Everybody does list-format blog posts this time of year. Thought I’d give it a shot as well, running through a master list of approaches as preparation for improving your inbound marketing and lead generation tasks for 2012 and beyond. Consider these as the stepping stones for optimal business growth by aligning marketing & sales, and developing a content strategy designed to generate leads and nurture them into sales.
- Set your lead generation campaign goals. How many qualified leads. Cost-per-lead. Inquiry-to-lead conversion rate. Lead-to-sale conversion rate. Revenue-per-lead. Campaign ROI.
- Make sure marketing and sales understand what constitutes a quality lead so that marketing can do its job generating and qualifying sale-able leads.
- Have a sales-level agreement in place to define when leads are routed to sales based on their qualification status or lead scores
- Look at your pipeline conversion rates; find inconsistencies by total company, sales regions, sales people, and work to improve sales process throughout the funnel
- Understand the power of social media and search engines in the buying process; and do consider more time/resources/financial allocation towards inbound marketing and demand generation strategies that attract prospects to your funnel
- Review your marketing budgets line item by line item, and review activities that are considered unnecessary spending or have not worked to support your brand or lead generation strategy, and remove/optimize those older approaches
- Develop or substantiate your brand. Evaluate your position in the marketplace. Do a SWOT analysis. Reassure that the solutions you provide satisfy your prospects needs.
- Restate your company objectives; and reassure all of your messaging and sales approaches support those objectives. Those objectives include revenue, market share, branding, and lead generation objectives.
- Laser-focus your solutions to the target audiences most likely to buy from you. Limit waste messaging, and present a clear case to the key stakeholders who have purchase influence.
- Evaluate your resources. Do you have the right people to execute a full-fledged lead management program? Consider outsourcing to lead generation consultants who can complement your team; not replace them.
- Evaluate current media mix for lead generation. Reassess and optimize media placements, direct marketing tactics, trade show leads; traditional/digital media mix; Continue to integrate social media into your mix.
- Energize and be committed. An “update” on your sales-marketing structure needs to take place in order to serve prospects better. Marketing and Sales need to be aligned more than ever. Make it so, and commit to teamwork.
- Take a hard look at your targets. Define who are the final decision makers as well as the influencers. Understand each has their own media habits, needs, and drivers to purchase, and that outreach and message strategies have to be targeted specifically to those audiences.
- Start classifying your targets in detail. What their needs are. What their duties are. What their business challenges are. What kinds of content do they engage with? How long are their buying cycles? What are their preferred communication channels? What keywords do they use to research your solutions? This is called Buyer Persona development.
- Consider market research to further identify the needs of your buyer personas which leads to a message road map that all your communications needs to follow.
- Develop a content strategy that focuses on key messages that resonate with the buyer personas of your targets. By matching messages with your targets; increased engagement with your solutions occur, and that means more leads.
- Also, have your sales people speak to their clients. Ask them questions; why they purchased? Who they considered? How they found you? Gather marketing intelligence and gain feedback from those who do business with you.
- Prepare a detailed content roadmap that reviews what your key messages are and how those messages will be communicated into the marketplace.
- Match those messages with your personas pain points; what do they need, and how do you fill those needs? What messaging contributes to the “persuasiveness” of your solutions?
- Tell a story through the buying funnel. Guide audiences with appropriate topics from initial interest through problem ID through solution comparison through expertise example to competitive advantage and then to validation. Each stage has its own content message and delivery strategy that needs to be followed.
- Ensure you have the resources and staff that knows how to write, design, and produce engaging content for sharing and thought leadership, such as white papers, case studies, ebooks, and articles.
- Consider audio and video into your content. Testing the distribution of messaging via sound and vision can have an impact on message engagement and conversion.
- Use the SEO process as an integral first step to developing your content map. Specifically, the right keywords that your targets search for have to be part of your message and content assets, your website, and your blog.
- Have a content and promotional plan for your webinar, virtual trade show, and online events. Engaging messaging and topics attract registrations. Follow-up messages continue the nurturing process and promote a strong call-to-action.
- Make sure all content has proper sharing integrations so that your messages can be emailed, saved, tweeted, and shared via social media channels.
- Test and measure your content using tools such as Google Analytics, social media insight analytic platforms, and URL tracking such as Bit.ly, and determine which kinds of content via which channels bring more traffic to your site, and engage most audiences.
- Utilize marketing automation tools to manage your lead generation efforts and content distribution strategy. By automating targeted content delivery, distributed to prospects based on their behavior and buying cycle phase, increased engagement occurs, and that means higher lead conversions and increased sales opportunities. This is the basis of lead nurturing.
- Don’t avoid the most important element of lead generation; optimizing your landing pages so those visitors are strategically persuaded to donate their email address in exchange for content, registration, or trial.
- Assure that the offer is clearly visible, and that the benefits of doing business with your firm are clearly stated.
- Utilize optimization tools to perform A/B tests to ensure your messages are being communicated properly and conversion rates are being optimized.
- Make sure your landing pages are focused on a singular topic, and are aligned with your paid search ad, banner ad, or social media promotion.
- Limit the number of fields in your online submission form; but ask only for the most important information. Inquiries can be qualified later during the follow-up process; attracting inquiries is the priority.
I could go on and on with preparation and optimization tips and tweaks, but if you commit to a lead generation and lead management process, your revenue will increase and your market share will rise. Follow the content road map and have a message strategy for a.) your website, b.) your landing pages, c.) your lead attraction content d.) your blog and social media e.) your lead nurturing plan, and f.) your email and newsletter content. Without proper planning, your message approach won’t be optimized for lead generation.