Lead Generation Marketing – The Lead Gen Success Blueprint
Free name acquisition, sometimes known as 2-step or lead generation marketing, is an important component of many business models. But for some business, I think it’s fair to say that it’s truly the lifeline of the business.
Before we get into why, let’s take a step back and define exactly what we mean by lead gen. For purposes of this discussion, we mean acquiring the email address of someone who hasn’t made a purchase. They may have signed up to receive a free e-letter or free report. But they haven’t bought anything from you…not yet.
Of course new names are the lifeblood of our business. Without a steady stream of new customers, our businesses will shrivel up and die. Many products and services are able to keep the tap open with traditional advertising methods: banner ads on websites, PPC, renting lists, swapping e-letter files, etc.
But this doesn’t work for everyone. Some markets — and we see this frequently with our clients outside the United States — are extremely protective, not allowing any competitive advertising. So banner ads on websites or list swaps are out. In other markets, the regulatory environment is so strict that the Agora style of advertising — over-the-top and in-your-face — won’t fly. Google won’t allow it, nor will other companies. In these situations, lead gen can be an invaluable source of names. In fact, it may be one of your only sources!
But lead gen isn’t easy and Google has made it even tougher over the years. So we feel the best way forward is to give Google exactly what they want and what they reward – a content-rich valuable experience for their users. Here’s how…
Google rewards sites that are content-rich, often by allowing them to do things that they may not permit elsewhere. For example, a few years ago, Google came down hard on advertisers using the ‘free report’ model. Many companies were using this tactic to ‘name harvest’, promising a free report on any topic under the sun in exchange for an email address.
On the surface, that seems fair – free information in exchange for an email address. So what’s the problem? The problem was that many of these businesses — and free reports — were shams, of no substantive value whatsoever. They simply were after as many names as they could get so they could sell them other stuff, spam them with unwanted email, and probably sell or trade the addresses. Not healthy business practices, to be sure.
Google came down hard on these practices, and even legitimate businesses like Agora suffered from the Google slap and had their accounts suspended. Most sites were no longer allowed to offer free reports for an email sign-up. The onus shifted on to the businesses, to prove they were providing valuable content that readers wanted, and not simply harvesting names.
Enter the microsite. The idea behind the microsite is to target a single topic and laser focus on one call to action (CTA), typically a sale or other conversion. Because a regular website often has lots of different objectives (fulfillment, customer service, SEO, lead gen, etc.), it’s usually not as focused as a microsite is.
The microsite is made as heavy in content as possible, with at least 30 to 40 articles for launch, and new content being added on a regular basis. You can create new content specifically for the microsite, repurpose old content, have guest contributors, or a combination of all of these. Just be careful not to duplicate content from another site, or Google may penalize you for that.
Once you’ve built up a significant content archive, Google will recognize that the site is providing valuable content that will enrich the reader’s experience. So it’s more likely that they will allow you to advertise a free report for a sign-up. This has been our experience in the UK market, where we’ve successfully used this free report lead gen/microsite model for years in an area Google typically hates (health).
The UK model is nothing terribly innovative. What’s remarkable is that Google has allowed us to continue using it — and quite successfully — when so many others weren’t permitted to. Here’s the model…
We developed microsites based on a single health topic – heart health, prostate, diabetes, etc. Ideally, we have a doctor or health authority for credibility, but this isn’t always necessary, as long as you have significant, credible content. We create text or image ads based on the health issue, or an aspect of the issue. For example, high blood pressure, natural treatments for blood pressure, cholesterol, statins, etc. In many cases, we actually mention the free report in the ad copy. Not a problem with the microsite to back it up.
We use a squeeze page hosted on the microsite.
- Credibility – Editors’ and doctor’s names and photos prominent with anchor links to their full bios. Customer testimonials in right rail.
- Copy explaining exactly what they’re getting – free report plus free e-letter. It’s important to be up front about the terms, so there are no surprises. And emphasize that people can easily unsub at any time.
- Host the landing page on the microsite so people can link to the content archives and easily access all of the free valuable content, in addition to signing up for the free report. We really don’t want them to link off this page, but it’s necessary so they — and Google — can see the content is there if they want it.
- Free report is specific to the issue advertised, i.e. cholesterol ads get a cholesterol report; blood pressure ads get a blood pressure report.
People who sign-up for the free report are added to an e-letter list specific to the health issue to which they responded. In the introductory “gauntlet” phase, they get content specific to that issue, with other health topics sprinkled in. After about 2 weeks, they’ll merge into the larger e-letter file, which covers a wider range of topics.
Using this model, we’re finding some names are paying for themselves within the first 2-3 months, which is an excellent result for lead gen names. Of course, the thank you pages, email confirmations and gauntlets play a critical part in the process and should be monitored closely and tweaked as necessary. It won’t do you any good to bring on free names if they don’t respond to your offerings.
When you use lead gen in conjunction with a content-heavy microsite, you can open the funnel much wider by providing a valuable, content-rich experience for the reader, and gradually introducing them to your product range in a thoughtful, strategic, benefit-oriented manner. Beneficial for you as well as the customer. That’s a win-win!
Account Manager, AIM