Captain America would be nothing without his fancy metal shield.
Shorn of his web-slinging capabilities, Spider-Man would just be a dude in blue-and-red pajamas.
And however superhuman your sales team is, they’re not going to deliver the results you need without a constant stream of high-quality leads.
That’s why four in five marketers surveyed at the end of 2020 agreed that generating quality leads was their number one priority for 2021.
Not that we should be surprised.
Ever since the first Stone Age tool manufacturer started knocking on cave doors looking for potential customers, businesses have been searching for consistent, scalable lead generation strategies.
What is lead generation?
Put yourself in the shoes of our aforementioned prehistoric tool salesperson.
How would you hit your quota?
Would you climb the nearest hill, stand at the summit, and start shouting about your products, hoping a potential buyer will hear you?
Or would you actively seek out people struggling to cut down a tree or move a boulder by hand, then demonstrate how your tools are the solution they’re missing?
It’s got to be option two, right?
That’s lead generation in a nutshell.
It’s about building a list of potential clients — people with an immediate need for your product (and the budget to pay for it) — to help your sales team focus on the juiciest opportunities.
That means they spend less time speaking to tire-kickers and more time closing the deal.
Lead generation trends: 3 things you need to know
Today, we can leverage a couple more lead generation tactics than our Stone Age predecessors.
We can cold-call. We can run paid search and paid social campaigns. We can do SEO and content marketing.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
But all those choices can be overwhelming.
There are only so many hours in the day, so we need to focus on the channels that are most likely to yield results.
Of course, the best lead-gen channel for you might not be the best for anyone else. It all depends on your audience, goals, product (and many other criteria).
Still, it’s worth considering these three top-level lead generation trends before digging into specific strategies:
1. Counteracting “Zoom fatigue” with hybrid sales
If you’re sick of video calls, you’re not the only one.
Research shows that 49% of people working remotely have reported high levels of so-called “Zoom fatigue” — exhaustion related to increased virtual meetings requiring us to have our webcams switched on throughout.
What’s more, a separate study warns that we may be suffering the effects of Zoom fatigue for years to come.
So while your sales team might have successfully adapted to the world of remote work, your prospects aren’t necessarily thrilled with the “new normal”.
To counteract this, try combining online and offline elements in your lead generation and nurturing strategy.
By all means, rely on digital channels to generate leads. But where possible, encourage local reps to meet prospects in person during the sales process too.
2. Understanding the most impactful lead gen channels
Part of the lead generation battle is figuring out where your most valuable leads come from.
That way, you can do more of it (and less of the stuff that doesn’t work).
According to Ruler Analytics, 95% of marketers believe they know which channel brings in the most leads for their organizations.
It found the top channels for lead generation are:
- Organic search (cited by 27% of respondents)
- Organic social (21%)
- Referrals (14%)
- Paid search
- Paid social
3. Personalizing content continues to yield results
Alright, so personalization isn’t exactly a new trend.
But as marketing technology grows in sophistication, it’s becoming ever-more important.
If you don’t believe me, just check out these statistics:
- 90% of marketers say personalization has a significant impact on profitability (source)
- 61% of people expect brands to deliver personalized experiences based on their preferences (source)
- Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened (source)
At Encharge, we’re big believers in the power of personalization.
That’s why we built email personalization tools that allow you to easily tailor specific words or entire content sections to the needs of individual customers.
What are the 4 elements of successful lead generation strategies?
Whatever tactics you employ or audience you target, all successful lead generation strategies are a combination of four key elements:
1. A lead capture mechanism
Some means of gathering information about a lead.
As a minimum, this will include their name and email address.
It might also include lots of other information, such as company name, job title, and the reason they’re interested in your product.
2. An incentive to capture lead data
Most leads aren’t just going to hand over their name and contact details for nothing.
That’s why many lead generation campaigns are built around a “lead magnet” — a promotion or a piece of content given away in exchange for a prospect’s information.
3. A process for qualifying leads
Unfortunately, not every marketing lead you generate will go on to buy your product.
Your lead qualifying process should weed out those leads that are never likely to convert, helping your sales team focus on the ripest opportunities.
4. A lead segmentation strategy
Chances are, you target more than one type of buyer.
For instance, here at Encharge, we have two primary customers: marketers and SaaS businesses.
Our prospects tend to fall into one of those two categories, and it doesn’t always make sense to target both with the same content.
That’s why it’s crucial to segment your leads based on factors like:
- Company type
- Company size
- Pain points
Our 10 favorite lead generation strategies
Okay, that’s all the theory out the way.
Now, let’s dive into 10 tried-and-trusted strategies you can start using right now to keep your pipeline filled with high-quality leads:
1. Nurture your leads with email marketing
By which I mean: reaching out to people who are already on your email marketing list and moving them down the sales funnel.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
“Surely, if I have someone’s email address, they’re already a lead?”
Well, you’d hope so.
But in reality, they’re likely just an information-qualified lead or marketing-qualified lead (MQL) at best. (Learn more about the different types of leads.) As any salesperson will tell you, only a relatively small proportion of MQLs will actually go on to buy.
Email helps your sales team establish whether someone is truly a “legit” lead with a genuine need for your product.
Use your marketing automation tool and email marketing to find out more about your prospects:
- Which content do they engage with?
- What business challenges are they facing?
- Do they have an immediate need for your product?
- Have they got the budget to buy right now?
- How many decision-makers are involved?
Do this in tandem with Encharge’s lead scoring functionality, which tracks things like website, email, and product engagement to help you identify leads that are the best fit for your product.
2. Create better content with the “double survey technique”
According to HubSpot, four-fifths of marketers are actively using content marketing in 2021.
Bizarrely, that means 1 in 5 marketers still aren’t creating content.
Please, please, please: if that’s you, promise me you’ll start in 2022. With almost half of buyers viewing 3 to 5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep, you simply can’t do without it.
However, don’t expect to see results by churning out a few 500-word blog posts.
To be effective, your content needs to be unique and engaging. And it needs to have some built-in mechanism for driving traffic to your website.
Not sure where to start? Try the double survey technique.
It was devised by Kyle Byers of GrowthBadger, who saw an 843% increase in traffic to his site from just a single blog post after implementing the technique.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Find a topic you can do original research on (it should be something relevant to your audience and product).
- Run a survey or carry out your own experiments to generate the data you need.
- Share the results with experts and thought leaders in your niche, then ask what they think.
- Use your findings and the opinions of your expert panel to write up a blog post.
- Share the post on social media, tagging the experts you spoke to.
- Encourage the experts to share it as well.
Can’t think of an exciting topic for your research? Use a tool like Answer the Public to discover the questions searchers are asking about your niche:
Sure, this isn’t a quick process.
It’ll likely take you a month or more to gather your original data and get responses from your chosen thought leaders.
In short, it’s the exact opposite of churning out a blog post a day and hoping something sticks.
But the end result will be a highly valuable asset for generating shares and links, which in turn means more traffic.
And more traffic means more opportunities to generate leads.
3. Update evergreen content to keep driving traffic
You’ve created a fantastic content asset that’s outperforming the competition and bringing in tons of relevant traffic.
That’s great, but it’s not time to rest on your laurels.
Not all of your content marketing efforts will be a roaring success, so when you’ve created something that’s delivering amazing results, you want to give it plenty of TLC, so it keeps on performing.
SnackNation’s roundup of 121 employee wellness ideas is an excellent example.
First published back in June 2015, it’s hovered around the #1 spot for the term “employee wellness” ever since:
“Employee wellness” is a pretty high-volume term, receiving 1,200 searches a month in the US (and 3,700 worldwide), according to Ahrefs.
It’s unthinkable that in all this time, a rival hasn’t noticed SnackNation’s article and attempted to create something better.
Without regular updates to the title, copy, and visuals, I doubt it’d still be on page one, let alone occupying the top spot.
The Wayback Machine allows us to explore some of SnackNation’s hard work over the years.
For instance, check out this employee wellness idea from the original article:
Now, take a look at the updated version:
The bulk of the copy remains the same, but there are two links to new pieces of content offering the reader further information and a call to action for employee gifting service Caroo. Plus, there’s that eye-catching piece of rich media.
I imagine it takes a lot of work to update an article containing 121 different examples regularly, but SnackNation’s efforts are clearly paying off.
Ahrefs data shows us that in the last year alone, the article has attracted backlinks from 150+ new referring domains:
And, as we all know, more backlinks means higher rankings, more traffic, and more leads.
4. Leverage the lead gen potential of Quora
Quora is an underutilized but highly effective lead generation platform.
Despite having a worldwide audience of more than 300 million unique monthly visitors (about two-thirds the size of Twitter’s user base), it never appears in surveys of marketers’ favorite social platforms.
Using Quora is a viable lead generation strategy because the platform resolves two of the biggest challenges in the lead gen process:
- Understanding the problems your audience face and the questions to which they need answers
- Giving you an effective platform for answering those questions
Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin, who knows a thing or two about marketing, clearly understands how to use Quora as a lead gen platform.
First, he finds questions that are relevant to his audience and tie into his product, like this one:
Building a successful blog is a great subject for Rand because it’s a key pain point for many brands and gives him an easy way to reference Moz without sounding spammy.
He answers the question in a way that’s easy to understand because Quora has a diverse user base, and he doesn’t want to alienate people who aren’t marketing professionals.
Notably, his response isn’t just an excuse to reference Moz repeatedly.
People use Quora to find practical, engaging content. If your answer reads like a glorified advert, it’ll get deleted.
Finally, Rand directs readers back to the Moz site:
That way, they can click around, learn more about the product, and eventually become leads.
5. Build a free tool
We recently launched a free email subject line generator:
I’m going to let you in on a secret: while we’re a generous bunch here at Encharge, we didn’t just build it to be nice.
The fact is, offering a free tool that’s useful to your audience and relevant to your core product is an excellent lead generation strategy.
Developing a free tool works for three main reasons (provided you build a good tool):
- It’s a low-touch way to demonstrate your expertise
- It’ll be used regularly, keeping your brand front of mind
- It’s highly shareable, helping you reach leads at scale
Unsurprisingly, we’re not the only ones to have realized the power of free tools.
Crazy Egg offers free heat-mapping.
Ubersuggest offers free search analytics.
Ahrefs has a whole suite of free tools, covering everything from keyword research to backlink analysis.
None of those examples are reinventing the wheel. They’re simply taking an existing element of their premium software, stripping it back, and packaging it as a standalone product.
If you’re a SaaS company, you should absolutely do the same.
Even if you’re not in SaaS, this approach can still work.
Think about all the intellectual property you possess. I bet you’ve got some kind of unique process for managing workloads or onboarding staff, or generating content ideas.
It doesn’t need to be an interactive tool with a flashy interface; the most important thing is functionality.
As long as it’s useful, a simple spreadsheet or Google Document can do the job.
6. Capture leads with gated content
Unfortunately, only a small proportion of traffic to your site is in a position to buy (just 4%, by one estimate).
But that doesn’t mean the other 96% is wasting your time.
Some of them would love to buy your product; they’re just not ready to pull the trigger right now.
So it’s your job to turn those anonymous website visitors into identifiable leads you can add to your CRM and email marketing list.
Fortunately, there’s an ideal solution: gated content or lead magnets.
As the name suggests, gated content is any type of content that’s valuable enough to convince your audience to hand over their name and email address in exchange for access.
Popular gated content formats include:
- Guides. Informational content that tells the reader how to overcome a problem, perform an action or achieve a result.
- Checklists. Essentially the same as a guide, but formatted as a list of actions or “steps” to achieving the intended result.
- eBooks. Typically delivered as a pdf, these long-form pieces take an in-depth look at a subject that’s relevant to your audience.
- Original research. (Good) original research is highly valuable because it’s unique.
- Webinars. A video session in which an expert speaker discusses a specific topic. Often followed by a Q&A session.
Need more inspiration? Check out these lead magnet examples.
Gated content works because it’s a comparatively low-touch transaction.
I might not want to sign up for a live product demo with your sales team just yet, but I’m happy to give you my email address in exchange for a piece of genuinely helpful content.
When capturing the prospect’s information, don’t be afraid to ask for more than just the standard name and email address.
At Encharge, we use a multi-step contact form to generate leads.
Why? Because it helps us gather more information without scaring the user away with a big list of questions:
7. A/B test your lead capture forms
Lead generation isn’t just about the process of reaching out to prospective customers.
It’s also about what happens when those prospective customers are ready to learn more about your product.
For many businesses, that next step will involve directing prospects to a data capture-focused landing page.
Most SaaS companies have a demo request page with a built-in form to capture details — here’s what ours looks like:
But lead capture forms aren’t just a SaaS thing.
A marketing agency might build a lead form for prospects to request a free consultation or a pricing quotation; course creators might use them for potential students to download a prospectus or enroll in a free trial.
It’s easy to imagine that once a prospect arrives at a lead capture page, they’re more or less guaranteed to convert.
They’re clearly interested. All they have to do now is enter a few simple details — it’s a sure thing, right?
Sadly, that’s not the case.
Build an unclear lead capture page or a lead capture form that demands too much (or the wrong sort of) information, and you can kiss goodbye to those hard-won prospects.
That’s why smart lead gen businesses constantly A/B test their key forms and pages.
Workzone, a SaaS project management tool, shows us how this works in practice.
Take a look at the company’s original lead capture page:
Nothing too flashy, but it’s got a couple of nice touches. The green arrow draws your eye toward the form and compels you to fill it in, while the testimonials from high-profile customers add credibility and social proof.
However, Workzone wasn’t totally satisfied.
In particular, it felt that the multicolored Subway and Kansas State logos detracted from the page’s principal focus — the lead form itself.
So it came up with a simple A/B test that substituted the color logos for monochrome variants:
The test solely targeted new visitors to the site. That way, Workzone could be sure they were judging the page on its current merits rather than on a previous visit.
After three weeks, the new variant had seen a 34% upturn in form submissions compared to the original.
The hypothesis was totally accurate. Not only were the colored logos overshadowing the form, but click- and heat-mapping reports showed that visitors frequently mistook them for clickable elements.
Importantly, this shouldn’t be the end of the story.
Even on a simple lead capture page like Workzone’s, there are countless elements to test, such as:
- Title text copy
- Title text color
- CTA button color
- CTA button copy
- Number of form fields
- Positioning of customer testimonials
The lesson here is that A/B testing should be treated as an ongoing process.
The more you do it, the better your conversion rate will be, and the more leads you’ll generate.
8. Convert more website visitors with live chat
Let’s take a second to think about how much effort it takes to drive traffic to your website.
Hours of keyword research and technical SEO to optimize your key pages for search.
Hundreds or thousands of dollars to fund PPC and paid search ads.
Even then, you’re competing against numerous other sites, all equally intent on winning the click.
So it’s in your best interest to extract the most possible value from every single visitor.
As we’ve already noted, only a tiny percentage of visitors are ready to buy straight away.
Gated content is one solution; another is live chat.
According to Kayako, 79% of businesses say they’ve seen a positive impact on sales, revenue, and loyalty after introducing a live chat service.
Buyers are impatient. If they can’t find the information they’re looking for on your site, they’ll bounce (most likely to one of your competitors).
Offering a live chat function helps you “retain” those visitors and turn them into leads before they look elsewhere.
9. Turn prospects into leads with case studies
No one buys a product for the sake of it.
Prospective Encharge customers aren’t out there Googling the phrase “marketing automation software” because they feel like it.
They’re doing it to achieve a specific result. Chances are, that result is something to do with generating revenue or streamlining processes.
That’s why we have several success stories demonstrating how companies in various industries use Encharge to save time and make money.
You should be doing the same because case studies work.
So much so that 98% of B2B marketers agree they’re either “very effective” or “quite effective”.
Case studies are so valuable because they tap into the principles of “show me, don’t tell me”.
Rather than insisting that your product is the best thing since sliced bread, demonstrate the real-world results it’s generated for actual, paying customers.
Fortunately, case studies are super simple to create (provided you’ve got the results to back them up) if you stick to this format:
- Describe the customer. Who are they? What industry are they in? How many customers do they have?
- Explain their business challenge. What was the “problem” that persuaded them to seek out a product like yours?
- Set out your solution. How did you fix the problem they were facing? Why did you choose that approach?
- Provide meaningful results. Don’t say your product shortened their sales cycle or improved their conversions. Say it sped up their average sale by four weeks or boosted their conversion rate by 50%.
One final point on this: when you’ve created a high-quality case study, don’t leave it languishing on your website.
Share it on social and send it to your email marketing list.
Just be sure to segment your audience, so your case studies are only seen by relevant prospects.
There’s little point telling fintech brands how amazing your product is for automotive companies.
Pro tip: Encharge’s market-leading segmentation features allow you to create segments based on live user data, complex “AND/OR” rules, predefined conditions, and more.
10. Use cold outreach (cold email) for lead generation
There’s this hot new marketing tactic you need to check out; it’s called email marketing.
Alright, fine, email is pretty much the oldest digital marketing channel that exists.
According to Campaign Monitor, email delivers an average return of $44 for every $1 spent. No other channel can offer a return like that.
When it comes to generating top-of-the-funnel leads, cold outreach is one of the tactics that you can implement.
So cold outreach might not be the “sexiest” lead generation strategy, but it works — provided you take the time to find the right people to reach within your target organization and email them at the right time.
For us, that might be the owner of a small marketing agency or the marketing manager at a SaaS business.
Then it requires finding that person’s contact details.
Those contact details need to be accurate and verified. Otherwise, your email bounce rate will be sky-high, and your sender reputation will be dragged through the mud, meaning more of your emails will end up in spam folders.
That’s the technical stuff; now, let’s talk about the creative side of email marketing.
If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of generic, unimaginative cold emails. Emails that add no value but expect a huge amount in return.
This one’s a good example of a bad cold email (I’ve blurred the names to avoid shaming anyone):
From the subject line to the content to the call to action, everything about this email is lazy.
(The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed they even sent it to an “[email protected]” email address rather than bothering to find a real person.)
Sure, crafting creative copy is difficult, especially if you’re not a natural writer.
But that’s no excuse. Your prospects won’t give you a free pass because you never went to copywriting school; they’ll just ignore you.
Need a little help? Check out our free AI-powered email subject line generator.
Enter the “theme” of your email, tell us your website, and choose your preferred tone of voice. Our tool does the rest, leaving you with a list of snappy subject lines to test.
Choose your favorite, then use it as the starting point for the rest of your email copy.
Sure, cleansing your email list and writing high-quality copy takes time. It’s obviously not as quick and easy as writing a single generic email and sending it to a list of 20,000 “quality leads” you bought from some website. But I 100% guarantee it’ll deliver better results.
Last but not least, make sure you understand the difference between cold email and standard (a.k.a, inbound) email marketing. Cold emailing is great for generating leads, but it’s an entirely different ball game from inbound email marketing.
You can’t use the same tools for your traditional email marketing to do cold emails. If you use a platform like Encharge or Mailchimp for cold emails, you will quickly get suspended, as these platforms do not allow emailing of cold contacts. Instead, you need a tool specializing in cold email marketing like Mailshake, Lemlist, or Woodpecker. Learn more in our article on the topic of inbound vs. outbound marketing.
Supercharge your lead generation strategy with Encharge
Whichever lead generation strategies you choose, there are no shortcuts.
You can’t expect to send a single email or create one piece of gated content and instantly bring in hundreds of sales-ready leads.
More likely, you’ll generate marketing-qualified leads that need plenty of nurturing before they’re ready to buy.
But it takes 6 to 8 touches to generate a qualified sales lead. Your sales team just doesn’t have the time.
Encharge can help.
Our platform connects with your lead capture forms or CRM software, allowing you to build engaging lead nurture campaigns in minutes.
Cut and slice your audience into relevant segments based on form response, CRM attributes, and behavioral data.
Then build automated email sequences to nurture leads without requiring constant attention from your sales team.
Sign up for a free 14-day trial with Encharge and start getting rewarded for your lead generation efforts. We won’t even ask for your credit card details.