Anyone reading this article has in interest in growing their business. Whether selling a product or services, they are interested in figuring out how to get more customers.
The easiest way to become overwhelmed is to see all of this as a bunch of inaccessible programs and algorithms and lose sight of the fact that ordinary people are making the buying and selling decisions.
An important thing to keep in mind is that anyone reading this article is looking to draw customers to their business in much the same way they themselves were drawn to this article. Even though everyone is plugged into this massive seemingly endless digital miracle, it is all being used by ordinary people with goals and motivations.
The potential customer, the lead, approaches their purchases the same way someone approaches an article like this. They identify a need and decide to learn more about it. Often they will do an internet search to either find what want or try to figure out what that actually is. If this article comes up in a search result, it will be because terms like “lead generation,” “seo,” “online marketing,” are used. A customer that knows they want to buy a car might know the exact make and model they want. They might search “Honda Civic near me.” They might know they want a four-door hatchback that is pet friendly.
Or they may know only that they want to buy a new car. They don’t know what kind of car to get. They may not have even really identified their needs yet. The person reading this article may have started with this article, or they may need to read a lot of more basic stuff first before they know lead generation is thing to learn more about. They may start by doing a lot of searching and reading before they get from “how do I grow my business?” to “lead generation.”
Chasing the Lead
A journalist or a detective chasing a lead is usually looking for information that will propel the story or the case forward. An investor chasing a lead is looking for information that could lead to a profitable investment. For a business with goods or services to sell, a lead is a person who is also looking for a lead. It’s important to remember this. In sales, leads want to be found. The leads are looking to be found.
In fact, the leads feel better when they do the finding, the discovery. Today’s consumer usually resents being targeted and the discovery seems more valuable when they feel they discovered it for themselves.
It is a weird transactional relationship, because both the buyer and seller is looking, but neither wants to seem too obvious about it.
What is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process getting the attention of a potential customer. Lead generation is match-making, connecting a business that has a good or service with a random stranger out in the vast internet looking for those goods or services. The internet is a great equalizer and democratizer. People no longer have to rely on businesses with a local reach. Businesses must not only compete with local businesses, they also have to compete with every business in the world that has positioned themselves to take advantage of the internet.
Lead generation is capturing the attention of potential customers, and there are a lot of ways to do that online. Many of these ways are a natural evolution of tactics used in the real world. For example, instead of renting a billboard near a highway, a business can buy a banner ad on a popular website. Many of these ways, however, are wholly new and have no easy analog to the real world. That is where systems like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Content Marketing, and link building come into play. These are entirely new terms for new methods for capitalizing on a still relatively new and dynamically evolving marketplace.
Examples of Online lead generation.
There are many types and strategies for online lead generation, but they all use the same basic forms of digital media: conventional websites, social media, and email. Not only is this an oversimplification, but new media are developed and popularized all the time. However, for the purposes of explaining lead generation and helping to also generate some ideas and interest in the subject, oversimplification might be a good strategy to start with.
Essentially, everything online lives at websites. When customers go looking for something, it is Facebook or a fan site for collectors of old coins, they usually look for or wind up at websites.
The goal then is to have some control over where people wind up. Someone who develops a great new way to store coin collections should try to get their product talked about on every website that caters to collectors of old coins. They should also develop their own websites. They should have a digital storefront where their goods can be easily purchased, and maybe even have a blog where they create content for people interested in coin collecting.
When business want to attract customers, they may use email marketing. They may establish a presence on social media. They may buy advertising in a constantly growing advertising marketplace.
Another important way to attract customers who get online searching for the same products or services using Search Engine Optimization. SEO is used to get top ranking on search engines with a variety of key words.
Probably the most common way to find goods and services is through a search engine. Someone who wants to find a new way to store their old coins will go online and type in key words. Perhaps “old coins,” “coin collecting,” and “storage.” Someone who is just learning about lead generation might type “lead generation,” “how to generate leads,” or “what is lead generation?”
Experts SEO and online marketing learn how the different search engines crawl the web for content and they exploit this as much as possible to figure out how to get top ranking for those keywords. The clever inventor who developed a new storage for coins has to compete with all of the old storage methods as well as any new storage methods. If their website is buried behind twenty pages of search results, nobody is ever going to know their clever invention exists.
Search engines, like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, want to provide the most relevant results to every user. All the search engines are in competition with each other to provide the best user experience.
What if there are ten different clever inventors that invented ten different products for coin collectors? How does the search engine decide which results to show first? It’s not like the search engine has employees testing each product and determining who’s product is best.
In a way the relationship between the search engines and the businesses that the customers are looking for are in an antagonistic relationship. Both the search engines and the businesses want to make the customer happy, but the businesses are trying to manipulate the way search results operate, and search engines are constantly trying to evade those exploitations and provide search results that are as organic and under their control as possible.
Search engines try to provide the most relevant results by first matching the key words as closely as possible. Then they will pick the ones that seem to be the most popular with others. Not strictly the websites that get the most traffic, but also websites that get linked to the most by other websites. Think of it as digital word of mouth. If a lot of people are talking about a website or a product, then that will show up closer to the top in searches.
SEO marketing companies promise to help the business with this. They look at the website, at the content, at the business goals, and they try to figure out ways to capitalize on the way the search engines work and the way leads—potential customers—behave.
It's important to know how customers think and act in the digital age. It’s also important to have some degree of digital literacy. A good analogy for this is knowing about how cars work. The customer doesn’t need to know how to rebuild an engine and install breaks to save money. A basic working knowledge of car maintenance and knowing how to diagnose some issues by the way the car runs and sounds in different circumstances can help save loads of time and money. The customer can save time if they know just the specialist to go to and they can protect themselves from shady or incompetent mechanics. Likewise, the internet business can save time and money if they have a good idea what their goals are.
Sometimes the best option is to start a relationship with an SEO expert, lead generation specialist, or a digital marketing company that has the experience and tools to take care of the marketing and advertising aspects of the business. The best companies will want their clients to have at least a basic awareness of digital literacy, because those people will have a more solid idea of their wants and needs and will be best able to communicate with their marketing experts.