to make connections for themselves; provide some context or a statistic or two. A well-written introduction will stick with the reader as they work through your insights, acting as a foundation on which they can build their knowledge.
The same goes for conclusions. Remind your audience of the salient points you’ve made in your white paper. It’ll be the top-level summary they are most likely to remember. And, of course, give them a good finale to remember you by.
While we wouldn’t dare advocate judging books by their covers, we’re not blind to the fact that potential leads probably will. Providing them with a mockup image of your offer gives them an idea of the level of quality they can expect, and encourages conversions. In this case, it’s a matter of putting your best foot forward and presenting a professional-looking, well-designed image. This should be consistent with the design scheme of the white paper as a whole, so there aren’t any surprises when leads download the PDF.
Just as a properly-crafted cover will draw leads in, high quality pictures, illustrations and design will help to keep them engaged. The visual scheme of your white paper should be consistent throughout. It must relate, in some way, to the subject matter. That could mean relevant stock photos, or it could mean illustrations you’ve created especially for the content. You need to use images that are engaging without being distracting. Leave leads with the impression that you’re running a slick operation. Which you are, obviously.
Most white papers feature a short ‘who we are’ section at the end to introduce the organisation behind the content. Don’t copy and paste text from your website’s ‘About’ page because you’ll be wasting an opportunity to make a persuasive pitch. Make sure the ‘who we are’ section relates back to the subject or problem dealt with in the white paper, and explains how and why your organisation is positioned to address it.
Don’t forget that your white paper is a valuable touchpoint, and should be treated as such. In-text linking to relevant posts on your blog, or to other offers that provide further value, is an unobtrusive means of keeping leads warm and in your content loop. Link to the right posts and you’ll be piling the value on. This network of content is a serious argument for your status as a thought leader.
We’re all about using inbound methods to gather leads, but pay-per-click advertising has its place in that strategy.
Contacts that have converted once can be brought back to your site from other locations, such as social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, with a clever remarketing ad campaign. Ideally, you want to advertise another offer on a landing page. Make sure you’re using a smart form so you can gather new information about a lead beyond their email address, such as company size or job title, favourite pet etc.
Ensure your contact database is subscribed to receive marketing emails. We say this because despite the endless GDPR hype, there are still businesses operating on – shall we say – fuzzy terms. Once you’re certain you have the right to send out an email blast, celebrate the launch of a new white paper with an announcement that drives people directly to a conversion opportunity.
If a lead shows up to an event or webinar, you can put a face to a name and start to create a personalised level of engagement. These are time-intensive activities that require some forward planning, however. Try to get event sign-ups well in advance and send reminder emails as the date approaches. Be generous with what you’re offering – give people information, don’t just sell your product or service.
Your blog is like a Dickensian chapter-a-week novel. People want to know what you’re going to talk about next, but they might need a little extra push to check it out.
That’s where a simple, automated RSS blog subscription comes in. Set up a landing page, sidebar form or some other point of conversion for your blog. Then, use a tool like Hubspot to make it so your subscribers will receive weekly (or monthly) emails with the latest blog activity. This might not send subscribers straight to conversion points, but it does keep them coming back to the site week after week.
The first rule of lead scoring is the same as the first rule of making a good bolognese. Don’t overcomplicate it. Lead scoring serves as one factor among many when trying to decide if a lead is cold, warm or red hot. It can also highlight opportunities for lead nurturing, so you could use a lead score as a trigger for an email workflow (more on that in a moment).
To do it right, choose a handful of parameters and decide how much weight to give each one. These parameters might look something like:
A contact who was on the site five days ago, who is a subscriber that has filled in two landing pages, who has a job title that includes ‘CEO’, but who is using a gmail account would therefore have a score of 14.
Workflows, as Hubspot uses them, can be useful for all sorts of fun activities, one of which is to filter out bad leads. (You and your robot detective partner are out on the hunt for leads, but there are all sorts of red herrings in the mix... the next big whodunnit thriller, on shelves now.)
Every time a lead comes in at Articulate, we use automation to filter them by things like type of email address or location. This saves us a lot of time chasing up leads that are never going to be the right fit for us as clients.
Automation can’t do everything (yet). Sometimes the best lead qualification tool is your sense of good judgement and a little legwork. Before any leads get passed onto the sales team, someone should have looked at them at least once on the marketing side.
Here’s a snapshot of before and after we updated and expanded our lead nurturing email strategy:
Not only did we send emails more consistently, but we nearly doubled our open rate and click rate percentages, resulting in almost 3000 more clicks back to our site than we got in the previous year. We’ll tell you how you can achieve successful results like these in our next chapter.
In order to save yourself a LOT of time sending out emails, you need to make this a repeatable process that you either trigger manually, or set up to trigger based on contact activity. For more information about the logic of email workflows, click here.
Yes, you’ve got leads in the door. Now it’s time to chain them to the radiator… What? No? Okay, so how else do you keep them around?
We suggest deploying an email marketing strategy to nurture your leads into becoming sales-ready. Only 20 percent of leads that are sent directly to sales are qualified, meaning you need to use lead nurturing techniques to ensure you’re filling that pipeline.
Your first step is to trigger an automated sequence of emails based on who you want to target and what you want to promote. This could be by persona, action, location, stage in the buyer’s journey – anything. Painting with broad brush will get you exactly nowhere, so settle on some way to segment your leads and personalise your approach.
The key here is a light touch. Don’t fill up someone’s inbox too much or they’re likely to mark you as a spammer. 43 percent of consumers often or very frequently put emails in the ‘junk’. If you (or your managers) think email marketing means quantity, then you’re measuring the wrong thing and your send-from address could be penalised.
Instead, look for good open rates, clicks and engagement, which is a sure sign of a quality email.
We’ve written before about the logic of marketing email workflows. In short, automated email sequences are a mish-mash of logic puzzles and contradictions. If someone downloads a new offer that triggers a new email workflow, do they stay in workflow A or move to workflow B, or do they stay in both? What about if they ask to speak to your sales team?
The best email copywriting on the planet won’t save you from a poor deployment. If you’re doing things right, you’ll spend far more time planning than actually writing your automated emails.
Email strategies don’t have to be all about automation all the time. Events, announcements, launches, news – these things are time-based, and need to be incorporated into your thinking.
A good way to avoid sending too many of these emails is to collate your big news into one newsletter that you send out every month, or even once a quarter.
An email automation sequence tends to be 3-5 emails that are sent a few days, a week or perhaps two weeks apart. Your instinct might be to send a soft-touch email first, like: ‘You downloaded that ebook last week, would you like to read this blog on the same topic?’, but you might be missing an opportunity here.
Try starting strong. From our own testing, we’ve found our first email is most likely to be the one with the most opens. For example:
Don’t waste that opportunity. Link directly to a demo or a page with a form. Get their buy-in while they have the ‘new and shiny’ buzz going. As inbound marketers, we hate to be pushy, but this time – this time it’s allowed.
When your website gets a brand makeover, such as a new logo, illustration style or even font, don’t leave your emails behind. Make sure they are updated with the new look as well.
The same point goes for copy. A business’ voice may change over time, and if you were once silly and now serious, your emails will be jarring if they don’t match the tone of new brand. If your leads don’t recognise you, they won’t trust you; if they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.
Speaking of trust, be a real human. It sounds easy. Suspiciously easy.
Along with saying ‘Hello [insert personalisation token here, please and thank you]’, you should sign off your emails with a name as well. Either choose your CEO or your head of marketing, or similar. And your ‘send from’ email address shouldn’t be a ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Ew.
Unless you’re doing something mad, ground-breaking and intriguing, like our long-form digital marketing lessons, keep your emails short. Stick to one topic. 50-150 words is about right.
Email platforms aren’t the most up to date things. They don’t support some stuff, and they can ruin your emails. So, check that your email looks good on Gmail, Outlook and so on - and don’t forget mobile platforms as well. For us, 37 percent of opens are on mobile, so we’d lose a lot of contacts if we neglected to think about device type.
The main things to look at are image sizes, image types (.svg might not show up, but .png will) and container widths. A neat looking email that is plain and simple is better than a broken email that was trying to be fancy.
Top tip from HubSpot (and we’ve tried it ourselves) is including a postscript (P.S.) at the end of your marketing emails. It adds a personal touch and reads as ‘bonus content’ for the recipient. It also draws the eye right to the bottom of the email, potentially improving read-time and the chance that a lead will click.
When you’re trying to get traffic to your site and generate leads, you might be tempted to take a more ‘salesy’ approach. If you mention your products and services in every single blog, however, you will come across as off-putting and obnoxious. And, if every problem in the universe can be solved by your ‘solution’, then you might be selling snake oil.
Lesson one in aligning sales and marketing is recognising the role each team has to play and defining goals, strategies and ways of working.
Hubspot CRM is an excellent hub for moving contacts all the way through the marketing and sales process. There’s a useful free version for small businesses, and a whole load of extra features available in their paid models. Lead qualification and revenue attribution is baked in, making it easy to tell from the data what marketing activities have actually resulted in deals won.
If marketing and sales are all using the same tool, it will be much easier to find common ground.
A good business walks that fine line between organic chaos and bureaucratic order. Without the former, you don’t leave room for individuality and innovation. Without the latter, nothing works and everyone is stressed.
Are your sales and marketing teams in need of a little ‘processification’ when it comes to dealing with leads? We swear, cybermen are not involved. We suggest using tools and templates, like these free ones for B2B sales that you can download right now.
Marketing is from Mars and Sales are from Venus, we know. The personality split can be divided in two camps: those who willingly make phone calls, and those who would rather phones didn’t exist so they could get on with some real work. If you detect bias in this article, please call our sales team, they’d love to hear from you.
Once you’ve opened up the channels of communication, you can start making both teams feel like they’re working towards the same goals. This will provide a more coherent experience for your leads as they progress from marketing to sales.
It sounds silly, but to foster this collective identity, why not start with something small like team names? We’ve written a whole article about how to use powerful team names to align your sales and marketing. Team Pumbaa and Team Timon might just find their hakuna matata – as well as some leads.
We’ve talked about SLAs before. Service level agreements do away with the blame game. ‘Why aren’t we getting any customers?’ ‘Salespeople aren’t closing enough deals.’ ‘Marketing gave us bad leads.’ Wah wah wah.
In the time spent pointing fingers and trying to hash out these issues, your team could be pinpointing a set of tactics to generate more, better leads, and to get customers.
We don’t trust what we don’t know. It’s the responsibility of each team to train the other. This builds a cohesive strategy, yes, but more than anything it breaks down distrust. Education heals all wounds. If the sales team know not how marketing folk do what they do, but why they do it – and why it works – they’ll feel a lot less precious and controlling about the whole process, and vice versa.
When sales and marketing get together, they have the opportunity to optimise their ways of working. They can come up with new ideas to generate leads and turn them into customers. The opportunity. Too often, the reality is that meeting either got cancelled, it turned into a good old rant session, or nobody spoke up.
The idea is that rather than every problem bubbling up to the VP of Sales and then having a conversation with the VP Marketing and then it flows downhill. Solve the problems at their source by empowering everyone on the team and building relationships at all levels in the team. - Mark Volpe, CMO at HubSpot
A sales and marketing meeting should be a merging of minds between all levels in the teams. If you’re running the meeting, find a way to make sure everyone’s voices are heard. Aim to come out with three to five tangible lead gen ideas.
Marketing needs the information that sales has, like:
- Details about the target personas
- Changes in needs, goals and pain-points
- Trends about what buyer’s have been interested in, etc.
Sales needs the information that marketing has, like:
- Useful content to give to their buyers, who love to research before they decide
- Case studies, pamphlets and other collateral produced by marketing
Once a customer signs a deal, they don’t just disappear. They may have changing requirements during your engagement. They may not know about, or be ready for, your other services until further down the line. You need to have some sort of remarketing strategy in place to educate your customers, followed by a timely intervention from sales to identify opportunities to cross-sell and upsell. In the B2B world, it’s once a lead, always a lead.
This is it folks. Our final bit of advice. The one wafer thin mint that might just blow the whole thing up.
Because, you see, generating leads isn’t for amateur hour. For more and more businesses, inbound marketing represents the foundation for their whole lead generation strategy. You’ll not be surprised to hear that we recommend outsourcing your marketing to an experienced agency who can give it the time, attention, resource and know-how that it deserves. It might not be brain surgery, but, then, neither is hairdressing – and most people on the planet can’t cut a fringe to save themselves.
So, we’re not here saying you can’t go it alone. You absolutely can. It’s just… we can probably lead you in the right direction.
(This article was compiled by Maddy Leslie and contributed to by Alex Cohen, Callum Sharp and Maddy Leslie, along with others in the Articulate team.)