Back in the day when I was just starting out my digital marketing career my job seemed quite simple. I just had to publish my website and wait for customers to come along. Sounds familiar, right?
In reality, the truth was somewhat different. Several months passed by and I never received a call. Even worse, not a single person submitted the contact form on my website. I spent days and weeks optimizing my meta images and headlines. I took the time and regularly published quality content but nothing happened.
I slowly started to realize that something was missing. So instead of freaking out, I took a rather intuitive approach. I began visiting as much websites as possible. I literally spent two weeks just browsing the internet, entering every website that I knew or stumbled upon. From corporate websites, to online stores, to personal blogs and news outlets I spend hours and hours trying to figure out what made these websites successful (and profitable) in the first place.
I somewhat nailed it but not quite. Obviously, quality content and great user experience (UX) are the two things that drive traffic to your website. But traffic itself means nothing if you fail to monetize it. Needless to say, this was the core of my problem – my traffic was there but I never nurtured a customer. That’s when I learned a valuable lesson – customers are more likely to engage with you if you talk to them first.
So what do these websites I visited had in common? They used strong lead generation techniques. As simple as that. Instead of waiting for visitors to contact them first, these websites directly asked for their email and/or telephone numbers.
A real life example why lead generation is important
My dad had a website for his business for more than 10 years. And while he ran an offline business, 20-30% of his customers came from his website (mainly organic search). Apparently, he made the same mistake as I did – he just waited for them to contact him first. Being in his 50s, my dad preferred phone calls to emails. And even though his old school methods seemed to be working just fine I decided to take the matter in my hands and completely rebuild his website.
The cut a long story short, here’s what happened. In October 2019 I rebuild my dad’s website keeping its content intact. I just made it more intuitive and expanded its blog a little bit. However, my main goal was to nurture more leads in the form of emails. So what I did was quite simple – I just implemented a tiny subscription form, which pops up every time a visitor spends more than 2 minutes on my dad’s website or scrolls at least 75% of our landing page. I did it with Mailerlite but more on that later.
So what happened? In the last 6 months we generated 100% more leads than in the last four years combined. Remember, we achieved this just by asking people to subscribe to our newsletter. In case you are curious – the text on the popup reads “Subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll email you every time we have a discount”. So far nothing special, right? However, no one likes their inbox flooded with promotional emails. That’s why I added another sentence “We won’t email you more than twice a year.” I did so just to make sure people are not put off by the idea of getting my emails every once in a while.
Now that you know why you should invest time and effort in lead generation, here are my 7 proven lead generation methods that you can try right now.
1. Pop-ups and sign-up forms
Let’s make on thing crystal clear – pop-ups can be annoying as hell. And as with anything annoying pop-ups won’t magically attract quality leads for you if you abuse them. Both pop-ups and sign-up forms should be used with caution, otherwise you might see your bounce rate skyrocketing.
So the question is, how to use these tools wisely?
First and foremost, I strongly recommend you first do your homework before building your first pop-up. Ask yourself, what do you want to do with these leads you’re going to collect? Are you going to send them promotional emails occasionally? Do you want to grow your newsletter subscribers? Do you prefer nurtured leads to cold leads?
In most cases, it is better to first let your visitors interact with your content a little bit before asking them to join your newsletter (for example). The idea is that, the better a website visitor knows you and your business, the easier for you to capture their contacts.
That being said, when you set up your pop-ups make sure your visitors have had enough time to get familiar with you and your content/products/offers/services.
There are many ways to build a pop-up form and it’s impossible to cover them all in this article. This is why I will focus solely on Popup Maker (a WordPress plugin) and Mailerlite.
How to build pop-ups with Popup Maker?
1. When you install the plugin on your WordPress site, you’ll see that Popup Maker appears on your Dashboard. Click on Add Popup and give your new popup a name (only you see this) and a title (the title is what your website visitors see).
For example, your popup name could be something like Summer discount 2020. This will make it easier for your to distinguish your popups when you have many of them.
Tip – always give descriptive names to your popups so you know the purpose of each popup without having to open it.
On the other hand, your title should be more attention grabbing (since that’s what visitors see). In our example it could be Win a $50 coupon.
2. In the text field below, give your visitors a clue why they should leave their contacts. Something like We are giving away 10x$50 coupons this July. Just type your email to enter the competition is just fine. You can either collect emails directly, or include a mailto code, which will look like this:
We are giving away 10x$50 coupons this July. Just <ahref="mailto:email@example.com">type your email to enter the competition.
When the user clicks the link, their mail app will open, giving them the chance to send you and email and eventually win the $50 coupon.
3. Now it’s time to set up the triggering for you new popup. Go to the triggering section and from the drop down choose under which condition your popup should appear. In our case it’s this:
Pay attention that you should set a cookie to your trigger. The cookie will prevent the popup from showing to users who have already done a predefined action. Such an action could be successful form submission, viewing the popup in the last X days, and many others. If you do not set up a cookie, the popup will appear every time the triggering conditions are met and it will annoy your visitors.
4. Next you have to define the time delay. Put simply, you tell the popup how long it should wait before it appears. If you want to customize your popup even more, you can change its appearance and on which pages/posts you want it to pop. I won’t dig deeper into these settings as the possibilities are endless. Once you are done customizing your popup, click Publish and see how it goes. If something’s not exactly right, adjust until it satisfies you.
How to create pop-up subscription forms in Mailerlite?
If you are already using Mailerlite for your email marketing, I have some good news for you – you can create pop-up subscription forms within Mailerlite itself.
1. Go to Forms >> Create pop-up and select in which group your new subscribers would go.
2. Choose a template and start customizing it. Here’s how my dad’s look like on the user end.
3. When you are ready publish your new popup (if you have problems, follow Mailelite’s instructions).
2. Capturing leads through Header Banners
Banners, which appear in the head section of your website are less invasive and far less annoying than pop-ups. However, they are just as effective in generating leads. In case, you are still wondering what I am talking about, here is a screenshot from my LinkedIn profile. See even the largest professional social media uses header banners for capturing leads. So why shouldn’t you?
If you have a WordPress site, you can easily build such a header using Simple Banner or a similar plugin.
You may think that in the grand scheme of things a tiny header banner won’t make much of a difference. That’s what my boss thought once as well. Here’s what I am talking about – we were working on a project where we were recruiting candidates for a scholarship.
Even though the project (let’s just call it the Scholarship Fund) had its own landing page me and my colleague insisted on having a header banner on the home page of our website. It took us a week to persuade our boss into letting us put one.
It simply said Win a $5000 scholarship! Click here! Once a visitor clicked, they were immediately redirected to the Scholarship Fund landing page were they can upload their CV and apply for the $5000 scholarship.
The results were surprising even for me and my colleague as 19% of the traffic that reached the Scholarship Fund landing page came from this banner. What’s more, we had the second highest number of applicants in 5 years and almost 60% more compared to the previous year.
Of course this year we had a better looking site and a strong media presence but data doesn’t lie – header banners work. Since them we’ve been using them on various projects and even though the results are nowhere as near as staggering, top page banners helps us generate 4-5% more leads.
How to create a website header banner using Simple Banner?
1. First of all you have to install the plugin on your WordPress site
2. Select the plugin from your sidebar and start customizing. You can position the banner pretty much wherever you want. If you want it to appear on the top of your website and stay there while visitors scroll select “Static” as the default positioning.
3. In the blank field type the text of your header banner. To add links use the <a href> tagging. When done, click Save Changes and refresh your site to see how it looks.
3. Downloadble content
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to generate leads is to offer your visitors downloadable content. Probably you’ve already noticed that some websites offer you free ebooks and PDFs in exchange for your email. And while I have to admit that in same cases this could be really annoying, I have actually downloaded some valuable content sometimes.
I’m not going into the technical details how you can do that but I will tell you that of you are using Mailerlite, MailChimp or a similar email service you can set up an automation that would do the trick for you.
So what kind of content can you offer in exchange for somebody’s email?
Well pretty much everything. Here are some ideas:
– Coupons and discount codes – great for online stores but also widely used by restaurants, hotels, cafes, clubs, bakeries, and basically every business that sells something.
– Ebooks – when it comes to ebooks people think of bloggers and even writers.
Wrong! You can be a plumber and still offer an ebook that will bring value to your visitors. Just give it a catchy name like 13 reasons why you pipes leak and how to fix them alone in less than 20 minutes. Hotels can also publish ebooks on their websites – 56 places you should totally visit in (name of your area)
– Templates – you run a blog on a specific niche? Cool, you can always create a template, which your visitors can download. Can’t think of one? Well, I’ve downloaded templates like content calendars, suing patterns (don’t ask why), templates for writing a horror story and many more. The idea is, whatever your business is there is a good chance you can template it.
– Checklists – as with templates you can create checklists for practically everything available on planet Earth – 7 morning exercises for busy moms; 12 plugins for your WordPress site; The Ultimate Personal Finance Checklist; 9 quick ways to reduce stress at work... I can go on and on but you get the idea.
– Your articles – if you’re not ready yet to create a brand new content that will be available for download only, you can always save your articles in PDF and offer them to your readers. Some people prefer to save content on their e-readers and read it later.
4. Hidden content
Let’s face it – we all as user know that banners and pop-ups do not offer the best UX possible. Meanwhile, downloadable content requires automation and CTA s all over your website. Plus, it takes time to create all these templates, ebooks, PDFs or whatever it is.
The good news is, you can still generate leads without using the above-mentioned methods. Instead of building pop-ups and banners, you can create a section in your site, which is only visible to registered users.
Let’s say you’re a fashion blogger. You write about current trends, about the big names in the industry as well as the local brands that disrupt the market in a brand new way.
All of this content is publicly available on your site, right?
Now think of it from another direction. You actually visit fashion shows and fancy events when you get the chance to meet face-to-face designers, models, influencers, and the organizers themselves. You interview them and you know this is a content your audience craves.
Literally, you have an exclusive content in your hands. And since we said your audience is eager to know everything that’s fashion, you can simply keep your fashion trend insights for your core readers/followers. This is why you make these insights available for registered users only.
Now let me tell you why people will register on your site for real. They believe (and I mean that in the most positive way possible) that they will have access to an information that only a handful of other people can see.
And this, my friend, gives your readers a sense of exclusivity. When people believe they’re a part of a community, surrounded by others who share the same interests and knowledge, these people can virtually move mountains. And you want that kind of people to read your blog, right?
If you are still not convinced that hidden content is worth paying attention, I’ll give you another reason.
Google is slowly killing cookies in an effort to protect user privacy. What does that mean for your digital marketing strategy? And particularly, what does it mean for lead generation?
Well, first of all, your lead generation won’t receive a knockout blow but your tracking and your analytics will. So let me elaborate on that.
Here’s how Google Analytics (GA) works (beware, over simplification here): it installs first-party cookies on your visitor’s browser. This cookies help GA track things such as session duration, time spend on page, bounce rate, etc.
This tracking isn’t exactly correct, because GA utilizes browser cookies. Put simply, GA’s logic is like this – one cookie=one user. Needless to say, we visit websites from at least two different devices – out smartphone, and our laptop.
So far, so good – one person, two devices, which GA will count as two separate users.
But there’s more to the equation. Browser cookies tracking has another flaw. On desktop you can use 2 or more separate browsers, which means that now GA will recognize you as three different users – 1 using Firefox, 1 using Chrome, and 1 using a mobile device.
Now let’s go a little further. Almost every app on your phone has an in-app browser. This artificially pumps the number of visitors in your GA reports. Your Facebook app has an in-app browser, Instagram has an in-app browser as well. So does Gmail, and TikTok, and YouTube. The list goes on and on.
Here’s an example: Josh googles “summer glasses” on his laptop and enters your site. GA automatically isntalls a cookie on his browser (Firefox let’s say).
Josh plays around and leaves.
Josh is having a lunch break with his colleagues and decides to show them your website.
Josh googles it again on his mobile, and GA eventually installs a cookie on his web browser as well.
Two cookies so far.
Three days later he sees your ad on Facebook and clicks it. When your website loads it immediately installs a cookie on his Facebook in-app browser. It’s still Josh visitng your website but GA sees 3 cookies, which it interprets as 3 different people.
A day later, Josh sees a Gmail ad from you but this time he is using Chrome on his desktop. Here we go again – a 4 cookie is served.
This has to stop!
One way to stop this is by using the user_Id variable. Here’s where hidden content comes in.
Remember, people have to register on your site, to access your hidden content? When a registration occurs, your website creates a user_Id for it. This is how websites recognizes different signed-in users.
And the good news is user_Id never changes. The user_Id stays the same. It doesn’t change when people log on mobile or desktop or use 150 different browsers. What’s even better, you can push this user_Id variable to Google Analytics and thus ultimately improve the accuracy of your GA reports.
I hope, you understand that hidden content is not only good for generating leads but for your overall marketing efforts as well.
5. Online Courses
I want to make one thing crystal clear at the beginning – you don’t have to be a professor to educate people. You don’t have to be a superstar graduate from a fancy university to create a course. Everyone can create a course on the internet and that’s the beauty of it.
That being said, you can teach everything. It doesn’t have to be astrophysics or mathematics. Online courses are for everyone. They solve everyday problems. This is what online education is all about – solving people’s problems.
How to generate leads through online courses
Let’s go back to the example we gave earlier. You are a fashion blogger. What kind of online course would be thrilling enough for your audience? If you are not sure where to start, run a poll. Find out what problems your readers have and give them solutions in the form of online courses.
When it comes to online education many people think of video lessons. *Big thanks to Coursera and Udemy for feeding this illusion.
In fact, online courses come in different sizes and shapes. Beside video, audio formats are gaining popularity as well and hey, good ol’ text is still here. You can create a online course on pretty much any topic from fashion, to finance, and bicycle touring and wrap it in a series of emails, which will automatically send to your students every couple of days.
It doesn’t have to be video or audio episodes. You don’t need to be a good video and audio editor to put out valuable content. If writing’s your thing, your course could be emailed to students in chunks in the span of 3 weeks or you can wrap it in an ebook. Don’t let the milti-million dollar video industry fool you.
Pro tip: Understanding your audience problems is just the beginning. Giving them the solution is great. But what really matters is practice. Include exercises in your courses so that everyone taking that course could test what they’ve learned.
There are two ways to generate leads through online courses – visitors should either register on your site to gain access or they should sign up for an email automation. In both cases you get their emails. And having their emails opens up a whole new world of marketing and business opportunities.
These days webinars are more popular than ever. Moreover, they offer a great way to generate more leads and ultimately build a stronger relationship with your audience. Similarly to online courses, the main goal of webinars is to give people valuable and practical information (aka educate them) on a certain topic.
I won’t go into details how to structure your webinar or which platform you should use but I will indeed draft a quick funnel, which works just fine.
If you’ve never hosted a webinar before, you might be tempted to use fancy platforms, which of course come with a price. My advice is to stay away from them until you’ve validated your idea and people actually attend your events.
So if it’s your first time hosting a webinar, I highly recommend building your lead generation funnel as simply as possible.
Step 1 – The first step is to let people know about your event. You can do so by pop-ups, header banners, and different sign up forms on your website. Additionally, you can run targeted ads on popular social media channels.
Step 2 – In both cases, people will hit your CTA. This is where the registration process takes place. Keep the signed up form super tight. Ask for a name and an email only. Longer sign up forms have much higher drop-off rates, so don’t ask for more than you need. If you want to learn more about your audience, send them a poll after the webinar.
Step 3 – Once people give you their email addresses, you can immediately send them an email with a link to your webinar. In your email, don’t forget to include the exact date an hour of your webinar.
Which platforms to use for your webinar?
Webinarjam is the ultimate place for webinars, but since this your first time you can choose from plenty of free platforms you are already familiar with – Google Meets, Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube live.
Perhaps the easiest way is to use Google Meets. You just have to create your meeting in advance and copy the meeting link. Then you will send the meeting link in your email from step 3. The same is valid for Zoom meetings.
If you want to use Facebook Live, I highly recommend you host your webinar in a private group specifically created for this purpose. The problem here is that not everyone uses Facebook, meaning you might lose some leads.
YouTube live is another way to host a webinar completely for free. However, keep in mind that you have to verify your account in order to live stream. The process is simple – YouTube will send a verification code to your phone. It may take up to 24 hours before your account is verified. Then you’ll be able to schedule upcoming live streams. Once you’re done creating your event, copy the event link and put it in the email in step 3.
Newsletters have been around since the dawn of the internet and they are still widely used today. I’d even say they are the oldest online lead generation tool.
Since newsletters are extremely popular and virtually everyone uses them, it’s not exactly easy to get people to subscribe for yet another newsletter. From my experience, I can tell that the content on your website must be spectacular, otherwise nobody will be interested in your newsletters.
Speaking of spectacular content, don’t ever put your latest blogpost in a newsletter. A good newsletter gives something more than just a blogpost that’s been published on your site. Your audience is not stupid – they will find your blogpost even if you don’t email it.
Perhaps here’s the right time to make one crucial difference between newsletters and promotional emails. People subscribe to promotional emails to receive news about sales and discount codes. On the other hand, newsletter subscribers crave valuable content. They need that information on a certain topic you cover. Do not disappoint them with salesy shit.
How to generate leads with newsletters?
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, subscription forms and pop-ups as well as top page banners will do the magic. Since I am a big fan of Mailerlite, I’ll show you how to create newsletter subscription form for your site. However, if you use another email service the steps are almost the same so keep reading.
1. In Mailerlite go to Forms >> Embedded Forms >> Create Embedded Form
2. Give your form a name. This is for you only. So a “Newsletter form” is just fine. Save and continue.
3. Select the group to which you want to subscribe your visitors and continue to the next step.
4. Welcome to the drag&drop builder. Here you can customize your embedded form so it reflects the design of your website.
5. Once you’re done editing, copy the HTML code, which Mailerlite has generated for you, and paste it on the pages you want it to appear. You can also use the official Mailerlite WordPress plugin if you are not into manually adding codes.
Obviously, lead generation is a giant topic and this article just scratches the surface but I really wanted to show you that there are simple ways you can use to generate leads. Some of them you’ll learn on the go, others require a bit of technical knowledge but you can start small and add more and more lead generation techniques to your digital marketing over time.
If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer you in the comments below.