Making sales depends on getting prospective customers into and through your funnel. To do that, you need a solid lead generation plan. But if you’re new to lead gen or just need a little boost to get you started, we’ve got everything you need to know to build your lead generation process.
What Is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process you use when your goal is to attract your ideal buyer to your brand. Your lead generation plan should align with your sales funnel, with the ultimate goal being to get leads into the funnel and nurture them through to conversion.
A lead gen pipeline will follow along the different stages of the buyer’s journey, with your leads starting out as strangers and ending up as passionate brand advocates.
Lead generation is a tried and true way to boost sales and revenue…but you’ve got to have a solid plan before you get started.
Why Do You Need a Lead Generation Plan?
Sometimes, marketers have blinders on when it comes to their brand’s product or service. They start to think, “If we build it, they will come.” But when it comes to lead generation and demand generation, it just doesn’t work that way. In fact, getting more traffic and leads is the biggest struggle for marketers at a majority of companies.
That’s why you need a plan for your lead generation campaign. Your brand won’t promote itself, and no matter how fab your product is, if no one knows about it, no one can buy it.
With a plan, you’ll have a roadmap to get to your ultimate destination — more traffic, more sales, and more revenue. Wondering where to get started? We’re here to help you navigate.
17 Tips to Creating an Effective Lead Generation Strategy
To effectively market your brand and get potential customers into and through your funnel, you need a strategy. Creating a lead generation strategy will help define your processes and your goals, so you’ll know how to get from Point A to Point Bestill-My-Heart-Those-Are-Some-Amazing-Results.
Ready to go?
#1: Start with customer research
If you’re an established brand, you’ve already got some customers you can tap for information. Startups will have a harder time with this step, but it can be done. Try joining some relevant forums on sites like Quora and Reddit, or check out the competition’s social media following to find out what they’re most likely to engage with.
When it comes to the research itself, customer surveys are usually a quick and painless way to get going. You may also want to incorporate focus groups or in-depth interviews down the road.
#2: Understand your audience's needs
Now you have some great qualitative information about your ideal customer, and it’s time to dive a little deeper.
This step involves hammering out a detailed buyer persona, which should include demographic, psychographic, and behavioral/attitudinal information to help you understand your customer needs.
If you’ve already done your customer research and you still aren’t sure exactly what customers need from you, you might want to conduct another survey or a social media poll. Be sure to also check in with your customer service team — they’ll have all the insights on what your buyers are raving (or complaining) about.
#3: Define goals for lead generation
More traffic and leads — what else do you need? A lot. Obviously, those are both important goals when you’re launching a lead gen campaign, but when you’re building an entire lead generation plan or strategy, aim a little higher.
The endgame for lead gen should be conversions. The definition of what a conversion is will differ (so it doesn’t always translate directly to revenue), but you want to make sure you’re getting hard, measurable results from your strategy.
#4: Have an established definition of a lead and set values for leads
What is a lead, anyway? Is it someone who fills out a form? Visits your website? Signs up for a free trial? Depending on the type of lead gen campaign you want to run, how you define a lead will vary. The crucial point here is to make sure that both your sales and marketing teams are on-board with what “lead” means to you.
This might mean you’ll need to qualify leads to establish their values using a lead scoring rubric.
To score leads, you’ll establish a points system that denotes their qualification status. For instance, a prospect will gain or lose points for taking certain actions (signing up for a form, unsubscribing, etc.). This will help you determine whether they’re an Information Qualified Lead (IQL), Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), or Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). Leads go from coldest (IQL) to warmest (SQL), so you can focus your efforts on the leads you want most based on your goals.
#5: Create an inbound content strategy that solves these problems
Inbound marketing is a crazy effective methodology because a. It brings leads to you so you aren’t always chasing them down, and b. It. Just. Works. Inbound, often called organic marketing, is a way to raise brand awareness and entice customers without the use of paid advertising.
Content marketing is one of the best forms of inbound because it’s cost-efficient and offers a great long-term ROI. The most content you create, the more you’re setting your brand up for future success. You can store, refresh, and repurpose content continually, so you always have something out there that’s bringing in leads.
When figuring out your content strategy for your lead gen plan, you’ll want to make sure everything you create is aligned with the stage your leads are at in their journey.
As you nail down your content strategy, you’ll want to conduct keyword research to determine how your content will get found (or be advertised). Build your content calendar around your selected keywords, and remember that ultra-specific long-tail keywords are most effective because they’re more likely to fulfill your audience’s search intent and deliver exactly what they’re looking for.
#6: Craft your messaging
A few things to keep in mind as you put together your lead gen messaging: You’ll want to make sure you have multiple touchpoints with leads throughout the process so they don’t lose interest. You’ll also want to make sure your messaging is in line with what’s already being used in your industry. And for B2B brands, you’ll need to speak to specific roles your buyers are likely to fill.
As you can see, for account-based marketing, industry and role-specific messaging are the most used, followed closely by customer pain points.
#7: Choose channels for lead generation
The first thing you want to ask yourself is this — where are my customers already hanging out? It’s usually some social media platform, but it could also be that they’re spending time on forums like Reddit or that they check their email more frequently than the average person. Wherever your buyer is, that’s where you want to be. That will also help guide you as you select the right channels to use when going after leads.
The numbers fluctuate year to year, but you’ll nearly always see content marketing and email right at the very top. Content might be slightly more popular with B2C and email with B2B, but both are winning options. Once you know which tactics you’re most likely to use, you can pick your channels accordingly.
#8: Create gated content to capture emails
Gated content is designed for lead generation. It offers high-quality, high-value content that your audience wants and/or needs. So much so that they’re willing to give up their personal info to get it.
Gated content is a perfect choice for B2B brands looking to nurture warm leads to conversion.
There is one caveat here — not all your content can or should be gated. Ungated content is necessary to get brand-new leads in the funnel, and it’s best for awareness and general information (think infographics or listicle blogs).
#9: Use email marketing to nurture leads
Some people say email marketing is dead, but we know better. In fact, anyone who’s run a successful lead gen campaign knows better because email remains one of the most effective methods of getting and nurturing leads.
Email is also popular because it’s easily automated, so after the initial nurturing campaign setup, you can take a step back and focus on your other goals.
An email nurture campaign should have around 6-10 emails, from the initial thank you or follow-up through to the final ultimatum (just make it pretty gentle).
#10: Utilize chatbots to serve customers faster
Chatbots are experiencing a huge boom in the customer service realm, but it’s actually pretty great for lead generation, too. Chatbots are becoming more preferred for gathering information about a brand and even making purchases.
In fact, if given a choice, more people would prefer to talk with a chatbot if it means they’ll get their issues solved faster.
Consider implementing a chatbot on your site so potential leads can get quick info, support, and help finding what they need before moving to the next stage in the funnel.
#11: Host events
If you’re a B2B brand, you already understand the importance of live events in the buying cycle. But you’ve also probably felt the impact of the last couple years, as most events got shut down or moved online due to the pandemic.
Now, several years removed, the way we do events has been changed forever. B2B buyers still want connection and interaction…but they don’t always want it in person. As such, virtual events have taken over as one of the best ways to find and nurture B2B leads.
If you’re a B2B brand, you’ve probably already started rethinking your approach to in-person events. It isn’t wise to scrap them entirely, but it’s definitely worth considering how you can restructure and repackage them to appeal to a more virtual audience.
#12: Offer a freemium model
This is one of our favorite pieces of advice to dish out: Give away your best stuff for free. It’s more fun to say it in person because, wowza, if looks could kill…
Still, the fact remains: When you have something amazing, giving it away will get you the best return. How?
Free trials, freemiums, and forever free models really hinge on the upgrades and updates, so make sure your product has enough to sustain the model.
#13: Promote lead gen content
Part of your lead gen plan is creating valuable, high-quality content. But once you’ve got it, what do you do with it?
Paid social media
Paid social posts are a great way to get in front of your audience, fast. They have far more reach than organic social and allow you to target very specific audiences. You can even go after your competitors’ followers or build a lookalike audience to find others who want what you’ve got to offer.
Organic social media
While organic social can’t match the reach of paid, it’s still an excellent way to engage with existing customers and warm leads. Make sure you’re reposting your most engaging posts regularly and that you’re encouraging your audience to share.
Search engine optimization is how your brand gets found. SEO is a long game, so you shouldn’t expect immediate results. However, it’s wise to start working on your lead gen SEO strategy now so all the pieces are in place for the long term. Make sure you’re targeting long-tail keywords that fulfill search intent to maximize traffic and leads.
Time to tap your industry connections and start paying attention to the voices your customers are listening to. Look for collaborations with micro-influencers (usually under 10K followers). They’ve typically got a smaller but more motivated audience who are looking for exactly the type of product or service you provide. Micro-influencers are also more cost-effective than larger celebrity influencers.
Use retargeting to engage past visitors
Retargeting or remarketing is a great way to turn up the heat on already-warm leads. Retargeting ads are paid ads that only appear once a lead has expressed interest in your brand or product. It might be someone who’s visited your website or taken steps to complete a lead gen form before abandoning it. Retargeting ads are incredibly effective, especially when it comes to qualifying leads and moving them through the funnel.
#14: Build a referral program
We’re big fans of referral marketing, and it’s not hard to see why.
Referrals lead to more leads, more sales, and more conversions. That means that every lead you get could end up bringing one more, ten more, or a hundred more leads into your funnel.
Referral programs are often better with an incentive attached. You might offer customers a discount to refer their friends, an exclusive product upgrade, or contest entries for sharing a social post.
#15: Ensure lead gen assets are easy to find
Where your content lives is almost as important as what the content is. You want your lead gen assets to be easy to locate and easy to access, especially when you’re talking top of the funnel leads — they’re pretty cold and much more likely to fall out of the funnel if they aren’t nurtured. A difficult-to-locate asset will push them right out the door.
Make sure your landing pages are optimized and clear so visitors know exactly what action they need to take. Also work to ensure your website is uncluttered and easy to navigate. Using a topic cluster model is one of the best ways to structure your site.
You’ll also want to be sure that the content on your landing page aligns with the messaging you used in your ads, social posts, etc., and that you have only one CTA that leads to one singular action on the page.
#16: Develop a process for responding to leads
Once leads start coming to you, your job is only just starting. Before you can launch your lead gen campaign, you must have a plan in place for how to respond to leads who seek you out. That might mean directing them to a website, a phone number, or a live chat.
Part of this step is also figuring out the transition of leads from marketing to sales. That’s when it helps to have a strong sales enablement strategy so you ensure a seamless and smooth transition.
#17: Keep your database clean
Your email database is an incredibly valuable asset to your lead gen plan, but if your list is a mess, your strategy will be a mess, too. If you haven’t spent any time going through your database, it’s time to clean house.
You’ll want to go through your list on a regular basis and scrub any duplicate emails, remove unsubscribes, and add new levels of information based on the data you collect.
You may want to use a dedicated tool or third-party source to help you stay on top of this step. Scrubbing down your database isn’t the sexiest job, but it’s crucial to your lead gen success.
That was a lot of information, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, don’t sweat it. You've got this! If you need some extra help, we’ve got your back. We’ll be here to jump in and get more leads in your funnel, nurture them, and turn convert them.