"A lead generation company is a business that provides [other] businesses with prospective customer contact information based on certain criteria." (Houston Chronicle, Small Business)
If you’ve hired a lead generation company or are thinking about doing so, you will have one goal in mind: to garner more leads.
It's a simple aim in itself, but it requires a lot of work to achieve in practice. So how can you rest assured that you will see the excellent results you're looking for?
Whether your partner is simply helping you to achieve the numbers you seek or is providing a more thorough, end-to-end marketing solution, there are a few important questions that they should be able to answer.
1. How will you drive traffic to our website?Before you can gain leads, you need to attract visitors to your website. But these visitors can’t be just anyone – they need to be the right people, who are searching for a solution to a problem that your product or service can resolve.
To achieve this, you need – you’ve guessed it – content. You should be creating content - blog posts, eBooks, podcasts and the like - that answer your audience’s questions and provide solutions to their problems.
Whether your content is created in-house or outsourced, your lead generation company should be focusing on key criteria. Are you targeting the right people? Does your content add value and is it useful? Are you promoting your content through the correct channels? And if you’re falling short in some of these areas, what needs to change?
Beware of companies that focus too heavily on search engine optimisation (SEO) and make wildly ambitious promises about helping you to get your blog posts ranking on the first page of a Google search. Yes, keywords and search visibility are important. But it is far more crucial to ensure that your content addresses the needs of your target audience.
In its eGuide, Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide, Google writes: "Even though this guide's title contains the words "search engine", we'd like to say that you should base your optimisation decisions first and foremost on what's best for the visitors of your site. They're the main consumers of your content and are using search engines to find your work. Focusing too hard on specific tweaks to gain ranking in the organic results of search engines may not deliver the desired results. Search engine optimisation is about putting your site's best foot forward when it comes to visibility in search engines, but your ultimate consumers are your users, not search engines."If you create informative and valuable content with your audience at the forefront of your mind, the rest will follow. Remember, it’s better to reach ten people that really need your product or service than 100 who couldn’t care less.
2. How will you turn traffic into leads?
It’s all very well attracting visitors to your website but visitors aren’t leads. It’s important to have conversion processes in place, which give people plenty of opportunities to provide their contact details (in exchange for an offer that is useful or interesting to them) so that they become leads.
For example, it’s good practice to include calls-to-action (CTA) at the bottom of your blog posts offering additional – and meatier - content, such as an eBook that relates to the topic of the post. If the reader wants to find out more, they simply click on the CTA and are taken to a landing page to access the offer via filling in a form.
This approach is often referred to as a "content upgrade". Writing on The Smart Passive Income Blog, Pat Flynn says: "A content upgrade is simply bonus content that people can get access to in exchange for their email address. Unlike traditional "site-wide" lead magnets, however, content upgrades are unique to the specific content that people are already reading or listening to on your site."
Ask your partner how they plan to implement an effective conversion strategy. For instance, how will they ensure your CTAs are compelling and that your landing pages achieve the desired outcome? How will they measure, analyse and improve, where appropriate, on conversion metrics?
Furthermore, you should establish exactly what contact data they will help you capture when gathering leads. This will vary depending on your sales & marketing and wider business goals. By tailoring your forms to your company's specific needs, you will be better placed to identify those leads that are the most promising.
3. How will you nurture our leads?
You’ve gained a lead – or many leads – but the hard work isn’t over yet! This is the crux point – the moment when a person decides whether to begin to really consider you as an answer to their business challenge or not. So how will your partner work to make your leads sales-ready?
Writing on HubSpot, Niti Shah says: "It takes a lot to turn a lead into a customer: multiple interactions on multiple channels, good third-party coverage and reviews, a solid sales team, and much more."
At the very start of the nurturing process, it's good practice for newly-acquired leads to be directed to a thank you page, which not only thanks them but also gives them the opportunity to access an additional content offer. In this way, you make an early start on building a relationship with your new lead, look to garner further interest and potentially, to move further them along the buyer's journey.
Will your lead generation company send your leads relevant emails and offers to keep them in the loop and encourage them towards purchasing your product or service - without annoying them or contacting them too often? Again, this comes back to content. Will they help you create, optimise and promote relevant content offers that will guide prospects further down the sales funnel; so that you move your leads from early interest eBooks and checklists towards content that will inform their considerations and decision-making more directly, such as case studies, product demonstration videos and price guides?
The situation you want to avoid is entering into a partnership with a company that simply helps you acquire a list of email addresses and then leaves you out in the cold. Yes, that's a brilliant start but that data won't translate into customers without a lot more work.
A lead generation company promises to help your business gain more leads. However, not every such company is up to the task. A good way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to ask some probing questions that get right to the heart of your partner's skills and expertise.
The process, in essence, is simple: visitors come to your website; visitors convert to leads; leads are nurtured and, hopefully, go on to become customers. However, getting individuals to progress along this path means establishing a relationship between them and your business - with informative, useful and relevant content at its core.
In order to realise your business goals, you need to be sure that you are working with a partner that puts content that is directly aimed at your target audience first - and works to connect and engage with your resulting leads at every step.