Lead generation is considered one of the most common use cases for digital marketing across different industries. The objective obviously is to generate quality leads that the business can turn into paying customers. A typical lead generation campaign in its simplest form would involve paid advertising to capture the right audience, and a landing page to convert that audience into prospective leads. Businesses might engage in such campaigns on a tactical short-term basis, or they might ingrain them as an intrinsic part of their digital marketing activities on an on-going basis.
Lead generation is more common in B2B because the transaction value or average lifetime value of a customer is generally higher, and it makes sense to focus on a lead for its potential. While in B2C marketing the focus is more on volume to gain customers in bulk.
Here are in our opinion and experience some of the effective strategies and best practices for running successful lead generation campaigns:
Choose the Right Products
Before you do anything, make sure you have selected the right products or services to generate leads for. This is critical to ensure that you campaign is effective and profitable.
- You don’t have to go all in with your entire portfolio of products. You can just select a few products to focus on in the beginning. They can be your best-selling ones or ones that are in demand right now. You can also choose smaller products that sell easily as a strategy to capture clients and upsell them bigger products later.
- Select the products you know your potential clients are most likely to look for online.
- It is especially important to select products that have good profit margins. Soon enough you will start measuring and optimizing your cost-per-lead (CPL) and your lead-to-customer conversion rate (CR) metrics and you will realize the minimum profit required per sale or per customer in order to break even. If you haven’t done any lead generation campaigns in the past and don’t have any benchmarks your best bet is to go with the products that have the highest margins. Remember that the CPL should factor in agency fees in case you hire an agency to run the campaign for you.
Choose the Right Channels
There are many avenues to spend your campaign budget. These include Google Ads (Search, Display, Shopping, and Video), Bing Ads, Facebook Ads (which also cover Instagram), and LinkedIn Ads. Make sure you use the right channels to generate the best results and avoid wasting money.
- If the demand for your product is driven by search, then Google Search Ads should be your primary platform. If the demand is casual and not critical you can look at leveraging Google’s Display and Video Ads as well as Facebook and Instagram Ads.
- If you can tell your exact target audience by the keywords they search for, you can make perfect use of Google Ads. If you can tell your audience by their demographics, behaviours, and interests, you can count on Facebook ads. If you can tell your target audience by the sectors, companies, or job roles they are in, you can take great advantage of LinkedIn ads. If you have a large database of emails you can experiment with Facebook’s custom and look-alike audiences. If you have significant monthly traffic on your website you can use retargeting from Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to remarket to past visitors of your website.
- You don’t have to restrict yourself to one channel. You can choose more than one and split your budget across. For B2Bs the most used channels are Google Search and Display Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and to a certain extent Facebook Ads.
- Check out what your competitors are doing and what sort of advertising they are running and where. You can do this using tools like SEMrush’s Advertising Research and SpyFu.
Target the Right Quality
Lead quality is just about the most important metric for your campaign. Most people are tempted to measure quality by how many leads convert into customers, but that is not the right approach. You need to evaluate the quality of leads objectively and pay less attention to whether they convert or not. If you cannot understand this bit you will not know how to optimize the campaign to get you the results you need.
- The first step to earning quality leads is capturing all the right information. Make sure your form fields include all the data you need for vetting the lead without overwhelming the prospect. Make the company name and website mandatory.
- Make sure to capture work email addresses. You can use this neat feature from HubSpot to block addresses from free email providers. You can also add providers of disposable email addresses like these. And of course, ensure that your forms have CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA enabled to avoid spam.
- Use qualifying questions that would help you determine quality. For example, city or country of the prospect, number of employees, current solution they are using, or “what best describes you” type of questions.
- Understand what kind of leads you are after. Are you looking for bottom-of-funnel “ready to speak to sales” leads, or top-of-funnel prospects who are still doing their research? Most people go for the former and dismiss the latter, but in fact both kinds of leads can be of great quality and can turn into great clients. When you capture top-of-funnel leads who are still at an early stage in their buying journey you must ensure that you continue to nurture them down the funnel. The process can be largely automated and that is the essence of marketing automation and inbound marketing.
- Make sure to capture phone numbers if you are targeting bottom-of-funnel leads but make it optional or take it out for top-of-funnel prospects.
- Measure the quality of leads by how much they fit your target audience profile and how well they respond when you reach out to them.
- Remember that a lead is not yet an opportunity. You can use a framework like BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing) to evaluate opportunity from a lead.
Get the Targeting Right
Digital advertising platforms provide a variety of tools to help you reach your target audience. On a basic level all these tools will allow you target specific geographies like cities or countries. On top of that, Google Ads allows you to specify the search keywords on which you want your ads to show. It will also allow you specify the placements for your ads on the web or on YouTube – you can list specific websites, apps, or channels, or you can specify keywords and topics. With Facebook Ads you get access to Facebook’s social graph which allows you to target demographics, behaviour, interests, and connections. LinkedIn also runs a graph type database which is called the Economic Graph, and it allows you to target using demographics, job data, company data, education, and professional interests.
- Your campaign is likely going to involve Google Ads, and for that you need to do a solid keyword research. It is recommended to use premium tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Mangools. Free tools like Google Keyword Planner can be helpful for keywords ideas but we don’t recommend that you rely on it for estimates of traffic, cost per click, or keyword difficulty.
- Keyword research is critical for the success of your campaign. If you miss out on including relevant keywords that your target audience is using, you miss out on leads. If you include irrelevant keywords you get garbage leads that are irrelevant to you and a waste of your money. When setting up your ads try to use Phrase Match whenever possible to avoid generic irrelevant queries and continue to monitor the incoming search queries that prospects have used and add the irrelevant ones to the negative list.
- Classify your keywords by funnel stage to help you create the best ads. Top-of-funnel awareness stage keywords are largely informational / questions (the 5 W’s). Middle-of-funnel consideration stage keywords can involve comparisons and reviews. Bottom-of-funnel decision stage keywords are transactional (e.g. price, where to buy, list of distributors, location).
- You can simply extend the keywords you have researched to be used in placements, but you can also do a “placement research” (for lack of a better name) to find the best places to show your ads on the Google Display Network and YouTube if you are going to use managed placements. Google Display ads are quite good for brand awareness and they can have a lower cost per lead than Search ads.
- With social media ads you can’t use keywords, but you can get closer to your target audience by zeroing in on their demographics and interests. You can get a good match by targeting people who follow your competitors. Targeting in Facebook ads works better for B2C than B2B as you get to focus on target groups of consumers.
Set the Right Budget
“How much do I need to spend on this” is a question that often gets the wrong answers. Some agencies are inclined to increase that number as much as possible for reasons like: 1) they’ll be safer when it comes to results, 2) their fees are a percentage of that spend, 3) to make their fees look smaller in comparison, 4) to have a bigger managed budget for Google Partner tier requirement, 4) to make it worth their while. On the other extreme, many clients often make the mistake of spending too little to gain any significant results and end up aborting the campaign too soon.
- Understand your current cost of acquiring a new customer and cost of acquiring a new lead. These will serve as a benchmark for the lead generation campaign to match or beat. You can do this by dividing the cost of your marketing activities by the number of customers or leads they generated.
- Work out how much you are willing to spend on acquiring a new customer. As a best practice this can go up to 10% of the average lifetime value of a customer in your business, but this really depends on your business strategy and what stage your business is at. This will serve as the ceiling for your spending.
- Work backwards from the goals you are trying to achieve. Start with the number of customers required, divide by your average closing rate to arrive at the number of leads required, which you will then divide by the visit-to-lead ratio (if you have no benchmark for this start with 8%) to arrive at the number of visits or clicks required, which you will then multiply by the average cost per click as indicated during your research to arrive at the estimated budget.
- Just because you have set a budget for your campaign it doesn’t mean you can’t change it as you go. No one can be 100% certain of a campaign’s budget in advance. As you start evaluating and see what is really working you can make the necessary adjustments to daily spending limits and ad schedules for each campaign.
- Understand the concept of the Minimum Effective Dose (MED). At the end of the day the demand for your product is limited, and so there is a certain minimum spend level to get you the desired results after which any further spending might just be going down the drain unless you tweak your targeting.
Have the Right Setup
We have seen our fair share of lead generation campaigns that had a decent budget but took their prospects to the website’s homepage and lost them right there because they didn’t know what to do next or if that’s what they were looking for. Invest some time and resources in perfecting your setup in the beginning to increase your chances of a successful and profitable lead generation campaign.
- Use landing pages. Don’t lead prospects to a cluttered homepage or a page that doesn’t have a form. Landing pages are designed and built with the purpose of convincing and converting the prospect. They have a clear and simple copy and a call-to-action, and they are free from distractions (usually stripped from any top navigation). You can create them as pages on your own website or you can use a third-party tool like HubSpot, Leadpages, Unbounce, Landingi, or Instapage. You can still map the landing pages to your domain even when using a third-party tool.
- Apply A/B testing on your landing pages so you can experiment with different headlines, content and visuals and see which one performs best.
- When prospects fill in the form on your landing page, redirect to a thank you page. This will make it easier to track conversions accurately. You can also use the thank you page to encourage prospects to take further actions like explore your website, read some relevant content, or follow you on social media.
- Make sure the contact forms on your landing pages are integrated with your CRM so that every lead gets logged and tracked and doesn’t just get lost in email inboxes or spreadsheets.
- Set up conversion tracking on Google Analytics and link up your Google Analytics account with your Google Ads account. This will allow you have a full view of your funnel so you can optimize the campaign. You can extend the reporting loop as well to track how many leads converted into actual customers when using HubSpot Marketing along with HubSpot CRM.
- You can choose to provide prospects with other methods of contacting you apart from the contact form. Have your contact details available on the landing page or enable live chat.
- Create multiple variations of your ads. Experiment with different copy styles and calls to action or different creatives in the case of display and social ads. Three to five variations should be more than enough. Don’t waste your time creating dozens of variations that you can’t manage.
- Use Google’s ad extensions as they can enhance your ad quality score and increase the chances of your ads appearing on searches. The most important extensions are the call, sitelink, callout, and structured snippet.
- Google’s optimization score, not to be confused with quality score, can be helpful indicator but don’t take it too seriously and don’t let anyone use it as a cover or an excuse. A 100% optimization score does not necessarily mean good or effective ads.
- Do not use Google’s Responsive Search Ads unless you are willing to sit and audit each and every generated ad for its quality and human-friendliness.
- When creating artwork for Google Display ads make sure to create them in all the standard sizes for responsive display ads, and whenever possible add a bit of animation or movement to the artwork so that it would stand out within busy pages and placements.
- With Google Display Ads be careful not to exhaust your budget on ads that display within mobile games. You can exclude the games app category in your managed placements.
- Take advantage of retargeting so you can remarket to prospects who have visited your website previously. Install Google’s remarketing tag, Facebook’s pixel, and LinkedIn’s insights tag on your website.
Manage Things Right
You cannot “set it and forget it” when it comes to lead generation campaigns. You must monitor your campaigns regularly and keep optimizing till you get the results you want.
- Make sure you run and optimize your campaign for at least three months before you make any judgement on the success or failure of the campaign.
- Monitor the performance and the results daily if you can but don’t make daily changes. Leave at least seven days between changes, and make sure to change only one thing at a time so you would be able to determine what worked and what didn’t.
- Keep a close eye on your cost per lead metric and expect it to be higher at the early stages and lower as you go, which is perfectly normal.
If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions, or need any help with your lead generation campaign feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]