For years, SMB companies have relied on outbound lead generation tactics to fill their sales funnels. They used tactics like telemarketing, direct mail and email blasts to generate enough leads to hit their revenue targets. For years, these tactics worked because B2B buyers needed salespeople to do their jobs. They needed salespeople to learn about product/service specifications, pricing and other information for companies that sold the products and services they needed to service their customers.
Then something came along that switched control of the buying process from the seller to the buyer - the internet. Buyers no longer needed to talk to salespeople to learn about pricing, specifications and other information about the products and services they needed. All they had to do was to go the seller's website to access that information and more. If the seller didn't have a website or their website didn't have the information the buyer needed, they lost that sales opportunity.
Many sellers have adapted their sales process to the way buyers buy. They use inbound marketing tactics like search engine optimization, blogging, social media and opt-in email marketing to get found by buyers seeking solutions to problems. Others continue to rely on outbound lead generation tactics with decreasing levels of success. Their mindset is to counteract decreasing outbound lead generation by volume. If it takes 250 annoying phone calls to generate a lead, that's what they do. There's a better way to react to the changing dynamics of the buying process - online lead generation.
The mechanics of online lead generation
There are four components of an online lead generation process.
- An offer. The offer is a piece of content like an eBook, video, webinar or whitepaper that a company's ideal prospect perceives as having a high value. Other content offers used in online lead generation include free consultations, demos, free trials and product/service discounts. As an example, you'll see that we're offering an eBook titled "The Ultimate Lead Generation Handbook" at the bottom of this blog article.
- A call-to-action. The call-to-action (CTA) is an image, text or a graphic that promotes your offer on your website, email or social media channels. By clicking on the CTA, the web visitor is taken to a landing page where they can access the content offer. See an example of a CTA at the bottom of this blog article.
- A landing page. A landing page is a specialized web page where your website visitors can access the offer by exchanging contact information for the content. Think of landing pages as your website's sales force. A landing page contains information about the content offer and includes a form for the visitor to complete to access the content offer.
- A form. As stated above, forms collect contact information in exchange for a premium content offer. Forms can ask for different types of information, but almost always ask for a name and email information. When the visitor submits the form, 2 things happen. First, the visitor gets the content they wanted. Secondly, the visitor becomes a lead in your sales funnel.
Here is a graphical depiction of the online lead generation process courtesy of internet marketing software provider HubSpot.
Outbound lead generation tactics like telemarketing, direct mail and email blasts are becoming increasingly less effective. Why? Becasue they don't sync with the modern buying process. The Corporate Executive Board found that the average buyer completes 57% of her buying process before ever contacting a salesperson. If you're bombarding that person with telephone calls before they're ready to talk to you, you're doing more harm than good to your chances for success.
A better approach is to attract potential buyers meeting your ideal customer profile by publishing content that helps them resolve pain points and improve their business results. Companies that do a good job of online lead generation are filling their sales funnels with qualified leads. Rather than annoying buyers with spray and pray lead generation tactics, your sales team will spend their time helping qualified buyers solve problems and closing more deals. It's the difference between being helpful and annoying. Which approach do you prefer when you're buying?