Even The Longest Journey Starts With Just One Step
Many companies are facing massive lead deficits. With events canceled this year and more canceled going into next year, almost every marketer is redoing plans for the fall and rethinking 2021.
Now sprinkle on top of it all reduced staffing for in-house teams, smaller marketing budgets and smaller remote sales teams.
Your old playbooks won’t get you where you need to go this fall, and they definitely won’t help you kill it in 2021.
Here’s how you can rebuild your marketing strategy to drive success in the fall.
Let’s Start With The Math
You’ll never get this done without a plan. You need strategy before tactics (sorry, but it’s in our DNA).
If you need 1,000 leads and you have four months (September through December), that’s 250 leads a month through at least two short months (when you consider the holidays in November and December). You should also consider our election and any uncertainty associated with the results, regardless of outcome.
To get to 1,000 leads, I’m going to suggest you build a plan to generate 1,200 leads. The 20% buffer will help out in the short months.
So now you need 300 leads a month. To get 300 leads, based on some standard and baseline performance metrics, you’ll need 30,000 visitors a month to your site. That’s a big lift for most companies. On average with new clients, we see websites with around 5,000 visitors a month.
This means we need to work that number down. First, we’ll need to double the standard site-wide conversion rate from 1% to 2%. Now we only need 15,000 visitors to get 300 leads. This is still an aggressive visitor goal, but it’s doable.
Here’s one more strategic element to consider. While the plan below does have a lot of quick-start pragmatics, almost nothing related to lead generation is instant. Because of that, we’re going to adjust our expectations around the timing of the leads.
Instead of planning for 300 leads in September, October and November, we’re going to plan for them to ramp up as such: 200 leads in September, 300 leads in October, 400 leads in November and 300 leads in December.
My thinking is December is almost always a tough month for marketing. And remember, we’re building a plan to generate 1,200 leads, so if we fall short by a few hundred, we’ll still hit our goal of 1,000 leads before the end of the year.
OK, let’s get started. I’ll base all the improvement metrics that go into the tactical recommendations based on a website with 5,000 visitors a month and an initial conversion rate of 1%, which means we’re starting with 50 leads a month.
Step 1 – Work With What You Got
The best place to start is with the assets you already have. Let’s look at each of these assets and come up with a short-term, lead-centric plan to improve performance around the assets that are already working.
Website – Everyone has a website, but is your website working like it should be? Let’s make sure it runs properly on all devices and browsers. Let’s make sure we have all the pages indexed properly, all the tags aligned with our keywords and all the meta descriptions written with search in mind. Let’s make sure the SSL layer is working properly and, just to be safe, resubmit the site to Google for indexing.
Messaging – Your story is critical. Your website has to tell a disruptive, compelling and emotional story and tell it in 10 seconds. This is the first upgrade I’m making. I want everyone who lands on this page to say, “Wow, this is the company we have to work with.”
Chat – Generating leads is about letting prospects talk to you when and how they want, so we’re turning chat on, configuring it on all the relevant pages and supporting it with live folks to monitor it during normal working hours.
Offers – Almost all of the people coming to your website aren’t ready to talk to you or your sales team. That means the content you provide them has to be rich enough, educational enough, targeted enough and interesting enough to get them to convert.
We need educational content offers for early buyer journey, middle buyer journey and late buyer journey visitors. We need educational content offers for individual verticals and for people with specific roles.
To drive up that conversion rate and generate more leads, I’m going to pull assets from the resources section and strategically place them all over the site. In addition, I’m going to fill in any gaps in content with highly personal, highly targeted and highly engaging new offers.
Ungated – I know leads are the goal here, but we can’t gate everything. There has to be content that can be accessed and digested without having someone fill out a form. In this case, because leads are our only measure of success, I’m going to pick just a few pieces and ungate them. Then I’m going to serve up gated content after and during their content experience to continue attempting to generate a new lead.
Gated – I’m going to gate all the rest of the educational content, but I’m going to be smart about it. We’ll limit the forms to three or fewer fields, and for late buyer journey offers, we’ll use longer forms. We’ll also use progressive profiling and smart forms to make this easy on our visitors.
Casually Gated – Here we’re going to do something easy and more advanced – casual gating. We’ll take our educational content, turn it into a website page, integrate a chat experience into the content and work to get a conversion more casually while someone is reading our stuff. Check out an example of this from the Square 2 site. If you want to read more about our casual gating concept, here’s an article on it.
Late-Stage Offers – I know this effort is about leads, but let’s face it, if the leads aren’t good sales-qualified leads, what’s the point? So we’re going to upgrade every single late-stage buyer journey offer to create some sales opportunities, too. This means no more offers like get a quote, schedule a demo, speak with a rep, schedule a free consultation or contact us. Instead, we’ll offer 30-minute sessions that deliver some value to the visitor. If you want to learn more about late-stage buyer journey offers that generate sales-qualified leads, check out this article.
Page-By-Page Optimization – Finally, I’m going to work page by page through the existing site (getting back to current assets) and optimize each page. We’ll start with pages that are already highly visited and make some minor adjustments to double or even triple the conversion rates on these pages. We’ll change the headline, tighten the copy, shorten the form, change the image and add social proof on these pages.
These upgrades alone are going to take you from 5,000 visitors a month and 50 leads a month to at least 100 leads a month. We’re now one-third of the way to our goal.
Step 2 – Add What You Don’t Have
To get the rest of the leads, we’re going to have to add some tactics to your current plan. These tactics will be designed to drive visitors to your website or drive leads based on the campaign tactics.
Paid Social Ads – We’re going to launch a new ad campaign on Facebook and LinkedIn. These ads will be to promote content and drive people to convert via formless, offsite conversion tools in both of these platforms, eliminating the friction of a traditional landing page. We’ll target the ads very narrowly but make sure we have enough reach to produce about 20 new leads a month.
Affiliate Marketing Campaigns – We’re going to team up with noncompetitive companies to cross-market each of our products or services. We’re also going to take our content to groups, associations and membership organizations where our prospects are already spending time.
We’ll create all the campaign assets and send our educational offers and content to these people, driving them back to our website and driving our visitor numbers up by at least 10%, and contributing another 20 new leads a month from at least one campaign a month over the next four months.
Paid Search Ads – This is going to help us with new visitors to our site and in lead generation, but these campaigns will also be content-specific and landing-page-centric campaigns. This will allow us to optimize the performance over the next four months and increase both visitors and leads over time.
We’ll start expecting 10 new leads a month and another 10% improvement in website visitor performance. By the way, these paid ads will help our general search engine optimization work on Google, too.
Email Marketing – Let’s get more aggressive about staying in touch with past clients and current people in our prospect database. Let’s ramp up the frequency of email and promote our new content. We’re not talking about promotional emails but rather more educational emails, success stories, case studies and emails that help our prospects do their jobs better.
This should produce about 10 new leads a month.
Office Hours Or Webinars With Partners – Now we’re going to get smart. Let’s add some new highly interactive content that will drive larger numbers. Let’s start offering a monthly office hours session with an expert from your company.
This free session can be signed up for on your website. You can add additional experts to your office hours program to drive up value and registrants. Everyone new who registers is clearly a new lead. The more dynamic the speakers, the topics of conversation and the content you plan to cover, the more leads you’ll generate.
You can also do this in the form of a webinar with partners and leverage the power of their list to generate new leads for your business. Either way, these are easy to spin up and promote, and I would expect them to generate 50 new leads a month.
Referral Sites And Influencers – This is going to be a double win. We’ll use this tactic to drive more visitors and another 10% increase in website visitors. We’ll use it to generate more leads, too. Almost everyone who owns a website is looking for backlinks and referral links. These signal value to Google and drive visitors.
We’re going to start looking for our own backlinks and referring sites. Guest blogging, partnering with influences on content sharing and even doing a link swap are all solid techniques for getting your stuff in front of your targeted audiences.
Do this right and you should be looking at a 10% boost in visitors to your website, plus five more incremental leads from this channel.
Pillar Pages – These long interactive and content-heavy pages are excellent for driving rankings and visitors around selected keywords. They can be time-consuming to write, design and build, but we can get one done a month for the next four months. These high-converting pages can help us improve organic visitors by 5% and leads by about 10 per month.
Video – Everyone is talking about the power of video in marketing today. We’re going to use it, too. We’re going to create a handful of homegrown videos, and we’ll put them on video-sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Metacafe. We’ll make sure they are tagged properly for search, and they should rank highly quickly. This can drive visitors an additional 5%, and because videos are such highly sought-after assets, add another five leads a month.
If my math is right, that’s another 170 leads a month, and our website visitors are up to around 9,000 a month. This takes us to around 270 leads a month, so we’re within striking distance of 300 leads a month. Everything on this list can get installed in a month if you have the right team and the right experience.
Step 3 – Work On Optimization
This is where we separate the professionals from the posers. The stuff above isn’t rocket science. Maybe getting all that done in just a few weeks is going to be a challenge. Maybe some of the execution could present some difficulty. But email, chat and video isn’t going to set the world on fire.
Where the secret sauce gets applied is in the optimization methodology. Basically, how do we ensure that each week our program does better and better?
Here’s how you do that.
First, we’re going to install some rhythms. Every morning we’ll meet and review program performance via our set of dashboards. Some metrics will be daily metrics and some will be weekly metrics, but we’ll take performance and extrapolate it out based on daily performance to estimate where we should be at the end of the month. This day rate calculation will tell us if we’re ahead or behind on our monthly target for leads generated.
Next, and based on the data, we’ll come up with a set of optimizations we want to install that day.
We’ll use Square 2’s prioritization methodology that starts with the items that take the least amount of time but have the potential to generate the biggest impact on leads.
Landing pages, website pages and even ad optimization will be at the top of the list. In a matter of minutes, we can make changes and then see how those changes impact results.
Then we’ll look at items that might require more time, like adjustments to campaign tactics, adjustments to educational content or additional assets that might require design, copy or interactive resources.
We’ll create a set of work for the day, assign it out, make sure the entire team is clear on their assignments and then let them sprint undisturbed for the rest of the day. We’ll then reconvene for 15 minutes at the end of the day to see how we did and get ready for the next day.
This fast-moving cycle ensures we make a ton of small changes all day every day so the program is getting optimized quickly based on data and that we’re seeing positive results from our optimization efforts.
Our clients typically see improvements in the 20% a month range from optimization sprints like this, so this effort should get us around 50 additional leads a month, pushing us well over the 300 lead goal target we set for our program at the outset.
Step 4 – Understand The Budget Requirements
It looks like we have the strategy, tactics, analytics and technology to get us to our goal of 1,000 leads by the end of the year. But you can’t really have this conversation without some context around investment and budget.
This was a fun exercise, but without the realities of paying for it, it’s just that — fun and nothing else. If you want consider making this a reality for your company, you need to have some understanding of what this type of program might cost you from an investment perspective.
To get 1,000 leads in four months, what should you have to invest?
First, there is an investment in time and people to execute the plan. You’re talking about roughly one full-time team member and one part-time team member. Your full-time team member would be roughly $6,000 for the month (annualized that’s $72,000 a year) and your part-time team member would be roughly 20 hours a week at $50 an hour, or $1,000 a week and $4,000 for the month.
You’re at $10,000 a month for the team.
Assuming you have all the technology in place, the only other investments will be for the paid advertising and video production. Almost everything else in the plan is doable with templates, light design skills or tools like Ceros and Powtoon.
To estimate the paid ads, consider the cost per lead. We’re estimating 10 to 20 leads a month from the campaigns, and the cost per lead is generally around $100 per lead, so budget another $1,000 to $2,000 for each platform.
Cost per lead is generally higher with Google Ads. LinkedIn is usually in the middle, while Facebook is generally the cheapest option.
If you put another $5,000 in your budget for paid advertising and video production, you’d be at $15,000 for this program. That is $60,000 total over four months to generate 1,000 leads, or a cost per lead of around $60.
Return On Investment
But wait, since we’re talking about dollars and cents, how about a general understanding of the potential revenue opportunity 1,000 leads presents?
We’ve done hundreds of programs like this, and our research shows that most companies are capable of converting leads into new customers between .5% on the low end and 5% on the high end.
For the sake of this example, let’s use 2.5%, so 1,000 leads should turn into 25 new customers.
Again, most of our data is B2B, with large tickets, complex sales and long sales cycles, so average revenue is going to be between $50,000 and $200,000 per new customer. Let’s make the average $100,000 for our example.
Would you spend $60,000 to generate $2.5 million in incremental revenue? Even if you have a net profit of 10% on $2.5 million in revenue, that nets you $250,000 profit on an investment of $60,000.
No matter how you slice it, that’s smart business.
What Typically Goes Wrong?
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “Wow, this sounds so easy. Why isn’t everyone doing this, and why wouldn’t everyone just start doing this?”
That brings me to what I call the questions that never get asked: “If this is so easy and so obvious, then why isn’t everyone doing it? Why isn’t everyone seeing these kinds of results? Why is lead generation so darn hard?”
Those are the right questions.
The answer is a lot can go wrong here. In fact, our scenario could fall apart at many break points. Here are just a few of the issues you could end up facing.
Most people don’t do all of this. They do only a small portion of this, yet they expect all the results.
Many people under-invest. They cut a couple of corners or leave some important elements out, but they also expect all the results.
Still more people skip the strategy, messaging and thinking sections in favor of stuff they can touch, making almost all the tactics less effective, and then they under-perform.
We see many companies ignoring the ongoing optimization work, feeling that once it’s set up, they’re done and can just reap the rewards.
There are companies that don’t want to invest in paid campaigns, so they are limited to who already knows them and they’re not able to introduce the company to new people.
But the biggest obstacle we’ve seen in the past 18 years is simply companies that are not able to change the way they’ve done marketing in the past. They come into this with doubts. They think they are going to try it and see how it goes. They don’t really think it’s going to work but feel like they don’t have any other options.
When they hit early obstacles, they give up. It’s too hard, it’s taking too long and it’s costing too much. They decide to just stop. That guarantees failure.
These scenarios always produce self-fulfilling prophecies. In short, if you’re not 100% bought in, if you don’t see this as a marathon instead of a sprint, if you’re not willing to look ahead and forget the past, and if you won’t push yourself, your team and your company into the future, then it’s very likely that you’ll get less-than-expected results and be right back where you started.
Let me give you a quick illustration.
You’re a golfer and you want to be a better golfer. You find a pro and sign up for lessons. They’re not cheap, so you go. You’re excited to learn and you see improvement.
On the first day, the pro watches your swing and makes changes to your grip, stance and position over the ball. He tells you to change your swing plane and you start making all the changes. It feels extremely uncomfortable to do it the new way.
He tells you you’ll have to reteach your body new muscle memory. It’s going to take practice, time and commitment, and you’ll need at least one lesson a week for six months.
What happens next?
You know the answer. Do you go on to become a scratch golfer? Do you improve at all?
No, because you quickly realize it’s too hard, going to take too long and too uncomfortable. You’re just not interested enough to put in the hard work, follow his advice and practice hard. So you remain the mediocre weekend golfer you’ve always been.
There’s nothing wrong with that. You have fun when you play, but admit it, you never wanted to do the hard work to get better. You gave up.
This is what happens at a business level when it comes to making marketing work. It’s just too hard and requires too many new moves for most people and most companies.
This is why so many companies struggle with revenue generation, business growth and the ability to systematically hit their revenue goals month over month.
So don’t fire your agency, don’t stop your marketing and don’t retreat to old habits. If you want your business to grow, push through, keep swinging, continue to practice, pay for experts and take their advice like your life depends on it, because your business’ life might.
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