Finding new customers is essential to any business, large or small. But today, the digital world has opened the door for new, highly effective ways to generate sales leads.
To navigate the waters and maximize success, follow these five tips for generating leads online.
1. Rethink your “Contact Us” page. Swap your phone number and email on your website’s “Contact Us” page for a far more effective form. Include fields where visitors can submit information in response to questions you select, for example, a consumer’s education level or a business’ industry. “A form is trackable and can be recorded into a database for follow-up and analysis,” says Mike Volpe, vice president of marketing for marketing software provider HubSpot in Cambridge, Mass.
To maximize the number of Web visitors who complete your contact form, keep forms as short and simple as possible, asking only for the information needed for your business to follow up successfully.
2. Give something for free. Whether you’re engaged in a pay-per-click ad campaign or simply want to encourage more visitors to fill out your online contact form, you can improve results by offering something of value—for free. “Many Web visitors don’t want to engage in a personal conversation, but they are willing to give you their contact information in exchange for some valuable content,” Volpe says.
Freebies from your business might include a whitepaper with the latest industry research, a Webinar or podcast hosted by you or one of your employees, a coupon or discount for your products or services, or a free consultation. “Try to figure out what might be appealing to your prospects and then test a few different offers to find the one that works best,” Volpe says.
3. Make it personal. By personalizing communication as much as possible, you can significantly improve response rates. When sending email communications, Volpe suggests segregating email lists into two or three groups based on common interests, geographies, ages or some other criteria. Then customize messages for each group to yield a higher click-through rate. At the very least, remember to use a potential customer’s name in all forms of communication.
If you’re engaged in a pay-per-click ad campaign, send traffic from each keyword to a different landing page specific to the keyword searched on. “For example, someone who searches on ‘accounting consultant’ should go to a different page than someone who searches on ‘temporary CFO’ even if your company provides accounting and financial consulting services for businesses,” Volpe says. “Specializing your landing pages generates a higher conversion rate, and you'll get more leads at a lower cost.”
4. Bring leads to you. Volpe says the most effective method for attracting potential customers is inbound marketing—attracting customers from other websites and online tools. This includes building and updating blogs, optimizing websites for search engines and promoting content via online social networks. “[By engaging in inbound marketing], you might be surprised how many more leads find your website and fill out your forms,” he says.
Online inbound marketing tactics are more cost-effective than their offline outbound counterparts (think: telemarketing, direct mail and traditional advertising). According to HubSpot’s 2009 “State of Inbound Marketing,” inbound marketing-dominated companies experience a 61% lower cost per lead than outbound marketing-dominated organizations. ?
5. Test, test and test some more. The beauty of online lead generation is the ability to constantly test, revise and improve. A print ad or your presence at a tradeshow can’t be adapted as easily. Online efforts, on the other hand, can be changed and updated in real time.
Volpe suggests running websites through Website Grader, which offers tips for increasing traffic, optimizing websites for the search engines and enhancing a site’s popularity in social media.