In the constantly changing world of lead generation on the Web, business people accustomed to prospecting offline ask me, “Allan, how do I figure out what approach will get my kind of business the results I need and do so cost-effectively? And, oh, can I build my brand identity online at the same time?”
My quickly-spoken answer calms them. There are four proven guidelines in online lead generation to produce results for a business within any budget. This mirrors offline direct marketing; but the advantage in the online world is the accuracy in measuring results and affordability of adjusting campaigns. And by the way, you can simultaneously build your brand online, no problem.
Step 1: Craft the right campaign message that meets your goal.
“Right” means developing a call-to-action to achieve an immediate goal, while at the same time incorporating messages that reinforce the brand. The call-to-action varies depending on your business and includes a free promotion, an incentive or perhaps a contest.
The goal campaign for an online retailer or product company builds long-lasting customer loyalty. A retailer might deliver a compelling promotion through a newsletter to drive customers to a site for an online purchase. At the same time that retailer is generating a database of customers most eager to receive additional promotions through said newsletter.
In the service industry—law firm, marketing company, educational institution— the goal is to develop a campaign that results in one immediate transaction where the prospect calls a provider to schedule a consultation or to gather information for, yes, sales. Given the expectation of an immediate transaction, the cost of a service lead is significantly higher than those for retail, but in fact generates a higher profit margin.
Step 2: Test that first campaign message with three to four sources within the same medium.
The initial test of the creative involves buying media from three or four publishers in the same medium so as to compare results accurately. Select e-mail for your first campaign, since the media is the most consistent and the names can be pre-qualified. Once you find an effective campaign you use this as your control creative. When results fall for the control or other campaigns do not match the control’s results, the problem is usually with the creative—not the sources—and you need to re-work the creative.
One mistake in formulating a message is that what you are putting out there may just be too broad. Let’s say the fictitious company DVDsOnWeb creates a campaign with the hopeful goal of signing on new members. The nascent campaign rewards new members with three free movie tickets and it fails. So the firm quickly revises the creative to reward new members with one free month with a paid membership. The return in the second campaign is sure to be greater since that offer is more closely tied to the company’s main objective.