10 Tips to Convert Leads Online That Won't Go Out of Style

Posted by Gretchen Bulan on May 21, 2015
Gretchen Bulan

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We're constantly being told that digital marketing tactics are changing and that marketers must stay one step ahead of technology and other cutting-edge marketers to stay relevant and continue to rank well.

Is there anything these days about digital marketing that you can rely on to stay constant?

Maybe.

Bonus: Download our What is Inbound Marketing Guide as a PDF. Easily save it to your computer or print for reference anytime.

You're working hard to attract traffic and gain leads online for your business. You know that being successful at attracting leads with online marketing is one thing, but convincing them to take action and make a purchase is quite another. In this post, we'll explain 10 tips 

you can rely on to help you convert more of your leads into serious prospects and sales.

Marketers' Challenge: Inspire Action

According to CyberMark International, 79% of leads online never turn into a sale. Still, with 91% of B2B marketers using content marketing ( source: CMI/MarketingProfs 2013 ) to promote their businesses, the belief that customers can be won on the web is alive and well. The challenge? Gain the trust of your leads to guide them to take the next action toward becoming a customer. Translation: Re-focus web marketing efforts on relationship-building and lead conversion and results will come.

One common theme exists with all of these ideas presented below: web searchers, and all humans for that matter, are driven by the desire to avoid pain and discomfort and achieve pleasure and happiness. This is key to getting a visitor to take the next action on your web page or with your product or service offering. The goal is to convince them that taking that action will lead to making their life better, in the short term. TODAY!

Your ability to do this will also depend on the planning and maturity of your digital marketing plan. Note: These tips assume you've accurately identified your target audience and are actively generating leads that you need to guide through your sales process.

10 Tested Tips to Convert Leads Online

1) Use the Best Tools

Let's start off with maybe an inconvenient truth: If you want to be successful with your web marketing plan, you need to invest in the tools that will get you there. Here are a few of the top tools in 2015. If you're not properly applying the concepts of inbound marketing by using a high-quality automation platform, you may as well kiss your chances of converting leads online goodbye.

The reality is that, online, you don't have the ability to see, speak to or shake the hand of your prospects. So, how do you gain their trust? You have to let your content speak for you — and that means employing the best tools to create the best content, including a great blog, irresistable CTAs, focused landing pages, advanced content and relevant, follow-up e-mails.

2) Share Educational content

The term "search" when speaking about finding information on the web is so very appropriate.

When we search for anything, online or offline, what are we doing? We are looking for answers. We want to learn. It doesn't matter if the topic is pet care or wedding planning. We want to become educated — to know more about something. The solution that educates the best is often the one that wins the customer.

However, people want to be educated in interactive and interesting ways. Encyclopedia Brittanica is educational; so is the game show Jeopardy! But, which is more engaging? Most of us might be able to cite a fact we read or heard in each of these examples. But, we probably found the experience of watching Jeopardy! more engaging, entertaining and more memorable than reading the encyclopedia.

This CMI article explains five ways to make content educational and unforgettable, even entertaining. Education, especially online, should have some element of entertainment. That's when retention and internalization happens. Keep these ideas in mind for your educational content:

  • Keep it simple
  • Add humor
  • Make content interactive
  • Be unpredictable
  • Give the facts.

We created a visual guide to help you use these ideas to make your marketing content more appealing. You can access it before it's published just by clicking below.

3) Make Conversion Easy

Don't just make conversion easy, make everything easy. To help visitors want to stick around and eventually engage with you, you must give them an outstanding experience from the start.

What does that look like?  It starts with a modern, organized and uncluttered design for all of your content — from your home page to your e-mail template. The user experience should be about "them," not about you, so keep the branded, salesy material to a minimum. Here are a few other keys to a great user experience:

  • Simple navigation
  • Attractive, professional design
  • Mobile-optimized website
  • Easy to click, clear messaging.

4) Personalize E-mail marketing

If you have gained leads online, presumably you have provided enough perceived value already to capture an e-mail address from someone interested in your content. E-mail communication remains one of the most effective means of building relationships and trust with your audience and turning visitors into customers.

Since it's so valuable to grow your e-mail list, it's worth the investment to tailor it, segment it and personalize your messages as you learn more about your leads. Just as it wouldn't make sense to send a message intended for your close friends to your entire personal e-mail contact list, it's not effective to send certain marketing messages to all your prospects.

E-mail marketing must stand out. Since this tool is permission-based, it's easy for a contact to revoke that permission from you if you feed them regular irrelevant material. In addition, your e-mails can't be overly promotional or too frequent. Make sure your messages follow e-mail marketing best practices and that each serves a purpose and offers a benefit.

5) nurture your leads

In the beginning, lead nurturing is all about speed and following up with a lead as quickly as possible. Lead nurturing is also about sending the right message at the right time. Entrepreneur.com contributor, Grant Cardone, writes about the process of qualifying a lead and converting the lead to business. He notes, "it can take up to eight attempts just to qualify the lead, and 80% of all sales transactions require five to 12 follow-ups... the faster you can respond, the better chance of converting and qualifying a sales lead. The first company that follows up with an online lead gets 50 percent of the business." Take a look at the video below in which Cardone explains the persistence needed for successful lead nurturing. Most importantly, he explains that lead nurturing must include a mix of automation activities, e-mails, offers, calls, even texts.

6) commit to Measurement

Tracking the performance of your marketing efforts can ensure that your investment in developing and promoting content is not going to waste. Using the right tools for measurement and tracking the right metrics can help to refine your strategy and let you focus on the activities that produce the best results.

The metrics that matter most to you may reveal themselves over time, through trial and error and testing of your content. Here are some common metrics that help many marketers refine their strategies and spend their time where it's most effective:

  • Website traffic: overall traffic, blog traffic, sources of traffic, new/return visitors (How many are visiting? Who are they?)
  • Engagement: what actions are people taking on your site? How are they receiving/interacting with your content? (Social media? Blog comments? Downloads/form submissions? Calls? E-mail? Reviews? Links?)
  • Conversion rates: Which offers or landing pages are most successful? What is the best source of your leads? What is your conversion goal? Are you meeting it?
  • Revenue: Can you account for revenue from your digital marketing efforts? Do you have the right tools to track your sales from online leads?

7) increase Social Media activity

Choosing the right social media platforms on which to post and promote your business is important for most industries today. Your presence and engagement on social media shows you are a modern, active, relevant business interested in participating in the social arena where shoppers in many niches are present.

For sales, social media is still in its relative infancy (especially in the B2B space), but for spreading ideas, social media absolutely works.  While marketers are still testing the waters, the potential for converting leads online is huge if you grow your following on the right social platforms where your audience hangs out.

However, social media effectiveness can vary, depending on the type of business you're trying to attract. In the infographic excerpt below, you can see that Facebook provides the highest level of online orders of all social media platforms.

social media can help produce and convert leads online

 

Source: Shopify

In addition, as shown below, Facebook also leads with the highest conversion rate (for e-commerce) with 1.85% conversion rate of purchase after a viewer visits and interacts on the company page. While B2B is slower in sales attributed to social media participation, these businesses have a potential gold mine if they can find out how to connect and sell through social media.

image showing conversion rate of social media for getting leads online

Source: Shopify

8) offer Incentives

Your educational content is the first gift you'll give to your audience. But then what? We know that, in most cases, online consumers will take the path of least resistance. How do you entice them to return to your site or take additional action toward becoming a customer?

The idea of the "offer" is nothing new. Discounts, freebies and specials for loyal customers have been used in marketing for ages. There are a few keys to remember when crafting your offers to leads or customers at various stages of consideration.

  • First, make the offer valuable; make it something that leaves them with a good feeling about your solution and leave them wanting more
  • Make offers more valuable as the prospect becomes more serious
  • Introduce the element of scarcity: people want what they think they cannot have. For example,  offer a freemium product/service on your site for a short period of time. Once the period is up, the product appears on your site as a product for sale.

9) Define Your Sales Process

When is a lead qualified, according to your organization? What actions does he/she have to take to prompt your marketing team to send it on to sales? Your marketing actions must match the stage of the buying cycle that your prospect is in, or else you risk losing the lead.

Identifying which stage a prospect is in can be a little tricky, but that is where your listening skills come in. Working a lead online can seemingly make it more difficult to identify the stage, but the lead's actions will tell you everything you need to know. Here is an illustration of the sales cycle, from both the buyer's and marketer's perspectives, from Hubspot research.

Convert more leads online when you follow an inbound sales process

Source: Hubspot

At any stage of the sales cycle, your goal is not to sell, your goal should be to help people to buy. Your sales process must be closely tied to your lead nurturing process. Bottom line, you need to treat different leads differently in order to appeal to them in the stage where they are.

It's no secret that the buying process has changed for most consumers. Now, thanks in large part to internet search, a buyer has researched a product in-depth before he/she even reaches out to a business. Sales reps who don't recognize this and continue to behave like they hold all the cards in a negotiation will lose sales to those who display awareness of the consumer's intelligence and knowledge.

If your organization is large enough to have separate sales and marketing teams, the most 'grey' area in the lifecycle stages can be the area between marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL) (from the example above). With enough data and a high quantity of leads, using a lead scoring system can help you become better at evaluating the quality of your leads to move them through the sales funnel.

Aside from lead scoring, you may come up with a qualification system that works for your organization, including the number of contacts, level of contact (i.e. downloaded an e-book vs. requested a demo) and decision-making level of the individual to determine when a lead should be contacted by sales.

10) Ask for the 'Sale'

Sounds obvious, right? Once you've established that a prospect is interested in your product or service, there is a point at which you must ask for the 'sale,' (or the conversion) whether online or in person. If you appear wishy-washy or less-than-confident about getting a commitment, your prospect will take this as a sign that you aren't committed to their satisfaction and you're unprepared to give them the best experience.

How do you ask for the sale online, when you may never see your prospect in person? If you're selling a service it's a good idea to eventually move the relationship from online-only to an interpersonal interaction — a phone call, demo or proposal meeting. If the sale occurs online only, your content becomes the focal point of your "ask." Make your content attractive, simple, clear and direct. Either way, if you don't ask, you won't convert.

Time-Tested Techniques Win the Day

Staying up to date with the latest marketing technologies and conversion tactics is important for any business in a competitive environment. If you don't meet the needs of your audience and potential customers, you can be sure that someone else will. In 2015, here are a few trends that should be adopted that are driving marketer's actions and budgets:

  • Mobile optimization is a must. It's been talked about for some time, but finally in April 2015, Google made it official: those sites that are mobile-optimized will rank better in mobile search.
  • Content strategy is king. Brands will continue to increase budgets for content production, focusing on establishing authority and storytelling.
  • Link building and SEO changes, and stays the same. A recent post from Moz explains how SEO strategies and link building tactics have gone through an evolution, but have never lost their true purpose: natural link building pays off with valuable connections and reputation-building results.

In digital marketing, it's necessary to strike a balance between high-tech, growth hacking techniques and time-tested strategies that work in most industries, at any time to help convert leads to sales. Your strategy should be somewhat fluid, evolving as you grow and analyze your results. Our free e-book below can give you insight into some strategies that you can put aside as you refine and perfect your marketing plan.

Image credit: JSheldon

Author
Gretchen Bulan

Gretchen Bulan

Gretchen is a Hubspot-certified inbound marketer helping organizations define and share their messages through blogging, e-mail marketing and other inbound activities.

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