Lead Generation Campaign Best Practices

There is no denying lead generation’s significance in developing a strong, efficient sales pipeline for your company. Despite its importance, however, a staggering 75% of businesses have either no campaign guidelines or an informal lead generation process, according to Marketing Sherpa’s Lead Generation Benchmark Report. Perhaps because of this, 61% of B2B businesses saw generating high quality leads as their top business challenge.

Creating an efficient, streamlined lead generation approach can significantly impact your company’s profit margins. By implementing the following six campaign best practices, your lead generation cycle can become more effective, efficient, and profitable:

1. Research Ahead:

A decade ago, lead generation primarily entailed cold calling, trade shows, and industry referrals. Today, lead generation campaigns are undergoing a fundamental change. Marketing is shifting from outbound, or going out and getting leads, to inbound, in which leads are drawn in.

This means that sales teams have a wealth of information about every consumer at their fingertips. In today's "Sales 2.0" climate, going in blindly to any "cold call" (although, in reality, it should be a warm call), consultation, or email campaign can only be attributed to poor planning. Taking the time to thoroughly research your audience, industry, and competitors is the first, and perhaps most essential, lead generation best practice.

First identifying your target audience and then understanding these prospects' needs and preferences will allow your company to develop campaigns that ultimately deliver a greater return on investment. Once the audience is identified, effective lead generation programs take advantage of one of two research strategies: the first is identifying a small audience sample size to run a campaign on, the latter is splitting your database in half and running direct split tests. By assessing side-by-side performance, these trial-and-error practices can reduce your risk of running sub-optimal investments.

When the best campaign is chosen for your target audience, ensure that your marketing and sales team research prospects before picking up the phone or typing an email. Having a base knowledge of the business' needs and clients’ preferences will help your company stretch its lead generation dollars.

2. Refine Your Follow-Up:

Lead generation is a step-by-step process: one that does not end with the initial acquisition of a lead. Instead, a proper follow-up with a qualified lead will ensure an increased conversion rate.

Whether a lead is initially attracted to your company by a referral, a Google search, or a blog entry is irrelevant; all leads, regardless of their origin, should receive a timely follow-up from your company. This follow-up should focus on two main points: that company’s problem, and your company’s solution. Although a reference to their website visit or trade show booth may offer an easy introduction, your follow-up call or email should focus on what your company can uniquely offer theirs.

As a general rule, the faster the follow-up time, the more likely that lead is to convert. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that contact leads within an hour of receiving queries are about 7 times as likely to have a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker as firms that contact the lead just an hour later. And yet, only 37% of companies follow-up within the recommended time frame. In an age of instant information, your company can stand out from competitors just by picking up the phone a little bit sooner.

3. Content Marketing:

Content marketing is becoming the leading focus among lead marketing professionals worldwide, with 34.8% of surveyors marking it as their first lead gen priority in 2013 (up from 18.9% in 2012). And rightfully so: done right, content marketing can engage prospects at every stage of the sales cycle, meaning a greater return on investment.

For the best content marketing, three general rules should apply: 1) Be relevant and useful to clients and prospects, 2) Inspire loyalty—not just “likes”, and 3) Generate, generate, generate content.

The best content incorporates the consumers’ perspective. What will they want to read? We guarantee it’s not a sales pitch. The most successful content – whether on a blog or on a social media site – is a balance of educational and entertaining. High-quality content will inspire leads to go beyond a cursory “like” and become interested prospects. For this step, generating specific content depending on the medium or the user, using marketing automation software such as HubSpot, will prove invaluable in converting more leads.

Although high-quality content is key, so too is a high quantity of content. According to Rishi Dave, B2B Social Media Editor of Dell, the computer company has an “always on, constant stream of conversation with our customers.” Once the conversation has begun, it becomes easier to get information –and eventually sales—from your prospect.

4. Alignment with Sales and Marketing:

Traditionally, businesses have had distinctive marketing and sales departments, each with separate team members, tasks, and priorities. According to a 2010 report by Aberdeen Research, however, companies that align marketing and sales departments experience an average 20% growth in annual revenue. Compare that to the 4% decline in "laggard" organizations, and your solution is obvious: take steps to create cohesion between sales and marketing.

This alignment begins with shared definitions. What is a lead? What about a qualified lead? And how about the various sales stages? Without this level of communication, your leads will not make it through the first step of your company's sales funnel. After these basics are agreed upon, marketing and sales teams will need to collaborate on the following: 1) Identifying the sources of leads, 2) Determining the appropriate "lead status" to track leads throughout the lead process, and 3) Assessing at what point leads get sent to marketing for nurturing or to sales for conversion.

For the third step, lead scoring (enumerating leads on a 1-10 scale based on their behavior and profile) can be a useful tool to determine which leads should go where. To further align sales and marketing, CRM integration software can prove beneficial.

5. Give Your Website a Check-Up:

Your website can be your most powerful marketing tool; the key is unlocking its potential. Ditch the overused WordPress theme and the hard-to-navigate online brochures. Instead, your website should be conversational, eye-catching, entertaining, and educational.

The first step in ensuring your website’s success is optimizing it for search engines. Search engines, such as Google, are your best source for targeted, motivated leads. Google’s newest Hummingbird Algorithm prefers sites that employ a conversational tone and repeated keyword phrases. In addition, incorporating a network of inbound links to your site from reputable external websites will help increase your SEO ranking.

Following the optimization, ensure that each page of your webpage includes an eye-catching call-to-action. Don’t settle for one “Contact us” page; invite prospects wherever they go to reach out to you. In addition, tailor your call-to-actions to address the consumer at each stage of the buying cycle. Free trials can appeal to a first-time visitor; a customized consultation might be better suited for a qualified lead.

Following the optimization, ensure that each page of your webpage includes an eye-catching call-to-action. Don’t settle for one “Contact us” page; invite prospects wherever they go to reach out to you. In addition, tailor your call-to-actions to address the consumer at each stage of the buying cycle. Free trials can appeal to a first-time visitor; a customized consultation might be better suited for a qualified lead.

Lastly, your website content should entertain, educate – and sell. Complement your products and services with educational information for consumers, such as “how to” articles, training videos, and best practice guides. Incorporate an internal link within each article, and make sure each page includes a phone number and online contact form.

6. Track and Trend Your Performance:

In order to measure your campaign’s effectiveness, it’s essential to track your performance relative to marketing initiatives. Tracking down the value of your efforts can be broken down into three general categories: 1) Lead Source (Where are your best/ worst leads coming from?), 2) Lead Status (Where are your leads slipping out of the sales funnel?), and Lead Conversation (How many leads are ultimately becoming opportunities?) Tools like Google Analytics and Omniture make this reporting simpler and more professional than ever before.

Knowing the best key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess your online lead generation efforts are essential for assessing the overall quality of your marketing and sales efforts. Beyond customer engagement and conversation rates, the following KPIs will allow your team to better understand your campaign’s effectiveness:

Bounce Rates/ Time Spent:These two metrics are early indicators of how engaged your audience is. 10,000 unique views on a white page is good — unless viewers only spend 10 seconds reading before losing interest.

Click Patterns:Tools such as Google Analytics or heat maps (CrazyEgg) illustrate where your audiences’ cursors are moving, thereby allowing you to optimize content and design based on where users are attracted.

Unique visits: The number of individuals that viewed your content within a designated time frame (such as a 30-day cookie window) is useful for understanding your SEO performance. Keep in mind that not all unique visits are created equal: a visit to a white page, for instance, is more valuable than a visit to a blog post.

Geography: Knowing where your audience is centralized will allow you to allocate more resources to that region.

Social Sharing: Although social media’s value as a lead gen strategy is still elusive, the value of having shareable content for individual referrals in undeniable.