5 steps to turn your website into a lead generation machine
Converting online visitors into leads requires more than creating a website and hoping for the best.
August 18, 2014
Buyers searching for accounting expertise are increasingly turning online. Our research shows that 80% of clients look at firms’ websites to evaluate them, far outstripping other sources of information such as formal references (55%).
But turning online visitors into leads takes more than creating a website and hoping for the best. Here are five essential steps to help you make the most of your site.
1. Develop a content marketing strategy
Some firms post little content on their sites, treating their online presence as a digital billboard. Other firms see the need for content like news and blog posts, yet they go about it the easy way, syndicating content from an association or buying stock content from a vendor.
To draw visitors, you need to offer unique educational resources. Readers can find stock content anywhere, and it may not match the personality or positioning of your firm. Develop a strategy laying out the types of educational content you can produce. This could include blogs, white papers, ebooks, podcasts, videos, and webinars.
Your content should have a tone, tack, and complexity appropriate for your audience—something written for CFOs won’t do much good if your firm’s message targets CEOs. Just as importantly, your content needs to be relevant to your audience’s needs, helping readers solve problems and demonstrating your expertise. Also, remember to provide content at various levels of depth: An ebook or a webinar will treat a topic in greater detail than a blog post. Why is this so important? That brings us to our next step...
2. Craft an offer strategy
To engage your readers more closely, you need to give them an intuitive way to go deeper. That means including attractively designed offers with all of your content pieces. These should be bold and straightforward, informing visitors of other relevant content that may interest them.
On a blog post, you might include an offer for a free ebook download in the sidebar, requesting the visitor’s email address in exchange. You could show the ebook cover and use an arresting headline to grab the reader’s attention.
With a user’s email address in hand, you can now offer content like webinars right in the user’s inbox. Similarly, you might include an offer for a free consultation in your ebook.
3. Consider usability and functionality
Website design is about more than aesthetics. Content also needs to be easy to find and use. For instance, you’ll want to include a blog and resource library linked prominently on your home page.
When you ask users to exchange personal information for a piece of content, it’s important to make the form easy to fill out and submit. It should have clear form-fills and calls-to-action. Ask only for information that’s absolutely necessary (like email addresses). The more details you require, the more likely users are to tune out. Clearly explain exactly what will happen when a user submits the form.
The site should promote the offers you’ve designed. There should be a sidebar or similar space on your blog where offers may sit prominently beside your posts. Many visitors are viewing sites through mobile devices, so ideally your page should be “responsively” designed to render attractively on phones and tablets.
Sites must load quickly. Elements of usability from load time to site structure impact not only your current audience’s experience but also your ability to attract new visitors. Why? The answer lies in...
4. Focus on search engine optimization and social media
Even if you’ve produced the most compelling content in the industry, you need a way for visitors to find it. That’s where SEO comes in. Search engine algorithms take many factors into account when presenting searchers with the most relevant results, and increasingly those algorithms seek to present people with the best possible user experience.
Google searches not only for relevant keywords on your site, but also considers your site structure (is it logical?), load times, and many other factors. To rank high in searches, a website needs to be targeted to an audience’s needs and to be user-friendly. Posts don’t need to be crammed with keywords—just use them naturally a few times in a given post and in your headlines. Write content for people first and foremost, while being mindful of the algorithms.
Take this same, people-first approach to other forms of inbound marketing, such as guest blogging and link earning. By creating quality educational content for other reputable sites, you can build your visibility and draw new visitors to your site.
The idea that your content must be high-quality and worth sharing lies behind the notion of link earning: instead of shady or outdated practices like buying links and submitting your site to directories, earn your links by creating content that engages your industry. Promote your content directly through social channels such as LinkedIn. Our research showed that 60% of buyers evaluate potential providers using social media.
5. Plan for lead nurturing
Think of this concept as the foot on the pedal of your lead generation engine, driving you forward steadily and continuously. Remember those offers and the way visitors could exchange an email address for a piece of premium content like an ebook? This is the first step in an ongoing strategy to nurture your leads and connect them with opportunities that match their needs. For visitors early in the sales funnel, this will mean more information through educational content to help them solve minor problems. Later, it could mean engaging your services.
Email marketing that is closely integrated with your website will allow you to provide more targeted offers. When a visitor downloads an ebook related to problems in a service area, you can offer that person more targeted assistance with a webinar. This process helps leads qualify themselves, coming to you when the need arises.
The key to an effective lead generation strategy is keeping it continuous. You won’t see results overnight—this is a process that has to accelerate through ongoing content, promotion, and nurture. Once you start in earnest, you can use analytics to iterate and improve your strategy, examining where leads are coming from, who those leads are, and which content is most effective. This will allow you to further tailor your work to changes in your marketplace and the needs of your clients.
When you put the effort in, you can create a website that supports ongoing growth for your firm, bringing in leads who already know how you think…and who are ready for your services.
Lee Frederiksen, Ph.D., is the managing partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm that specializes in the professional services industry.