There’s a big problem with traditional lead generation
Lead generation is essential to growing your business. Month after month business executives look at how many leads were generated, what channels produced them, and how many of those leads closed. Generating leads is a top priority, but it’s also very challenging.
In its 2018 State of Inbound report, HubSpot found that 65% of respondents said that generating traffic and leads was their biggest marketing challenge.
There’s a problem with how most companies handle lead generation. Instead of focusing on the lead generation techniques that are proven to work, they get hung up on the competition. This can lead to:
- Copying competitors’ channels and messages to create a sea of sameness where no company stands out from the rest.
- Using generic SEO strategies where increasing traffic is the only meaningful metric, instead of focusing on generating the right kind of traffic.
- Relying on “rainmaker” sales practices that aren’t scalable or easy to adapt to a digitally focused world.
It’s easy to get caught up in the noise that marketing thought leaders create or the fear that your competitors will dominate the best marketing channels. But, focusing on the latest marketing trend will only distract you from the essential elements of your marketing strategy. This is important, after all, these essentials elements are the ones that will give you the biggest ROI in the long-term.
Let’s review four essential elements that every lead generation strategy should include—elements that are proven to have a positive impact on your marketing.
Method 1: Positioning
Create a Message That Filters Out Everyone Except for your True Prospects
Positioning is a classic concept in marketing. Create a focused message for your brand that gets to the core of what makes you truly different from your competitors. Being different in business is a simple idea that most, if not all, understand. Why do so many companies fail to do it then?
“The most difficult part of positioning is selecting that one specific concept to hang your hat on. Yet you must if you want to cut through the prospect’s wall of indifference.”
― Al Ries, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
Successful positioning implies sacrifice from a marketing standpoint. Your goal is no longer to have the longest list of features or a different marketing message for each target audience. You need to choose simplicity over quantity, clarity over complexity.
How do large brands position themselves? And why should it matter to you?
The Difference a Position Can Make: Uber vs. Lyft
No two companies could be more different or more similar than Uber and Lyft. With nearly identical offerings, each one gets its competitive edge from positioning.
Uber has been the focus of executive scandals, privacy violations, and politically-motivated criticisms. This combined with their historical positioning of promoting a powerful, luxurious, and cold lifestyle has caused many problems for the company. This position is summed up well by a previous version of their homepage:
Lyft has taken a different approach to their positioning. Where Uber fails to make a human connection with its audience and a positive impact on the world, Lyft succeeds. This positioning runs deeply in their culture and services. They encourage riders to make conversation with drivers, allow drivers to receive tips, and take a fun approach to their service. Just compare this version of Lyft’s homepage with Uber’s:
Positioning makes a difference. As positioning expert David Baker points out, “As you narrow your positioning, your […] self-promotional content will become more focused, which will make it “less relevant to more and more people… but your true prospects are going to be even more interested in you.”
How to Use Positioning for Your Brand
“Successful positioning requires consistency. You must keep at it year after year.”
― Al Ries, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
Choosing how to position your company is the first step to changing how your company is perceived. There are 4 common ways to position your company:
- Specific to a niche or particular type of customer
None of these options are better than the others. Even though most would advise against competing on price and engaging in a “race to the bottom,” Southwest Airlines succeeded for years by following the mantra “we are THE low fare airline” and the Dummy’s series has found success by educating a particular type of reader: novices. What’s most important is that you choose a position that fits your company’s culture, goals, and market. Many B2B marketers have a specific vertical market (or markets) that they focus on, providing confidence to the buyer that they know their specific industry needs and can act more as an expert consultant than a vendor. They key is to decide the positioning direction that’s in line with where the future state of your company is headed.
Once you’ve decided how to position yourself, you need to create a positioning statement. This is the logical next step, but by no means the end of your work. To create your positioning statement, use this formula:
[Your services] for [your customers] that want to [achieve this goal or get this result].
For example: Web design and development for B2B marketers that want a high-quality website to increase their conversion rate.
This positioning statement doesn’t need to appear verbatim on your site or sales materials. But, the cores ideas in your positioning statement, such as, your solution, differentiators, and audience should be easily perceived in anything you write.
Creating a basic positioning statement is a wonderful starting point, but there are ways to continue improving on it. By getting more granular you can reach the point where your messaging and marketing will bring your ideal prospects to you.
The best next step is using an exercise from the book Zag by Marty Neumeier, called the only exercise. To try it use this template:
We are the only [blank] that [blanks].
For example: We are the only web design and development firm with a focus on strengthening the digital presence of scholarly publishing organizations.
After completing this exercise you’ll have a clear idea of the position that you want to own in the minds of your prospects. With a specific position in hand, your goal is to inject elements from your positioning statement into your site’s core messaging, advertisements, and PR. This will have a dual benefit for your company since you’ll be able to filter out prospects who aren’t a good fit while more strongly attracting those who are.
Method 2: Repetition
Repetition Breeds Familiarity, Familiarity Breeds Trust
Why do you see the same 5 commercials over and over again? Why do ads follow you around the internet? Why do you get multiple emails with the same offer? In a word, repetition. Advertisers know that people only remember their message if they hear it more than once. Just think of how many time you’ve heard this phrase:
“15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance.” – Geico
Over the years Geico has used a gecko, cavemen, and a vast array of other characters and concepts in its advertising campaigns. But no matter what the subject matter of the commercial, one thing remains constant. That phrase.
This is in line with research done by Microsoft that showed it took 6-20 exposures to an audio advertisement for a prospect to remember it. Geico, and other advertisers know that repetition is the best way to get a potential customer to remember their brand and offer.
Approaching your advertising from a standpoint of getting as many repeat exposures as possible for your ads will create a shift in your mindset. Instead of focusing your attention on getting the widest exposure for your ads, you need to narrow your audience and focus on giving them a consistent marketing message over and over again.
Of course, you may think that sharing a different message every time will help you to strike a chord with them. But, this can easily backfire and create confusion. Instead of doing this, first, focus your efforts on creating one message that you can repeat over and over again.
Using Repetition in a Digital World
If you’ve completed the positioning exercises from method 1, then you already know how to position your brand and what message you should be sharing. But, how can you leverage the existing digital landscape to make it easy to use repetition in marketing?
“A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.” – Adam Richardson
Mapping your customer journey from the first time a prospect hears about your brand to the point where they become a repeat customer, will help you understand where they might see your marketing message. In general, they’ll see your marketing messages on:
- Search engine results page
- Website copywriting
- Business directory listings
- Social media posts
- Blog content
- Paid Search / PPC ads
- Social Network ads and profiles
- Landing pages
- Lead magnets
- Email marketing
- Sales sheets
- Product brochures
- Business cards
These are only some of the places where your prospects will see your marketing messages. By telling the same story in each of these places, you can use repetition to your benefit. Once a prospect sees the same thing 6 times or more, it’s much more likely that they’ll remember your brand and that recognition will lead to trust.
How to Start Using Repetition
Repetition is something that any brand can start using immediately. Simply follow these steps:
- If you haven’t done it yet, complete the positioning exercises from method 1 and create a clear position for your brand.
- Audit your marketing materials, website, and digital accounts to find all the places where you tell your brand’s story.
- Update single-sentence bios with your brand’s positioning statement and ensure that any long-form sales material states the services you provide, who your customers are, and why you’re different.
- To increase the number of times you get to “talk” with customers, set up remarketing campaigns to keep sharing your brand’s story with them and stay top-of-mind. Also, look to your email marketing, and instead of focusing on email blasts, consider using personalized nurture campaigns.
Brands like Geico have earned millions of dollars in revenue by using repetitive advertising. Your business can also see improvements by being a little more repetitive.
Method 3: Increase your credibility
“BJ Fogg – the world’s leading researcher on web credibility – has said that web credibility is about making your website in such a way that it comes across as trustworthy and knowledgeable.” – 39 Factors: Website Credibility Checklist
A good name is difficult to earn and easy to lose. Major brands understand this and pour thousands of dollars into research and PR to ensure they have the best reputation possible.
How can B2B brands build the strongest reputation possible before ever talking with a prospect? Let’s look at the two of the most important ways that your brand can build credibility.
Quality Marketing Materials (AKA Surface Credibility)
“As aesthetically oriented humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites. Our offline behaviour and inclinations translate to our online existence.” – Dr. Brent Coker
Your website and marketing materials give prospects their first impression of your brand. The more put together, easy to use, and beautiful the design, the more likely you are to have credibility in their minds. How can you be sure that your marketing materials are helping you put your best foot forward?
Try reviewing the following areas of your site, ads, and print materials to see where there’s room for improvement:
- Design. Does your site follow best practices, is it responsive, does it make you stand out from competitors? Does it look like it was done cheaply, or does it reflect the quality of service that you’re promising to your clients? Does it look like it was a quality site at one point, but hasn’t been updated in years?
- Images. Are their custom images that showcase your product, can people see your actual team, store, or office?
- Copywriting. Is your site free of typos, is the content clear, compelling and succinct, and is the content up-to-date? Is there a consistent voice and message?
- Navigation and user experience. Is it easy for your most common prospects to find what they’re looking for and perform critical actions?
- Easy to find contact information. Can prospects easily find your phone number, email, or street address?
Looking at these basic items will help you understand whether your marketing materials are contributing to your good name or giving you a bad rep.
Social Proof (AKA Reputed Credibility)
“Indeed, word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. Its influence is greatest when consumers are buying a product for the first time or when products are relatively expensive, factors that tend to make people conduct more research, seek more opinions, and deliberate longer than they otherwise would.” – McKinsey & Company
Displaying testimonials on your site is highly effective at increasing conversions. One A/B test found that adding three testimonials to a landing page increased conversions by 34%. But, is it just a matter of getting a few quick sentiments from your clients and getting the text on the page?
For testimonials to be most effective, they need to include elements that enhance their credibility. Incorporating visuals into testimonials can be highly effective. A headshot of the client is a good starting point, but video testimonials create the biggest lift in conversion rates.
What if your business doesn’t lend itself to testimonials? Maybe the sales aren’t huge or the results your product brings aren’t revolutionary. In that case, consider leveraging other review channels that match your industry. For example, a restaurant might focus on getting Yelp reviews, a consumer project would want more Amazon reviews, and service-based businesses may focus their efforts on Google My Business.
How to get effective testimonials
- Think about when you’re most likely to get a positive review, such as right after successfully solving a customer’s problems or delivering on a project. Make sure to get them at those optimal moments.
- Instead of asking “could you write a testimonial”? It may be easier to simply ask them, via email, how the project went. When they respond with a positive response, simply ask them if they’d be OK if you used their message as a testimonial. These will be more authentic, informal testimonials.
- To dig deeper and get actionable information to help you update your internal processes, try using a consistent series of questions to get testimonials, for example: Why did you contact us for help with [blank]? What things did you enjoy most about working with us? How has working with us affected [problem]? Would you recommend us to a friend and why?
- Ask your customer for permission to adjust/edit their wording or testimonial to fit your needs and then have them approve it before publishing.
- Third party tools like GatherUp or BirdEye automate the process of asking clients for feedback and asking them to leave online reviews. Both of these services have solved for HIPAA compliance issues that might crop up when asking for feedback.
Where to use testimonials
Testimonials aren’t worth very much unless you use them. Including testimonials on your homepage and landing pages can be very effective at increasing conversions. Adding customer stories to a case studies page, your blog, and on social media can contribute to your brand credibility and encourage more prospects to reach out to you. Finally, consider including relevant testimonials in your client proposals to see if it increases your close rate.
Method 4: Build a sales funnel
According to Salesforce, a full 68% of companies have not identified or attempted to measure a sales funnel, and the same survey showed that a whopping 79% of marketing leads are never converted into sales.
The dangers of the bottom of the funnel
If your website is only asking people to buy now, then you’re only connecting with a very small percentage of your total site traffic. Research by Marketo shows that 96% of site visitors aren’t ready to buy. So, by only talking to the 4% who are ready to buy, you’re alienating a large amount of your site traffic.
Why do so many still focus on this small group? Many brands focus on bottom of the funnel keywords and offers because they feel like they should only focus their time on prospects who are ready to buy. This may seem like a great short-term strategy, but it’s problematic in the long-run.
Focusing on the bottom of funnel results in higher ad spends, content that’s only beneficial to a minority, and it takes away any chance for your brand to earn the prospect’s trust before inviting them to buy.
To get the most value from each visitor to your site, you need to expand your funnel. This will allow you to engage a higher percentage of your site visitors with your brand, which will help you increase revenue and in some cases even lower ad spend.
How to build a full sales funnel
A typical sales funnel consists of at least 3 stages and has specific content, ads, and offers attached to each stage. This allows you to effectively target buyers across multiple stages of the buyer’s journey and provide them with relevant content. These types of content include:
- Attract stage content: this is content that is helpful to any user interested in your industry as a whole.
- Convert stage content: this is where you capture the information of users who are interested in solving a specific problem you can help them with.
- Close stage content: this is where you make the offer to sell them your product or service.
The areas where companies have the most trouble creating content are the attract and convert stages of the sales funnel. But, this is easy to fix.
To choose attract stage topics, think about the subjects that the majority of your prospects are interested in. For example, if a company sells employment background checks, then it’s safe to say that all of its customers are interested to some degree in topics on hiring new employees. After all, you only need an employment background check if you’re going to hire someone.
To choose convert stage topics, list the specific problems your prospect is trying to solve, as well as the ways that you can help. Where do you see overlap? That’s a good starting point for a convert stage download or course. For example, that same background check company may create an ebook that explains how to meet the legal requirements for hiring a new employee.
Once your attract and convert stage content have filled your sales funnel, you need to close the sales. This part is much easier. Simply think, what service or product will the prospect logically need next? Offer it to them directly, it’s also possible they may be asking for a proposal or bid at this point since you’ve done such a great job earning their trust in the earlier stages. You’re probably already a natural at this part: being helpful to prospects and letting them make the best decision without feeling pressured.
Automating your sales funnel
Defining your sales funnel is relatively easy when compared with managing the prospects in each funnel stage and knowing what stage of the funnel they’re actually in. This is due in part to the fact that many marketers don’t know how to track success further up the funnel, which makes it even harder to make a case for top of funnel content.
To take the stress out of the process and stay consistent, consider using marketing automation software, such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Act-On, Infusionsoft or SharpSpring to automate your funnel. If budget is a limiting resource, then use MailChimp to create a lightweight system using signup forms and drip campaigns.
Then, connect these systems to a centralized database such as your CRM so that your contact list isn’t spread out over multiple email accounts and tools.
By taking these steps you can efficiently reach a much larger group of qualified prospects and increase your site’s ability to generate leads.
Lead generation is never about keeping up with the competition
Thinking you can outspend competitors or simply mirror what they’re doing to achieve success can lead to frustration, low lead volume, and a low ROI. Your goal is to find the methods that are right for your customers, your company, and make sure that you’re attracting leads that represent your ideal client. This requires more research and thought up front, but also has a much better chance for reward.
To ensure you keep using the right lead generation tactics for your business, you need to know what your options are. Staying aware of new lead generation techniques is an effective way to find and test new strategies. This could give you a first to market edge over less nimble competitors.
As you test lead generation channels review the results at least quarterly. This will help you find the highest ROI options and invest more of your time and effort into them.
Finally, find ways to tie your lead generation efforts to business impacts. Prove the value of these investments to your team, so that you keep getting the support and funds that you need to succeed as a B2B marketer.
Get More Qualified Leads with a B2B Lead Generation Audit
Windmill Design works closely with B2B companies to fuel their growth. We want to help your brand succeed too. Our B2B lead generation audit will help you identify:
- Competitive rankings. Learn how you stack up in the search rankings against your competitors.
- On-page quick wins. See where there are gaps in your site’s content, metadata, and architecture.
- Local lead generation. Ensure your local listings are set up and optimized, while learning the best practices for improving your local presence.
- On-page lead generation. Find out which on-page factors will help you improve your lead generation.
This audit will be delivered to you as a report and then we’ll have a call to answer questions and provide you with practical next steps for improving your lead generation.