There’s no question anymore about the effectiveness of email as a direct marketing channel. Now marketers are optimizing that investment by personalizing content and experience, designing mobile-friendly emails, and automating campaign workflows.
But first things first. These tactics don’t work without an active database of leads and contacts who have expressed interest in hearing from your business (in other words, they’ve opted in to receive those emails you’re thinking about sending).
Lead generation helps marketers fill the top of the funnel with contacts who want to hear from you. It’s the start of a relationship.
Integrating these efforts across marketing channels—whether traditional advertising, digital media, direct mail, in-person events, or any combination—builds a database of qualified, warm leads for sales follow-up, further marketing, or immediate purchase.
While this means a constant flow of marketing information is coming in from multiple sources, it’s important to centralize this data for more accurate lead reporting, list segmentation, and campaign ROI analysis.
How lead generation works
A lead is “generated” when someone actively expresses interest in a product or service—by submitting information on a web form, opting in for communications, visiting a store or tradeshow booth, responding with a phone call, and so on.
According to a MarketingSherpa benchmark survey, the top 5 most widely used lead generation tactics are email marketing (81%), search engine optimization (75%), social media (72%), website optimization (68%), and content marketing (54%).
These activities produce the performance measurements and early-pipeline metrics by which marketing success is measured, tracking every click and conversion throughout the sales lifecycle. Whether they’re driven by online or offline brand messages, capturing these leads in a centralized marketing database is a key investment for building and nurturing your customer base.
Basic components of online lead generation are 1) an offer/call to action, 2) a landing page, and 3) a database designed for segmentation. Once leads are captured in the database, they can be “nurtured” through the sales pipeline with direct marketing and engagement tactics.
5 ways to get more out of your lead generation efforts
Lead generation is more than just complex (though highly effective) content-driven campaigns delivering a white paper to visitors who provide their contact information in exchange for the download. Simply making it easy for people to get in touch can be just as effective.
1 – Don’t limit your efforts to content offers. Make it easy for people to opt-in to receive email communications from you. Think about “Contact” and “About” pages as lead generation opportunities, too; instead of just capturing their email address for follow-up contact, include a simple open-ended comment box on these pages and listen to what people have to say.
2 – Map these calls to action and conversion points to your audience and sales cycle. Let’s say the goal is ultimately to get buyers into and moving through the purchase funnel of awareness, interest, evaluation, acquisition, and loyalty. A newsletter sign-up option or blog subscription may be best for someone in the early stages of awareness and interest, while case studies and technical documents are more relevant later in the sales cycle, based on interest expressed in previous content offers.
3 – The amount of information requested on an online form should be proportional to the value of the offer behind it. For example, name, company, and email address might be sufficient for a general newsletter signup; with content designed for later in the sales cycle, such as a case study offer or product trial, capturing information like company size and industry served helps marketers better understand their target audience and deliver the most relevant and timely content throughout their relationship with that lead/customer.
4 – Keep those leads engaged with your brand immediately after conversion. On the form submission confirmation page, provide a link to the offer (if applicable) and links to social media profiles or relevant content elsewhere on your website. The general “Thank you for submitting this form” message is a dead-end.
5 – Leverage information in your growing database to attract qualified leads and increase engagement with prospects and customers throughout the sales lifecycle. A well-maintained and organically grown marketing database will help you deliver relevant, personalized content at the right time to enhance your marketing and sales processes.
Providing multiple conversion opportunities and maintaining a centralized marketing database enables the direct marketing tactics that nurture leads into sales. With every interaction or touch-point, make it easy for people to find more information about your products and services or just get in touch.