Lead generation has always been all the rage and I have participated wholeheartedly in, A, promoting that rage, and, B, selling services to meet the need of that rage. Quite frankly, I’m super excited to move ahead in 2022 with an eye on just helping companies generate leads. Lead generation, it’s the thing that everybody understands certainly about why you market, why you advertise. Certainly, not the only reason to market and advertise, but I think it is the simplest way that people can understand the results of marketing and advertising. I think they point to it, and I think that when they think of lead generation, I think most companies would say, “Top of our list of things that we want to get done.”
Now, in order to get leads, you still got to do all the marketing stuff. What we’re talking about in the next several episodes about lead generation is going to be cutting to the chase. The idea that, if we can put a good system together, that we’re going to generate good quality leads. One of the first things I want to address is what is a lead? I think that there’s a lot of confusion about it. If you use customer relations management software like Salesforce or HubSpot, things like that, there’s a lot of terminology around leads. Leads, prospects, opportunities. Oh my.
Is a lead just a contact? In my world, you don’t have a lead unless it’s a qualified lead, and let’s talk about that a little bit. Qualified lead in my book is somebody who at least has a high likelihood of doing business or buying from you. At the end of the day, if you have some information on somebody and they’re never going to do business with you, all you have is some contact information. You do not have a lead.
A lead, in my opinion, is somebody worth communicating with because there’s a higher likelihood that they’re going to do business with you. Buy a product like yours or your service. They may buy a competitor’s. They might get cold on you. They might change your mind. They might not actually make a purchase, but a lead in my opinion is got some qualifications to it to begin with. I don’t think you can call it a lead otherwise and I’m not– I understand that systems like Salesforce and HubSpot, and what have you, they have just these differing terminologies simply because it helps explain the workflow of their softwares. In my opinion, if it’s a lead, there’s some quality to it. There’s an aspect of qualified to a lead. That means that they have some understanding of what it is you’re selling.
Now, collecting leads that are qualified is a far different prospect than– did you see what I did right there? I didn’t even know I was going to use prospect right there, but yet I just used terminology that confuses people. Collecting leads that are qualified is a different task than is just simply collecting leads. Now, what I mean by this is if you ever have been to a trade show, for example, and people have a fishbowl at their booth and you could drop your business card in there or you can register to win their big prize which might be an iPad or a TV. I’ve seen trips, a number of different things. That is collecting contact information.
Unless you sell trips or TVs or iPads. At the end of the day that’s just, “I’ve got a bunch of names in a bowl.” They happened to be at a trade show where the topic was of common interest, but that’s really about it. At the end of the day, they might just, “You know what? I could really use a TV. I hope I’m the winner and I don’t give a crap about what you sell.” Those are just names.
Now, if what you’re giving away– for example, let’s just do the easy. If you’re giving away a high-end, big-screen TV and you are in the high-end, big-screen TV business, then you can assume that everybody who put their name in to win that thing is at least interested in high-end big-screen TVs. That to me is some qualification to the name that goes in there. To me, just immediately, that’s better than a software company giving away let’s say a trip. The trip is very attractive and people are going to like you and people are really going to want to pay attention to you and people will notice you, but the person who’s putting their name in for that trip, there’s nothing to say that there’s any interest in your software.
Again, I think that the idea of just collecting names is different than collecting leads because in my world, a lead has some qualification to it. It is a qualified lead, in my opinion. Otherwise don’t bother. You’re bothering them when you call them up to follow up. You’re making more work for yourself. It’s just stupid. At the end of the day, the process to collect good qualified leads is different than just collecting people’s information.
The thing about really good lead generation, when it’s done well, this is something you really need to focus on. It’s like magic. You actually get fewer leads to manage and you get more sales. That is a good lead generation system. If you’re getting a hundred leads, for example, and five of them convert, how different would it be for you to get 25 leads in which five convert? At the end of the day, you had to go through 75 more leads to get to the five that converted than you did with a better lead generation system that generated 25 leads in which five converted. These are the things that you have to consider if you don’t feel like you’re getting the leads that you expect.
You have to consider, first of all, you might not have a benchmark. You might not even be able to say that, “One lead generation source gives me these many leads and these many conversions and I have three others and they all have their own variances.” If you don’t have multiple lead generators out there, it’s hard and you have to at least have a benchmark that, “This is where I’m at right now. How can I do better?”
Now, I’m going to tell you that I’ve done a lot of work with assisted living communities, senior living, and I’ve done a lot of work with car dealers in my day. They both have very interesting scenarios. Car dealers, they have these third-party resources. Whoever you are, if you’ve ever bought a car, you’re going to be familiar with them. CarGurus is one, AutoTrader is another one. Cars.com.
Now, someone might say, “Well, those aren’t lead generators. Those are places where I can go and look at inventories,” but they are lead generators. In fact, if you ever schedule a test drive through that, you’ve just been a lead. You’ve just signed up and you’ve now become the target of a salesperson to sell you the vehicle in which you signed up to either get to know more information about or test drive.
Assisted living, they have a cool thing called A Place for Mom. If you go there to look for assisted living communities where your mom might live, it’s a directory of assisted living communities. If you find one that you like, and you either call the phone number on there, or you fill out a form on there, you are now a lead through A Place for Mom for that community. If you’ve ever gone and ordered flowers through 1-800-FLOWERS, for example, that is also a lead generation system for florists. A lot of those types of industries have multiples of these lead generation third-party resources.
Especially in the car business, you can look at CarGurus, you can look at AutoTrader, you can look at cars.com and they’re going to all be different. This is somewhat helpful in a way. Car dealers probably hate that they’re all different and that they have to, “Oh, this one gives me a ton of leads, but hardly any convert. Man, this one gives me just– I mean, it’s a flood of leads and lots of them convert.” They all have their own different purpose. A lot of car dealers might actually miss this point, but if you were to set your sales up so that you use this resource for this type of car and this type of customer, and that resource for this type of car and that type of customer, you’d be wildly better off.
Right now, you probably look at things like AutoTrader and say, “Hey, yes, they send me a fair number of leads. It’s hard to get those leads to convert.” You look at CarGurus and a lot of times that might feel like they convert more, but what you might also realize is that is driven by changes in your inventory, so you might lower a price on a car and then get a bunch of leads because you lower the price. Cars.com is the slow, steady resource that doesn’t generate a ton of leads, but it generates good leads. The problem is, they all cost a whole bunch of money and you’re going to feel like, “Well, I don’t want to lose the leads,” and so you wind up paying for them.
A Place for Mom in the assisted living industry is a huge expense. If someone signs a contract with an assisted living community through A Place for Mom, it costs that assisted living community a ton of money. A ton. At any rate, if you have that kind of a system in place, you need to really analyze which resource is doing what for you. You have to get all the way down. You have to be good enough to look at, “What type of service, what type of product am I selling through each of these things? Which one has the more qualified leads coming through?”
There’s a number of factors you have to look at and then determine where to invest. Just suffice to say that if you have a number of different lead-generating systems, especially third parties, that you need to analyze, which one is giving you which type of leads and what type of sales you’re getting from those leads, and what type of conversion rates are you getting. Then when you start to mash all that together, you start to paint a picture of, again, “Where do I want to invest?”
If you can’t find a lead generation system out there that works for you and your consumer, then the next thing that you can do is build a journal. What do I mean by that? Well, you don’t even need money, and you don’t even need time really. At the end of the day, we’ve all seen them. There’s all kinds of lead generation systems out there that we’ve seen that are virtually free.
There’s also some that you set them and forget them. It doesn’t require a ton of your time, but here’s the reality, we’ve all seen these things. Maybe you don’t realize that you’re seeing them, but if you’ve ever been to a mall, there’s a car there that you can sign up to win. That’s a lead generator. I’m sure that I’m– somebody is probably saying, “Well, duh, I know that,” but the car that’s there, the very specific type model is there for a reason.
It’s rarely ever going to be a Lamborghini, it’s not everybody’s dream car. That’s a tough lead. Everyone would like to win that $250,000 car. That’s not necessarily indicative that these are good qualified leads for people that want to buy Lamborghinis. The car is typically going to be more mass appeal or more of an appeal for the type of customer they typically have and do well with, but make no mistake about it, when you put your name in that to when a vehicle, I’ve seen ATVs, boats, all these things, those are lead generators.
I’ll give you another example of a lead generator that doesn’t really cost much. Now granted, you have to rent the space in the mall and what have you. You do have to do that. You have to get permission, but as far as things go, that one doesn’t require much of your time. It might cost you a few $100 a month to have a vehicle there but let’s make no mistake about this. Lead generators don’t have to be giveaways. I use those because they’re super obvious and everybody’s seen them but they don’t have to be.
Here’s one that we’ve all seen and probably participated in. The white paper download. I’ve seen this done really well and I’ve seen it done really poorly. The really good ones, I have gotten white papers that after going through the white paper, I’m like, “I need to solve this problem for myself. What is the system that they’re using to do this? I got to have it.” That’s a good lead generator. That is a good white paper that takes the person who’s downloaded the white paper and read it down the exact right path to say that, “Here’s the problem that you are having and here’s the solution and here’s how to buy it.” That’s when it’s done well.
When it’s not done well, it’s sort of like, “I just need a lead generator out there, so I’m going to just put some content out there, be loosely related to my thing, but I think everybody wants this information. I’m going to put it out there and get them to download it.” Either A, nobody downloads it, or B, lots of people download it but you don’t get any real leads from it. There’s never going to be a conversion there.
Make sure that– and it will cover this at the end, but I mean, make sure that you’re tightly tied to what it is that you’re trying to sell when you’re doing even a white paper download. Recently, I did a really cool thing for a client. They have this big annual event and there’s a couple different audiences that go to this event and so you have to market and advertise to more than one audience. One of the audiences is rather difficult to get after and get them to convert. What we wound up doing is having secondary events, and the secondary events were much more consumable and much more every day– everybody could do it.
If you were interested in these other events, there is no way you wouldn’t be interested in the main events, the ones where there’s more money involved and the ones where they probably didn’t even know existed before. This gave us a great opportunity to have an event where everybody was interested in, and man did we get the signups. Hundreds of signups in minutes. It was fantastic.
At the end of the day, those people are now a captive audience during that event for us to say, “Hey, there is this thing coming up this summer, make sure you’re paying attention. Everybody who’s registered is going to get more information on it.” It couldn’t have gone better but it was a similar event that was leading up to a bigger event. You can also do informational events that would then lead to people potentially buying services and what have you. To me, really, there’s an infinite number of things that one can do to generate leads, it really is just limited by your imagination.
Configurators are another one. It doesn’t have to be an event, it doesn’t have to be a downloaded, it doesn’t have to be a giveaway. I’ve helped companies build configurators for all kinds of different things. Build out a room was one. Pick out a color of a thing. The thing that you might be most familiar with is if you’ve ever been to a car manufacturer website and you’ve built your own car, you’ve customized your car you’re going to buy the Ford whatever and you go in and you change the wheels, you change the color, you change the interior, you step up the engine, you do all of those things, all those safety features and what have you.
That’s a configurator and those are at the end of the day, certainly, they’re a tool for the consumer, but the point of them is to generate a lead for the local dealer. If you request a quote at the end of that or you want to ask a question or find a local dealer, that’s a lead, you’re a lead, but it’s super tied to the fact that you want to buy a car. I used to do it during the recession when I was broke as broke. I didn’t even know what money looked like during the recession. I’d go out and build the most expensive Mercedes-Benz but at the end of the day I wasn’t going to be a good lead for that, but the tools were great for a consumer.
By the time I’m out of the recession, I do need a car, and then I went to a much more reasonable manufacturer as far as cost was concerned and built my next vehicle there. At the end of the day those configurators, yes, they’re great tools for consumers and even dreamers like me when I had no money and wanted a very expensive car. It works out great because I get what I want out of it, the very specific vehicle. I get to know more about the vehicle like what options are available, and then I’m likely going to become a lead.
There’s three keys to determining whether your lead generation operation is working or not. The first one that we’re going to talk about is a little dicey. I think that if you’re a manager, an operator or an owner, you’re going to hate what I’m about to say, but it’s just true, so we’re going to say it anyway. Conversion rate. I think that everyone assumes conversion rates should be quite high. The average consumer rate across 14 different industries is 3.9%. Now, I will agree with the managers, operators and owners that that sucks. I think that the state of lead generation is actually somewhat poor. Those are numbers that are indicative of an entire industry doing poorly anyway.
However, you aren’t probably going to get 90% conversion rates and things like that. Now, a lot of companies will say, “Okay, I get these leads, but when I get them to this point, then I convert almost all of them.” Again, that’s a little bit different because it’s not the initial lead, but yes, there are certainly going to be qualifications that as you move them down the path, those are going to convert at a higher rate. You might want to aim your lead generators at bringing them to that point.
The other thing you can look at to determine– and it’s about conversion rate. Let me just back up for a second. It’s very difficult of me to just say point blank that you should be here. There’s varying numbers for varying conversion rates for varying industries. I would say that, if you’re hitting 10%, you’re doing pretty well. You’re hitting 20%, you’re outpacing everyone. If you’re in the 5% to 3% range, you’re pretty average, but I think that every company could be in the 20% range. It takes time sometimes, and it takes a lot of thinking and a lot of strategy, but I think every company should be there. That’s what I would at least shoot for.
In cases like we’ve done with this client just recently, the conversion rates were much higher than that, but it does depend. It really does. Depending on the risk involved in the sale, that’s also– if you’re buying a home, the conversion rate’s probably going to be different than if you’re buying an oil change, for example. At some level, a lot of things have to be taken into consideration there, but let me just say that I’m just venting, I guess, and everybody could do better.
Noticeable variations in the type of lead or the source of the lead is another thing you should look at to determine whether your lead generation operation is doing well. We talked about the AutoTrader, the CarGurus, the cars.com. If you have multiple lead generation sources and one’s working out better than another, first of all, you should absolutely look at it yourself, but sometimes it might take a fresh set of eyes to take everything into consideration and not just play favorites.
Every car dealer that I’ve ever known, when you look at the lead generation resources that they have, they all pitch about one or two of them. A lot of times it’s the same ones, but they won’t get rid of them because they do generate something. One dealer might love this one while another dealer hates that one. Sometimes that’s personal preference. Sometimes it’s just that one company has an inventory that works better for one system than the other and what have you, but you do have to take a look at the variations and the type of lead generation resources that you have and determine what’s working and what’s not.
Then you really have to get in and figure out why, what’s going to help you improve. This one works because of this. This one isn’t working because of that. Well, how can we get the one that’s not working to work better and take some of those qualities of the ones that are working well and move them into other areas. Let’s not forget that the ones that are working well probably could work better. What can we do for that? How can we make that happen?
Another problem that a lot of people face that you really have to take a look at when you’re looking at your lead generation operation, are they being seen? If they’re being seen a lot and not used, that’s a whole other issue that’s very common. I have this thing out there, a hundred thousand people saw it over the last few weeks. I got two leads. Again, if you’re selling a huge ticket item that might actually be pretty good. If you’re selling a trinket, that probably sucks, especially if it’s a trinket that has a huge audience.
You do have to really take into consideration where your lead generators are. Are you at the mall with a fishbowl? Are you at a trade show? Are you online? Are you networking? Where are you getting your leads from which ones are working? I mean, you really have to take those things into consideration and then start to modify your systems that it exploits the good things and rid yourself of the bad.
Now, here are the top three things you can do to improve lead generation always. Give them a great value or a great reason to provide that information. When I say that, it needs to be closely related. Those are your two top things. Have great value and incentive, and number two, is to make sure that that value or incentive is tightly associated with what you’re trying to sell. Those are the two biggies.
Number three is a little bit more difficult because you can’t always do it. You don’t always have control, you might not have the budget, but make sure your lead generators are highly visible. That’s not always going to be on your website. Your website might have horrible traffic. Google, in their paid ads, you can get leads right from there. They don’t have to go to your website, they don’t have to go anywhere, they can actually fill out forms in their search results. Or in the ads that are displayed, things that you absolutely have to take a look at, but you want to make sure that your lead generators are visible by the right people.
Now, in the next episode of this, we’re going to take a look at building the perfect lead-generating beast. Among other things, we’re going to take a look at the genius that goes into making the incentive or value matter without making it feel like it’s a prelude to spam. A lot of people are very wary to download the white paper because they know what’s coming, and those are the ones that are done poorly.
The next thing that I made a note of for the next episode was providing the exact right type of value. When I say that, that just goes back to the idea that the value that you’re providing, the incentive that you’re providing for them to give you their information is likely to mean that they’re going to or are interested in or are future buyers of your service or product. It doesn’t have to be yours, but they might just be in the market for whatever it is that you’re selling. They might not buy from you, but they’re in the market to buy your product or type of product or service.
Gathering the perfect amount of information is the other big thing that we’ll look at in that next episode. This is a huge point and a lot of people don’t realize it. The bigger the form, the bigger the value and incentive you need to give for them to fill out that form. The smaller the form, the easier it is for people to fill out and the more people that will fill it out, but there’s a likelihood that you might not have super actionable information. I can tell you right now that you should opt on the side of a smaller form every single time. Take a listen to the next episode as it comes out. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you soon.