Lead generation is the action or process of identifying and cultivating potential customers for a business’s products or services. Basically, you’re looking for people who likely want to buy from you, and it’s pertinent that you deploy the best strategies to collect those people.
The name of the game in digital marketing is to generate online leads. Of course, lead generation activities differ from industry to industry and company to company. When it comes to ways to generate sales leads, however, there is a good deal of common ground.
Taboola’s Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation defines lead generation, and covers tools and processes to get you started. If you missed the article, check it out. It digs into the following internet marketing lead-generation tactics and encompasses the big picture:
- Content marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Search engine marketing (pay-per-click)
- Offering lead magnets to build email lists
- Social media marketing
It provides a good overview of how to create buyer personas and increase online leads in your sales and marketing funnel. In this post, we expand on these ideas and delve into specific strategies to consider adding to your lead-generation arsenal.
Note: You may also want to check-out our recent post about generating high-quality leads.
How to Generate leads with digital advertising
Advertising is far from dead. It’s simply evolved. More often than not, the age-old practice of simple interruption or distraction has given way to presenting ads more in line with the prospect’s needs. Technology makes possible the data-driven approach that evaded us in decades past.
Let’s look at some of the paid-marketing strategies brands use to generate online leads with various lead generation campaigns:
1. Search engine advertising
While the pay-per-click (PPC) model applies to various ad types, search engine advertising remains its most popular form and Google’s still its revenue champion.
Running search engine ads is a way of buying visits to your site. As an advertiser, you bid for placements on the search engine results pages (SERPs) when someone searches a relevant term.
For example, a quick search for “marketing tools” reveals ads from companies like Bronto, PWC, Capterra and SurveyMonkey.
2. Social media advertising
Facebook dominates social media advertising and many brands deem it a necessity for reaching followers with any degree of predictability.Of course, Instagram (a Facebook company) LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube (a Google company), Pinterest and many others offer social media ad programs.Social media ads take many forms and the programs perpetually evolve. Like search, social media advertising is often based on a PPC model.
The Instapage ad above is an example of a social media ad targeting online marketers via LinkedIn.
Social media ads take many forms and the programs perpetually evolve. Like search, social media advertising is often based on a PPC model.
3. Native advertising
The online dictionary says: “native advertising is blurring the lines between advertising and content.” Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the form and function of the medium on which the ads reside.
Native advertising takes many forms, including search engine advertising and social media advertising. Native advertising is also a powerful play beyond the ‘walled gardens’ of Google, Facebook, etc. and affords advertisers greater scalability.
Discovery ads are the native ad form that fuels Taboola’s business. Discovery ads showcase brands and the content they offer on publishers’ websites.
Labeled ‘sponsored’ or ‘recommended,’ they commonly appear below, beside or within articles . They do not resemble traditional banners and generally include a single image, title and brand name (but no logo).
Above is a glimpse of a section of the Taboola feeds on The Weather Channel. Promoted content includes advertisers and additional pages on The Weather Channel site.
5. Sponsored content
Sponsored content is another type of native advertising found on media sites. The ad —and the content it links to (usually long-form) — is generally created via a collaboration between the advertiser and the host publisher.
For example, Forbes’ brand voice portal is home to many sponsored articles, like this one from gradsoflife.org:
Sponsored content takes many forms including articles, videos and reports. It usually focuses on educating the prospect.
Retargeting (or remarketing) ads are not necessarily native; they often take the form of the digital display ads that have populated the web since the 1990s.
Retargeting ad programs track people who visit your site and later display your ads to them as they visit other sites. For obvious reasons, retargeting ads often prominently feature an offer.
For example, Otty‘s Taboola retargeting campaigns generating 10x the results of those that weren’t using retargeting—they did so by simply retargeting previous site visitors that hadn’t taken action before.
Generate leads online with content
Digital marketing affords you a great many opportunities to generate traffic organically and convert visitors to leads, by offering various types of content potential buyers will value.
‘Lead magnets’ is the moniker often attached to free content assets that require a prospect to opt-in to your email list as the price of admission. So, next we’ll examine lead generation tactics that aim to convert a visitor to a subscriber.
A blog is the grandmaster of all content-marketing strategies. Only in rare cases would admission to your blog require a visitor to fill out a form, however, your company’s blog is the home to articles, images, video, audio or any digital assets that might inspire a visitor to become a prospect.
Think of your blog as a gateway to lead generation. Done well, a blog can also:
- Position your company and people as subject matter experts
- Earn search engine rankings
- Inspire a dialogue with prospects
8. Big content
I wish I had a better name for this one, but big content will have to do. Your big content might be industry research reports, educational eBooks, online courses, a series of videos, and more. The key here is to offer content that is free, but so valuable that many might pay for it if asked to do so.
It’s fair to qualify the report offered in the squeeze page above as ‘big content.’ As you see here, Salesforce offers a robust industry research report at no cost.
Video is sometimes gated. This means a form will be a part of the process by which a prospect gains access to your content.
A 60-second explainer video (a commercial, basically) should not require a form fill, however, various types of educational and/or entertaining videos are perfect for generating online leads.
Though they require a good deal of planning, preparation and promotion, webinars are one of today’s best lead-generation tactics, especially for B2B marketing.
Effective webinars tend to focus on specific problems and challenges people face. They can also add a degree of interactivity to increase engagement. Recorded webinars become an evergreen asset and repurposed webinar content can support a variety of additional lead-generation programs.
11. Coupons and rewards
You can’t discount the power of the discount. In many industries, financial incentives are what most motivates would-be buyers to act. Coupons present the most obvious form of lead generation here, but a number of rewards programs such as discounts, bonus offers, and loyalty programs can work to create leads, generate sales, and customer loyalty.
12. Interactive content
Interactive content is a big and expanding form of online lead generation. Interactive tactics often include a degree of gamification with promotions such as quizzes, contests and sweepstakes. Tactics, such as assessments, surveys and buying guides, serve to (1) help buyers make informed decisions and (2) deliver customer insights to marketers.
BuzzFeed helped make the interactive quiz a staple of marketing.
13. Tools and apps
Consider extending your interactive content portfolio to include tools and apps that engage and inspire prospects. Calculators, templates, evaluations, and virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) applications are a few of the tools marketers offer customers aiming to make smart buying decisions.
Make your website a lead generator
‘Owned media’ is a term often associated with digital assets deployed on your website and blog where you have complete control.
14. Landing page
While a landing page resides on your domain, it should function differently to a standard web page and focus on a specific offer with a singular call-to-action. Landing pages often serve as the gateway to delivering an offer associated with a digital ad or any type of lead generation element that appears somewhere other than your website.
The style and content of landing pages differs greatly, but the common denominator is they focus on converting the visitor with the use of a form or sales mechanism.
This one from Casper clearly indicates the one action they want site visitors to do—shop.
Pop-ups get a bad rap as marketers often feel they detract from the user experience and chase customers away. The truth, however, is pop-ups can increase conversion.
If you’re new to using pop-ups on your website, experiment with the options pop-ups offer, such as interstitials, exit-intent, slide-ins, and the like. Many of the services that enable you to deploy pop-ups on your site offer options to change the timing, frequency, and pages on which your pop-ups appear and may enable you to A/B test your tactics.
Try different approaches and closely monitor conversion metrics to find a fit for your audience aligned to your marketing objectives.
Chat is growing in popularity. Most customers would rather chat than call or email. Employ chat services manned by live agents, automate the exchanges, or a combination of both.
This example from SoBo stylist shows how you can use a chatbot to do things like book appointments with potential consumers.
While chat first caught on as a customer service feature, it’s now widely used to engage first-time visitors and help them find the answers they seek.
Earn leads by increasing your digital footprint
Let’s look at offsite lead-generation strategies that don’t depend on buying media. I like to refer to the idea of ‘earning’ media as an exercise in increasing your digital footprint.
17. Organic search
In this era of continuous and nearly ubiquitous connectivity, most buying exercises begin with search.
As such, generating traffic via organic search is all-important to global, regional or local businesses. Any business serious about generating leads must develop some understanding of search engine optimization (SEO). While dominating search engine results is a complex undertaking, the process of indicating to the search engines your page is relevant to a specific search term, or keyword, is a simple process.
18. Social media
As younger generations expand and seize the largest chunk of the workforce and consumer buying power, social media is vital for your brand.
Does this mean you must make yourself known across every social network? No. Your social media marketing strategy should focus on identifying where your potential customers are active and what types of content gets them to click, comment, and share.
19. Q&A sites and forums
Question and answer sites, such as Quora, are another form of social media where your brand can raise its presence, deliver value and generate leads.
Forums too – be they groups on social media, industry specific exchanges, or forum-based sites such as Reddit— attract people with like-minded interests in pursuit of solutions to the challenges they face at work and in their lives.
20. Guest blogging and syndication
Q: What’s a brand to do when it struggles to build its audience on its blog or website? A: Get published on sites that already have a big (or highly-focused) audience.
This is guest blogging. As part of your larger lead generation strategy, guest blogging can boost reach to target markets, elevate authority, secure backlinks to your site, and capture new sources of traffic likely to subscribe to your blog and/or explore what your website and company offers.
PR works in tandem with paid advertising, content marketing, events, and a variety of marketing tactics both online and off to generate traffic and leads. Editorial placements earned through PR also help increase conversion rates by winning credible, third-party endorsements.
Marketing qualified leads versus sales qualified leads
Generating leads is a big thing. It’s key when measuring marketing programs. A marketing qualified lead and sales qualified lead, however are often not the same. In other words, when it comes to winning paying customers, lead quantity isn’t everything.
So, while we encourage you to step-up your lead generation activities by exploring some of the strategies offered here, stay tuned for our follow-up article, in which we’ll examine how to generate qualified leads, as defined by marketing and sales teams working in tandem to build the business.