What is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of attracting people who already have an interest in your products and services to engage with you so that you can help them.
What are leads?
Let’s start by defining our terms. The word lead is used differently in different companies and contexts, but ultimately, if we want to focus on managing leads, we have to decide on the point where a complete stranger becomes someone tangible and identifiable enough for us to work with.
These leads are at the very beginning of a journey which will, we hope will culminate not when they become customers, but when they become repeat customers, advocating for your products and referring you to others. To move from lead to client-advocates is a long journey during which our lead will metamorphose three or four times, but to start that journey we need to generate as many leads as possible.
What are not leads?
Lead Generation should be front and centre for FinTechs
Whilst it would be wrong to categorise FinTech firms too rigorously, it is true that most of them distinguish themselves from the banking incumbents through having a different approach to clients and by the fact that they are much younger companies than the behemoths who dominate the financial landscape.
Young companies are always in growth mode (or want to be) whereas many of the incumbents are heavily engaged in retaining their most valuable customers and are growing much less quickly. For example product strategies in the banks are often aimed at existing customers, whereas in FinTech firms there is a strong drive to build products and services to attract new clients.
That is why lead generation is a primary focus for all start-ups and scale-ups and is often less of a priority for highly established firms.
Without a lead generation process, how will you ever achieve the goals you need to survive, let alone grow to become strong enough to meet all your goals? Let’s look at the key stages of lead generation the way we do it – through inbound marketing and sales.
How to Generate Leads?
The lead generation process
It starts way back with your firm’s purpose.
Step 1 ) Defining your Target Market
Once you have understood and articulated your purpose precisely, you can start to identify the target market that you exist to serve. It’s not enough to just be able to define it – you need to really dig into it.
What questions should you be asking about your target market? The more you know, the better placed you will be to offer relevant services and products. The better your research, the stronger your competitive advantage will be.
Step 2) Buyer Persona Development
But remember; leads are people, not inanimate constructs like companies, clubs and charitable organisations, so we need to get close to them as people. This is where buyer personas come in. Personas are fictitious representations of people that you want to target with your communications. They contain some demographic information, socio-economic classes, location, education level and the like. They also contain some psychographic information, buying preferences for example, or buying inhibitors. They’re not real people, but they are a photo-fit of the ‘type’ of person you are targeting.
Buyer personas help you avoid making assumptions about your target customers which can lead to missed opportunities through wasted ad-spend or simply just not targeting a high value market that you didn't realise existed for your product. Creating a buyer persona tells you a great deal about where your potential buyers consume information, what type or level of communication they want to receive, when and where to find them. In short, it shows you at a reasonably high level how to be relevant and how to be helpful.
If you're not sure where to start developing buyer personas, our buyer persona development workbook should get you on the right path.
A good friend of ours, Dan Tyre of HubSpot, wrote a great article called Always Be Helping (Always be closing is dead) which I recently shared on LinkedIn. It’s a great insight into how modern sales work, and I commend it to you as essential reading if you are interested in how to really impress your prospects.
Step 3) Goal Setting
What are your growth goals for the next year? And how are you going to meet them? In marketing terms, do you know how many people you need to attract in order to meet those goals?
Without goals and a clear process to meet them, you will not be able to understand how and where to adapt and change your process because you simply won’t know what’s working and what’s not. But still most FinTech firms don’t have a clear marketing goals as part of their lead generation process and even fewer have clear metrics and reporting regimes to make those goals meaningful.
Click here for another free template to help you understand how to meet your marketing and sales goals.
For more help with buyer personas and goal setting we're offering a 30 minute marketing audit which will take you through this process from start to finish.
free marketing audit
Step 4) Identifying your best-fit prospects
Not every company in your target market will be a good fit for your organisation. We all know that intellectually to be true, but it takes courage and planning to be able to qualify out prospects that may not be a good fit, because the timing is wrong or the budget is insufficient, or for some other very good reason.
Remember: You cannot help everyone – even good companies – and if you try you will damage your reputation and you may damage their business too. Trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience on this!
We're busy building a deeper look at prospect identification. If this is something you need help with now, leave a comment below and we'll move it to the top of our to-do list or Click here for a free 30 minute consult with one of our team.
Step 5) Research search terms (a.k.a. Keyword Research)
Research what? I thought we had done our research with the personas and the target market! That’s true, but research is an ongoing feature of lead generation. The more you know, the more helpful you can be, and that’s the key.
In a moment we’re going to look at content – valuable helpful content that speaks to your target market. You know who these people are, and you know the industry sector, but you don’t yet know the language they speak. I’m not talking about natural language, but how they find the information that solves their problems on the web.
Given your knowledge about the industry and the people that you want to help, you will have a decent idea of the areas for which they need help. It’s never enough – you can always do more desk research, ask your sales people, interview your existing customers and you will build up layer upon layer of sophisticated knowledge about your prospects which will stand you in good stead all the way through the helping process.
But the helpful content you are about to write, needs to be discoverable by your prospects and that means it needs to be discoverable when they type in their search terms to Google or Bing.
And for that, you need a keyword planner tool. For the time being, you can use the Google Keywords Planner.
You’ll find the Google Keyword Planner under the Tools section of your GoogleAds account.
If you don’t have a GoogleAds account you can sign up for free here using a Google account, no ad-spend required.
Use your understanding of your personas to seed the process using the search terms you think they might use, and let the tool show how often those search terms and related terms are used.
The higher the better of course, but this means that other companies are trying to reach these customers through the same keywords. This means that you need to keep a close eye on the ‘Competition’ of your target keywords. The magic search terms to target is both high-volume and low competition, if you can find these, your content will be reaching the maximum amount of people with the minimum amount of effort.
Search is a conversation
Remember, searching today is not about a single magic word but about phrases and even sentences. Therefore, longer search terms are extremely useful – they are more precise and may attract much less competition than single word search terms. Using these longer search terms may mean you get slightly fewer visitors, but of a higher quality as you have defined the terms more clearly.
The art and the science of keyword research is to balance these factors into the best blend of quality and quantity for your business goals.
Getting the Message Out
A lot of people don’t like the word ‘content’. It’s a useful shorthand, but it’s also one of those blanket terms that stifles precision and groups all sorts of communication together in one big shapeless heap. So, let’s break it out into a more specific list.
Blogs are the mainstay of the inbound marketer. Here are two stats that may interest you, from our friends at HubSpot. https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics
Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published zero to four monthly posts. (HubSpot, 2015)
B2B companies that blogged 11+ times per month had almost 3 times more traffic than those blogging 0-1 times per month. (HubSpot, 2015)
Blogs work – but what should you write about? All that research you did on your personas is the right starting place and the results of that keyword analysis should feature prominently and naturally in your blogs.
Tip: Google will penalise ‘keyword stuffing’ adding lots of keywords into your blog in an unnatural way simply
simply to increase your searchability and it won't be helpful to your readers either.
Your blogs should answer the question your prospects are asking, as directly and helpfully as possible. That’s it!
Tip: If you’re really stuck, HubSpot has a blog idea generator which should help get the creative juices flowing. But
remember the engine isn’t as smart as you, so adapt the output rigorously so that the titles really answer your prospects’ questions.
2) Video Outreach
We live in the age of the video and visual assets.
Did you know that 20% of people will read the text on a page, but 80% of people will watch a video? (My SMN, 2017). The impact of video is amazing, and we use it all the time to leave short to the point messages to people we are trying to help.
We don’t have the time to create high-quality videos because we do so many. If you’re one of those that want to start using videos, but don’t have the time or resources to re-create “Blue Planet” don’t despair.
Informal, very short videos really work.
We use a wonderful little Chrome extension called Vidyard to create videos using our website or the prospects website as a backdrop as we explain our story.
Tip: Keep ‘em short. Our limit is 90 seconds but that may be too
long for some. Aim for under a minute, cut out all the
the padding and pack it full of helpful information
3) Social Media Marketing
One thing your persona must tell you is where your prospects consume their information. Is it at their desk or on their phone? Are they looking during work hours or at the weekends? Are they likely to be scanning Facebook, or LinkedIn or Twitter, or are they more likely to be on Instagram or YouTube?
By the way, Facebook is often characterised as a truly social tool, not a business tool, but that’s a big mistake. The user base is too huge to ignore, Facebook has good advertising for businesses and it’s a lot cheaper than LinkedIn. We have a company Facebook page and if you’re serious about content marketing, you should too.
4) Paid Advertising
Yes, even adverts can be helpful, but there are a few rules. Adverts that pop up and disrupt without any reason are shameful and have created an entire industry of ad blockers. Ads that pop up in direct response to a search, and that accurately and directly answer the question that the searcher is posing, are well-targeted and helpful.
Your research is repaid many times over. Ads need to be crafted precisely to respond to the needs of a searcher. Exactly the same keyword research and understanding of the persona that you did for the blogs applies here. You see how the initial investment in time and effort is repaid many times over – here in advertising; in videos and infographics; in blogs; in social media posts and in email.
When we unpack the blanket term content, we find a wealth of ways to communicate and channels through which to send out our messages, and each one of them benefits from the initial research and understanding we worked to achieve before we started.
Tip: That same research will benefit you when you pick up the phone to a prospect.
Knowing the questions to which they are seeking answers, understanding them,
this time not as personas but as real people through their social media profiles,
seeing what they are trying to achieve on their websites – all this allows you to
where you can help and how you can talk about their needs with confidence and
how what you can do for them.
A tool to help understand your prospects...
One tool which helps us understand a little bit more about the person we are calling or leaving a video for, is Crystal, another Chrome extension that gives you an idea of the personality of your prospect based on their LinkedIn profile. It’s not an in-depth analysis by any means but gives useful pointers such as ‘this is a details person and would prefer hard facts to big-picture strategies.’
Calls to Action
By this point we understand our goals, we have analysed our personas, developed our channel strategy, found the search terms used by our prospects, and we know the frequency of the blogs, videos and other communications we are using to get the message out. That’s a lot!
We are nearly ready to launch our helpfulness on the world but there are still a few important steps to take – and the first is the ‘call to action’.
The buyer journey
When people buy, we say they go on a journey and you can find lots of information about the buyer journey and how that works. Essentially the buyer journey starts with the prospect’s realisation that (s)he has a problem. At this stage the buyer may not be able to articulate the problem, and almost certainly will not have identified a solution, but they will know that something is not right, and they will want to fix it. We call this the awareness stage.
What does a suffering prospect do at this stage? Google of course! If the problem is severe enough, one of the first steps the prospect undertakes is invariably to carry out some desk research to see if the problem can be identified. This is of course where all your research comes in, allowing your content to be found and help the person with the problem.
What is it that you want your reader or listener to do at this stage so that you can help them? You need to be able to talk to them, and that means you need to persuade them to leave you some contact details. The way this is done is through a Call To Action (CTA) and an offer that you make to the buyer.
We will look at offers in the next section, but here we want to focus on the CTA. This normally takes the form of a button or a link which leads the prospect to a form where they can leave their details and give permission for you to contact them.
The right CTA at the right time
At this stage your buyer is at the very beginning of the journey. If the CTA here was to invite them to sign up for a new banking service or a new forex app, that would not be helpful. That’s you pushing your sale, not you at your very best, looking to meet the prospect where she is and helping at the point of need.
At the awareness stage of the journey, prospects are trying to understand their problems. They are not yet in solution mode, they have not fully understood the problem, they have done no assessment of the options available and therefore, for most people, a CTA asking them to sign-on-the-dotted-line will feel coercive and uncomfortable.
Bringing it all together
Can you now see a pattern emerging, where the CTA and the type of content you provide, correlate to where the buyer is on the journey – in this case, the awareness stage? To attract prospects at the awareness stage, your content, will be largely educational, and your CTA will invite your prospect to understand more about the problems facing them.
Later on, buyers will typically go through a consideration stage, where they consider the courses of action open to them and come up with a solution strategy, and finally, they will go through a decision stage where they will compare providers and decide on the right one for them.
For each stage the content will be different and so will the CTAs. For example, if you already have their details, the last thing you want is to ask them to input those details again further into the journey, and you won’t need to educate buyers on their problem if they are already at the decision stage. This means you need a range of content to help clients progress at different stages of their buying journey.
Funnels and Flywheels
Just a word on 'sales funnels,' a term you may have heard of in relation to the client journey. (HubSpot also uses the idea of a flywheel to demonstrate how the journey is not linear, but cyclical.)
All good stuff – attract your buyers (awareness stage) convert them into leads (consideration stage) close the deal (decision phase) and delight the client – something we have not covered here, but is extremely important because delighted clients become your advocates, write positive content about your services and products, and provide referrals from amongst their friends.
These are all useful parts of the process and we have to engage with them, but the problem I have is that they focus on making the sale, not on being helpful to the customer. I put more emphasis on the buyer journey, because if you understand what the buyer is trying to do at each stage of the journey you will automatically be thinking about how can I help that person, rather than how can I sell my products. In the end that will create a stronger relationship and a deeper trust than anything else.
Metrics and Analytics
So why do we need the funnel or the flywheel? The most important reason is to analyse performance. Using the stages of the funnel or flywheel, breaking them down into different activities and measuring the effectiveness of each one, shows us where our research and delivery is effective and where we need to do more or deliver in a different way in order to improve our effectiveness. And that will be the subject of another resource page in which we’ll look at the different metrics, how to access them and how to test and optimise our content.
Offers and Lead Magnets
It’s time to talk about offers – the thing you want to give to your prospect that is so valuable to them that they are happy to give up their name and contact details in return and give you permission to continue the conversation with them.
So, what is an offer? Actually, you have already seen plenty of them here – templates and tools mainly. An offer is highly valuable content that your prospect will be desperate to access , placed behind a form, and through a CTA, invite them to leave their contact details.
As well as tools and templates like the ones we have provided here, it could also be a detailed ‘how to’ guide or an e-book to address a particular problem. It may be providing access to a webinar where very influential speakers are presenting their views and the audience number is limited. It could be access to a live event in your area. It could be a free consultation or audit, or a product demonstration, or even a free product trial – depending on where your buyer is on the journey.
Tip: 3 things to make an offer pop:
1) Make sure it lines up with your products and services – there’s no point in
providing offers which are outside your area of expertise.
You’ll find nothing here that promotes graphic design or helps you with
your visual identity yes, it’s important but it’s not our thing.
2) Make sure your offers are aimed with pinpoint accuracy at the point on the
journey where your buyer is standing. If your blog is educational and aimed
at your buyer who is at the awareness stage, don’t offer a product demo yet
unless your product is a very simple solution.
If your product or service requires a more considered purchase process,
then rushing ahead will create risks if your prospect buys from you.
Do all the groundwork first or play dice with your reputation. And, as you
know, new prospects do their research, and at the decision stage, they read
read reviews, good and bad.
3) Promote your offers - use all the channels at your disposal, and the research
you have done to ensure your offers are discoverable by the prospects you
want to see them.
You can’t talk about offers without talking about forms and as my partner Jamie likes to say, “Bad forms are conversion killers”.
If you have ever been confronted with a form that looks more like a tax return than a marketing exercise, you’ll know what he means. Marketers and salespeople like to have all information they can – it enriches their personas, helps with the research and allows them to be more relevant and helpful.
But everyone hates filling them in. Sometimes questions about age and gender can feel intrusive and a bit too much. “Why do they want to know that!?” I hear you ask. Well, as you dig into your own research you will begin to understand exactly why the data is useful, but marketers also have to temper their desire to know everything at once. As with so many things, it’s about earning the right to ask for more by building helpful relationships.
That doesn’t mean that forms need to be very short, but they might be. A good rule of thumb is to align forms to the value of the offer. The more valuable the offer, the more you can ask. For the Inbound Leads eBook which contains a lot of helpful information we are asking for 5 pieces of information, and as a B2B growth agency, we want to have company contact credentials rather than personal email addresses.
Of course, this also comes back to the buyer journey. Where a buyer has just started out on the awareness phase, you will not give your most valuable offer. Also, a buyer that is just starting out may not know your company at all, so there is no relationship or trust established. In this case ask for few things, a name and an email address might be sufficient and as rapport develops through the journey you can ask for more.
HubSpot users also get smart forms which are forms that can be set up to show different information to people from different legal jurisdictions or repeat visitors for example. This ensures you have your buyers’ best interests in mind even during the process of signing up for your offers.
And finally…where do you put your forms? On your website, perhaps? One great option is the landing page – a web page that looks exactly like your website but dedicated exclusively to your offer.
Most landing pages try to dispense with any distractions that might lure the customer away from the job in hand – signing up for the offer. Although the landing page may look like your website, it shouldn’t have any navigation on it to entice the visitor away to other parts of the site.
It certainly shouldn’t have any articles on it that pertain to anything except your offer, and definitely no links that take the reader away from the page.
The form should be front and centre, with the heading of the form a repeat of your call to action – ‘download our eBook on managing hidden insurance risks’. Attractive pictures of the event or eBook or guide are helpful – the landing page should be inviting, not austere, but everything should point to the offer.
The form itself should collect the information you need and no more than that, and the button at the end probably shouldn’t say submit, but something more enticing like ‘download it here’.
Behind the form should be a data capture engine that stores the data and the consent of the data provider if required, and then the follow up tasks can be assigned to marketing or sales individuals depending on where the buyer is in their buying journey.
Lead generation is a fundemental activity for all businesses, but one that is tricky to get right. we've written a pretty in-depth guide to the fundementals here, but if you are struggling with a specific aspect of lead gen, then reach out to us directly and we will see if we can help!
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