Assuming your website isn’t just a labor of love — that you’re interested in actually making money — then you’re going to need a lead generation system. Without a steady, healthy supply of qualified leads, your sales will plummet eventually on the long run.
Fortunately, it’s never been easier to generate and capture good leads. You can invest in lead generation software (which can be out of budget for startups), or you can build a simple but effective system yourself, which we’ll cover in this article.
Lead generation: a glossary
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s review a few necessary definitions:
What is a lead? A prospect; someone who’s interested in what you do or sell, and is at least somewhat likely to make a purchase at some point in the future.
What is lead generation? The process of attracting more leads to your site so that you can capture their information, in order to continue contacting them in the future.
What’s a lead generation system? A systematic approach to attracting those leads to your site and convincing them to give you their email addresses and other required information.
Elements of a lead generation system
What do you need at a minimum to generate and collect leads on your website?
- A systematized approach to attracting qualified prospects based on effective channels.
- A systematized way to capture the personal information (email address, name) of those prospects to contact them with their permission.
- A systematized way to nurture those leads once captured and nudge them along the buyer’s journey, ultimately converting them into paying customers / clients.
Start by identifying your channels. Each channel represents a separate source or stream of potential leads for your business. For example, social is a channel. Paid online ads constitute a separate channel. Blogging is a channel, which is part of a larger channel we could call content marketing.
Not every channel will work for every business. Most brands will benefit from some mix of what we can call “the fundamental channels”: Some type of content marketing, social media and email.
Once you’ve developed a basic system for the fundamentals, then you can add other channels proven to work for your niche or industry. Search for data and case studies related to each channel for your niche to find the best options:
Next, you’ll need a way to capture the leads on your website. This is typically done online with sign-up forms and an email list. Email is the king of all lead-nurturing channels. It can boast an impressive return on investment. It’s usually also the most effective way of targeting your leads precisely where they are in the purchasing process.
Providers include ConvertKit, AWeber, MailChimp, and ConstantContact. Shop around and look carefully at reviews and tutorials to learn which interface and set of features will suit your needs best. Also, email marketing providers generally offer multiple levels of access with varying price points, so evaluate your budget carefully.
Finally, you’ll need a strategic plan to nurture those leads along as they make a buying decision — preferably in a way that encourages them to buy from your brand, of course.
To this end, you’ll want to adopt channel strategies and tactics based on an understanding of the basic stages your leads will go through on their way to becoming paying customers. That journey can vary significantly between niches and brands, but usually, it includes:
- Awareness: If they’re on your site, of course, then they’re aware of you. But there’s also awareness of a need, of what you do to fill that need, and why / how you do it better than your competitors. Make sure that you outline what you can do for your customers.
- Evaluation: Once they’re aware of their options, the leads evaluate those options.
- Purchase: Here, leads who are ready to purchase will begin shopping around for the best deals or price breaks.
So your job is to create the right kind of content, to be distributed along your selected channels, to hit each of your leads at each of these separate stages. What would that look like? It depends on your brand, your audience, and the specific journey they typically go through. For example:
- Stage one content would help demonstrate your authority and bona fides, perhaps through case studies and data-driven blog posts.
- Stage two content would give your leads more detailed information about your process or product that would help them evaluate you against your competition.
- Stage three content would help persuade them you’re the best value — for example, coupon codes on social media or through your email list.
The missing link: lead bait
If you’ve been reading carefully this far, you might have noticed there’s one element of the lead generation system that we’ve glossed over so far — how to get your leads to give up their information so that you can continue to contact them with their permission.
Different people might call it by different names, but we’ll call it “lead bait”. It’s the thing you offer in exchange for your lead’s information. Any time you’ve signed up for a list to get ebooks, worksheets, templates, access to videos, ecourses, or promo codes, you’ve responded to lead bait.
It’s simply a way to entice a visitor who might be on the fence into taking the next step with your brand, but it also serves to qualify your leads. One relatively recent development in this area is the content upgrade. Here’s a typical example of a content upgrade as lead bait:
It works fairly simple. You write a great piece of content that’s aimed squarely at people in the beginning / middle of your purchaser’s journey. Along with that post, you also create a companion downloadable resource – a PDF checklist, for example, or a worksheet — something truly useful to the reader who’s interested in that topic.
For instance, if you’re writing a post about how to perform on-page SEO for blog posts, you could create a checklist version of that post. Or if you’re posting a recipe, you could create a printable shopping list the reader can take to the grocery store.
Then, in the middle of the post, you offer that upgrade to the reader in exchange for their email address. The best upgrades do just that — they upgrade the original content. They build on it, enhance it in some way, and provide additional value, not just the same value in a different context.
Conclusion: Make use of your own lead generation system
Lead generation is a complex topic, and this post is designed just to get you started. There’s a lot more to know if you want to optimize your lead generation system and increase your conversion rates — i.e. the percentage of visitors you convert from “just visiting” to “on your list”.
The important thing is to get started. Above all, don’t be afraid to experiment and track your results, so that you can rest assured you’re making the best decisions about your business’s lifeblood as possible. Are you struggling to generate and capture valuable leads for your site? Or do you have any feedback and additional tips? Let us know in the comments section below.