How to Select the Right Lead Generation Media Mix

Most B-to-B lead generation campaigns involve multiple touches via multiple media channels. But how do you decide which media are optimal, and more to the point, how they work together to generate a qualified lead?

Closing the Funnel: How Marketers Use Data and Attribution to Deliver Better Leads and Enable SalesMost B-to-B lead generation campaigns involve multiple touches via multiple media channels. But how do you decide which media are optimal, and more to the point, how they work together to generate a qualified lead?

It’s an iterative process. The first step is to establish with the sales team their monthly (or weekly, or quarterly) requirements for the number of qualified leads per rep — or by product, or by territory, or whatever is needed. Then, plan carefully the media mix that will feed the machine.

The media mix is a function of several variables, which you need to research:

  • The ROI each medium can deliver, based on your company’s experience and industry benchmarks.
  • The medium’s availability. Some media channels are scheduled intermittently. Consider when the trade shows and conferences in your industry are scheduled throughout the year. Other media may be only intermittently profitable. Content syndication, for example, is priced all over the place. Can you get enough leads from this channel to satisfy your requirements?
  • The campaign’s time horizon. Digital media are faster to produce than direct mail. Business events can take months of planning before a lead emerges.
  • Lead flow requirements. For example, sales may need more leads in the first and fourth quarters.
  • Your business objectives. Are there particular geographies or industry targets you need to reach?
  • Media effectiveness. Media come and go, in terms of their power to attract business buyers. Thank goodness there are new and exciting B-to-B media arriving on the scene regularly.

Enter your research data into a spreadsheet, and play around with it as an iterative planning tool. The table here presents a simple hypothetical example of how this can work.

Calculating Costs Per Lead by MediumYou can expand this spreadsheet to include other key variables, like timing, geographic territory requirements and your ROI hurdle rates.

You are likely to end up with some very inexpensive leads in your mix, and that’s a blessing. The unfortunate thing is that, typically, these leads are unlikely to be enough to meet your revenue targets or support your sales force’s quota. So you’ll need to select several options — ranking them by ROI, availability and your lead flow criteria — to come up with the optimal mix.

Multiple media working together generate better results than single media, with one big proviso: The messages must be consistent across media. An inconsistent message can cause confusion and erode the value of your brand.

Pulling this off is not always easy, especially in larger companies. You have to coordinate functional silos with their own managers, vocabularies, cultures, budgets and objectives. This requires tenacity, a focus on the customer experience, and support from senior management. But the payoff is colossal. All outbound contacts with customers, whether they are customer service messages or even billing-related messages, can potentially be harnessed for the lead effort.

A simple technique is to put the company URL on all messages received by customers. The same principle applies to customer touch points that are less obviously part of marketing communications, like packaging and invoices — any point where the customer comes in contact with the product or service. Be sure you have a gated offer prominently positioned on the home page.

Similarly, some ongoing marketing communications channels can be designed to support lead generation. To stimulate your thinking:

  • Ensure that all brand-awareness advertising includes an offer, a call to action and a response device.
  • Include a white paper offer, with response instructions, such as an 800 number or a web form URL, in your press releases.
  • When executives give speeches, invite your customers and prospects to attend.

Lead generation can harness all kinds of media channels, if you give it some thought and planning.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Marketing to Millennial Business Buyers

The Millennial generation has been out in the workforce for a while now, and this cohort is now entering the stage of their careers where they are part of the business buying process. Much has been written about Millennial preferences as consumers. But how about them as business buyers? Let’s take a look.

The Millennial generation has been out in the workforce for a while now, and this cohort is now entering the stage of their careers where they are part of the business buying process. They may not all be decision-makers quite yet, but they are certainly important influencers. So we B-to-B marketers must consider how to appeal to Millennial business buyers effectively. Much has been written about Millennial preferences as consumers. But how about them as business buyers? Let’s take a look.

Millennials were born in the range of 1977 to 1995, more or less — some researchers put it at 1980s to 2000s. So they range in age today from around 20 to late 30s. As consumers, they are tech dependent, they value authenticity, and they are attracted to brands that think and act like them. Here’s what this means to B-to-B marketers.

Broaden your communications media channels. Millennials prefer mobile text, and IM networks like WhatsApp for direct messages. For advertising, use social media like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Streamline your lead gen. Make it effortless. Use auto-populate techniques for forms, where possible. Ask for minimal data elements (but fill in the company profile using an outside provider like ReachForce).

Mobile-enable all communications. This means mobile-friendly website and email formats.

Ask for referrals. Millennials are very loyal, once they establish a trusted connection with a brand. So they are likely to refer, especially if you ask.

Avoid marketing speak. Be real, authentic and truthful (they fact check). Get to the point, fast (but make plenty of information available if they want it). Don’t be too serious — make them laugh.

Don’t sell too hard. Not only do they fact check, they’ll also look at reviews, comments and other online validation.

Be active on social media. The B-to-B value of social has been proven again and again. But if you’re still not convinced, the behavior of Millennials should be enough to put you over the top. This generation expects you to be tweeting, blogging, posting on Facebook, and participating in LinkedIn groups.

Tell stories. These buyers respond to emotion. Use case studies, testimonials.

Treat them uniquely, not as a member of a group. This translates into taking full advantage of personalization techniques, like dynamic web page serving and data-driven customized messaging.

Talk about efficiency, and results. These are the themes that interest Millennials. They want to operate faster, cheaper, better. And they want their efforts to change the world. If you can help with those missions, say so. These are the product positioning angles that are meaningful to the new business buyer.

Any other ideas to add to the list?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Drive Leads on Facebook by Getting Customers to Gab

What can a regional supplier of HVAC products and services teach you about Facebook? Plenty. I’ve already explained how Steelmaster Buildings gets leads on its Facebook page using a similar strategy. Today I’ll give an update on how Amanda Kinsella, of residential HVAC provider Logan Services, is getting along. She is continuing to generate leads and tracking ROI to the penny on Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

What can a regional supplier of HVAC products and services teach you about Facebook? Plenty.

I’ve already explained how Steelmaster Buildings gets leads on its Facebook page using a similar strategy. Today I’ll give an update on how Amanda Kinsella, of residential HVAC provider Logan Services, is getting along.

She is continuing to generate leads and tracking ROI to the penny on Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

A Simple Approach
Drive prospects to your page and get them talking about themselves. At first it sounds too simple. But that’s the beauty of it. Here’s the short version: grab customers’ attention and “ethically bribe” them to visit your Facebook page.

Sure, use a contest … BUT … make sure you provide an incentive for prospects to talk about themselves.

Bribe Customers to Talk About Themselves
Get a bowl of candy. Then, hand it out. Free. Just like at a trade show booth.

Why do vendors set out a bowl of candy? To encourage you to linger? Yes.

But smart booth attendants know the key to success is not using candy to talk about what they’re selling. Generating leads is 110 percent about getting prospects talking about themselves first.

A Strange Place to Start
Don’t be fooled by the bad advice online about how to generate leads on Facebook. We’re being hoodwinked into believing social media is a no-cost way of generating customers.

Wrong! It is a low-cost strategy. Smart, targeted advertising is often where to start: Buy attention. Pay for advertisements in places your target market can be found.

For example, Amanda is a one-woman marketing team at Logan Services. This small business serves a large chunk of territory in the Dayton, Ohio region.

Amanda keeps it simple—buying ads where her target market hangs out. She invests precious budget-dollars in local newspapers, TV and radio spots. This creates attention she can work with … that she can push towards Logan’s Facebook page.

Her lure? A free heating or air conditioning system for a customer who needs one. She runs a contest on Facebook that gives away a multi-thousand-dollar residential HVAC system!

Sound crazy? Keep reading. She’s been doing this for a few years now—generating positive ROI.

Tactic No. 1: Use an Incentive to Spread the Word
Any fool can run a contest on Facebook. But when giving away thousands of dollars in equipment and a service contract, Amanda has to be SURE her investment will pay off.

She needs guaranteed leads that will generate thousands in profit for Logan.

When potential customers (from the ads) first started landing on the Facebook page, Amanda told them about the catch. Nobody would win a new furnace unless a minimum of 200 prospects entered the contest.

Her prospects needed to:

  • tell Logan why they needed the system (in a few sentences); and
  • spread the word about the contest.

Amanda put her prospects under incentive to help make sure Logan got what it wanted—leads! You can do the same.

Tactic No. 2: Use Your ‘Thank You’ Page
After prospects filled out the contest application, they were presented with an opportunity to get a quote from Logan on the contest “thank you” page. On average, 20 percent of all contestants started requesting quotes.

Prospects were realizing, “Hey we need a furnace sometime soon … and we may not actually win … so why not check out Logan’s prices anyway?”

This is the power of good direct response social marketing design and this is why you should know people like Amanda.

Tactic No. 3: Give Customers an Incentive to Talk
Human beings love to talk. Especially about themselves. Your potential new (and existing) customers are no different.

Once Amanda’s hopeful contestants spread the word (and reached the minimum threshold) they were given a chance to enter the contest. To enter, prospects filled out an application. The contest form captured valuable insights … stories on why the prospect needed a new furnace so badly.

Talking about themselves naturally revealed details about current and future need for Logan’s products and services.

Convincing customers to talk about themselves is how Amanda grew her database of qualified leads well into the hundreds. That was just in the first year.

Exactly How She Did It
Here is a visual example of how Amanda “ethically bribes” customers to talk about themselves … in ways that reveals leads for her sales team to gently follow-up on.

YOU can do the same. See how it works?

Today, Amanda uses the same lead generation model for Facebook. It works, so why change it?

She also exploits her captive audience on Logan’s Facebook page. As you can see above, these are people who have come to expect giveaways. So, Amanda gives away regularly!

In this case, cash. Gift cards.

Amanda’s reward? More leads at even less cost.

Here’s the rub: She’s not spending on ads for these leads because prospects been “trained” to keep in touch with Logan. Lately, they’re hungry for energy saving tips that save them some money. But most of all, prospects and customers are on Logan’s Facebook page accessing the latest contests.

It wasn’t always easy for Amanda. She struggled for a long time. Amanda tried everything to get potential buyers to talk with her on Facebook. But nobody wanted to talk with a HVAC company. Not even about subjects like saving money on taxes and other energy tips she provided.

But today is a different time for Amanda!

Death of the Salesman

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet … And marketing

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet.

According to a recent CEB article in the Harvard Business Review, 57 percent of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and Gartner Research predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. That shouldn’t surprise anyone since we spend much of our days tapping on keyboards or flicking our fingers across tiny screens.

In Willy’s day, the lead generation process would have consisted of making a phone call, setting up an appointment, hopping a plane to the prospect’s office, and dragging a sample case through the airport. In the 1980’s, that sample case turned into an overhead projector, then a slide projector and a laptop, and finally a mini projector linked to a mobile device or thumb drive. In 2014, salespeople are lucky if they can connect to a prospect on a video conferencing call.

Clearly the days of gathering in a conference room for the sales pitch are long gone. We’ve always known that sales people talk too much and buyers, who’ve never had the patience to listen, now have the tools to avoid them altogether: websites, whitepapers, case studies, videos, LinkedIn groups, webcasts—virtually anything and everything to avoid talking to sales.

As a result, the sales function has now been placed squarely in the hands of the content strategists and creators. And yes, that means that the sales function is now in the hands of marketing.

Now a different problem exists. Most marketing folks don’t know how to help the buyer along their journey because that’s not how they’ve been trained. They have no idea how different types of buyers think, or how they search for information, or make decisions, so they don’t know how to create nor position content in a meaningful and relevant way—and that’s long been the complaint of sales. In their opinion, all marketing does is churn out “fluff” that is irrelevant to a serious buyer.

Now marketers must step up and really understand how to optimize marketing tools in order to help that buyer reach the right brand decision at the end of their journey. That’s really why content has become the marketing buzz word.

And just like we despised the salesman who talked too much, potential buyers despise content that is full of sales-speak. While a product brochure has a purpose, it is not strategic content. Similarly, a webinar in which most of the supporting slides are simply advertising for the product, turns off participants who quickly express their displeasure via online chat tools to the host and by logging out of the event.

Great content should seek to:

  • Be authentic: What you say needs to sound genuine and ring true—no one believes you are the only solution to a problem. On the contrary, the discovery process is all about evaluating your options (the pros and the cons). Avoiding a question because your answer may reveal the flaws of your product or service only shines a spotlight on the issue. Honesty is always the best policy.
  • Be relevant: Share insightful information that leverages your expertise and experience; help the buyer connect the dots. “How to” articles are popular, as are comparison charts—if you’re not going to do it, the prospect will be doing it for themselves anyway, so why not help by pointing out comparison points (that benefit your product) they might not have previously considered?
  • Be timely: To get a leg up in the marketplace, you need to be prepared to add value when the timing is ripe. It’s highly unlikely that your marketplace hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. Help show buyers how your product/service is relevant in today’s marketplace—how it deals with challenges you know they’re facing or are going to face tomorrow.

Smart marketers have a lead nurturing strategy in place—an organized and logical method of sharing relevant content along the buy cycle. And that content is well written and segmented by type of decision maker. The CFO has a different set of evaluation criteria from the CEO and the CTO. Business owners look at purchase decisions through a completely different lens than a corporate manager.

Depending on the industry, business buyers have different problems they’re trying to solve, so generic content has less relevance than content that addresses specific issues in an industry segment. Those in healthcare, for example, perceive a problem from a different perspective than those in transportation.

The new name of the selling game is “Educate the Buyer—but in a helpful and relevant way.” And while Willy Loman may continue to sit at his desk making cold calls or sending out prospecting emails, the reality is nobody has the patience or interest to listen to his sales pitch any more. So marketers need to step up and accept responsibility for lead generation, lead nurturing and, in many instances, closing the sale.

The Power of Interstitials … Are You Using Them?

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get your website visitors’ attention and take action. According to adspeed.com, an interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before (on top of) the actual webpage. This illustration is a sample. Your webmaster or Web programmer can easily put this in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it’s an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

Whether your goal is cross-selling or lead generation, interstitials are a great way to get your website visitors’ attention and take action.

According to adspeed.com, an interstitial ad is a full-page ad that appears before (on top of) the actual webpage.

This illustration is a sample.

Your webmaster or Web programmer can easily put this in place via an html script. In a nutshell, it’s an ad in the front/center of the screen (some sites even keep the ad in place if you scroll up or down, which I find annoying).

Typically, interstitials don’t get blocked, like pop-up ads, by many websites or search engines. (For example, Google AdWords won’t approve a PPC campaign if the redirect URL goes to a website that has pop-up ads).

An interstitial can feature various offers for lead generation (email collection) or sales (selling a product). It could be alerting the audience of a special offer, new product, poll or more.

Most interstitials are visually attractive, with strong promotional copy, calls to action and eye-catching graphics. Then the background of the ad is greyed-out, where you can still see the website behind the ad, but it’s faded—so your focus is on the main offer. There’s also a clear and obvious way to close the interstitial. No tricks or hard-to-find “close x” buttons.

Interstitials are ideal if you don’t have room for banner or text ads on your website or you don’t want to affect the current layout of you home page or website theme.

Not all interstitials, however, are created equal. I’ve seen some implemented that are not only unattractive, but are also ineffective in copy and execution. So think about the traffic and audience that may be coming to your website and the offer that may be most attractive to them.

If you drive a lot of traffic to your site but haven’t been able to monetize the traffic or harness the emails, an interstitial is an effective way to capture email addresses and put those names into your sales funnel for future auto-responder series and upsell efforts.

The beauty of an interstitial is that you can make your actual ad space as big or small as you need.

Whatever your offer or need … an interstitial can deliver. And best of all, you don’t have to wonder if your website visitors saw the ad or not. It’s no doubt they did. You are just giving them the option to act on it OR not.

6 Great Blogs for B-to-B Marketers

In our fast-changing marketing world, a smart B-to-B practitioner keeps up to date by learning from thought leaders. While this used to mean reading business books and magazines, today it means blogs. We’ve all heard the stats about blog proliferation. A new blog launched every six seconds—or whatever. And there is no dearth of blogs on B-to-B marketing. So I would like to share my favorites, the blogs where I find inspiration, new ideas, and provocative stories, to keep the gray matter humming.

In our fast-changing marketing world, a smart B-to-B practitioner keeps up to date by learning from thought leaders. While this used to mean reading business books and magazines, today it means blogs. We’ve all heard the stats about blog proliferation. A new blog launched every six seconds—or whatever. And there is no dearth of blogs on B-to-B marketing. So I would like to share my favorites, the blogs where I find inspiration, new ideas, and provocative stories, to keep the gray matter humming.

Here’s my list of six current faves.

The Point, by Howard J. Sewell. Howard is a seasoned lead generation pro, and a terrific writer. His blog is probably my most retweeted, as every post contains some useful nugget. Highly scanable, too, which is welcome. My recent favorite article is the amusingly titled “Sorry, But ‘How Many Touches Does it Take to Make a Sale?’ is No Longer a Valid Question.”

The Business Marketing Institute, by Eric Gagnon. Available as “Tuesday Marketing Notes,” these posts are meaty—more like book chapters than blog posts. Eric’s writing is always practical, action oriented, and a joy to read. No wonder—he’s the author of the single best book on B-to-B marketing, The Marketing Manager’s Handbook, now apparently out of print.

B2B Lead Roundtable Blog, by Brian Carroll, with additional contributors. Brian made an important point in his recent post Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing. It seems so obvious that a robust lead nurturing effort reduces the need for constant lead acquisition, but is often overlooked. His organization also manages a thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion on the B2B Lead Roundtable group on LinkedIn.

Viewpoint: The Truth About Lead Generation, by Dan McDade. So refreshing, isn’t it, to cut through the hype and get to the truth? Dan’s interests are far-ranging, and he’s a master of content marketing (a blog, video chat interviews, white papers, book reviews, training videos), with no fluff. I was honored to contribute a guest post for PointClear last year.

B2BMarketingSmarts, by Susan Fantle. Susan being a first-rate B-to-B copywriter, it’s no surprise that her blog is both well written and full of insightful observations, examples, and success stories. Have a look especially at her six-step tutorial on writing great lead generation copy, beginning with her first step, which is about focusing in on the prospect’s pain point.

Matt on Marketing, by Matt Heinz, who runs a B-to-B agency in Seattle. Matt is a prolific writer, and assembles lots of helpful ideas from others, to boot. This blog is a treasure trove. What I especially like is his positioning as “sales acceleration,” which is, to my mind, where B-to-B marketing needs to be.

And what are your favorites? Do tell!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology.

Google Authorship Image Not Showing? Here’s What to Do Next.

Are your Google Authorship images not showing in search results? Are you seeing a drop in site visitor traffic or leads? Google recently pulled the plug. The results are in: Lower traffic for some social sellers, while others aren’t much affected. So what should you do?

Are your Google Authorship images not showing in search results? Are you seeing a drop in site visitor traffic or leads? Google recently pulled the plug. The results are in: Lower traffic for some social sellers, while others aren’t much affected. So what should you do?

Why Your Google Authorship Images Are Not Showing
Well, because Google says so. It decided not to anymore! It was just an experiment.

“In the early days of Google Authorship, almost anyone could get the coveted face photo in search by correctly setting up Authorship markup on their content and linking to that content from their Google+ profile,” says Google+ expert, Mark Traphagen in a recent SEOmoz blog.

“As time went on, Google became pickier about showing the rich snippet, and some sort of quality criteria seemed to come into play.”

In October 2013, Google announced a reduction in the number of photo images it displayed. In late June 2014 it pulled the plug completely on photo images in search results. Poof!

Says Traphagen, “It appears that the net result is no overall change in the amount of Authorship (appearing) in search, just an elimination of a ‘first class’ status for some authors.”

Author Images Actually Did Not Drive More Traffic
Everyone knows Authorship links with photos drove more traffic and leads to Web pages of authors, right? Eh, maybe.

“We never really knew for sure, and we never knew how much. Most importantly, there was never any proof that any CTR boost was universal,” says Traphagen, who’s done the research.

Many “studies” were conducted supporting the theory of Authorship links grabbing more eyes—and holding more perceived authority—than a “text only” link. But none of them hold much water.

Myself, I am running a handful of blogs for lead generation. After my author images were removed, I am apparently experiencing a drop in traffic and leads. But it’s not huge by any means. Why?

I’ve copywritten my Web page titles, blog post headlines, lead sentences and posts.

What You Should Do Next
Learn to copywrite. Already know how? Practice more. Most importantly, be sure you have the ability to have FULL control over Web or blog page titles.

To draw maximum attention from Google and prospective buyers make sure your Web page titles are balanced. Make sure they:

  1. are written to display a keyword phrase you’re targeting and
  2. create curiosity in the reader using copywriting.

Warning: Your blog platform may not allow you to control the Web page title freely. It’s common for blog software to take your blog (article) headline (that readers see) and place it in your Web page title (that Google and readers see in search engine results).

This is not optimal. You’ll have more ability to copywrite freely by having control over URL structure and Web page title.

For example, the structure of my blog post here is focused on the keyword phrase “Google authorship image not showing.” However, I do not have control over my URL structure or Web page title. The blog software takes my article headline and places it in the URL structure and Web page title.

It’s not optimal but I don’t cry much about it to the good folks at Target Marketing!

It would be better to have the option of editing the URL to “google-authorship-image-not-showing” and separately copywrite my Web page title to create curiosity in the reader.

Don’t Give Up (I’m Not)
“I’m done! Trying to please Google a waste of time. I’m going back to cold calling!”

I understand those who feel this way. Especially after discovering all your Google authorship images not showing. Whether you’re just starting to use B-to-B content marketing or have been investing for years Google can frustrate us.

But that’s precisely the point. It doesn’t need to be this way.

As someone who continues to generate leads online I can tell you definitively: You don’t want to depend on Google for lead generation. However, you do need to be online—capturing leads your competition will otherwise capture.

So what can you do today? The best starting point is to elevate social media copywriting as a priority. For example, what are posts to Google+, YouTube video or blog posts structured to provoke curiosity in buyers?

Creating curiosity that lures customers seems obvious. But are you doing it?

Manhandle Google With Good Copywriting
There is no silver bullet for generating B-to-B leads online. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students, clients and by business more leads.

Giving customers a reason (in writing!) to click and take action—resolve or improve something important to them. It starts with Google and your Web page titles.

Once you take this simple idea and turn it into a habit you will continue to generate leads no matter what Google does next! You’ll forget about your Google Authorship image not showing. Won’t that feel good?

Let me know how you feel in comments.

5 Important Email Tips for Converting Prospects to Customers

The harder you make it for your prospects to become customers, the fewer will. Most marketers agree that lead generation and lead conversion are the bedrocks of their efforts. As you scrutinize your internal process to convert prospects to customers, remember that, in order to consistently convert, you must at least

(Editor’s Note: This is a preview of Cyndie’s presentation on the upcoming webinar “Email for Customer Acquisition: 5 Great Ways to Expand Your List, and Your Profits!,” with Yeva Roberts of Standard Register, airing Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. EST. Register here to watch the rest live tomorrow, or catch it on-demand starting Jan. 29.)

The harder you make it for your prospects to become customers, the fewer will.

Most marketers agree that lead generation and lead conversion are the bedrocks of their efforts. As you scrutinize your internal process to convert prospects to customers, remember that, in order to consistently convert, you must at least:

  • Provide a clear, concise path to becoming a customer.
  • Enable your prospect to become a customer.
  • Resolve any concerns your prospect has about becoming a customer.

1. Be Timely, Relevant and Easy
Conversion begins at the moment of acquisition—waiting to engage is the kiss of death if you hope to hold the attention of your new prospect. We humans have very short memories—and attention spans—and marketers who allow the opportunity for one to forget a recent engagement will be saddled with lower retention and conversion rates over the customer’s lifecycle.

Your first touch to new prospects must be prompt and direct as you remind the recipient of how the relationship began and, ideally, lay out the path for becoming a highly valued customer. Using email, converting prospects to leads can be quite easy, and when you group likeminded prospects into segments, you can also create highly relevant content appropriate for this audience.

When relevant content is bolstered by personalization, your messaging can transcend a timid first step and become a flat stone skipping through sales ripples reducing necessary touches to a simple few.

Tracking clicked links and buttons within your email will enable you to appropriately respond to engagement with auto-responders recognizing specific engagement activities. Auto-responders are unique tools for reminding prospects they engaged with your brand and helping them resume the process if they’ve become distracted along the way.

2. Provide High-value Content
Inbound marketing represents one of the most successful approaches to converting prospects to leads, leads to subscribers, and subscribers to customers. Your content should be well-written and professionally designed while establishing your brand as an expert.

Your e-books, slide decks, videos, webcasts, demos and the like must be honest and forthright in order to establish your credibility, and should not shy away from areas where your competitors have you bested. Recognizing and addressing these areas will foster trust and help you to build upon these new, budding relationships.

When you post inbound content to your website, you will drive repeat visits; visits that naturally develop, deepen and nurture the relationship to the next stage.

Inbound content such as blogs, videos and online tools also extend the time of visit, and this is an important metric that contributes to your search-engine optimization effort.

Though content at your site is important for this reason and others, resist the urge to keep your content to yourself. Create partnerships with companies that will post your content or choose apps such as SlideShare, YouTube or edocr.com to syndicate your content beyond your own reach. Requiring a form submission to download your content will result in capturing some leads, but you will benefit far more from unrestricted content that is shared liberally.

3. Convey Urgency and Scarcity
Certainly not news to most seasoned marketers, urgency and exclusivity still motivate prospects to act more quickly. Procrastination is a sales killer, so text within your email reminding the recipient of how few widgets remain or how few days to buy the widget remains can dispel bouts of procrastination that grip many of us at one time or another.

Positioning your offer as time-sensitive, quantity-bound or event-based will boost your conversions, but lack of instructions for how to take advantage of your offer can easily negate the benefit gained.

4. Provide Instant Gratification
In email marketing, it’s key to first identify and then solve the customer’s problem—as quickly as possible. Your customers have come to expect and even demand instant gratification, not just in electronic platforms but physical as well. (It’s unbelievable that Amazon is currently testing same-day drone delivery and delivery before you’ve even ordered in order to meet such demands.) You must strive to deliver now.

In your emails, recognize that your clients want it now, and use words such as “instant,” “immediate,” and “now” as trigger words to put them in the buying mood. If your product doesn’t lend itself to being delivered via drone so they can get it now, offer an instant rebate or immediate download. By solving your customer’s problem more quickly than your competitor, you will be more likely to gain the coveted conversion.

As with urgency and scarcity, it’s imperative that you are clear on what steps must be taken in order to achieve instant gratification.

5. Test, Track and Tweak
Don’t guess at what it takes to reduce clicks and shorten your sales cycle, nor should you be a focus group of one. While your opinion about what works and what does not is important, you are not the customer. Use your opinion and expertise as the starting point for testing, but analytics must be used to prove or disprove your educated guesses.

As you begin to understand areas or components slowing your conversions, consider paths that provide information in a more compact and effective manner. Videos are a great solution and a preferred vehicle for many, but podcasts, self-running demos and other online options are also ideal for replacing overhead-heavy meetings, site visits and other person-to-person events.

There are myriad sales-funnel processes, but all can benefit from trusting relationships and consistent experiences. Your blast, drip and nurture emails should be professional, branded and graduated in order to nudge your constituents along. It’s important to remind your prospects why they should choose you—both explicitly and obscurely.

Mail-to-Email Conversions

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and our best efforts have consistently included direct mail

Most studies agree that your email list will suffer an annual 30 percent attrition rate. If you hope to grow your list by, say, 20 percent a year, added with attrition, you now need a lead generation program that will net you 50 percent new names per year. We are all looking for innovative and creative paths to growing our lists, and while we’ve published a few eBooks on the topic with myriad fodder, our best efforts have consistently come from those that include direct mail.

As most of you know, renting, purchasing, borrowing and partnering in order to email clients in a lead generation effort is fraught with risks ranging from simply annoying your customers to losing sending privileges through your ESP. Though many claim that a mailbox full of junk mail is akin to an inbox full of spam, the effort it takes to remove oneself from a direct-mail list just seems too burdensome for most of us and we will continue to allow a company to burn through paper and postage despite our complete lack of interest in their message well beyond our initial feelings of annoyance. Whereas with email, the spam button, unsubscribe link or reply email is simply far too easy and thus instills extreme power and often unwarranted indignation when a brand should dare email us any type of unsolicited content. We’re not only quick to unsubscribe, if it happens again, we’re likely to fire off an irate email and even go so far as to report them to their ISP or ESP. This can cause permanent damage to the brand and inhibit their ability to send future emails.

Given these risks, we’ve found that the best way to approach lead generation is through the combined use of print and email. Rather than hazard the acquisition of a list of persons who did not specifically subscribe to receive our messages, Spider Trainers counsels clients to purchase the same list selects as a direct-mail list and forgo the email address—we will collect this later. Direct-mail lists are typically less or even much less costly than an email list, and this cost savings can be applied toward the postage and printing costs of a direct mail.

The direct-mail piece is used to entice engagement through the use of a high-value offer that drives traffic to a targeted squeeze page and, in many cases, from there to a microsite focused either on introducing the brand or introducing the product, depending upon how recognizable the brand is to the audience.

FruitRevival (a company providing recurring fresh-fruit delivery to Denver businesses), is in the process of launching just such a campaign. We created a square postcard (we have found that square postcards have a measurably higher engagement rate) for their list segmented as: newly rented direct-mail names, customers who have purchased a fruit gift box, and customers who have received a fruit gift box. Three different headlines and matching copy provide an A/B testing platform along with a call to action (CTA) for a free sample box delivered to themselves or to a person they choose.

Using this high-value CTA, FruitRevival hopes to attract the postcard recipients to their squeeze page where they will collect their email address as well as responses to five very simple questions. Lead scoring of responses will flag recipients ready for immediate sales follow-up (high scorers), move them into an active nurturing campaign (mid-range scorers), or drop them into the drip campaign (low scorers).

Keep your eye on two big rocks: the higher the value of the gift, the higher the conversion rate, and the more focused your list, the more likely the audience will be receptive to the offer. With the right combination, you can easily far surpass the engagement rates you will get with an email list that has not specifically opted in to your messages.