Featured Internet Marketing

10 tips to blow online lead generation wide open

About 1/2 of Portent’s clients are lead-driven, not e-commerce driven. Online lead generation requires you to erect just the right-sized barrier: Something juuuust big enough to keep unqualified, unpromising leads out, while letting interested potential customers, voters or clients in.

These 10 tips should help you increase your lead pipeline and the quality of leads in it:

1: Get a good toolset

You’re going to need a toolset that lets you:

  • Manage e-mail lists;
  • Send progressive e-mails to those lists;
  • Practice good CRM, without driving you insane.

I recommend aWeber as the e-mail tool – it rocks, and it’s simple. Then, I use Highrise as my CRM tool, for the same reasons.

2: Use an online forms builder

Instead of having your web developer build you a contact form on your site, use an online forms builder. If you’re on WordPress, use Gravity Forms – you’re out of your freaking mind not to. If you’re not on WordPress, use Wufoo or Google Docs.

That way, you can edit your various information collection forms, check your data and make changes yourself. Beats waiting a week for your web design firm to make the change for you.

3: Set up a workflow

Set up a workflow that guides visitors to prospects to leads:

  1. Visitors sign up for your aWeber e-mail list using a simple 2-3 field form.
  2. That makes them prospects.
  3. Then you build trust and demonstrate value.
  4. And they become leads when they decide to provide additional contact information.

4: Start small

The first time Jane Client visits your site, she won’t want to give you her phone number, address and who-knows-what-else. Instead, offer something in exchange for, say, her name and e-mail address. Laura Roeder does this on her Creating Fame site:

initial lead signup

This builds your prospect list. They aren’t leads, yet, but they will be.

5: Reach out

If you sit behind your site, waiting for leads, guess what? You’re with 10,000 other people doing the same thing, in the same industry, at the same time. It’s OK, at least you’re in good company: None of you will get anywhere, and you can go nowhere, together.

Make sure you let colleagues know about that webinar, or white paper, or whatever it is that you’re offering. Don’t be a pushy jerk about it – just send it along.

If you’re in an industry that uses Twitter, spend a few minutes a day reading, replying and contributing to your fellow tweeters.

And a little internet marketing won’t kill you, either.

6: Send them a little something special

Keep in touch with those prospects. But don’t just send them a crappy newsletter. Send them little gifts: Nuggets of wisdom they can really make use of. For example:

  • A new whitepaper (or an old one!);
  • A tip about changing tax laws, and how they can take advantage;
  • A link to a great special offer one of your colleagues is providing;
  • Coupon codes for a product you’re recommending to clients.

Whatever it is, make sure they’ll really feel silly if they don’t open their e-mail, and then hear 2 weeks later what they missed.

7: Contact them weekly, watch your list

Contact your prospects weekly. Weekly. Unless you’re retiring in 3 months, and therefore don’t want any new business, don’t tell me you don’t have time! Next to serving your current clients, cultivating new ones is the most important job you’ve got.

See #3 – you don’t have to send them an essay. Just a hello, and a tidbit of useful information.

If you’re afraid of driving away prospects who feel they’re being spammed, watch the prospect list. Is it shrinking? No? Then you’re just fine. Keep going.

8: Be solicitous, not a solicitor

Don’t be a solicitor (I mean a salesperson, not an attorney). Be solicitous. When you contact your prospects, never, ever, ever, make a sales pitch.

Instead of saying “Hire me today for great SEO!”

Try saying “If you have any questions about internet marketing, send me an e-mail. I’m always happy to answer, and I don’t charge for a quick question.”

See the difference? I was really skeptical about this one for years – I figured everyone out there is as cynical and bitter as me, so they’d assume it was a come-on.

Not so – I started inviting folks to ask questions, and they asked. Even better, I discovered it was fun to answer, and that the folks I answered, more often than not, became clients. Chalk one up for the Light Side of the Force.

9: Make it an upgrade

Make your prospects want to be part of The Inner Circle. The inner circle, of course, are those who graduate from prospects to leads.
Moving from prospect to lead shouldn’t be a moment when the prospect says “Groan. I guess I’ll give them my information, even though I know they’re going to start harassing me now.”

It should be an upgrade. You’ve already started giving them useful bits of information. Now, offer them really good stuff: A series of training videos. A free 1-hour consulting call. Admission to a monthly webinar. Or even admission to a monthly, free, Q&A session.

Make me feel like I’m treating myself to something really helpful/cool/fun, not like I’m shuffling towards an electric chair.

10: Make eye contact

When you write, make eye contact. Write to the prospect. Say “You”, not “People”. You’re talking to each person, individually – that’s how internet copywriting and marketing works. Take advantage of it.

Making eye contact is a far easier writing style, and it will get you out of all sorts of bad writing habits.

Keep at it

It took me about 3 years to get a good lead pipeline going. I was starting from square one – I had no experience in sales, zero experience as a CEO and basically thought I’d start my company to a ticker-tape parade. And, of course, most internet users were on Prodigy.

You’ll have an easier time than I did. But it still takes some persistence. So keep at it. If you’ve got good stuff to offer, people will find you.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Managing a list of prospects is one of those things that really should be taught in schools more, right along with a bit more about finance–most people don’t know a whole lot about how to manage either!

  2. Great article! The part about being solicitous is helpful to me, especially. Sometimes its hard to figure out how to word things and that concrete example helps. I like the way you say “Make eye contact.” I use a similar method by choosing specific people I know and writing to them. If I get stuck, I just imagine that friend and think how I would say it to them. It always works.
    Thanks for the tips.

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