Lead Generation Tips and Tricks for SMBs

Lead Generation Tips and Tricks for SMBs

Everybody is looking for new leads, but sometimes it seems like there are only a few ways to draw them in, and for SMBs with smaller budgets and specific locations, lead generation can be tiresome work. If you’re looking for great ways to jumpstart lead generation for your SMB, you’re in the right spot. Let’s talk about a few lead generation tips and tricks for SMBs that will actually work.
We’re going to start by first looking at how you convert leads. When it comes to any business — small, mid-sized, and even huge corporate companies — there are really only three key ways to convert leads through digital marketing:
  • Content offers
  • Calls-to-action
  • Landing pages

If you’re in the digital marketing game, you probably have all three of these tools, and you’re probably using them to convert your leads as often as you can.

But, while content offers, calls-to-action, and landing pages convert leads, the rest of your digital marketing strategy does the actual work of guiding the right potential leads towards those conversion opportunities.

You can have all the landing pages and content offers you want, but if you don't have any traffic coming to your site, you're not going to see the lead generation you're looking for. Click To Tweet

For SMBs, this aspect of lead generation is quite possibly the toughest. You can have picture-perfect conversion opportunities, but if you don’t have the traffic, you’re not going to see results.

And drawing in a ton of qualified traffic can be easier said than done. Not only are you competing with other local SMBs in your industry, you likely also have to go up against corporate giants who have more manpower and budget than you. This is where strategic digital marketing comes in. 

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We’re going to break down 8 lead generation tips and tricks for SMBs, that will help your small-to-midsized business stand out from larger competition and draw in the leads that will help your company grow. It all starts with your target buyer.

#1 Identify Your Target Buyer

The first and best way to make sure you’re generating only the leads you want, and none of the leads you don’t, is to identify who you want to sell to.

Odds are, your product isn’t for everyone. There is a specific industry, a key job title, or type of person your product or service is right for. Where do they live? What do they want? What do they do?

Understanding your target buyer through and through will help you implement lead generation tactics that are accurate and specific. And the more accurate your targeting, the less you’ll spend to get the best results.

 

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#2 Leverage Social Media

One key lead generation tip every SMB should take advantage of is social media. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a mid-sized manufacturer or a small local lumber supplier, social media is an inexpensive way to build awareness throughout your community. 

We’ve provided a ton of resources about how SMBs can get ahead on a variety of social media channels, (see this blog, this blog, and this article about Social Media Marketing vs. Social Media Advertising) but at the very least it’s worth it to create accounts on platforms like Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Start with one, if your company doesn’t have any yet, and build from there. 

We recommend starting with Facebook and LinkedIn if you’re planning to do any social media advertising. Both of these platforms make advertising easy, and they have powerful targeting abilities that can help you create effective ad campaigns, without spending more of your budget than you’d like. 

#4 Create Targeted Content

Today’s consumer wants content that is specific to their concerns. The best way to boost lead generation for the leads you actually want is to create content that is very targeted. General solutions aren’t going to help those potential leads. 

A lot of times we’ll hear from clients, “well, we don’t want to give all of that information away because [insert reason here: you don’t want your competition to know, you don’t want clients to solve their problems, you’re afraid if you give information away, they won’t call your sales team, etc.].”

The fact is that if you’re not educating your potential leads with content that truly answers their questions and solves their problems, you’re not going to get any leads. 

Today’s consumer will not contact a salesperson until they’re 80% of the way through the buyers cycle. Until then, they want to find the information that answers their questions and empowers them to make an educated decision about why your product is their best option. 

When you’re creating that content, your company will be the first your ideal consumer contacts when they’re ready to make a purchasing decision.

#5 Focus on Quality over Quantity

If lead generation is your SMB’s goal, quality should always be your priority. You can write a million short blog posts and not see a single leads from all of your posts. You can also write a million general blog posts and end up with a million leads, but none of whom are good sales fits for your company. 

If you want to generate quality leads, you need to generate quality content. 

Consumers can spot an unhelpful, keyword-stuffed, general blog post from a mile a way. They can also pick out a quality blog post, just as easily. 

If you’re creating content that’s focused on keywords, but doesn’t really say anything, you’re not going to see the lead generation you want. Why?

Because content creation is about more than lead generation. It’s also about setting yourself up as an authority in your industry. 

When you’re putting out the best, quality, in-depth content in the industry, people are going to start looking to you for answers. When people look to you for answers they can trust, they’re also going to look for you when they decide they need your product or service. 

When you create quality content, you boost your SMB’s lead generation capabilities threefold. 

  • You are able to draw in quality leads with great content that ranks well.
  • You set yourself up as an authority in the industry. More consumers turn to your SMB when they have questions about the product or service you offer.
  • You boost your company’s awareness. As an authority in the industry, who is providing quality content, more people are going to refer potential leads to you, and more potential leads are going to turn to your company, just because they’ve heard your company name around.

In the end, quality content keeps delivering quality leads. The more great content you put out, the more qualified leads you’ll generate in the long run. A great content creation strategy works like a snowball effect — the more great content you put out, the more qualified leads and brand awareness you generate. The more leads and awareness you have, the more authority you build. 

#6 Always Include a CTA

If there was a golden rule of lead generation, “always include a CTA” would be it.  

Why? Because a CTA gives you the chance to convert a lead. And worst-case scenario, the lead doesn’t click on it. You have nothing to lose by including a few relevant CTAs with every blog post, whitepaper, or helpful article you put into the world. 

Your calls to action should always provide something useful to your readers, like more information about the topic they were just learning about, or a free consultation or audit of their company. 

#7 Give Things Away. For Free

Gated content still has its place in the digital marketing world, but it’s not the end-all-be-all way to generate leads. In fact, more customers prefer companies who are offering up the content they want, with no strings attached. 

A new popular lead generation trend is to develop long-form, ungated content. Then, instead of putting the gate on your content on the site, you offer a PDF version of that long-form content, so people can take it home with them and read it at their leisure. 

This is a really great tactic to get you contact information for just the leads who are really interested in what you have to say or sell. While a lot of unqualified leads might give up their email to download a gated content offer, only the leads who are genuinely interested in your content are going to download the PDF and take it home with them. 

#8 Track Your Leads

This is the last tip we’re going to cover, and while tracking your leads doesn’t necessarily help you generate leads, it is an important point to end on.

All of the work you’re putting into lead generation is real, and it’s going to deliver you results. The worst thing to happen is to get all of those amazing leads, and then not have anywhere to organize them and keep track of them. 

We understand that SMBs don’t always have the budget to invest in an expensive CRM, but there are a lot of free CRM options that will help you keep track of the leads that are coming into your website, and that stick around to learn more. Our personal favorite is HubSpot, of course, but do some searching around to find an option that’s right for your company. 

Lead generation for SMBs can take a bit of strategy, but it doesn’t have to blow your budget.

When you approach lead generation with a clear picture of the leads you actually want, and who are likely to purchase your product or service, you’ll be able to put your effort towards just the tactics that will draw those ideal clients in. Strategic digital marketing is the best way to get the local leads you want, at a price that makes sense for your company. 

Looking for a little more help? These blogs have answers:

We can help too. Get in touch with the Evenbound team to chat about your lead generation strategy. And for more information about how we generate leads for SMBs, be sure to check out the case study below:

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10 Inbound Marketing KPIs You Should Be Tracking

10 Inbound Marketing KPIs You Should Be Tracking

Even if you don’t know what the term inbound marketing KPIs means, you probably already know what they are. Here in the inbound marketing world, KPI is short for Key Performance Indicators. You might just know them as metrics. Tomato, tomahto.

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Just kidding — it doesn’t really matter what you call them, so long as you use them. 

 

Inbound marketing KPIs, or metrics, provide your best estimate of success. They tell you how well your marketing efforts are working and what results they’re producing. They can also tell you where your marketing strategy could use work. 

 

While there are dozens of KPIs to measure depending on what your marketing, sales, and growth goals are, here are a few of the KPIs that every team with an inbound marketing strategy should be keeping track of:

#1 Qualified Leads

You want leads. Who doesn’t?

 

But, not all leads are created equal. There are leads you’re actually interested in — leads who are a great fit for your product or service. And there are leads you’re not interested in — leads who aren’t a good price fit, don’t really need your product, or who aren’t ready to buy. 

 

The qualified leads KPI tells you exactly how many qualified leads you’re getting. Sounds basic, but qualified leads vs. plain ol’ leads is key.  

 

Even if your campaign is seeing a relatively low number of leads, but all of those leads are highly qualified and likely to close, then you know you’re doing something right.

 

That’s a much better sign of an effective campaign than one that delivers a ton of leads who never convert into prospects or sales. 

#2 Organic Traffic

Inbound marketing is built (loosely) on an “if you build it, they will come” mindset. At its core, the inbound marketing methodology believes that if you are putting out the right, helpful content that speaks to your target audience and that is optimized for the way your consumers search, then you will draw in the right leads. 

 

Organic traffic is one of the best inbound marketing KPIs to measure your website’s success in drawing in the right people

 

The organic traffic KPI is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s been around for a while because it’s relatively easy to track, it’s straightforward, and it can tell you a lot. The higher your organic traffic rate, the more your content is resonating with the right people. When you have a high organic traffic number, you know that your content marketing strategy is working to 1) place you ahead of the competition in search rankings, and 2) speak to your ideal audience. 

 

And when you’re drawing in big numbers of organic traffic, it means you’re getting a whole bunch of leads without paying for them. Major win.

#3 Social Media Traffic

Social media traffic is also a great inbound marketing KPI to watch because it can help you figure out which platforms are best to focus your efforts on. 

 

These days, there are tons of social media platforms. They’re all great for engaging new potential clients and keeping your existing clients in your inbound marketing flywheel. But, not every social media channel works for every company or industry. 

 

By monitoring the traffic coming to your website from social media, you can determine:

 

  • Which channels are driving the most traffic and the most leads to your site
  • How many conversions you’re seeing through social media channels
  • How much website traffic is coming to your website from social media

 

This inbound marketing KPI helps you determine which channels are delivering the most qualified visitors who stick around and tend to read your content or convert into leads. And when you know that Facebook is the one delivering you 15 new leads every month, while Pinterest has delivered none, you can invest more money in your Facebook strategy, and forget about Pinterest for now. That’s marketing optimization at its finest. 

#4 Time-on-Site

If inbound marketing is your focus, the time-on-site KPI is an important one to keep track of. Again, the point of inbound marketing is to teach and engage new potential clients and qualified leads with content that solves their pain points and answers their questions.

 

The time-on-site KPI tells you how much engagement your content is getting. 

 

If you have a long average time-on-site, then your visitors are browsing around. They’re reading your content and navigating deeper into your website.

 

 A short time-on-site is a good indication that it’s time to change something up. Consider adding a different image or a different content offer on your front page. Change up your calls-to-action and make sure you’re really working to answer the questions your ideal buyer is asking the most. 

#5 Time-on-Page

Time-on-page is just as important as time-on-site. Though it might sound obvious, the time-on-page metric measures how long a site visitor spends on a particular page of your website. 

 

This is an especially useful metric if you’ve been working to incorporate pillar pages, or are working on developing longer-form content. 

 

The time-on-page inbound marketing KPI can give you insight into which pages are keeping your readers' attention, and which might still need a little work to retain their concentration. Click To Tweet

 

It’s not easy to get readers in the digital age to stick around for long, so when you start to see pages with lengthy time-on-page metrics, you’ll know your content marketing strategy is working. 

#6 Bounce Rate

On the opposite side of the time-on-page coin, you have bounce rate. As an inbound marketing KPI, bounce rate means what percentage of people make it to a page on your site and bounce right off, or navigate away immediately. 

 

The bounce rate metric is useful for everything from a web design standpoint to understanding if your landing pages are working properly. 

 

If you have a high bounce rate, your visitors probably aren’t resonating with the particular page they’re being sent to. 

 

Are they bouncing off of a landing page? Consider taking out some of the required fields on your form. Maybe tighten up the content a little, and take away the navigation bar. 

 

High bounce rate on a piece of content? Your hook might not be strong enough, or your content might not seem like it’s offering enough information. Add in an exciting first paragraph, make sure you have plenty of eye-grabbing, but informational headers, and check to make sure that your content is actually saying something. 

 

High bounce rate on your home page? Maybe you’re not being clear enough about what you do. Consider changing up your headers, adding in new visual elements like images or video, and see if that KPI starts to improve. 

#7 Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is one of those KPIs you hear about all. the. time. 

 

That’s because it can tell you quite a lot about your inbound marketing strategy. 

 

Like bounce rate, conversion rate is used in a variety of contexts. It can be used when talking about a landing page, about an ad, or even about how many site visitors convert into leads. 

 

In its most basic form, a conversion is defined as a lead or prospect taking a desired action. Click To Tweet

 

That could be downloading a content offer, clicking over to your site from an ad, or even closing on a sale. 

 

No matter what version of the conversion rate metric we’re talking about, it’s always important to track, because it tells you how effective your campaign is. 

 

If your weekly newsletter has a high number of content offer conversions, for example, that shows that you’re doing a great job of nurturing those email subscribers closer to a sale. 

 

If your landing page has a low conversion rate, that might be a sign that what you’re offering isn’t attractive enough, or that you’re asking too much in return for what you’re offering. 

 

Conversion rates are always important to follow because they tell you more than just how many people are seeing an ad or a page or a content offer. They tell you how many people are actually interacting with that item. And engaged visitors are leads

#8 Customer Acquisition Cost

Your customer acquisition cost KPI is a measurement of how much it actually costs your company to acquire a new customer. For most companies, it’s more expensive to pick up a new client than it is to retain an old one. But your customer acquisition cost (CAC) can tell you more than that. 

 

It can also tell you if your marketing strategy is effective. If you’re spending thousands of dollars on Facebook and Google Ads, but you’re only bringing in one or two new customers, then you’ve got a pretty high CAC, and it’s probably time to change something up. 

 

For example, if your outbound marketing strategy isn’t converting at the right CAC, you might want to invest more heavily in inbound marketing. 

 

Your CAC can also be used to help calculate the overall ROI of your marketing campaign. We’ll talk more about that later, but read this blog about Calculating Marketing ROI for more info. 

#9 Lifetime Value of A Customer

Just as your CAC tells you how much it costs to acquire a customer, the Lifetime Value of a Customer tells you how much you earn from a customer over the term of their engagement with you. To figure out the overall value of a customer, check out the following equation:

 

(Amount of average sale per customer) x (Average number of times a customer buys per year) x (Average retention time for a typical customer (whether that’s a year, a month, or more))

 

Typically, the lifetime value of the customer shows you how important it is to keep nurturing leads, even after they’ve closed on a sale. On average, most companies find that it’s more expensive to acquire a new client than it is to retain consistent business with an existing client.

#10 Return on Investment

Return on Investment (ROI) is the KPI that everyone wants to know. We probably don’t have to tell you that you need to be tracking it, because who isn’t?

 

But, we do have to include it on this list because it truly is one of the most telling inbound marketing KPIs that exists. 

 

Your return on investment tells you how much you're actually making, compared to how much you're spending on your inbound marketing campaign. Click To Tweet

 

This is an important metric if you’re trying to convince your boss that inbound marketing is legit, but it’s equally important after you start using inbound marketing. 

 

The ROI metric tells you when your efforts are paying off, and when you might be spending too much on an effort that’s not performing. 

 

Let’s say, for example, you still take out a Yellow Pages ad. That costs you a few hundred dollars each time you place the ad. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you never get any referrals from that Yellow Pages ad. In this situation, there is virtually no ROI. You’re spending money on a marketing effort that isn’t returning any revenue. 

 

So, you see that your Yellow Pages ad isn’t working out. You decide to take the money you would’ve spent on that ad, and use it to hire a content writer to start your blog. After a few months, you have a ton of leads calling in, and they’re all referencing information they saw on your blog. 

 

When you close on some of those sales, for more than you spent on the content writer, you have a positive ROI. 


In the end, if you’ve got a great ROI percentage, then you know your marketing strategy is working. If you’re spending more than you’re making, or if you’re not seeing a great return on your marketing strategy, it’s probably time for a change. 

 

Check out this blog from Impact for more information about calculating your marketing ROI. 

Deciding Which Inbound Marketing KPIs to Track


As you probably know, there are way more than just 10 inbound marketing KPIs to track. But, if you’re just getting started with the inbound methodology, these 10 are some of the most important, and the easiest to make sense of. 

If you’d like to learn about more inbound marketing KPIs you can track to better optimize your marketing strategy, or if you’re interested in an inbound marketing agency, let us know. We can help you determine which KPIs make the most sense for your goals, and we’d be happy to explain a little bit more about the inbound marketing methodology, too.

 

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What is a HubSpot Partner Agency, and What Can They Do For You?

What is a HubSpot Partner Agency, and What Can They Do For You?

If you’ve been considering investing in HubSpot’s CRM for your business, you know it’s a huge, robust tool. If your company can implement those tools effectively, you’ll definitely start to see results in the length of your sales cycle and the growth of your company. But, that’s the problem.

The HubSpot platform offers so many tools, and if you’re thinking about choosing one of their paid subscriptions, you might be worried that your team won’t be able to learn and implement them correctly, and in a reasonable period of time.

That’s a realistic concern. That’s also where a HubSpot Partner Agency comes in.  

What is a HubSpot Partner Agency?

If you know what HubSpot is, you might know a little about their Partner Program. Essentially, it’s a program offered to marketing agencies who already use the HubSpot platform and who are dedicated to the inbound marketing methodology.

Marketing agencies apply to be a partner, and once HubSpot accepts them, they’re given additional sales and marketing training, direct account managers through HubSpot, and a bunch of other tools they can use to provide better service to their clients.

Each HubSpot Partner Agency is ranked according to HubSpot’s tier system. The higher a company’s tier, the better the services they provide, and the more clients they have helped to use HubSpot successfully for themselves.  

Are There Different Types of HubSpot Partner Agencies?

Yes.

As you probably already know, there are tons of different types of marketing agencies. As long as they use HubSpot and approach marketing with an inbound mindset, an agency can apply to be a HubSpot Partner. That means that there are all different kinds of HubSpot Partner Agencies available to you.

Some, like us, are full-service agencies who handle inbound marketing, web design, email marketing, content marketing, paid search, social media advertising, and more.

Others might have a focus in one specific area — they might just design websites, they might just offer inbound marketing consulting, they might specialize in sales support, etc.

So, if you’re considering choosing a HubSpot Agency Partner it’s good to remember that we’re not all the same. You’ll have to do a little digging, and probably a  bit of interviewing to find an agency that fits with your culture and with your company’s overall goals.

But before we get to choosing a HubSpot Partner Agency, which we’ll talk about in a later blog post, let’s talk about what a HubSpot Partner Agency can actually do for you.

What Can A HubSpot Partner Agency Do For You?

Since HubSpot has more than 2,500 partner agencies, there must be some benefit to hiring them. But if you’re new to HubSpot, or if you’re already using HubSpot, you might not know exactly what a HubSpot Partner Agency can do for you, and how their services can benefit your company. Let’s talk about that. Here are 3 benefits that come from hiring a HubSpot Partner Agency:

HubSpot CRM Support

This one might seem obvious, but it’s important. As a HubSpot partner agency, your marketing agency can help your team better use the HubSpot CRM and all of its bundled tools.

If you don’t have HubSpot, a partner agency will help you onboard, will teach your team about all of the tools, and will walk each member of your team through the CRM, step by step.

If your team is already using HubSpot, a partner agency will help you figure out how to optimize that use. They’ll look at your analytics, talk to your sales and marketing teams, and implement new strategies that help you perform even better, across the entire platform.

The HubSpot CRM is an impressive tool, but it does take a little bit of work to master. Partnering with a HubSpot Agency minimizes that work, and essentially gives you a HubSpot coach who’s on-call anytime you need help.

The other bonus of working with a HubSpot Partner Agency is that you have a direct line to HubSpot support.

When you’re having trouble figuring out a new tool, or are troubleshooting an issue in the system, your agency can either help you fix the problem themselves, or talk directly to their HubSpot account managers for a quick resolution. This is a lot easier than working through customer service on your own, as partner agencies are one of the few who have their own direct line to HubSpot itself.

Exceptional Inbound Marketing Service

The benefit of using HubSpot in the first place is its impressive, powerful tools. The HubSpot CRM offers advanced analytics tracking and reporting, email tracking, blog publishing, social media publishing, and more. With all of these tools and the metrics that go with them, your marketing agency can offer you a much better overall marketing service.

Essentially, hiring a HubSpot Partner Agency is a two for one deal. Click To Tweet

You get the expertise of a marketing agency — their web design support, their unique inbound marketing strategies, the tools they use to deliver quality inbound marketing service, and their team of experts — plus all of the additional tools and organization that the HubSpot CRM offers.

Sales Alignment Support

When you work with a full-service HubSpot Agency Partner, you get more than just a bunch of cool tools and marketing advice. You also get sales support, which isn’t something you see from every marketing agency out there.

Inbound marketing methodology relies on the idea that for the best possible results for overall company growth, your sales and marketing teams have to be aligned.

To address that fact, the HubSpot CRM offers a vast suite of sales tools that work hand-in-hand with marketing tools, to help you get both teams on the same page, and working towards your company’s growth goals.

Working with a HubSpot Agency Partner takes those benefits just a step further. The HubSpot Partner Program offers partners training in both sales and marketing. That means your HubSpot Agency Partner (if you choose a full-service agency) is trained to coach not only your marketing team, but your sales team as well.

They can provide tools, content offers, and training that help your sales team shorten the overall sales cycle, and close on more, qualified leads. Combined with HubSpot Sales tools like lead and deal tracking, automatic notifications when a lead opens an email or lands on your website, and targeted email workflows, that’s a huge step towards company growth.

Our Experience As A HubSpot Gold Partner Agency

On a personal note, we’ve found this piece of sales and marketing alignment, specifically, to be one of the most helpful, and most popular services that we now offer our clients. As a HubSpot Gold Partner Agency, our clients love that we’re able to help with their marketing strategy, but they’re finding even more success now that we’re able to coach their sales team and teach them how to use the marketing content that we’ve been developing for years.

This really is one of the biggest benefits for our clients, and we’re seeing it produce some real results. Instead of just helping our clients get found, and get the qualified leads they want, this sales support has helped us teach our clients what to do once we deliver those qualified leads. And with that information and training, plus HubSpot’s user-friendly sales tools, they’re able to grow incredibly.

WHAT YOU GET:

HubSpot, HubSpot Support, the Marketing Agency You Were Looking For, and the Sales Coaching You Weren’t

In the end, the reason companies choose to partner with HubSpot agencies is because you get a whole lot of tools and expertise rolled into one deal. Here’s what you get:

  • The HubSpot CRM, plus all of its tools. That means blogging, social media publishing, landing pages, content offers, marketing campaign metrics, traffic metrics, lead tracking, email tracking, and more, all in one platform.
  • HubSpot Support. A company who can walk you through each and every one of HubSpot’s tools. They can use the tools for your benefit, and they’ll teach your team how to use them, too.
  • A Marketing Agency. This is what you were looking for in the first place, right? A marketing agency who can handle the more complicated aspects of digital marketing, from developing a new inbound-focused website to writing your blog posts and content offers, and setting up your ad campaigns.
  • Marketing and Sales Support. This is usually the benefit people are most surprised by. When you hire the right HubSpot Partner Agency, you get more than just a marketing team. You also get sales support that can completely turn around the way your company nurtures and closes leads. If you’re looking for company growth, this is the benefit that should be most important, and most exciting, to you.

Is a HubSpot Partner Agency Right for You?

While a HubSpot Partner Agency isn’t right for everyone, it is a great choice for companies who don’t have a marketing team, who need help finessing marketing strategy, and who are looking to streamline overall business operations, from marketing through to sales.

If you’re interested to learn a little bit more about whether a HubSpot Partner Agency is right for your company, don’t hesitate to reach out. As a HubSpot Gold Partner Agency, we’ve got plenty of info and would be happy to share with you more about how the partnership works.

And if you’re ready to hire a partner agency? We’ve got the experience and the expertise to help your company onboard to the HubSpot platform, and keep your business growing with marketing and sales support.

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Inbound Marketing Automation [How to Generate Leads in Your Sleep]

Inbound Marketing Automation [How to Generate Leads in Your Sleep]

Imagine a world where you were generating leads, even while you were offline, away from your desk, and yes, even sleeping.

Believe it or not, it really is possible to generate leads without lifting so much as a finger.

Seriously. No more cold calls. No more knocking on doors. No more elevator pitches. When done properly, you can delegate most of that awkward, uncomfortable and usually frustrating outreach work to your website and your marketing strategy. The solution is marketing automation.

What is Marketing Automation?

Neil Patel says, 'Marketing automation is the process of using software and technology to optimize, automate and measure repetitive online marketing tasks.' Click To Tweet

Basically, it’s the process of using technology to automate marketing tasks that you would otherwise want to do yourself. The computer does it, so you don’t have to.

Most often, we think of marketing automation in the form of email workflows — you have a prospect’s contact information, and they’re sent a series of emails based on the landing pages they’ve viewed and forms they’ve submitted on your website.

Hot Tip: While there are tons of other forms of marketing automation, we’re going to stick with email workflows as our example for this blog, because they’re easy to conceptualize, and because most companies, even SMBs, use some form of email marketing.

While you do have to set up those workflows and optimize them occasionally, once they’re working it’s a set and forget tactic that allows you to generate and nurture leads whenever your leads are cruising your site.

It’s important to note that In the past, there’s been some really terrible marketing automation.

One look at the inbox of your junk email is the perfect example of marketing automation gone wrong. Hundreds of emails shouting at you about sales, last-minute deals, and “just for you” promotions that you really just don’t care about. It’s a nightmare.

While this is an example of marketing automation, it’s not good marketing automation. Tactics like this favor a quantity over quality approach that doesn’t deliver the “qualified leads in your sleep” results you’re looking for.

This is where inbound marketing automation comes in.

What is Inbound Marketing Automation?

Inbound marketing automation is any type of marketing automation tool that is applied with the inbound marketing methodology in mind.

It’s important to remember that inbound is a methodology. It’s a practice and a way of marketing that is actually helpful to your potential clients. The inbound methodology is not a tool.

Marketing automation, however, is a tool you can use to make the inbound marketing methodology come to life.

For example: Inbound methodology tells us that we need to deliver highly relevant, personalized content that answers the questions our leads are asking, even before they ask them. That’s what you’re supposed to do, what inbound methodology dictates.

Inbound marketing automation is the tool that makes that action happen.

Inbound marketing automation allows you to deliver personalized emails to individual leads with content they are likely to be interested in, based on all of their previous interactions with your website and your marketing/sales team.

This ensures the delivery of content with context, fulfilling the inbound consumer’s need for relevant content that answers their questions and solves their challenges. Best of all, it does it while you’re at home still brushing your teeth.

Check out this HubSpot video for a really clear explanation of what inbound marketing automation is, and why it is so effective for today’s consumers.

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The Inbound Approach to Marketing Automation

Why Use Inbound Marketing Automation?

Did we mention generating leads in your sleep? Hello, longer lunches and going home on time.

But in all seriousness, marketing automation is a key tool for inbound marketing because the inbound methodology is so customer-focused. Here are a few key ways inbound marketing automation makes your life easier.

Inbound Leads Aren’t Always Ready To Buy

Inbound marketing does a great job of drawing in qualified leads who are a perfect fit for your product or service. But, they’re not always ready to buy.

The inbound methodology puts a heavy focus on developing content that’s suited to leads in all stages of the buyer’s journey, which means you’re going to get a lot of leads in the awareness and consideration phases who will likely need/want your product, but who aren’t ready to buy yet.

Instead of having your sales team hound them with calls and emails, inbound marketing automation offers a simple, effective tool to keep those leads moving through the buyer’s journey.

Your automated workflows can send them relevant, interesting content that speaks to their stage of the buyer’s journey, as well as their particular industry or position, keeping them from dropping out of your sales funnel and moving them closer to a sale.

Inbound Leads Have Diverse Interests and Needs

If you’re one marketing or salesperson, you probably don’t have time to analyze the unique interests of every lead that comes in on your own. This is where technology comes in handy.

With a quality CRM, you can set up workflows and content delivery systems that automatically send the right content to the right leads, at the right time.

You still have to lay a little bit of the groundwork, by telling your CRM which leads fit into which personas, and where they are in the buyer’s journey, but after that, the system can manage that lead on its own.

That saves you thousands of emails, and it provides the leads with a better experience. They’re getting information and content that’s relevant to their experience and their challenges, and you don’t have to work as hard to make it happen.

Inbound Leads are Content Hungry

We’ve talked a lot about the modern consumer. The short version is that today’s consumers are content hungry. They want to watch videos, read reviews, analyze comparison blogs, and truly learn about every product and service they think about buying.

As a sales or marketing person, you don’t have the time to have all of those conversations, and more importantly, your leads don’t want to talk to you yet. The modern consumer wants to do their own research before they’ll even consider giving a company a call or letting them know they’re interested.

Inbound marketing automation solves this dilemma.

You can still deliver great content about your product or service to those qualified leads, without scaring them away or making them feel like you’re being too pushy by using marketing automation.

With inbound marketing automation, your leads are getting the content they need to complete their research, and you don’t have to lift a finger. Even better, by simply handing over the content that your leads want without a whole lot of trouble, you’re earning their trust.

And when you have a lead's trust, and they're ready to buy, they're going to buy from you. Click To Tweet

How You Can Implement Inbound Marketing Automation

Inbound marketing automation has some pretty attractive benefits. But how do you get it, and how do you set it up so you can roll into work at 10 with Starbucks in hand?

The best way to implement inbound marketing automation is to get a CRM. If you don’t have one, check out our blog about what to look for in a CRM, and choose your favorite.

We like HubSpot because it’s really easy to use, it’s less expensive (read: they have a version of the software that is totally free) than many more traditional platforms, like Salesforce, and it’s got all of the tools we like, plus they regularly add new tools when they see a need.

It’s possible to do a bit of marketing automation with an email service, like MailChimp, for example, but if you’re looking for legitimate results, you should really go with a CRM.

If you’re not sure about the process yet, we really recommend the free version of HubSpot. It’s a great way to learn how to implement a little marketing automation, and it’s always free — so you don’t have to worry about spending a lot of money learning a tactic you’re not sure you’ll use.

Once you have your CRM, you can get started with inbound marketing automation.

We’ll explain how to to that in-depth in another blog, but if you’re looking for a how-to right now, check out this page from Neil Patel, this guide from Moz, go back and click on that video we linked above, or just give us a call. We’re always happy to walk you through it.

And if you know you want to use inbound marketing automation, but you don’t want to fiddle with it yourself, we’d love to help.

We use inbound marketing automation every day for ourselves and for our clients, so we’ve gotten pretty good. Whether you’re looking for a little content, a completely new campaign, or even help getting set up in HubSpot, we’ve got the resources to help you. Get in touch.

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3 Outbound Marketing Strategies That Actually Work

3 Outbound Marketing Strategies That Actually Work

If you’re into digital marketing at all, you’ve probably heard that outbound marketing strategies are over. And in a lot of ways, they are. Today’s consumers don’t answer cold calls, they hate being sold to with scammy commercials, and they’ve set their email inboxes to automatically filter out promotional emails. Outbound marketing, in the old, Don Draper version of itself, no longer exists. And if it does exist, it very rarely works.

via GIPHY

But that doesn’t mean that all outbound marketing is done or totally ineffective. It just means that we marketers have to change the way we approach outbound marketing.

If you’ve read our blog before, you know we’re inbound marketing junkies. It’s a way of life, and we love it. Inbound marketing is absolutely the marketing tactic that speaks to today’s consumers, and we often use outbound marketing tactics to bolster our inbound marketing strategy.

When used with tact and purpose, 21st-century outbound marketing tactics are an excellent way to draw more leads into your inbound marketing flywheel.

Not quite sure about that? Let’s take a look at three specific outbound marketing strategies that will actually work to draw in new, qualified leads:

PPC and Paid Search

Pay-per-click and paid search advertising are amazing ways to draw in new traffic. We especially love them for our clients who are just setting up a new website. Since it takes time for Google to crawl and index new websites, paid search is a great workaround to draw in new, qualified leads immediately, until the organic rankings can catch up.

PPC is considered an outbound marketing tactic because you’re paying for it. Instead of letting consumers come to you, you’re pushing your message out to them.

However, unlike outbound marketing tactics of the past, paid search can be highly targeted to address only the consumers who are actually good fits for your product or service. We’ve written extensively about PPC, so I won’t dive into it too far in this blog.

If you want to learn more about PPC specifically, check out this page, or this blog about optimizing your PPC budget for targeted results.

For the purposes of this blog, all you really need to know is that by bidding on quality, long-tail keywords that are relevant to your product or service, you can put your company front and center on the search engine results pages your target buyers are looking for.  

Paid search is a great way to get in front of the audience you want, pulling more of those qualified buyers into your inbound marketing flywheel. Click To Tweet

While it is an outbound marketing strategy, it’s not abrasive or in the consumer’s face. Instead, it offers a product or service that’s relevant to their search, and then it will bring them to your website, where you can use other inbound marketing tactics to further nurture your lead. It’s the perfect example of inbound and outbound marketing strategies working together to grow your company’s revenue.

Social Media Advertising

Don’t tell me you’ve never clicked on a Facebook or Instagram ad.

via GIPHY

Girl, same.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are so good at delivering tailored, personalized content to their users, and social media advertising is one way to take advantage of those platforms.

When you have a clear picture of who your audience is, you can develop social media ads that speak exactly to your target buyer. Social media platforms have robust demographic and targeting features that allow you to ensure your selected audience is very specific and highly likely to have an interest in your product or service.

Remarketing ads are a great example of social media advertising as an outbound marketing strategy that actually delivers. They follow someone who has actually been on your site and who has interacted with your content and maybe even thought about downloading a content offer or making a purchase.

When that prospect navigates away before making a purchase or download, they become a candidate for your remarketing ad. Now, when that prospect heads to their social media page, they’ll see an ad for your product or your brand on their social media feed. This remarketing ad is the perfect way to keep your company top-of-mind and keep calling those prospects back to complete their action.

Remarketing and other forms of social media advertising are especially effective outbound marketing strategies because they’re not delivering your message to just any consumer. They’re directed at specific individuals who are likely to, or who already do have an interest in your product or service.

Targeted Email Workflows

Many people don’t consider email to be “outbound marketing”. But, if you’ve ever gotten an email from a bot or about 15 follow-up emails from an insurance company you didn’t reach out to first, you know that’s just not true.

There's a right way and a wrong way to do outbound email marketing. And the first rule is to only email people who want to be emailed. Click To Tweet

(Check out the Golden Rule of Email Workflows here.)

Targeted email workflows work best if you have obtained contact’s email addresses in a white-hat way. That means, they gave you their email address, whether through a subscribe button or by downloading a content offer.

Buying email address is not quality outbound marketing. It’s obnoxious, and it’s unlikely to deliver any kind of quality ROI.

From there, you can use targeted email workflows to nurture specific segments of your email list according to their pain points, challenges, and needs. You’re reaching out to a client, so it is an outbound marketing strategy, but you’re doing so with the prospect’s best interest at heart, which is why it will be effective.

Again, we won’t go too in-depth here, because we have a lot of other resources about email marketing. See: Amp up Your Email Marketing Strategy: Use Segmentation.

The key takeaway here is that when you use email workflows to genuinely nurture leads with content they care about, and that solves a problem of theirs, you’re using outbound marketing to keep drawing new prospects back into your flywheel.

Bottom line? Outbound marketing, or the process of marketing by reaching out to consumers, leads, and prospects, is still a viable way to market. When you use outbound marketing strategies with 21st-century consumers in mind, you can actually produce some significant results.

Want to learn more about how outbound marketing can deliver you quality leads, right now? Let’s chat.

Outbound marketing is tricky in a world of consumers who don’t want to be sold to. We can help. Digital marketing, both inbound and outbound, is our bread and butter, and we’d love to see how our tactics can work to grow your company!
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MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

TL;DR What is an MQL and an SQL?

An MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) is a reasonably qualified lead who has downloaded a content offer or interacted with your marketing team, but who hasn’t yet entered into your sales funnel. An SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is a lead your sales team has qualified as a potential customer. SQLs are in your sales funnel, and your team is actively working to move them closer to a deal.

Leads. Everybody wants ’em, but not everyone knows what to do with them once they have them.

That’s where the inbound methodology comes in. Designed to help both marketing and sales teams nurture leads all the way through to a sale in the world of the modern, digital consumer,  the inbound sales process puts a huge focus on MQLs and SQLs.

But what are they, how are they different, and how do you deal with both MQLs and SQLs to boost the ROI of your inbound sales process?

Here’s a breakdown of the MQL vs. SQL question, complete with tips on how to define them and how to use those definitions to optimize your sales and marketing process to close more reliably and more efficiently. Let’s start with the basics.

What’s an MQL?

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a site visitor that your marketing team has deemed likely to eventually turn into a sale. MQLs are qualified prospects: they fit your buyer persona.

That said, they’re missing a few qualifications that would make them the perfect fit for your sales team.

Maybe they’re working on a seriously long buyer’s journey. Or, they’re in the right industry, and they have the decision making power, but they don’t have the right budget, or realistic budget expectations yet.

In short, an MQL is a reasonably qualified lead who matches one or more of your buyer personas, but who isn’t quite ready to buy yet.

What’s an SQL?

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a lead who your sales team has decided is worth pursuing. They’re at the end of the consideration stage and are moving into the decision-making stage of their buyer’s journey where they’ll appreciate sales-focused content and support.

Typically, a sales qualified lead is confirmed after an initial outreach call with someone on your sales team, who can determine how serious the lead is about your product, and how motivated they are to buy.

An SQL is a lead who has intent to buy and who seems interested in your company as a contender to make that purchase.

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

The most important difference between MQLs and SQLs is the intent to buy. While there are other factors that will affect whether a lead is categorized as marketing or sales-ready, the biggest tip-off for marketers when deciding whether or not to pass a lead on to sales is the intent to purchase. That’s a surefire sign that they’re ready to talk to sales and tells you that passing them onto sales is the best way to serve that lead.

Since MQLs and SQLs can look different for every industry, and even individual companies, let’s look at a couple of examples of what qualifies an MQL vs. SQL:

First-Time Site Visitor vs. Returning Visitor

A first time visitor is a good example of a potential MQL. They’re just starting the buyer’s journey, and are working on gathering the information that will ultimately help them make a purchasing decision down the road.

A returning visitor, on the other hand, who has been to your site a few times, and is browsing key pages and downloading bottom-of-funnel content offers, is an SQL. They like the information you’re putting out enough to keep coming back. And if they keep coming back, they’re probably ready to talk to your sales team.

Top of Funnel vs. Bottom of Funnel Content Offers

An MQL is a lead who is downloading and converting on top-of-funnel content offers. They’re interested in information that teaches and educates about the general product you sell.

Let’s say you sell cars. An MQL will be downloading content that offers information like, “How to Know When To Buy A New Car,” “Is it Better to Lease, Buy Used, or Buy New,” and “Safest  Sedans of 2019.”

An MQL is someone who is interested in your product — they are a qualified lead, after all — but they're not quite ready to buy yet. Click To Tweet

So, they’re asking those research questions that solve their beginning-of-the-buyer’s-cycle problems. They’re not ready to buy yet, but they’re definitely thinking about it, and they fit your target buyer persona well enough that your marketing team recognizes them as a great potential fit for your company in the future.

An SQL, on the other hand, is going to download bottom-of-the-funnel content offers. With that same car sales example in mind, an SQL will download content that sounds like this: “How to Finance a New Car Purchase,” “5 Steps to Buy A New Car,” and “5 Things to Know Before Purchasing a New Car.”

SQLs are at the bottom of the funnel — they’ve already done the research, they already know they want a car, and they know which car they want. Now, they just have to figure out how to make the purchase.

Just knowing which content offers a lead is downloading can give you great insight into whether they are marketing or sales qualified. And making that distinction is what puts you ahead of the competition in closing new sales efficiently.

Why Differentiating Between MQLs and SQLs is Important

It’s one thing to know the difference between an MQL and an SQL. It’s another thing to know why correctly categorizing each lead is so important.

The difference between an MQL and SQL is crucial in offering up the right content, and the right lead nurturing experience. If a lead has already made up their mind on what product is right for them, you don’t want to be sending them basic content that outlines all of your products — it’s not relevant to their buyer’s journey anymore.

In the same vein, if you have a lead who is still learning what your product does, how it works, and why they might need it, you don’t want to send them on a sales call.

They’re not ready to make a purchasing decision yet, and probably don’t have company approval to make the decision. At this point in their journey, a sales call would seem pushy, and would ultimately be a waste of your sales team’s time.

Correctly identifying whether a lead is marketing or sales qualified has a huge impact on the success of your overall inbound marketing and sales strategy. Knowing whether a lead is an MQL or an SQL tightens up your lead nurturing process to deliver the best possible results with the least amount of work.

When you have a foolproof way to correctly categorize leads, you know exactly what content to deliver, and when. That goes a long way in helping those leads convert, and it saves your marketing and sales teams a lot of wasted time delivering content that wasn’t relevant or reaching out to a lead who wasn’t ready to convert.

Correct qualification of every lead is a great way to increase the ROI of your marketing and sales process and grow your business overall. But to do it, your sales and marketing teams must be aligned. More on that next:

Transitioning a Lead from MQL to SQL

The toughest part of the inbound marketing methodology is arguably the handoff of an MQL to the sales team for qualification as an SQL. Click To Tweet

The best way to handle it is first to get both the sales and marketing teams on the same page.

You have to have clear definitions that specify exactly what an MQL is and what an SQL is, and those definitions have to be the same across departments. For more information on defining your MQLs and SQLs, check out this blog on sales and marketing alignment.

Consistent definitions will make the MQL to SQL handoff a little easier, but there’s still a little work that goes into it. Here are 5 general steps to guide you through the handoff process.

  1. Once your marketing department identifies an MQL, they should be entered into a few lead nurturing campaigns, whether that’s through targeted email marketing campaigns or a casual, helpful marketing outreach campaign.
  2. Ideally, that MQL will continue making qualifying actions — they will download more content offers, they might ask your marketing team a few questions, and they might subscribe for your newsletter.
  3. Once that MQL has taken enough actions that qualify them as an SQL, the marketing team should pass all of the information they have on that lead to the sales team. (A CRM makes this part easy. If you don’t have a CRM yet, this blog can help you figure out what to look for.)
  4. From there, the sales team can reach out, ideally within 24 hours of the lead’s last conversion action, to connect and qualify that lead as an SQL.
  5. It is possible that on their qualifying call, the sales team find the lead is not quite ready for the decision-making stage. At this point, your marketing team should have a set of steps in place to kick that lead back down to an MQL and continue nurturing them until they’re ready to convert again back up to an SQL.

With these five steps, and clear, identifiable definitions of MQLs and SQLs that both sales and marketing agree on, your handoff process should start to go a little more smoothly. It’s a tough process, no matter how you look at it, and the best way to make sure your handoffs are successful is to have regular meetings with both sales and marketing teams to identify any problem areas and implement solutions that fix those issues.

No Matter Your Industry, You Need MQLs and SQLs

It’s easy to get stuck in an MQL vs. SQL mindset. It’s easy to say, “oh, I’m not dealing with that lead, they’re for sales” and vice versa for marketing. And it’s true that for the most part, you want your sales team interacting with the sales leads, and your marketing team interacting with those marketing leads.

But the bottom line is, for any company both MQLS and SQLs are an integral part of the sales pipeline. You can’t have one without the other, so it’s important that your marketing and sales teams work together to develop content and lead nurturing strategies that benefit both MQLs and SQLs.

MQLs, when nurtured properly, become SQLs, who become customers and promoters of your brand.

So, when done right, all of the work you’ve done to develop a quality inbound marketing and sales plan comes full circle to help you close more sales and grow your company.

Identifying MQLs and SQLs isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you’re struggling to nurture leads through the buyer’s journey, Evenbound can help. Inbound marketing and sales is what we do every day, and we’d love to help you troubleshoot your lead nurturing process to help grow your company. Get in touch to see how we can help, or click the link below to schedule time to chat about your challenges with our president, John Heritage.

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