Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Blogging to Generate Leads

Blogging to generate leads can feel overwhelming. We’re being bombarded with “must dos” from content marketing experts who make it seem effortless. What’s their trick? It’s a practical, refreshing approach to blogging. Here are three pitfalls to avoid and a proven system to create leads. Let’s start with busting a popular myth: Blogging to generate leads demands LOTS of blog content.

Blogging to generate leads can feel overwhelming. We’re being bombarded with “must dos” from content marketing experts who make it seem effortless. What’s their trick? It’s a practical, refreshing approach to blogging. Here are three pitfalls to avoid and a proven system to create leads.

Let’s start with busting a popular myth: Blogging to generate leads demands LOTS of blog content.

No. 1: Writing Frequently at the Cost of Proper Form
Yes, we need to blog frequently and “have a rhythm.” However, the pressure to crank out a tons of blog posts causes problems. In the rush to “just do it” we often forget effective blogging fundamentals. We forget to:

  • start with customers pains, goals, fears, ambitions or cravings and
  • structure blog posts to teach, guide or answer in ways that
  • creates hunger for more of what we have to offer (a lead generation offer).

Beware: Investing too much time and energy in writing frequently can torpedo you. Tired of the stress of wondering, “Am I blogging enough?” Give up the habit!

Focus on following the structure outlined above. Form the habit. Start putting this process to work for you.

No. 2: Losing Visibility by Forgetting Google Authorship
In its effort to clean up the Web, Google launched Authorship. The essence of becoming a recognized Author with Google is all about one thing:

Giving authors of high quality blog articles (you) more exposure.

Here’s how. Google gives maximum attention to registered Authors by including a photo next to ALL blog posts appearing in its index. This grabs eyes. This beats out competing writers who aren’t Authors.

This drives more leads to your page!

You’re losing visibility if you’re not aligned with Google via Authorship.

No. 3: Investing Too Much Time Writing ‘Epic Content’
For a long while, I invested time writing blog posts that convert leads really well. Every single post I made “counted.” However, Google would only rank them on page 1 sometimes.

This wasted my time. I was literally writing great articles that nobody would ever read. Ouch.

Even more frustrating, sometimes Google does rank our articles—yet nobody clicks. Ugh!

So here’s the fix: Invest time in getting ranked on page 1 or 2 first. THEN, monitor for visitor traffic … and THEN tweak to optimize lead generation from your post.

I don’t recommend writing total crap. However, take the pressure off. Write, first, for search engine ranking. Use an effective blog post writing template (that generates leads) but don’t over-invest your precious time.

Here’s how to get into the habit. For example, let’s assume you:

  • completed keyword research—you know what customer pain, fear or goal you’ll address in your post;
  • understand and practice the 3-step system summarized in No.1 above; and
  • know how to make an effective call to action and are ready to earn leads.

You know how to get prospects to your site and what to do with them once there. You’re armed and dangerous. You can earn attention with magnetic headlines, get prospects to read and act on your post.

This blogging system is quality-intensive. But it can be a trap!

It’s very easy to over-invest time in a post that nobody will ever read. So write to get found in search engines first. Be diligent about structure (for search engine and human discovery). However, don’t over-do it. Wait.

Protect your time investment. First, write to be discovered. Don’t neglect proper form but don’t over-invest in polishing … optimizing it for peak lead generation performance. Good luck!

Why Engaging Passionately Fails Us (and What to Do Instead)

“The experts” claim passion is the key to a successful B-to-B business blogging strategy. They say results will come when you show customers you care in LinkedIn groups and give away your best advice. But this advice is misguided. Caring and giving are merely costs of entry. Process is the force multiplier. Process is at the heart of effective business blogging and using LinkedIn for lead generation.

“The experts” claim passion is the key to a successful B-to-B business blogging strategy. They say results will come when you show customers you care in LinkedIn groups and give away your best advice. But this advice is misguided. Caring and giving are merely costs of entry. Process is the force multiplier.

Process is at the heart of effective business blogging and using LinkedIn for lead generation.

So how can you make “the doing” of blogging and generating leads on LinkedIn systematic—yet free-flowing, enjoyable and effective?

In my experience and research, mixing passion with structured diligence is the answer. Creating a way to use technology that feels effortless and scales our time. Ok, let’s quickly explore what the heck that means and how to get going on it.

The Passion Myth
If all you do is “write from the soul,” pour your deepest passion into it and give away all your best advice what’s the result? I’ll tell you what the result was for me, for the longest time.

(Insert sound effect: crickets)

I suffered myself from investing time in having passionate monologues online. As an author and trainer, I spent years doing the research. What works at generating new business with a blog and LinkedIn is striking a balance between passion and process.

Ignore anyone who says or implies, “blog passionately and the results will come.”

No they won’t. And if they do it won’t be because of your passion.

Ok, ok. Nothing great ever materialized without passion. But creating sales on social media depends less on passion and more applying a systematic approach—out of habit.

Does that mean you need to suck all the fun and passion out of what you write? Heck no.

The Yin and Yang of Business Blogging
By striking a balance in your blogging you’ll discover a faster, easier, more enjoyable way to get leads and sales.

How can you make everything you do systematic yet enjoyable and effective? Have some yin for your yang.

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are complementary forces that only appear to be opposing each other. In reality, forces of nature work together. They form a whole greater than either separate part.

It’s the same with business blogs and LinkedIn lead generation strategies that create leads and sales.

What the Process Looks Like
When blogging or engaging inside LinkedIn Groups …

  1. Teach prospects how to reach goals in ways they can act on;
  2. create confidence in them and (in doing so) trust in you in ways that foster hunger for more success;
  3. ask for the lead and/or sale with a call-to-action that affirms a customer’s right to say ‘no thanks.’

Simple.

Plus, it leaves a LOT of room to find joy in writing—helping, teaching and guiding prospects. The process is flexible, not rigid.

This process lets you share your passion, helps prospects become more confident buyers and puts food on your table more reliably.

This proven, effective process gives customers miniature tastes of success … or “results in advance” of purchase. For example, it can help them determine the best fit for their situation. Or it can be structured to help prospects gain confidence—that what they want (what you sell) can actually happen for them on time, on budget and without pain.

Your success, and this process, is all about helping prospects become more confident buyers.

I apply it and, believe it or not, prospects often ask me for the sale. All because of confidence created in their abilities to achieve or improve. It’s what my free training (lead nurturing) program is all about.

Hang in There
Are you running out of patience with blogging, using LinkedIn for sales leads and social platforms in general? I was too. But then I discovered this simple, practical way to change things up, to get more of what I wanted from social media, faster and easier.

Now you have that way: A means to balance process with your passion, knowledge and ability to help prospects see their way through the weeds. What will you do with it?

My 9 Insider Tips to Build Your Email List For Low or No Cost!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporation or online publisher, the power of the lead is critical in growing your business … and your email list. Leads, also known as prospects, are typically the entry level point of the sales funnel.

A popular business model by many online publishers is to bring in leads at the “free” level (i.e. report, e-newsletter, webinar, white paper, etc.), add those names to their house list and typically over the course of 30 to 90 days (the bonding time) that lead will convert into a paying customer. This practice is known as lead generation, name collection or list-building efforts.

Today, I’m going to share with you some proven online marketing methods I’ve used and had great success with at some of the top publishers in America. And bonus … many of these tactics are low- or no-cost. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Power eAcquisition Polls. In my last blog post, I wrote about using polls for lead generation. Incorporating a poll on your website or having a poll on another site is a great way to build your list. It’s important to spend time thinking about your poll question—something that is a hot topic, controversial and relevant to the locations where you’re placing your poll. You want to pull people in with your headline and make the poll entertaining. Your answers should be multiple choice and have an “other” field, which encourages participants to engage with your question. I’ve found this “other” field as a fantastic way to make the poll interactive. Many people are passionate about certain subject matters and won’t mind giving you their two cents. Then, to show appreciation for talking the poll, tell participants they are getting a bonus report and a free e-newsletter subscription (which they can opt out of at any time). And of course, make sure to mention—and link to—your privacy/anti spam policy. After you kick off your list-building efforts, make sure you start tracking them so you can quantify the time and resources spent. This involves working with your webmaster on setting up tracking URLs specific to each website you’re advertising on. It also means looking at Google Analytics for your website and corresponding landing pages to see traffic and referring page sources.

Teleseminars or Webinars. This is a great way to collect qualified names. Promote a free, relevant and value-oriented teleseminar or webinar to targeted prospects. You can promote it through several organic (free) tactics, such as LinkedIn Groups/Events, Facebook Events, Twitter, online press releases, affiliate marketing/joint ventures. Remember, this is for lead generation, not bonding. So your goal is to cast a wide net outside of your existing list, create visibility and get new names. Your value proposition should be actionable, relevant information that your target audience would find useful and worth giving their email address for. The trick is to promote the event in as many places as possible without incurring advertising costs; then your only costs may be the set up of the conference call (multiple lines, 800#) or webinar platform. And, in case you were wondering, I have been involved with teleseminars with non-toll-free numbers and response rates were not greatly impacted.

Co-registration. Co-Reg is another way to collect names, but involves a nominal fee. Co-Reg is when you place a small ad on another publisher’s site after some sort of transaction (albeit a sales or lead-gen offer). So, for instance, after someone signs up to the AOL Travel eNewsletter, a Thank You page comes up with a list of sponsors the reader may find interesting, as well—other free e-newsletter offers. The text ad is usually accompanied by a small graphic image representing the sponsor. The key here is to pick publishers and Co-Reg placements that are synergistic to your own publication and offer. Another important note is to make sure you follow up quickly to these names so they don’t forget who you are and go cold quite fast. I suggest a dedicated auto responder series for bonding and monetization. Co-Reg efforts can cost you around $1 to $3 per valid email address.

Frienemy Marketing. This includes JVs (joint ventures), affiliate marketing, guest editorials, editorial contributions and reciprocal ad swaps (for leads generation or revenue sharing). This tactic is extremely effective and cost-efficient. The key here is having some kind of leverage, then approaching publishers who may want your content or a cross-marketing opportunity to your current list (note: This only works if you have a list of decent size that another publisher will find attractive). In exchange for content or revenue share efforts, you and the other publisher agree to reciprocate either e-news ads or solo emails to each other’s lists, thereby sending a message to a targeted, relevant list for free. Well, if you agree on a rev share, it’s free as far as ad costs, but you are giving that publisher a split of your net revenues.

SONAR Marketing. I’ve written about this many times, but can’t stress it enough. Content is king and you can leverage it via what I call “SONAR.” It’s an organic (free) online strategy that works with the search engines. It’s a comprehensive method of repurposing, reusing, distributing and synchronizing the release of relevant, original content (albeit text, audio, video) to targeted online channels based on your audience. SONAR represents the following online distribution platforms:

S Syndicate partners, content syndication networks and user-generated content sites
O Online press releases
N Network (social) communities
A Article directories
R Relevant posts to blogs, forums and bulletin boards.

SONAR works hand-in-hand with your existing search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM) and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

Search Engine Marketing. It’s a shame more marketers don’t see the value of SEO or SEM. In order to drive as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you need to make sure your site is optimized for the correct keywords and your target audience. Once you optimize your site with title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords and relevant, keyword-dense content, you need to make sure you have revised your site to harness the traffic that will be coming. That means adding eye-catching email collection boxes to your home page (and it’s static on all your subpages), relevant banners and obvious links to e-comm webpages. You don’t want to miss a single opportunity to turn traffic into leads or sales.

Smart Media Buying. To complement your free online efforts, you may want to consider targeted, low-cost media buys (paid online advertising) in the form of text ads, banner ads, blog ads or list rentals (i.e. e-news sponsorships or solo emails). You’re paying for the placement in these locations, so you must make sure you have strong promotional copy and offers for the best results possible. High-traffic blogs are a high-performing, low-cost way to test new creatives. I like BlogAds.com network and you can buy placements a la carte and search by genre.

Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. You must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management, which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

Viral Marketing. Make sure you have a “forward to friend” feature in your e-newsletter to encourage viral marketing. It’s also important to have a content syndication blurb in your newsletter; this also encourages other websites, publishers, editors and bloggers to republish and share your content, as long as they give you author attribution and a back-link to your site (which helps in SEM).

The following, in my personal experience, doesn’t work for quality list building …

Sweepstakes and Giveaways. You’ve seen the offers: Win a free TV, iPhone or similar in exchange for your email address. This gets the volume, but the leads are usually poor quality or unqualified (irrelevant). The numbers may look good on the front end, but when you dig deeper, your list is likely compromised with deliverability issues (high bounce rates), inactives and bad emails. This is because the leads are not targeted. The offer wasn’t targeted or synergistic with the company. With lead generation efforts, it should be quality over quantity.

Email appends. According to Wikipedia, email appending, also known as e-appending, is a marketing practice that involves taking known customer data (first name, last name and postal address) and matching it against a vendor’s database to obtain email addresses. The purpose is to grow one’s email subscriber list with the intent of sending customers information via email instead of through traditional direct “snail” mail. The problem with this, in my direct experience, is that on the front end your list initially grows, but these names are not typically qualified or interested. At one company where I worked, we tracked a group of email append cohorts over the course of a year to see what percent would “convert” to a paying customer. Nearly 75 percent of the names dropped off the file during that year and never even converted. Email appending is a controversial tactic, with critics claiming that sending email to people who never explicitly opted-in is against best practices. In my opinion, it’s a waste of time and money.

How to Hire a Social Media Manager Who Can Sell

Need to hire a social media manager, freelancer or agency … or get your current resource focused on sales? Here’s a quick way to get everyone aimed at the goal: engagement that creates leads, referrals and sales, not just shares, comments and followers.

Need to hire a social media manager, freelancer or agency … or get your current resource focused on sales? Here’s a quick way to get everyone aimed at the goal: engagement that creates leads, referrals and sales, not just shares, comments and followers.

3 Phrases to Watch Out For
There are three “red flag” phrases to watch out for in the interview process, during weekly meetings or in performance reviews. These are:

1. “People are not on social media to be sold.” If your social media manager or candidate tells you this, it’s a warning sign. Pay attention! I’ll show you why this belief is so dangerous in detail below.

2. “Marketing and advertising are long-term, not instant.” In short, any good seller or marketer (you) already understands and appreciates this. The statement is a hedge.

3. “Social media marketing is mostly about building brand equity (as opposed to selling).” Indeed, but this presumes getting and maintaining brand equity is not about selling.

“You don’t sell someone something by engagement, conversation and relationship. You create engagement, conversation and relationships by selling them something,” says Bob Hoffman, CEO at Hoffman Lewis.

In many cases, any one (or all) of these phrases can be signs of a belief system that does not take responsibility for strategies like blogging for lead generation. Tactics supporting this viewpoint are often made by social media managers who don’t know how (or don’t want) to take responsibility for generating sales.

To be clear, this exercise is not about judging your social media manager personally. I’m sure he or she is a great person. This is about making sure you know how to hire a social media manager who can sell.

“People Are Not on Social Media to Be Sold”
This one is the most dangerous. It sounds totally rational and a little part of each of us can relate to this claim—until you think about it for a minute.

For the sake of argument, let’s say it IS true. People don’t go to social media to be sold. But do they turn to social media to solve problems? Have you? Or have you ever turned to Facebook to discover short-cuts to doing something really important to you?

Do people ever turn to blogs or YouTube to discover new ways to achieve goals?

Sure they do. As people do these things they often end up meeting businesses that can help them. Some people end up being courted by those businesses via social media or email lead nurturing. Some prospects even convert to customers—they purchase!

Many of us are selling on social media every day.

Consider the millions of people each day that:

  • query Google about a problem they need solved or a goal they want to reach;
  • end up at a blog;
  • sign up for an ebook or educational video series;
  • end up buying from the blog owner a few months later.

Sandy Isaacs, owner of events company, Break Away Moments, said to me recently, “Why would one opt to become part of (social media) sites if you are not wanting to either promote yourself with what you have to offer or, in turn, wish to gain as information from others especially, based on your own interests as well?”

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry
You’d better not pout about the in-effectiveness of your social media execution. I’m tellin’ you why. Saying that people are not on social media to be sold ignores both reality and the central tenant of effective online lead generation:

Helping customers (who are hungry for solutions) problem—solve in ways that give them enough confidence to buy.

Bottom line on how to hire a social media manager: Don’t hire anyone who tells you that marketing isn’t responsible for generating sales in directly or indirectly … in some way, shape or form. Watch out for the above phrases exiting the mouths of your interviewees or employees.

Also, remember to focus on the questions your social media manager asks YOU … not just answers they offer to questions you ask them.

That’s how to hire a social media manager who’s focused on leads and sales.

Good luck!

Five Ways to “Get Real” With B-to-B Social Media

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

Today, 89 percent of B-to-B marketers in the U.S. are using social media, says a study conducted by iTracks and the Business Marketing Association (BMA). In fact, B-to-B use of social media may have even eclipsed that of consumer marketers, according to another report from White Horse Productions. But the B-to-B marketers I talk to still sound confused. “What should I be doing,” they ask. “What’s really worth my time?”

What you want to do is get out of the hype, get real, and get results. Here’s a simple plan of attack.

First, get busy on LinkedIn. This is the no-brainer of B-to-B social media marketing. You, your company, and all your employees need to take maximum advantage of the exposure. Your LinkedIn to-do list looks like this:

  • Fill out your profile 100 percent. LinkedIn will prompt you on how to make sure every element is captured. Encourage your employees to set up their profiles, including their skills lists. Prospective customers will check out you and your staff as part of their due diligence before doing business with you—so be prepared.
  • Set up a company page, with your logo image, plus a crisp, benefit-laden company description. Invite links from your customers, suppliers and friends. Along with a Google search, this is how you will be found in the marketplace.
  • Join groups, or set up fresh groups, in your field of expertise.
  • Post regular status updates in the micro-blog area LinkedIn provides.

Then, examine your marketing objectives. Each social medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. What you want to do is get the most bang, by applying them to their best use.

Here’s a typical array of business marketing objectives a company may be pursuing. Let’s look at how social media can be applied to support what you’re trying to do.

Understand your market opportunity. In other words, market research. What customers and prospect are talking about on social media gives companies valuable insight into customer needs, issues and trends. You can set up a listening post using tools like Radian6, or simply set up an RSS feed from sources like blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Focus, Quora, YouTube and Wikipedia, so you can keep current with what’s being said in your field.

Stand out in the crowd. Social media can help you differentiate your company from your competition. If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, or a trusted advisor to businesses trying to solve problems, then it’s all about content. You’ll be publishing white papers, research reports and case studies, and tweeting about them. Or publish an informative blog and promote it via Twitter and LinkedIn micro posts.

Blogging can be a powerful way to establish thought leadership, but it does represent a risk. Only start a blog if you have valuable content to present, and if you can commit to keeping it up. Editorially, the tone should be informative, not sales-y. If you don’t have good writers in house, there are plenty of freelancers available to help. Another tip: If you hesitate to take on a blog on your own, you might provide guest posts to influential blogs managed by someone else. (As you see, this is the route I took for myself—it’s great!)

Find new customers. There’s a lot of hue and cry out there about whether social media can help you find prospective customers. Of course it can. The trick in B-to-B is to turn your social media messaging into a lead generator, with the addition of three essential elements:

  • A compelling offer, such as an intriguing research report or white paper.
  • A clear call to action, like “Download now.”
  • A dedicated landing page that captures the respondent’s contact information.

We can debate the merits of gating your content for lead generation, versus making it available to all, for thought leadership. A worthy discussion. But if your objective is to launch a business relationship with a prospective buyer, than the lead generation route is the way to go. So add an offer and call to action to your blog posts and tweets.

Expand current customer value. Social media can serve as another useful “touch” in your ongoing effort to penetrate accounts and deepen your relationship with current customers. Encourage customers to follow you on Twitter, subscribe to your blog, or connect with you on LinkedIn. A smart salesperson will link to every possible contact at a current account, and post company and product news in the LinkedIn microblog a couple times a week.

Now, what about Facebook? With 845 million users worldwide, it can’t be ignored. Ask yourself whether your customers are there, and whether they want to interact with you there. According to Globalspec, 66 percent of industrial workers have Facebook accounts, but 67 percent of them say they cannot access Facebook from their office computers. Given its vast reach, at the very least set up a company page on Facebook—for employee recruitment, if nothing else.

And don’t forget YouTube, the world’s second largest search engine. Set up a channel to give exposure to your product demos, training videos and corporate videos.

So, with that, you have a reasonable attack plan for cutting through the hype and putting social media to work for you in a manageable way. Now, what have I forgotten? Do you have any good social media applications you can share with the rest of us business marketers?

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

13 Things You Must Do This Year To Boost Your Biz! Part Two

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

[Editor’s note: This is Part Two of a two-part series.]

In Part One, I mentioned some great, low-to-no cost tactics to help boost your business this year, including affiliate marketing, content syndication, search engine optimization, online lead generation polls, viral marketing and cost-effective media buying.

Today, I’m wrapping up the list with even more tips and tricks to get the most out of your marketing efforts (and marketing budget!) this year.

7. Pay Per Click (PPC). Many people try pay per click only to spend thousands of dollars with little results. Creating a successful PPC campaign is an art—one that I’ve had success with. If PPC is new for you, then don’t start out with the big guys like Google or Yahoo, run your “test” campaign on smaller search engines such as Bing, as well as second-tier networks, such as Adbrite, Miva and Kanoodle. In addition, you must make sure you have a strong text ad and landing page and that the ad is keyword dense. You must also have a compelling offer and make sure you do your keyword research. Picking the correct keywords that coincide with your actual ad and landing page is crucial. You don’t want to pick keywords that are too vague, too competitive or unpopular. You also need to be active with your campaign management which includes bid amounts and daily budget. All these things—bid, budget, keywords, popularity and placement—will determine the success of the campaign. And most campaigns are trial and error and take anywhere from three to six weeks to optimize.

8. Free Teleseminars or Webinars. These are a great way to collect names for list building, then cross-sell to those names once they’re in your sales funnel. You can use services like FreeConferenceCall.com, where it’s a toll (not toll free) call. But in my experience, if the value proposition of the subject matter is strong, people will pay that nominal fee. Promote a free teleseminar or webinar to prospects (that is not your internal list). Remember, this is for lead generation. So your goal is to give away valuable information in exchange for an email address. You can have a ‘soft sell’ at the end of the call and follow up with an email blast within 24 hours. But the most important thing is getting that name, THEN bonding with them through your editorial.

9. Free Online classified ads. Using CraigsList or similar high traffic classified sites is a great way to sell a products or get leads. The trick is ad copy that is powerful and persuasive, as well as geo-targeting—picking the right location and category to run your ad in. Hint: think of your ideal audience. Ads are free, so why not test it out.

10. Reciprocal Ad Swaps. One of the best kept secrets in the industry: Some of your best resources will be your fellow publishers. This channel often gets overlooked by marketers who don’t give it the respect it deserves. In the work I do for my clients, I spend a good portion of my time researching publishers and websites in related, synergistic industries. I look for relevant connections between their publications (print and online) and list (subscribers). Let’s say I come across a natural health e-letter that has a list of readers similar in size to one of my clients, who is a supplement manufacturer. Since many of their audience share similar interests, cross-marketing each other products (or even lead gen efforts) can be mutually rewarding. Swapping ads will save you money on lead-generation initiatives. Since you won’t be paying for access to the other publisher’s list of subscribers, you can get new customers for free. The only “cost” is an opportunity cost—allowing the other publisher to access your own list. It’s a win-win situation. This technique also opens the door to potential joint-venture opportunities for revenue sharing (sales).

11. Guest Editorials and Editorial Contributions. Another popular favorite used in the publishing industry is editorial contributions. This is where you provide quality editorial (article, interview, Q&A) to a synergistic publication and in return get a byline and/or editorial note in your article. In addition to an editorial opportunity, this is a marketing opportunity. You see, within the byline or ed. note you can include author attribution plus a back-link to your site. Some ed. notes can even be advertorial in nature, linking to a promotional landing page. Relationship networking and cultivation come into play when coordinating these, as it’s usually someone in the editorial or marketing department that spearheads such arrangements. These are great for increasing exposure to other lists, which can be beneficial for increasing market share, bonding, sales and lead generation efforts.

12. Snail Mail. Direct mail is still a consumer favorite—and another good way to get your sales message out. It can be especially effective used in conjunction with another effort, such as an email campaign. Studies indicate that 70 percent of respondents prefer receiving correspondence via mail vs. email. As with any marketing medium, though, you can end up paying a lot between production costs, list rental costs, and mail shop/postage costs. The most costly direct mail packages are magalogs and tabloids (four-color mailers that look like magazines). However, 6 x 9 postcards, tri-fold self-mailers and simple sales letters are three low-cost ways of taking advantage of this channel. Note that copywriting, list selection and geo-targeting can be crucial for direct mail success, no matter which cost-effective mail format you pick. Although 100 percent ROI (return on investment) is what you should aim for, many direct mailers these days are content with 80 percent returns. This lower figure takes into consideration the lifetime value of the names that come in from this channel, because they are typically reliable buyers in the future and snail mail address are more solid—they don’t change as often as email addresses.

13. Print Ads. This is another channel that gets a raw deal. One reason is because it can be costly. To place an ad in a high-circulation magazine or newspaper, you could shell out serious money. But you don’t need a big budget to take advantage of print ads. If you don’t have deep pockets, consider targeted newspapers and periodicals. Let’s say you’re selling an investment report. Try using the Internet to research the wealthiest cities in America. Once you get that list, look online for local newspapers in those communities. These smaller newspapers hit your target audience and offer a much cheaper ad rate than some of the larger, broad-circulation publications. You end up getting quality rather than quantity. I once paid for an ad in a local newspaper in Aspen, CO, that had a flat rate of less than $500 for a half page ad. My ROI on this effort turned out to be more than 1,000 percent. Most important rule: Know your audience. That will determine placement and price.

An Online Lead Generation Chat With LeadsCon Founder

Jay Weintraub, founder of LeadsCon, a conference and expo focused on online lead generation, believes that online lead generation is alive and well — and getting stronger. That’s what he told me during the recent discussion we had about online lead generation, and he certainly ought to know: Following stints with Advertising.com and Oversee.net, Weintraub’s annual LeadsCon conferences have taken off since the first one was held in April 2008.

Jay Weintraub, founder of LeadsCon, a conference and expo focused on online lead generation, believes that online lead generation is alive and well — and getting stronger. That’s what he told me during the recent discussion we had about online lead generation, and he certainly ought to know: Following stints with Advertising.com and Oversee.net, Weintraub’s annual LeadsCon conferences have taken off since the first one was held in April 2008.

As he was preparing for LeadsCon’s third conference to be held next February in Las Vegas, I asked him about the state of the online lead generation industry. The following are highlights from our discussion:

Melissa Campanelli: How would you define online lead generation?
Jay Weintraub:
There are two distinct types of online lead generation. One type involves an expression of real-time interest by a consumer, whereby the consumer completes an online form about himself. Then, in real time or near real time, that information is in the hands of the buyer or the person who’s interested in using lead generation.

Another type involves prospecting and what people tend to also call demand generation. Here, I may sell high-end databases and I may want to purchase a large file of names of potential prospects. Then, I may follow up with them on the phone or via email. The folks I am contacting didn’t request that I contact them, but they’re part of a data set of people that fit my criteria.

These two online lead generation worlds are very different. Not one is better than the other. But it shows that the term “online lead generation” is very broad.

MC: What are some trends in the online lead generation space?
JW: I’ve seen an emergence of consumer-facing sites that offer great value but only get paid when some sort of action happens.

One example is a site called BillShrink.com, which I call “LowerMyBills.com 2.0.” The site, which compares gas prices, credit card offers and cell phone plans, and then directs consumers to buy the best plan for them, only gets paid on a performance basis. The company only gets commission when people sign up for plans they were directed to by BillShrink.com

Another example is Mint.com, which was recently purchased by software giant Intuit. This site, a provider of free online personal finance services, generates revenue by recommending personalized financial products to its users.

MC: What are some best practices for using online lead generation as a marketing technique?
JW: As dumb as it sounds, know if you’re a B-to-B or B-to-C company. Know who you want to go after. This will dictate very much which online generation techniques to use or which companies you’ll choose to work with.

Also, know your cost per acquisition. Look at what you spend today to acquire new customers, because you may very well not know, or, more likely, underestimate this cost. A referral from a buddy, for example, will most likely close at a high rate, while a lead from someone who doesn’t know you will most likely close at a lower rate. Knowing this information is prudent when trying to figure out how much to spend on online lead generation.

Also, be aware that every lead you have will not close and that it’s up to your lead provider to give you a valid lead. Finally, know what you’re going to do with your lead in advance of getting it, and be ready to follow up on it immediately.

LeadsCon: Everything You Want To Know About Online Lead Gen

Had a great time at LeadsCon this week.

I was invited to serve on an expert panel of judges for LeadsCon’s “In the Spotlight’ Company Showcase.” The showcase, which took place on April 3, the first day of the first LeadsCon, provided a stage for some companies that may not be well known to a general audience, but had something truly unique to talk about.

Had a great time at LeadsCon this week.

I was invited to serve on an expert panel of judges for LeadsCon’s “In the Spotlight’ Company Showcase.” The showcase, which took place on April 3, the first day of the first LeadsCon, provided a stage for some companies that may not be well known to a general audience, but had something truly unique to talk about.

Other judges on the panel included Jodi Harris, managing editor, iMediaConnection; Mike Kelly, media advisor, investor and chairman, Eyeblaster; and Jay Webster, general manager, lead generation, Yahoo.

Each company presented for seven minutes. Us judges then had two to three minutes during which to share our impressions with moderator Saar Gur (Partner, Charles River Ventures). The companies represented a broad mix, and each were selected for bringing something slightly different to the table. They were all really neat.

Two companies aid in the acquisition of customers (MarketingAnd and Creative Calls), while another was one of the pioneers in the new era of ad networks (SocialMedia Networks). Others were AdReady, which makes display advertising as accessible as search; GLAM Interactive Group, a women’s-only business networking group; and Mint.com, a consumer-oriented Web site that shows what happens when you focus on the consumer and build something they can’t live without. And, one company was well established (TARGUSinfo) but presented a new product helped make quality a focus in this space.

The winner? SocialMedia Networks, because they have built an innovative platform for publishers of social media applications to monetize their traffic.

I thought they were all great, though!

The conference in general has been great as well. LeadsCon was created and produed by well-know online lead generation guy Jay Weintraub. It is a conference and expo expressly designed for companies and individuals in the online lead generation and customer acquisition industry.

Many conferences address online advertising and marketing, and some vertical confercne address online lead generation in their industry, but LeadsCon is the only event I know of to focus entirely on the challenges, issues and opportunities that are unique to the fast-growing, sometimes controversial and ever-changing online lead generation and customer acquisition segment.

The conference was targeted, well attended (over 600 total attendees, according to Jay) and interesting. It also had a warm, family feeling to it. In fact, Jay’s mom helped out with registration! And most speakers were fiends with Jay from his background –he worked at Advertising.com and Oversee.net—and all commented on what a great guy he is.

Congratulations, Jay!

Ed Ojdana at LeadsCon

If there truly is a rock star in the world of online lead generation, it is Ed Ojdana.

If there truly is a rock star in the world of online lead generation, it is Ed Ojdana.

Ojdana recently retired as global president of Experian Consumer Direct, a division that was created in 2002 to focus on the consumer credit management market. Experian Consumer Direct combined the operations of CreditExpert, Experian’s consumer credit management group, and ConsumerInfo.com (also known as FreeCreditReport.com), the largest provider of online credit reports and other credit-related information to consumers. Ojdana founded ConsumerInfo in 1995.

At LeadsCon, Ojdana spoke with Jordan Rohan, founder of Clearmeadow Partners, an investment firm that focuses on the Internet space. Previous to founding Clearmeadow, Rohan served as managing director and Internet analyst for RBC Capital Markets.

The two discussed trends in lead generation.

“Going forward, we are going to have to start tying more content to lead generation,” said Ojdana. “The landing page will have to have something more there than just an offer to buy a product or service. People today are looking for information.”

While Rohan thought Ojdana’s point was a good one, he wondered aloud whether or not there is a need for a “full-frontal” approach, where visitors click on a landing page with an offer they can buy immediately.

While Ojdana said there is a time and place for that kind of lead generation, the content play usually leads to better leads.

“If you’d like to just have folks buy an item on a one-time basis, that would work,” he said. “But the key to content is [how it can help build] lifetime value with the consumer, as opposed to the consumer signing up for something on an impulse.”

Rohan asked Ojdana to discuss other things a lead generator should do to generate quality leads.

Ojdana spoke of the importance of good segmentation.

“To do a good job of that, go back to your advertisers and really find out who their customers are,” he said. “ If you are [targeting ads to] a school, and 90 percent of the people who are converting are Hispanic, that means you have to get up there on some Hispanic sites, as opposed to blasting [ads] all over the place.”

He also said that lead generators should “live and die for analytics.”

All true words, indeed.