It seems like everywhere I turn these days, I find articles and webinars espousing the merits of the “lead generating” website. Write a bunch of blogs, throw together a couple of e-books, stick them behind some forms, and you’ll have more business than you’ll know what to do with. The inbound marketing experts have even gone so far as to tell us that if we increase our number of landing pages from 10 to 15, we’ll increase our number of leads by 55%. But, isn’t that sort of like saying that if I toss more night crawlers in the water, I’ll catch more fish? What if those extra 55% turn out to be a collection of blowfish and barracuda ready to poison or eat me? Maybe I was fishing in the wrong spot, or with the wrong bait, huh?
#1 – A Lead is Just, Well, a Lead
Ultimately, a lead is nothing more than a clue to a possible sale. When a site visitor downloads your e-book that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve taken the first step towards buying your service. It’s quite possible they’re researching a topic that relates to your service. Or, it could simply, and often does, mean they were just interested in your e-book — nothing more, nothing less. That someone could become a client someday. But, for now, they’re still just someone who downloaded your e-book because the topic interested them. So, before we celebrate the fact that our 5 extra landing pages increased our leads by 55%, let’s remember that the act of conversion is just a first, very small step towards turning a faceless site visitor into a paying customer for your organization. Some of these folks are truly leads for your firm others are simply identifiable site visitors that downloaded your content.
#2 – Generating a Lead is Not the Purpose of Your Site
Let us not confuse the act of generating a lead with the purpose of our site. When you think about it, generating a lead is sort of like getting a first down. It’s a good thing. It means we’re heading in the right direction. But, the last time I checked, the team with the most first downs doesn’t automatically win the game. The fundamental purpose of a professional service firm’s website is to set the process in motion for a potential client to become a paying client. Therefore, the site should be designed to slowly and systematically guide an unknown site visitor closer to a conversation with your business development folks. To do this we need to not only attract the potential client, but also educate them and nurture them over time. And, usually, these activities occur well after that first conversion. When we place all our focus on building a “lead generating website” we’re largely dismissing all the critical work that occurs after the conversion.
#3 – Generating a Lead is an Outcome Not an Objective
Last fall, we conducted a survey of professional services firms that were already substantially committed to content marketing. The purpose of the survey was to determine if firms that use marketing automation software achieved better business outcomes from their content marketing efforts. By and large, we concluded that they likely did.
But, we also concluded something far more interesting than that. We asked firms to tell us what the primary purpose of their website was. They were given three options and asked to select one. The options and responses were:
- To Showcase Past Experience – 83% of respondents selected this.
- To Generate Leads – 13% of respondents selected this.
- To Educate and Inform Potential Clients – Only 1 firm selected this.
As it turns out, the one firm that selected option 3 was also the highest performing firm in the study. In fact, this particular firm was generating 45% of its leads online and recognizing 27% of its annual revenue from its website. This is not to say that firms focused on lead generation were not successful. But, as it turns out, they were actually less successful than our top performing firm, which was focused on educating and informing potential clients.
Educate and Inform People and Business Follows
Ultimately the purpose of valuable content is to position your company as an expert within your field. When you focus all your energy on generating a lead, potential customers sense it, and are turned away. By contrast, when you focus all your energy on educating and informing your ideal clients on issues that matter to them, potential clients can feel it, and are drawn to it. Ultimately, if your content is intelligent, helpful and well distributed you’ll generate plenty of quality leads and business will follow.