Lead Generation: Adding Fuel to the Engine
Welcome back! Let’s quickly recap the story so far.
Step 1: Plan and build a great Software-as-a-Service, or e-commerce site.
I. define a customer-centric product concept;
II. create a workflow to optimize the user experience;
III. test your product concept before you build it.
Step 2: Optimize your landing page.
Step 3: Improve your conversion from unqualified to qualified by becoming more trustworthy.
If you’ve made it this far in the series, you should have a compelling value proposition that’s been tested with prospective customers. You’ve also optimized the workflow up front. Your landing page is looking good and you’ve built strong trust elements into the system to encourage conversion.
Phew! That was hard work, but now that we’re done and the orders should be rolling in, right?
If I had a nickel for every company I’ve seen that built a great product only to be shocked that it didn’t take off, I’d be able to buy an extra shot venti latte by now.
Just because your web site is up and you’re open for business does not mean the orders will come flying in. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The hard work is just beginning (sorry).
Everything we’ve done up until now is about building a “solid, high performance engine”, an analogy I used in my first post in this series. Now that we’ve built a performance engine, let’s put some fuel in the tank and run some laps.
This post is about filling the top of the funnel. It’s about lead generation – generating unqualified leads to fill the top of the funnel so that prospects can work their way through to qualified leads and ultimately to paying, happy customers.
Let’s consider your typical customer. When they look for a product like yours, where do they go? Do they go to their favourite search engine? Do they go to their favourite website to read about potential solutions? There are dozens of different ways you can generate leads that send people to your website. The best part is that many are free or have low entry costs. Let’s explore some lead generation sources:
Search Engine Optimization:
Part 1: The first step in search engine marketing is to make your site search engine-friendly. This function can be outsourced for $3,000-$5,000, or you can do it yourself to conserve cash. Here’s a great resource.
Part 2: Create valuable content that others will want to read, share and link to. Publish weekly. Keep the information interesting, fresh and share-able.
Google Adsense and Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns can be very expensive and a significant money-losing proposition if not done with significant prior experience or extensive research. Having said that, when used effectively, Adsense can be a very powerful tool to drive traffic to your site. If you’d like to experiment, here’s a blog I particularly like.
Outbound Blogging: Create a blog on your site and publish interesting content that your customers will appreciate and learn from. Make it interesting, actionable, and insightful. Publish regularly to keep the information fresh. Make sure it’s easy for your readers to follow you and to share with email, RSS feeds, Facebook Likes, Tweets, etc.
Inbound Blogging: Reach out to third party bloggers who are writing about your industry. Contact them and let them know who you are and what you do. Suggest that the blogger’s readers might be interested in your product or trends you see in the industry or interesting customer case studies. Find a hook that will get them to write about you and your product. Technorati and Google are good resources for finding the most influential bloggers in your industry.
Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.):
These days, social media is a must for any online business. Generally, B2C businesses may consider Facebook and Pinterest strategies most effective whereas B2B businesses may find Twitter and Blogging more effective social media strategies.
It can take six to twelve months to build a strong following. I recommend you blog once a week and tweet or post up to 5 times a day. Make your posts relevant and insightful.
What trade magazines, journals, papers do your customers read? Go to the publication website and see if they accept contributed articles. If not, contact reporters or the editor to tell them about your product. Suggest that their readers might be interested in your product or trends you see in the industry or interesting customer case studies. Find a hook that will get them to write about you and your product.
For the most part, I consider tradeshows a terrible waste of money for startups since they are expensive and typically provide very low quality leads.
Video is one of the most engaging and powerful lead generation sources. Product introductions, demonstrations and chalk-talk presentations can be a very effective resource for building awareness, interest, trust and buying intent. Here’s a good explanation on how to promote your business on YouTube.
Webinars are an outstanding way to raise awareness, interest, and trust in your product – particularly products with a more complex product offering. Involving customers or industry analysts in your webinar can be a particularly effective approach. The finished product is a great educational tool for your website.
To earn email addresses from visitors to your web site, make interesting content like market research reports, white papers and best practices available for download when visitors give you their email address.
If you have built an inventory of email addresses from trade shows, your web site and other sources, you can use mailchimp to keep in touch with your contacts and stay top-of-mind. Make sure you’re adding value with each email, providing high value content or special offers. The mailchimp website has lots of best practices to consider.
I realize that’s quite a long list of lead generation options. Your homework for next week is to research any three of the above for your business. Divide the responsibility among three people in your company to report back with their findings. Which do you think will have the highest return on effort for your business?
Remember, the more effort you put in to lead generation, the more you’ll get out of it. I can’t stress enough: This is a critical success factor in any business. Make sure you’re dedicating a minimum of 50% of someone’s time to generating leads. Plan to grow the time investment steadily as you start to generate results.
The next article in this series will focus on the economics and metrics of lead generation, so stay tuned.