Optimization Is Often The Missing Ingredient To Ongoing Lead Generation; Here’s How To Add It
Turn your marketing on and you get leads, right? Nope, that’s not how marketing works. In most cases, marketing that produces leads has at least three additional elements – strategy, what you say to people and when you say it.
Almost everyone knows the tactics and how to use them. Most people know the importance of analytics (to see what’s working and to what extent) and the technology to make all of this work better and faster.
But buried in here, and what I see people missing the most, is ongoing optimization of the lead generation strategy and the tactics for improved month-over-month performance.This article features a list of the standard and ongoing lead generation optimization plays we run for clients. These ensure that we continue to deliver better results over time and that we’re regularly adding new elements to our tactics.
It’s this combination that must be dialed in over time. The only way to do that is with ongoing optimization that includes evaluating the results and making updates based on data.
Not easy, but it is a requirement for lead generation.
Optimization #1: Landing Page Conversions
This is one of the biggest areas for ongoing optimization. First, your landing pages should be converting around 4%. Unbounce studied thousands of landing pages that drove over 74 million visitors and found that is the average across industries.
To be clear, averages are tricky. You should be more concerned about your current landing page conversion rates and how you can improve those than comparing yourself to this average. Also, big differences exist by industry and type of landing page, so be careful about measuring yourself against this number.
Benchmark your aggregate landing page conversion rate across all of your landing pages and track the performance. Specifically look at your top five landing pages by visitors. This will focus you on the most important landing pages.
Next, look at these elements on the page:
Headline – These are easy to change and can have a big impact on results. Often, marketers make this headline sexy, using marketing talk instead of straightforward and direct copy. Make sure the language has YOU and/or YOUR in it. The headline should be about your prospects, not about you.
Sub-headline – These are also easy to change and usually are very direct. One of the biggest changes we start with is swapping the direct sub-headline with the sexier headline. Moving the sub-head to the major headline takes 20 seconds and can drive up conversion rates.
Form – This is a bit trickier. You want to match the length of the form or the number of form fields with the place in the buyer journey this form is being used. Early buyer journey landing pages should have short forms, with no more than three fields. Later stage buyer journey landing pages can have longer forms, with more fields (up to 10 might work here).
Copy – Keep this short and focused on the prospect. Explain what they’ll get by filling out the form. Use three or five bullet points. The longer the landing page copy, the worse the conversion rates.
Social Proof – This is important. People want to know that others like them filled out the form and found value. Keep your social proof focused on what the landing page is promoting.
Image – Your prospects use their eyes primarily before converting. If you’re offering content, show people what the asset looks like. Show them that it’s a meaty piece of content. If you’re featuring an event or meeting, show them people. Landing pages with people convert better than pages without images of people.
As you look at these elements when you want to start optimizing, consider picking just one element at a time. Make one change, track the results and then consider making a change to a different element. This testing methodology ensures you know what you did and what impact it had.
It might sound obvious, but by resisting the urge to change multiple items at the same time, you’ll always be sure what contributed to what results.
Optimization #2: CTA Click-Through Rates
The same caveat to averages holds true with CTAs. Focus on improving your CTAs instead of hitting average click-through rates. However, to know what’s a good CTA conversion rate, here is some research from our AI-powered insights and recommendations engine, MAXG.
MAXG looked at 618 different CTAs over several years and found an average click-through rate of 3.53%. Early-stage CTAs converted at 4.4%, middle-stage CTAs converted at 2.78% and late-stage CTAs converted at 1.7%.
This makes sense to me, as people feel more comfortable early in the buyer journey and less comfortable talking to salespeople later in the buyer journey. This means you’ll have to work harder to drive sales-ready leads and sales-qualified leads late in the buyer journey.
You can use links, buttons or designed image CTAs. I’d consider testing all three options and running with the CTA that performs the best. In our research and experience, designed image CTAs typically do better, but in some text-based content scenarios the CTA links works well, too.
One consideration for button CTAs is the language used. Always use first-person language like Download My Whitepaper instead of Download YOUR Whitepaper. Believe it or not, MY outperforms YOUR.
Start your optimization efforts on your most-viewed CTAs. Optimize one element at a time, like we talked about in the landing page section. Test, test and test some more until you can beat your control group. If you work to improve CTA conversion month over month, you’ll see improvements.
Optimization #3: Website Visitors
CTAs and landing pages both need visitors to produce results. Part of your optimization efforts need to focus on driving more visitors to your website.
You have a limited number of sources for website visitors. Organic search, paid search, social, paid social, referral, email and direct traffic are the only online sources for visitors. Offline sources, like live events, could also send visitors to your website.
We typically see companies focused on just one or two sources. The key to success is doing everything you can to drive visitors from ALL sources.
Some of these sources are easier than others. Paid search and paid social are straightforward. With a budget and two managed lead gen campaigns, you can drive visitors from Google and selected social platforms.
Organic search represent the long game, for sure. It demands content, content and more content. Blog articles, pillar pages and website pages must all be designed to highlight your keywords, keyword phrases and long-tail keywords.
One optimization upgrade is to add an extra blog article per week and track overall visitors from organic search. Another is to add a pillar page. What’s a pillar page? Check out this article for more details on creating pillar pages.
Social media traffic is also fairly straightforward. To drive an upgrade here, consider adding a new platform. If you post regularly on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, add Instagram to the mix. While this might not add leads out of the gate, it should drive visitors.
Finally, probably the best opportunity for improvement and the least used source – referral links, backlinks or influencers linking to your website. This is a tough nut to crack, but it can drive a lot of visitors. Perhaps the best way to drive up this source is to get a guest blog posted on a site with high domain authority and a large audience.
The last source data bucket is direct traffic. While this might seem obvious (people coming to your site after typing in the URL is direct visitor traffic), Google also uses this source as a catchall for visitors that can’t be grouped into other areas. This makes it difficult to impact with any tactics. I wouldn’t recommend focusing on direct visitors, as other areas offer a bigger payout with less effort.
Optimization #4: Sales-Qualified Lead Generation
The sales team is going to be clamoring for leads that are ready to buy. We call these sales-ready leads or sales-qualified leads (SQLs). These are people who want to and are ready to talk with sales.
This is an important metric to be tracking and an even more important metric to be optimizing.
One of the best ways to optimize these leads is by creating compelling late-stage buyer journey offers and tweaking the offers you already have running on your site. This article goes into detail on creating late-stage buyer journey offers.
Here are a few tips to get you started. First, make the offers valuable to your prospects. For example, offering free quotes, demos or consultations seems nice, but they look like sales calls in disguise. Honestly, the disguise isn’t that clever either. That’s why these offers don’t generally perform well.
Instead, create an offer that is fully designed around your prospects’ pains, challenges or issues.
For us, it might be a full website evaluation and grade. It might be a content audit or an assessment of their HubSpot setup. These all deliver value to the prospect and open the opportunity for a conversation about how we can help them with their newly identified issues or challenges.
Work hard to come up with similar sessions or offers for your prospects. If you have two good offers, add a third as your optimization upgrade. If you have three that are underperforming, consider changing the copy or the landing page to better show value or illustrate social proof.
More than likely, you have some very ordinary late-stage buyer journey offers. By adding some better, more creative options, you’ll quickly improve SQLs for your sales reps.
Optimization #5: Lead Nurture Workflows
This is one of the most important optimization tasks, primarily because it is one of the most missed upgrades. Lead nurture workflows are almost always set-and-forget tasks. In other words, they get built, they run in the background and people almost never come back to optimize them.
Emails and lead nurture emails are easy to track and easy to drive optimization efforts. Look at open rates, click-through rates and clicks on specific links inside the workflow emails.
Open rates and click-through rates on workflow emails should be slightly higher than your general air-cover marketing emails. Why? Well, the recipients already know you. They signed up or signaled interest in something related to your company.
If general emails drive open rates around 20% and click-through rates around 3%, lead nurture emails should have an open rate of at least 30% and a click-through rate that exceeds 5%.
Optimization tactics should include testing the subject line. Try using the personalization token in the subject line. Try making those subject lines catchy and short (fewer than 30 characters).
The more specific the emails, the more they reference the action the prospect took to get in your workflow and the more you highlight the value in opening the message, the better your open rates.
When it comes to clicks, keeping the emails short helps a lot. Research finds many people start with the P.S. line and then read the rest of the email. Limit links to two or three to prevent distracting the reader.
Keep your copy short, to the point and focused on your prospects, not you. This can drive a couple of percentage points improvement in your click-through rate.
Also, track your lead nurturing campaign’s ability to drive leads toward the end of the buyer journey. That means adding late-stage buyer journey offers in your lead nurture campaigns and then tracking the conversion on these offers.
These types of campaigns need to drive leads, regardless of open rates and click-through rates. If these campaigns are NOT producing sales-qualified leads and sales opportunities, they need more optimization work.
Optimization #6: Content Creation
The last set of tips has to do with the content you’re creating. Nobody can live on a steady stream of whitepapers. You’re probably going to need a wider variety of content, like video, podcasts, webcasts, e-books, infographics, decks and single-page tip sheets.
The key to optimizing your content is to track which types of content and which areas of content are outperforming the benchmark content offering. Do videos work better? Does promoting your podcast work better? You should know, and you should be trying to beat your control group.
Does industry content work better than more general content? Does role-based content work better than general content? Does thought leadership or technical content work better? If you create your content based on different personas and content types, you’ll see which segments work better than others, and you’ll be able to lean into these, create more of that type and drive better results.
These options are a lot harder to optimize. But you can try shorter-form content, like checklists, tip sheets and one-pagers, when comparing performance against your longer-form playbooks, e-books and whitepapers.
But yes, it’s tough to create videos, podcasts, webinars and other more dynamic content formats with the expectation of outperforming other types of content.
Regardless, you should experiment with almost all of the content types, and you should strategically match these with the personas you’re targeting. In short order, you’ll know exactly what kinds and types of content drive the best results, and then you’ll be ready to go deep into the content types and formats that work best.
When it comes to optimization, give your team the time needed to work on optimization tasks. For most marketing operations teams, that means about 10 to 20 hours a month on optimization.
Huddle with the team and set up the optimization game plan at the start of the month. Review the numbers, set goals for the new numbers and agree on the optimization tasks. These 30-day cycles give your optimization efforts enough time to run. Then you can review the data, get the insights and formulate the next month’s action plan.
Once you get into the rhythms associated with this analyze, review, recommend and action planning cycle, you’ll see regular improvements to your marketing performance month over month. Your team will settle into a similar mindset, and you can look at any number of metrics to drive your ongoing monthly optimization efforts.
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