Correctly diagnosing marketing problems is like walking up to a running hose in the forest. (Stay with me here, I know it sounds ridiculous.) All you can see is the water dribbling out -- the rest of the hose and the faucet it attaches to is hidden in the surrounding greenery -- and you've got to figure out what the problem is.
It could be anything. Maybe there's a kink in the hose. Or a hole. Or maybe the faucet isn't even turned on at all.
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This "hose-in-a-forest" situation happens all the time in marketing. Even though in the 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report we found that 20% of marketers say increasing total lead volume is their top priority this year, lead generation itself may not be the problem at hand.
Sounds more ridiculous than a mystical hose running in the forest, right?
But it's true. Often, lead generation problems can be addressed by fixing other problems -- like website traffic, for example. Lots of marketers aren't getting enough traffic to their websites to be able to convert enough people into leads.
So if you want to turn your website into a lead generation machine, but also have a traffic problem, here's how you do it. You've got to divide your efforts into two parts.
Part 1: Get Traffic to Your Website
For a bit, forget about getting leads from your website -- you need to focus on getting people in the door before you get them to convert into a lead. So here's how you do that:
Create blog posts answering top questions your prospects and customers have.
You shouldn't be blogging about your latest product release or company news -- your posts should be educational. Talk to your sales reps about what questions come up most often in the sales cycle. Then, answer those questions in a series of blog posts. That way, when people are doing research into your industry and they search for answers to those questions, they can click on your blog post.
For example, let's say you're a tire manufacturing company. Most people, when buying tires, are concerned with the quality and the price of the tires. So you'd write blog posts on those topics. One post could be a comparison of the best tires for a 2008 Volkswagen Jetta. Another could be a roundup of the cheapest tires for a 2012 Honda Accord, and so on and so forth.
The key to generating traffic to your website is to write blog posts answering your customers' questions. Each new blog post you write gives you more and more opportunities to be found in search and shared on social media -- which'll result in website traffic.
Part 2: Convert Visitors Into Leads
Once you have that whole traffic-generation concept down-pat, you can focus on generating leads from your website. Here's how you do that:
Create an ebook (or other type of offer) to live behind a form on a landing page.
To get someone to become a lead on your website, you need to get them to fill out a form on a landing page. This form won't ask for a credit card -- you just need their contact information (name, email address, company, etc).
But you can't just expect someone to hand over their information for fun -- you've got to give them something in return. Something that is worthy of giving up their information. We call that "an offer" -- most often, it's a free ebook, template, presentation, or whitepaper.
If you want to make an ebook for your first offer (something I'd highly suggest), check out this step-by-step post.
Use calls-to-action (CTAs) on your blog posts to drive people to that landing page.
Okay so now you have lots of blog posts and a landing page for your first offer, but no connection between the two. Enter calls-to-action -- these'll be text or images in your blog posts that'll direct people to your landing page.
They often look like this:
Or even like this:
"If you want to learn more about optimizing your marketing, download the full guide here."
Regardless of whether they are images or text, your calls-to-action are how you can generate leads from the blog posts you write. Add them in throughout the post, at the very end, or even in your blog sidebar. (Need help designing them? Try out these CTA templates, or use a tool that'll let you build custom pop-up and slide-in CTAs, like HubSpot's free lead capture tool.)
Repeat Parts 1 and 2.
And that's about it. Write blog posts. Use CTAs in those blog posts to direct people to your offer's landing page. People fill out the form to get the offer. You get a lead. Rinse and repeat.
Of course, there's much more you can do than just this. Active participation in social media. Personalized nurturing campaigns. Smart website content. This is the basics, that's all. Keep repeating this process over and over for new topics your audience wants to know about, and you'll build up a sustainable pipeline of traffic and leads.