Every firm wants more leads. Here are some critical tips to get the most out of your lead generation investments of time and money.
Leads. Leads. Leads. When it comes to growth, successful lead generation is the lifeblood of your firm’s financial well-being. But as the nature of the B2B buying journey continues to evolve, so have the challenges in lead generation. Lead generation strategies are now centered on standing out in a crowded marketplace and reaching the right client, with the right issue, at the right time. Purchasing decisions are increasingly being made by teams within organizations. Buyers are coming in well prepared and better educated through online exploration of their issues and options.
Against this backdrop, many firms are struggling to respond to a sea of diverse client preferences: Lean back content or lean-in content? White papers or podcasts? Webinars or in-person events? Given the universe of marketing tactics (both online and off), how can you make decisions about which lead generation activities will work best for your firm? Let’s revisit a few of the principles that can help you bring clarity to your overall approach, focus your resources, and guide your tactics now and in the future.
1. SHARPEN YOUR POINT OF VIEW
According to publishing data, over 1 billion hours of new content flooded the digital landscape in 2020 — that’s more than 1.4 million lifetimes of content! And it’s only getting worse. So there is a lot of noise around the problems your clients have and where they need help.
If you don’t focus on helping your potential clients understand their problem and why you are part of the solution, you’re likely to struggle to attract and engage quality leads. Your content needs to communicate what your expertise is, why it is different, and how it is relevant to the specific issues your clients are facing.
To cut through your firm has to develop a unique and compelling POV on every topic you choose to address. Before implementing any lead generation tactic, make sure you are crystal clear on:
- Who you serve
- The problems you solve
- How you solve them
- Proof of merit (examples of firms successfully solving problems in the way you suggest and real data to confirm it)
2. LEVERAGE BOTH CONTENT MARKETING AND THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
In the marketing world, many think that thought leadership is a type of content, the same way that blogs, eBooks, or webinars are a type of content. But in reality, the terms are not interchangeable. Here’s a look at some important distinctions and how you can utilize both to ramp up your lead generation pipeline.
Content marketing is generally built to provide tactical answers to fairly straightforward business questions. How do I optimize my articles for search? What should a video content strategy look like? Which lead generation activities work best? McKinsey has had great success driving traffic to its website with its “explainer series.” See this recent example – “What is Generative AI?”. It’s useful content. It educates you on a subject. And, it brings you into a high-level relationship with the McKinsey brand and its website.
Thought leadership takes a different approach. It deals with complex issues that often have complex solutions. The goal of thought leadership is often to find better, proven, more elegant solutions to these types of problems. It seeks to carve out a point of view on the big issues shaping the future of the markets and the clients your firm serves. It has to be deeply rooted in a unique, forward-thinking perspective. McKinsey is also legendary at developing high-quality thought leadership that shapes how clients think about pressing topics. They use it to spark interest in developing a dialogue about how to approach a pressing business issue. See this recent example, “Why businesses need explainable AI—and how to deliver it.”
Pay attention to when and how your firm can use both content marketing and thought leadership to generate leads. Content marketing can be an effective “top of the pipeline” tactic that draws people into a relationship with your firm and your brand when they’re looking to get generally situated around a topic they’re exploring. Whereas an amazing piece of thought leadership can go a step further, enabling a potential client to more fully assess, identify with, and decide how to solve a pressing issue. The latter is more likely to lead to a direct conversation with your firm.
3. STOP TALKING AT PEOPLE AND START TALKING WITH THEM
Today most firms have embraced a digital-first publishing model. They’re prioritizing lean back (videos, podcasts, and webinars) over lean in content (blogs, articles, and white papers). But the problem remains that these are still largely delivered as one-way experiences.
The web is the most interactive medium ever invented. Yet many of us continue to underutilize it. We over-rely on it as a one-way publishing platform for videos and blogs. In one of our recent studies, we asked consulting firms what they were doing in terms of lead generation. Interestingly, the activities they were investing in the most were the oldest and obvious — outbound email, organic social media — things they’ve been doing for a really long time. And the tactics firms tend to be investing in the least are assessments, chat bots, and interactivity — tools that can actually move clients into a conversation.
This could be an ideal time to invest where others aren’t — In other words, zig when they zag. Generating successful leads (and getting hired by a client) requires a two-way interaction. So why not get the conversation going? Here are two ways to get started:
Leverage Assessments: Interactive assessments, such as industry benchmarking tools, can attract prospects that have a specific pain point or need to complete a specific task. The assessment lets clients answer 10-15 questions about their situation in order to receive some preliminary insights and recommendations. So instead of just reading about a topic, clients could compare their current state against a benchmark you’ve established through your thought leadership research. The process gives potential clients an opportunity to request a conversation about the results of their assessment to activate the sales process. And you can use the intelligence provided back from the assessment tool to have a more meaningful and effective first conversation.
Engage Visitors with Live Chat: If your first thought was “Ugh, chat,” you’re not alone. So let me preface this point by saying, “well-designed chat tools.” If your firm has published more content in the last three months than in the last three years (which is true for many of us), clients may arrive at your site and literally have no idea where to start. They may have a fuzzy sense of a problem they’re trying to solve for, but your site carries hundreds of thought leadership pieces, case studies, and solutions pages. Without some direction, chances are they’ll bounce without leaving any information.
A first way to employ a chat tool is to structure it like a “digital concierge” — a resource that can direct a potential client to the content they might find useful based on a question they ask or a big business problem they identify. In essence, you’re starting the conversation — What are you trying to solve for? What do you want to learn more about? Here are the most valuable assets we have that can help you find your path.
Only a handful of firms have even dipped their toe into these waters. But the potential is massive. If you’re using well-designed, well-built chat bots on your site (or a mix of humans and bots), collecting leads can be almost automatic. Widgets can pop up at the most impactful time to see if your visitor has any questions. And the bot plays a major role in connecting your prospect to a BDM whenever they want to begin that all-important first conversation.
IT’S TIME TO THINK ABOUT NEXT GEN LEAD GENERATION
The adoption of new technologies will continue as professional services firms incorporate AI and other solutions into their websites to increase interactivity. Some of these digital approaches might not be things you want to do right now. But you’ll need to think about doing them in the future.
Will It take $100,000 to make your website more bi-directional? It’s a question I hear a lot. And my answer is always the same: The investment you make is a function of the outcomes you want to achieve. There’s nothing wrong with making an investment at that scale if the projected returns will support it. Once you have the data and the business case for the upside revenue you’re going to create, you’ll have a good idea of what you’ll need to invest to get there.