Building a digital lead generation plan involves creating a cohesive strategy that moves users closer to conversion rather than an unfocused content marketing plan where content is developed without regard for SMART goals or a conscious intention to spur action. If you look at the image below, you see that consumers move systematically from awareness to conversion.
Of course, the process isn’t as straightforward as depicted in this image nor is it as simple but the image does a good job of showing that consumers don’t just wake up one day and decide to buy something. And, the old adage that says, “if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door” is simple hogwash. Consumers can’t buy a product unless they know it exists, which translates to the awareness stage not listed in this image.
Stages in digital lead generation
The stages involved in digital lead generation are the same as in every other marketing context and map to the consumer decision-making process that looks something like this:
- The gap between where the consumer is and where they want to be — ie. I’m hungry and I want to be full. Usually, this doesn’t involve a brand decision but a category decision. Brand decisions occur later in the process. Most marketers are committed to the concept that you can’t sell a consumer anything unless they need that product you can only awaken that need.
- Information search involves the active or passive search for those products that will fill the gap. Sometimes consumers use past experience and other things they learned over time about products that fulfill their needs while other times they search for information on social, search engines, or even traditional advertising.
- Evaluation is the stage in the decision-making process where consumers look at products they discovered during their information search. This stage may go on for a long time or they may move quickly to the next stage. Involvement often determines how long this stage lasts.
- In this stage, consumers make a decision on which product to purchase. Sometimes situations conspire to thwart their attempts to move to the next stage of actually making a purchase, such as availability, cost, budget, and options. For instance, when given a choice between many options, consumers may put off making a purchase until they can weigh the options, thus moving back to the evaluation stage. Unavailability may send consumers back to the drawing board; thus starting a new search.
- The purchase decision follows closely behind a decision unless factors intervene such as waiting for the next paycheck or for stock in a local store. In the digital world, we find that ubiquitous availability removes this major impediment to making a purchase. Hence, even physical stores need an e-commerce option to allow consumers to quickly implement their decision even if it requires the consumer to visit the store to pick up their purchase. Many stores that added curbside or in-store pickup for online orders during Covid, decided to continue the practice after noticing the large revenue increase experienced through online sales.
- Repeat purchase comes from satisfied customers who buy from you again. Keeping these customers is 5X less expensive than replacing them hence underpinning the notion of relationship marketing.
- Evangelism involves consumers, commonly very satisfied customers, who recommend you to their social network or even perfect strangers. These recommendations and reviews carry a lot of weight with prospective customers and work to convert them, as well. This makes evangelists extremely valuable to the organization. And, evangelists are even more valuable than influencers since you must pay influencers to spread your good name and consumers may distrust influencers if they suspect their opinion comes through a paid source rather than organically. In its extreme, evangelists define you against folks who post negative comments about your brand or perform other actions that detract from positive attitudes toward your brand.
Despite the importance of stages 6 and 7, we commonly truncate the lead generation process so it stops at the initial conversion.
Exploding your digital lead generation
Obviously, your goal is to explode your digital lead generation by using tactics designed to optimize performance at each stage in the digital lead generation process. That means you need to drop more prospects into the top of the funnel and move more of them through the funnel so they reach the conversion stage that makes your cash register ring (figuratively). Just take a look at the impact of reducing loss at each stage of the funnel in this image.
While this image only addresses exits from your website, you face a similar situation from every marketing tactic you employ. Take email marketing as an example. You send subscribers messages which they must open, click on a link, and start a new journey on your website. Yet, open rates dropped significantly after changes to the email platforms many consumers use (for instance, gmail segregates promotions into a separate tab that 20% of users never open). Moreover, experts estimate that up to 75% of your subscribers are inactive and never open your missives. And, the situation is the same for other digital marketing tactics (and even worse for traditional media). In digital advertising, experts place the number of accidental clicks at somewhere between 10% and 60% of all clicks from the campaign while robots account for up to 90% of all clicks. These statistics threaten your brand’s success across any marketing strategy you employ, so all require an upgrade to your digital lead generation programs to achieve success.
So, where do you start in trying to explode your digital lead generation? Read on.
Targeting and positioning
When I worked as a counselor for the Small Business Administration, my first question to prospective entrepreneurs was, “who’s your target market”? The inevitable answer was everyone.
The answer shows the basic confusion that exists regarding what a target market is and why you need to define your target market.
A target market is that group of consumers most likely to buy your brand. That doesn’t mean you exclude anyone not part of your target market, just that you focus your efforts on those most likely to respond favorably. To understand the concept better, check out the image below.
Choosing the right market generates better returns for your organization because you have a better idea of what will work in your digital lead generation program. A target market is defined by:
- Demographics like age, income, gender, education
- Geographics like country, region, city, population density
- Psychographics such as lifestyle, personality, social class
- Behavioral elements such as usage occasion, usage rate, and benefits sought
To further enhance your efforts to define your target market, brands commonly build personas containing rich information about prototypical consumers that represent a group, such as the one below.
Once you’ve built your personas, your next step is positioning your brands to appeal to each persona. For instance, in the image above, we see more about Rachel. In designing communication for yer, we would stress our brand’s benefits that solve her challenges since we know that consumers buy solutions, not products. For a different persona, we might stress other benefits from our brand that solve their unique set of problems. Being all things to all people often results in being nothing to anyone as you didn’t provide a reason to prefer your products over those of your competition.
Optimize your digital lead generation
Next, investigate your existing funnel for digital lead generation. Measure performance for each tactic used in the funnel so you have a clear starting point to assess the amount of lift from your marketing efforts. As part of this process, identify KPIs (key performance indicators) since assessing these metrics offers the best potential for improving your performance. Among the KPIs you might consider are:
- Social media engagement ie. likes, shares, and comments per post
- Email performance including open and click rates
- Website bounce rate
- The uptick in traffic over time
- Percentage of returning visitors versus new visitors
- Landing page performance such as number of exits and where visitors exit to from your landing page (ie. are they going to a competitor)
- Share of voice on social
- CTR – click-through rate for email, advertising, etc
- Time on site
- Conversion rate by marketing strategy
- Average order size
Next, ask yourself: Which efforts performed best? What features do the best-performing efforts share? That way, you’re in a good position to replicate your best performers to enhance your overall performance.
Content marketing strategy
Content marketing is critical for SEO so it’s an essential element of any digital marketing strategy. Beyond its role in driving organic traffic, however, is the impact of content on your digital lead generation and the ultimate success of your efforts.
Create a content marketing calendar to coordinate your posts across channels remembering that your prospects might use multiple channels. A content calendar ensures consistency as well so that you post according to the schedule that works best for your brand. You might, for instance, schedule 5 posts per day on Twitter, but only 1 or 2 posts per day works on Instagram. Publishing content on the right schedule at the right time makes a huge difference in the success of your digital lead generation plan.
In the graphic below, you see how digital strategies vary as a consumer moves down the funnel so let’s start and the top and work down to explore content marketing strategies across the funnel.
Consumers can’t buy products unless they know about them. At the awareness stage, you must focus on the wide distribution of content across all channels where your target market (personas) participate. Use the social media platforms that fit best with your product and customer personas. Post frequently, including social advertising posts, focusing on achieving both reach (how many users see your posts) and frequency (how many times the average user sees your post). We know from research that consumers need to see your posts multiple times before they recall anything about your brand, including its name and main benefits. Ad burnout occurs when users see your ads too many times so strive for a frequency of at least 5 but don’t go overboard. To reduce burnout, vary your advertising and posts but coordinate them using similar images, colors, and fonts to effectively brand your products.
The end goal at this stage in the process should be to send additional visitors representing your target market to your website for more in-depth content designed to move them further down the funnel.
Building favorable attitudes
Once you attract visitors to your website, your content should now focus on building favorable attitudes, answering questions, and showing how your brand solves the visitor’s problems. Here, long-form content such as blog posts, videos, and infographics work to move visitors to the next stage in the funnel. Sharing honest reviews helps move the needle because users believe other users more than they believe in brand communication. Creating content that sets you up as an expert not only helps drive awareness by showing up in search results and gaining backlinks from other websites operating in your niche but works to create favorable attitudes when visitors come to your site to learn more about you.
A video is a great tool for building favorable attitudes but should focus on building the brand. Examples of valuable video content are:
- Explainer videos
- Storytelling videos
- Introduce the team videos
- Show your values and examples of social responsibility
For the most success, map content to where a visitor is along their customer journey to address their specific concerns at that stage. Below, you see a customer journey gone wrong when the brand didn’t adequately plan for content needed by the customer at that stage. Ensuring your content is mobile-ready, you scrupulously manage your reviews to remove fakes ones, and ensure you provide sufficient customer support from knowledgeable and empowered employees (even using chatbots to extend your customer support resources and filter those requiring human interaction). Offering options to filter results reduces information overload and the time needed to search for suitable products.
Part of this stage of the process, where prospects are considering a purchase, involves retargeting to reach those with a prior visit to your website so you remain top-of-mind when they make a purchase decision.
Toward the end of the evaluation stage above, consumers make a purchase decision. But, you’re not done there. A number of factors conspire to thwart a consumer’s efforts to make a purchase. You can ease these issues by providing financing options for large purchases, taking multiple forms of payment, offering multiple price points, providing warrantees and easy return policies, and being honest about costs and dates for delivery.
I hope you found this post helpful in optimizing your own digital lead generation process. Please share this with your network so you can help others discover how to explode their business.
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