The Forward Observer

B2B Websites: How To Generate More Leads

Worried that your website’s not catching more leads? Don’t be. Lots of B2B companies are in the same boat. Here’s how you can start reeling them in.

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Breaking News: A lot of B2B companies are not generating leads from their websites. While this may be surprising to many in the B2B marketing world, it’s true.

For many B2B companies, lead generation is still rooted in more traditional methods such as referrals, advertising, direct mail and cold calling. The idea of generating leads from a website is less familiar to an enormous swath of the business-to-business world.

Many companies have had successful business momentum and reputations to carry them along for years. But with the economic downturn of recent years and Internet advancements that have changed the way people buy, many firms are struggling to catch up with how best to use their websites to develop new business.

I recently had lunch with a couple of executives with an industrial manufacturing firm. Their company is successful and has even been doing some strategic planning to explore new areas of growth. But they were not familiar with how to generate leads from their website. And they are worried that they might be missing out on a lot of business opportunities.

An effective lead generation program is important in that it allows sales people to spend more time closing business instead of generating opportunities from scratch. Additionally, a lead generation program can turn leads into revenue faster.

The Way People Buy Has Changed

So what’s wrong with just stepping up your cold calling efforts? Well you can do that, but it’s increasingly less effective. The perils of caller ID aside, the way people buy has changed, thanks to the Internet.

In recent years, lead generation has undergone substantial changes brought on in part by new online and social marketing techniques. Specifically, the explosion of information readily available online has led to the ascent of the “self-directed buyer.”

Instead of finding prospects through outbound, interruptive marketing techniques like advertising and cold calling, companies now must focus on getting found online and building relationships with buyers.

In the past, there was less information available for buyers researching a purchase. That information scarcity forced them to interact with the seller early on in the process. At that point, the seller could educate the buyer and influence the buyer’s research and ultimate purchase.

Now in the era of information abundance, buyers are filtering out unwanted noise they don’t want to hear, and are independently researching what they do want to know.

As a result, buyers are overwhelmingly finding their vendors instead of the other way around. This was affirmed in a MarketingSherpa study:

This makes your company’s online presence more important than ever. Decision makers and influencers are more likely to find you before you know they are in the market for your product or service.

According to Forrester, buyers can be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% through their purchase before first contacting the seller. That means that buyers can delay talking to sales until they have thoroughly researched their purchase.

So how can a company get themselves inserted into the buyer’s journey long before the buyer wants to speak with them? Here are some the most important tactics:

Use Content Marketing and Blogging

Content is the fuel for all your lead generation efforts. The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “the marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

When properly implemented, content marketing can increase brand awareness and preference, generate social media shares and inbound links, boost search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, and generate quality leads for less than traditional marketing.

But there’s a catch. Your content must demonstrate a deep understanding of your prospects’ and customers’ pain points, and guide them toward solutions. In other words, your content should not be all about you.

The most important ingredient of your content marketing is the strategy. Your content needs to engage prospective buyers. And to do that, you need a plan that reflects your business goals, an understanding of what’s keeping your target audience up at night, content that addresses those concerns, and a content calendar.

Content marketing tip – make your content as visual as possible. Readers are inundated with text. Plus, the human brain processes pictures 60,000 times faster than text.

The centerpiece of your content marketing efforts should be your blog. Each post generates a new ticket in the SEO lottery, enabling you to get found by more prospective customers through organic (non-paid) search.

But remember that blog readers may not want to buy from you right away. Rather than trying to get your blog readers to ask for a product demo, take it slow and try to get them to just subscribe to your blog so you can begin an ongoing relationship.

Arm Your Website

For generating leads, your website is where it all comes together. KISSmetrics, the analytics and testing company says, “Your leads are only as good as the website that produces them.” If prospects are puzzled by your website’s layout, there’s a good chance they will leave, not return and never convert to a lead.

Here are the key website table stakes to play and win at the lead generation game:

  • SEOSearch marketing is about getting found by your prospects through search results and converting them into opportunities. More people will find you if you rank higher in search results.
  • Quality Content – Google’s recent updates like Hummingbird are an example of the search engine’s focus on quality. If you’re continuously creating the kind of content your audience is looking for, you’re on the right track. Don’t try to game the search algorithms. It never ends well for those who do.
  • Keywords – Determine the keywords that you want to rank highly for and then optimize your site for those terms. Remember to focus on terms your prospects would use, which are not necessarily the same as what you use.
  • On-page SEO – Try to optimize each page for one particular keyword. While on-page SEO is less important than it used to be for search rankings, it still accounts for about 20% of your search results.
  • Links – External links to your site are the biggest factor in your search rankings. How do you get external links? Produce remarkable content. Try it – it works! Internal links also help, but less so.
  • Blog Subscriptions – While your blog’s primary mission is to demonstrate thought leadership and expertise to your target audience, it is also one of the best places on your site to generate leads. If you can encourage your readers to subscribe to your blog, it will have a measurable effect on your lead generation.
  • Calls-to-Action (CTAs)– Calls-to-Action are where the rubber meets the road for lead generation. It’s part of your marketing message that should persuade people to act (e.g. subscribe to the blog, download an eBook or sign up for a product demo).
  • Landing PagesLanding pages are customized pages that your leads are directed to from CTAs, a social media page, an email send, an event invitation, a paid ad, or a search engine result. Your landing page copy should be clear and direct, and should give your prospects a good reason to provide their information. Err on the side of simplicity.
  • Forms – You can’t convert leads unless they fill out a form. And the shorter the form (i.e. fewer fields to complete), the higher the conversion. Ask for the least amount of information that you need to capture the lead and start the relationship.

Use Email Marketing

Email is the ligament of Internet marketing and lead generation. If you can strive to get email addresses of your prospects first and foremost, your lead generation will follow because of the relationship that smart email marketing can foster. Just remember to always offer value to the recipient.

Whether you’re hosting an event, sending out a new piece of content, or promoting a new service offering, email can deliver relationship-building communication at every stage of the funnel, especially to those leads that you already have in your database.

Use Social Media

Social media helps to share your content. Jay Baer says “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” And social sharing of your content can help your search engine rankings.

But social media is increasingly being used for lead generation. Not so much as a company-to-buyer model, but toward peer-to-peer influence marketing.

A recent Forrester survey found that only 20% of buyers believe what a brand says about itself, because people view any brand-to-buyer communication as an advertisement. But, 70% of buyers trust the recommendations of their friends and family.


photo credit: Mike Licht, via photopin cc

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