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How to Use Advertising as a Lead Generation Tool

How to Use Advertising as a Lead Generation Tool

Marketing is a broad term that encompasses a number of channels and approaches. Advertising is just one of them, and in our increasingly digital age, it can sometimes feel like a tactic of the past. However, when advertising is used properly, it can become an effective lead generation tool.

Below we’ll take a look at both online and offline advertising and explore the best ways to harness each approach to generate leads.

Online Ads

Online ads are a highly effective way to generate leads because you’re able to collect and access so much information about your customers when they interact with you online. And the major players in the online game are making it easier than ever for you to create online ads that are highly targeted.

Facebook and Google are the two major players in the space, and they offer small business owners all sorts of opportunities to better understand their current users, find new potential clients, and generate leads and conversions. They do this by providing highly-granular analytics on all of their users and by allowing you the opportunity to customize your advertising approach and target market.

There are a few critical steps any business owner should take before starting an online marketing campaign to ensure they’re going to get the most out of their approach.

Know Who Your Customers Are

You can’t possibly know who you should be targeting without knowing the demographics of your current client base. How old are they? Where are they located? What’s their income level? This is the kind of demographic information you should be collecting on your current clients. You can also get information on prospects with tools like Facebook Pixel, which allows you to track visitors’ behavior on your own website so that you can send them targeted ads on Facebook later.

Go After Your Audience

Once you understand more about the people who already use your service or have expressed interest in your website, you’ll want to go after those specific people with online ads. Facebook and Google also make it easy to target people who might not have encountered your business yet, but are similar to those who already interact with your business. Facebook’s lookalike audiences allow you to present your ads to those who have attributes that are similar to people already on your mailing list. And Google Ads allows you to advertise by location, while tools like Google Local Service Ads put you in front of potential leads right as they’re looking for the service you offer.

Track Your Results

Google and Facebook both offer robust analytics on how many people are seeing your ads, whether they’re then visiting your website, and if that is resulting in a conversion. You should be keeping regular tabs on these analytics so that you can easily catch and solve an issue, or jump on a successful approach and amplify that across other channels.

Testing Makes Perfect

Based on what you’re seeing from the analytics, you can go in and make strategic changes to your approach. A/B testing is regularly used in website design, but the principles can be applied to advertising as well. If a campaign isn’t succeeding, make a change. This might be a change to the content, the delivery method, or the demographics of those you’re targeting, but whatever changes you implement, make them one at a time so you’re able to see how each change moves the needle on the campaign. If you hit on a successful tactic that results in leads, apply that across your other channels. The beauty of online advertising is that if something isn’t working, it’s possible to change it quickly, easily, and without great cost.

Offline Ads

While there is great value in creating effective online advertising campaigns, a robust advertising approach will also incorporate offline ads. And while you may not have the specific analytics to see precisely how your offline ads are performing, there’s still immense value in investing in print, television, radio, and direct mail.

With offline advertising, there’s usually more upfront cost involved, and once a print ad or radio spot is out there, you can’t make modifications. All of this means that there’s value in taking more time up front to be strategic about your approach–you really can’t skip the research step here.

However, many of the same basic principles from online advertising should also be put into use offline.

Identify Your Medium

Different types of customers will interact with different kinds of offline media. That same demographic information you needed to establish a successful online campaign can help you to determine the type of offline campaign that will afford you the greatest reach with the types of customers you hope to find. If you run an auto repair shop, it might make more sense for you to create radio spots, as people tend to listen to the radio while they’re driving. If your target customers are millennial men, consider running your ad during the college football game on your local sports network. Understanding your customers allows you to hone in on a broader audience that will likely have a similar interest in your product or service.

Think Outside the Box

It’s more difficult now to approach offline advertising because a lot of people are conditioned to ignore it or have the means to avoid it entirely (DVRs and streaming services, for example, allow you to skip commercials entirely). This means you’ll need to get creative with your approach. Forget the 30 second radio spot; have you ever thought about texting as advertising? There are lots of possibilities out there, if you’re willing to think beyond the traditional. Hiring an advertising professional is a worthwhile investment because they understand the landscape, the latest trends, and can create a campaign that really stands out.

Create Your Own Analytics

It is possible to get a broad sense of how your offline advertising is being received. While it’s not the same as the incredible detail you can get from online analytics, you can get useful information about how your campaigns are playing offline. If you’re launching a new print or direct mail campaign and include an offer, provide a unique code that allows you to track how new leads who approach you came across your business. There’s also value in creating a brief survey for those who sign up for more information on your website. Simply asking “how did you find out about us?” and listing your individual offline advertising efforts below can provide you with insight into where leads are coming from. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to focus your efforts more on the medium that’s working best, and over time can gain insight into the campaigns and approaches that prove most fruitful.

No matter what advertising approach you choose to take, understanding the results of your advertising efforts is what’s going to lead you to create more effective campaigns in the future that will generate more and more leads. Taking the time to know your audience up front and gather more information as the campaign unfolds will empower you to make the most out of your advertising approach.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Advertising.

shareable and useful content

The Value of Discoverable, Shareable, and Useful Content

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch About Creating Useful Content

There’s no way around it, there are a lot of marketing channels today. I’m counting eighteen as of now (which can obviously change very quickly).

When I started my business we had six or seven ways to reach our prospects and customers. A lot has changed.

One of the things that I think is important to understand, first off, is that you don’t have to play in every channel. That’s one of the things that causes a lot of stress with a lot of business owners and marketers today.

What you do have to do is get very good at playing in the right channels, and additionally getting very good at integrating those channels (or at least understanding how they support each other).

That’s a challenge for a lot of people. We look at social media, content, SEO, and PR, and we think that they’re all separate tactics out there doing separate jobs.

When you look at them together, and actually intentionally think about how they can support each other, you amplify the effect, or the impact, of each.

In this post, we’re going to focus on three of these channels: content, social media, and SEO.

While those are separate channels, content is air for marketing today. It really powers every step in the customer journey and is one of the most essential marketing channels out there.

In fact, it probably is not really even fair to consider it a channel anymore, because it’s like the gasoline that goes in the car. You really have to have it no matter what kind of car you have.

I want you to think these channels, and make sure the content you produce in each is discoverable, shareable and ultimately useful.

Discoverability

Discoverability is often seen as an SEO play, and frankly, that’s what it is, but content drives SEO today. There are many search terms that are competitive, so everybody is out there competing for the search terms that they want.

People try to rank by doing effective keyword research, using targeted messaging, and knowing a lot about their users. It’s a good idea to develop a sense of intent as well in order to implement on-page SEO best practices.

While this all helps to make your content discoverable, you have to start with a content strategy that says “yes, we want people to find that, but that’s not where we want them to stop.”

Shareability

Once the content is discovered, the degree that it is shared will determine how widely it is distributed. By thinking about shareability of content, you’re multiplying the impact of search engine results because shares are going to draw links and other important SEO signals. They are going to increase your audience, which is going to draw more people. 

If we build our content with the idea that we can get a higher share rate, one of the benefits to that is that you actually don’t have to produce a ton of content.

If you produce content that is focused on:

  • How to do something
  • Why to do something
  • Lists
  • Great headlines
  • Great calls to action in the content
  • Using impactful images
  • Mobile usage

Then you can build your SEO-optimized content and make it much more shareable.

Shareable content is going to evolve your social media. This is one of the best ways to think about your content in the social media space. Making your content shareable will help expand the reach of people outside of your immediate network.  

Useful content

As I said in the beginning, I think the ultimate measure of success of any SEO plan is the degree to which people who discover and share your content, also find that content useful enough to quote, bookmark, link to, and consume deeply.

This idea of linking your content together to make it even more useful is an important part of trust building in the journey. If people have a problem, they go out and search for a problem, not for your solution.

They may not associate what you offer with their problem, but they’re trying to get a problem solved.

If they go to your website make sure you address their problem and give them an entire guide for how to solve it. Link together eight or ten pages, or at least associate all of your related content to a topic in a way that you’ve packaged it to make it easy to consume.

That’s the content that people not only love to share, but they love to link and bring other people to it as well.

It’s the kind of content that is going to make your SEO more effective, and make your content more discoverable because Google sees the signals that are being sent to that content.

It’s the kind of content that is ultimately going to lead people to buy your products and services, because you’ve addressed their problem, and made it easy for them to consume the content. You built trust signals, which is going to help you show up on page one of Google, which is huge. 

You’re giving somebody a reason to dig in on their own, and discover that what you sell is going to actually solve their problem.

That’s how you have to think about content.

There are a couple of metrics that I love to look at when I’m trying to analyze somebody’s content. I use tools, like Ahrefs, to see the number of keyword phrases driving traffic to page one.

I also like to use a tool called BuzzSumo. One of the things that it will do is dive into your content from a social media standpoint and will answer questions like:

  • How much sharing is going on?
  • What kind of content gets shared the most?
  • Who’s linking to it?
  • Who’s Tweeting it?
  • What is the length and format of the content?

It really breaks down all the sharing activity that goes on in your content.

I love to look at that kind of shared data because in many cases it will clearly point to your best content that’s being shared. Most of the time, that’s longer content that is more in depth, and that people find very useful. 

The value of your organic traffic is also a tremendous metric to really allow you to see how you’re stacking up.

Typically, what happens is your content becomes more discoverable because it was useful. It’s more shareable because it was useful. So it’s like this vicious, positive cycle that ends up making your traffic and visits worth so much more.

marketing channels

Choosing the Right Marketing Channels for Your Business

As of October 2017, there are roughly sixteen marketing channels available to us.

Businesses need to get very, very good at getting clients in just a few of these channels. Trying to master them all is not only extremely hard to do, it is also the fastest way to get stuck in the idea of the week rut. You need to discover the channels that are relevant to your audience and focus solely on those.

A business may need to go through a trial and error phase to figure out which channels can produce sustainable growth.

Here are your channels to choose from:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – This includes on-page SEO and off-page SEO tactics aimed to help you bring in organic traffic from search engines.
  2. Referral Marketing – This includes intentional word of mouth activities, viral tactics, and intentional referral generation (should be a must for any business).
  3. Speaking Engagements – I’m always telling people just how valuable speaking for leads is. This includes speaking engagements at events such as industry conferences. Note, you don’t need to get paid for the speaking engagement itself for it to be worthwhile. If you do it right, you’ll be walking away with leads that will pay you more over time than just one speaking engagement would.
  4. Content Marketing – This includes publishing, optimizing and sharing educational content that draws search traffic, links and followers.
  5. Public Relations – This includes activities aimed at receiving coverage in traditional media outlets.
  6. Online Advertising – This includes the use of pay-per-click platforms, social networks, display ads and retargeting.
  7. Offline Advertising – Yes, this can still be a powerful marketing tactic. This includes advertising in offline print and broadcast outlets such as magazine, TV, and radio.
  8. Sales Playbooks – This includes the creation of specific actions aimed at mining, generating, nurturing and converting leads.
  9. Email Marketing – While people may give up social media from time to time, you’ll likely not hear people say they’re giving up their emails. Using targeted and automated email campaigns based on conversion actions is a great way to get your message to the right people.
  10. Utility Marketing – This includes the creation of useful tools that stimulate traffic, sharing and brand awareness.
  11. Influencer Marketing – This includes the practice of building relationships with individuals and outlets that can influence pre-established communities.
  12. Partner Marketing – This includes co-marketing activities that run in collaboration with strategic marketing partners.
  13. Social Media Marketing – This includes the act of building engagement on established platforms and networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as targeted industry platforms.
  14. Online Events – This includes events such as webinars, demos, and workshops conducted using online tools
  15. Offline Events – This includes events such as workshops, demonstrations, seminars, trade shows, showcases and customer appreciation events
  16. Community Building – This includes the intentional act of building and facilitating a community around a shared interest or topic related to the organization’s industry

Now that you have a better understanding of the channels available to you, look at your business and determine your most effective channel. Be mindful that you don’t mistake the success of one channel for another. For example, if you convert all of your leads via personal sales calls, it might be tempting to say that sales is your most important channel. However, if all of those appointments come about because people find your website when they search, then SEO or content might actually be your most effective channels currently. Bottom line, be sure to attribute the right efforts to the right channels.

Why do I recommend that you do this? It’s far easier to generate more leads in a channel that’s already proven effective than it is to jump in and explore new channels.So this would suggest that once you find a channel that’s driving leads, you should expend a great deal of energy finding more ways to leverage this channel, rather than simply accepting that you are receiving all the leads you can.

This applies to cross-channel leverage too. For example, if referral generation is your greatest lead channel then you should consider tactics in other channels like content or speaking as ways to enhance your referral generation channel.

Each of these tactics could be stand-alone initiatives, but with a channel leverage mindset, they make up an integrated playbook of support.

Once you analyze your current business channels and begin considering new ways to grow, you can create a list of potential projects you plan to test in your channels of choice.

When brainstorming potential channel tactics to try, first map out three or four of your biggest objectives for the upcoming quarter. From there, tie trackable goals to each objective. You should be able to get some focus on tactics that might actually help you achieve your defined goals. At this point, you can probably identify some candidates that would make good projects to test.

There are many variables that go into determining what projects to test. Look around and see what’s working for others, ask your team to weigh in, network your ideas with strategic partners. Competitors can also be a great source to generate ideas.

You’ll want to test and fail fast so you can move on and succeed even faster. Here’s the key – spend time before you test to design the project so that you know what you are trying to do and how you are going to measure it.

Marketers often get a good idea and then try it without any way to know if it worked or not. You’ve got to be precise in what you think will happen, how it will happen and how you know if it happened. You’ve also got to A/B test, which is very easy to do these days given the number of tools available.

The point of all of this is to identify bets that pay off big so you can double and triple down on those and drop the others.

When you do this repeatedly you start to find the best channels for profit and you can start to play in those few channels like a champ.

Lastly, take the winners and find the best way to document and delegate. By doing this, you can free up more time to strategize on ways to make new, informed bets.

Keep a running log of all of your tests to help you stay focused on what works as well as learn how to get better at creating new ones. Once you get this system down, continue to operate it and evolve.

What marketing channels work best for your business? How did you decide to go with those channels?