November 10, 2017

Lead Generation 101: Getting Started


(Guest post by Ina Simeonova of SalesWings)

Leads are the lifeblood of every real estate organization. They feed your sales pipeline and (hopefully) become the valued customers that keep you in business. Without leads, your business would most certainly die ― which is why effective lead generation is so critical.

Equally critical is what you do with leads once you generate them. Determining which leads are hot and should be followed up with is a tricky task, and you certainly don’t want to waste time on leads that can’t or won’t end up making a purchase. You also need to manage those leads to build relationships that lead to sales. But how often should you contact them? And what’s the best thing to say? Most professionals opts for a real estate CRM.

But the truth is that no piece of technology can help if your business isn’t generating leads. Of course, you can generate leads in person by attending events and meeting people. But a large portion of purchases are made online today, and even the ones that aren’t usually start with some sort of Internet research. So the vast majority of your lead generation marketing efforts are best invested in digital strategies.

Lead Generation Basics: Attract or Buy?

The primary ways to generate leads online are purchasing lead data, paying for traffic to your website or generating traffic organically to your website with original content. Companies like InsideView, Leadiro and DiscoverOrg offer data services that you can purchase to generate leads. But buying leads means that you’ll be doing cold intros, which are more difficult to navigate than warm ones. You can also consider using lead generation marketing strategies like PPC and social media advertising. The cost per click will vary depending on the social media channel you use, as well as what keywords you target. And be sure to set a budget for how much you’re willing to spend.

In organic lead generation marketing, you draw traffic to your website for free with SEO. Creating content that is search engine optimized increases your rank in results on search engines like Google. As a result, more people discover your website. Those people can choose to give you their information in exchange for helpful content in the form of eBooks or whitepapers that you offer. They then become warm leads (because they opted to interact with your company). Content acts as a warm introduction. Those warm leads can more easily be nurtured and turned into hot leads.

Some teams opt to use a combination of paid and organic lead generation. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on the latter and share a common B2B lead generation strategy for filling the sales pipeline. This strategy can easily be translated to real estate sales.

The Importance of Good Content

It all starts with your content. Come up with a list of topics that your target audience (i.e. potential real estate buyers and sellers) cares about. Note that the topics don’t have to be directly related to your business or service, but they should be relevant to your industry. Use an SEO tool like Moz to perform keyword research and identify terms that you could target with those topics. Choose 5 primary keywords and 10-15 secondary keywords to focus on. Then try reworking your current website content (including your homepage, landing pages, contact forms, etc.) to include some of those keywords. Avoid “keyword stuffing,” where you overload the content with keywords just to get SEO power. You’ll also want to implement those keywords on the website’s description and meta data.

The more search engine optimized content you create, the higher search engines will rank your website for those keywords. That’s why many businesses publish blogs on a regular basis. Blogging can also be a great tool to generate brand awareness (tell your story) and educate prospects about topics that matter to them. Although it does require an investment of time and resources, but the content’s value is evergreen. Publishing content about your service or industry also positions you as a thought leader who cares about educating and informing people. Your leads will see you as an expert and feel like they can trust you with their business.

To get the most out of this strategy, you should invest in authoritative content. Tools like Buzzsumo can show you what content currently ranks for your target keywords. You can often outrank them by publishing top-quality content, but only if what you create is best-in-class (i.e. authoritative content). Some ways you can do this are to use more research, go more in-depth on the topics or features expert interviews. Be sure to include the target keyword in the headline, subhead, body copy, meta description, URL and alt text of any images for SEO in each post.

You can supplement this strategy with special types of content like eBooks, checklists, and whitepapers. For each piece of content you create, you can use tools like Unbounce and Instapage and create a landing page with information about what people get out of reading the content, as well as a form that they need to fill out to access it. This allows you to collect contact information for your website visitors. You can drive website traffic to those landing pages with CTAs in blog posts and across your website. Be generous with the quality and quantity of the content you freely offer in exchange for a lead’s information. They will appreciate it and think highly of your professional brand.

Utilize Strategic Communication and Distribution

You can also drive traffic to your website with social media. To decide what channels you want to focus on, consider where your audience spends their time; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are all popular networks for content distribution. Then determine how often you want to post on each network. In general, posting on each channel three times a week is a good rule of thumb to follow. You can use the channels to promote your content, but can perceive you as overly promotional if that’s all you post. Mix it up with posts from partner blogs or articles about industry trends. Interacting with other social media users will also earn you more engagement in the form of likes, followers and shares.

Another way to direct traffic to your website with content is via email marketing. Create a newsletter and send it out to your contacts on a regular basis. In your newsletter, you can include links to blogs, landing pages or other places on your website. Make the newspaper look professional, but make the content you include short enough that it holds a reader’s attention. You can try out a few different subject lines and email formats to see what gets the highest open and click-through rates. Then adjust your strategy based on what you find out. We recommend not sending out a newsletter more than four times a month. Otherwise, your leads might unsubscribe or mark you as spam, both of which prevent you from ever emailing them again.

Staying on top of mind by engaging with your audience can also create brand awareness and indirectly drive people to directly to your website. One way to do this is through organizing educational webinars, where you have the opportunity to answer questions people have directly. You can also test out a live chat option on your website. With live chat, website visitors can quickly engage with you in a form of communication they’re used to using: chat messaging. Both of these act as another platform for engaging with leads, which ultimately allows you to share your message and nurture relationships.

A Quick Note on Optimizing Conversions Rates

The real value you get from driving traffic to your website is when people fill out forms and convert into leads. These can be forms for contacting your business, receiving a free consultation or accessing the authoritative content you produce. Of course, not every single website visitor will fill out a form. But you can test out different types of forms to see which ones receive the highest conversion rates. Depending on what kind of software you use to generate forms, you can test out form location, copy and even size of the “submit” button. At the very least, test out the form fields you ask users to fill out (i.e. should you ask for just their name and email, or their name, email and telephone number?)

The same goes with the content on your landing pages. Measure the number of leads that fill out the form on the landing page versus how many of them visit the landing page and don’t fill out the form over a 30-day period. That’s your landing page’s original conversion rate. Document the original landing page copy (the title, description and call-to-action), then moderately adjust it and measure the conversion rate over that same period of time. If the conversion rate increased, keep the new language. If it decreased, revert back to the previous version of the landing page copy. Continue to iterate and test potential optimizations for both landing pages and forms. The results can surprise you. Sometimes language we think will resonate better with potential buyers actually ends up performing worse.

You’ve Generated Leads. Now What?

If your lead generation efforts are successful, you’ll need to capture and track a lot of information. This is, again, where a real estate CRM like Contactually can be extremely helpful. It can also help you manage relationships with those leads. But here’s the catch: Not all leads are created equal. How can you determine where the best sales will come from?

This is where intelligent lead scoring software comes in. Saleswings, for example, tracks when leads visit your website and which pages they visited. The system marks leads who visit your website more often, and spend time on sales-ready pages (such as a pricing information page or demo request  page), as “hot” and prioritizes them for sales follow up. Leads who interact with your website and content rarely (or never) will be marked as “cold.” If a cold lead suddenly starts interacting with your website again, their label will be updated to “warm.” This helps you understand which leads you should nurture and spend your time on.

Many of your leads will likely need a little nurturing before they’re sales-ready. Add them to your newsletter email list so they get regular digital communication from you. You can connect with them on social media, too. An intelligent real-time contact data enrichment (like the one SalesWings offers) can pull information from a person’s social media profiles, giving you more comprehensive views of the leads you’re trying to close, allowing you to easily and successfuly qualify those leads. Another way to stay top-of-mind with your hottest leads is to set up a cadence for how often you want to call them over the phone. Contactually’s CRM can actually do this for you. It also offers free message templates and tips for personalizing them.

All of this information is a lot to take in, so let’s review: Lead generation can either be paid or organic. You can purchase lead information or pay for traffic to come to your website. Or you can generate organic traffic by creating content. Most teams do a combination of both. In order for your content to generate traffic, it must be high-quality and tailored for SEO. Use multiple channels to distribute your content and run tests to optimize conversion rates for landing pages and forms on your website. Then manage and nurture the leads that you generate so they they’ll convert to sales opportunities. This is the basic framework of an effective B2B lead generation strategy, but real estate firms and professionals can also utilize it to fee their pipeline.