If you ask Frank Kern, lead generation is easy. But he’ll also tell you that all the leads you get are going to be completely worthless unless you have a predictable system in place to turn them into sales. Put another way, not only would it be a waste of your money to get 10,000 leads you couldn’t turn into sales, it would actually cost you money.
First let’s start by establishing what a lead is. A lead is someone who expresses interest in your product or service by giving you their contact information along with their permission to send them information.
So where do you find those leads and turn them into sales?
Targeting your audience on Facebook
There is search engine and SEO, but Kern calls that a shaky foundation upon which to build your castle, because it’s difficult to control if you don’t have the expertise. There’s also search engine advertising like Google AdWords, and social media advertising, like Facebook ads.
Kern considers Facebook ads to be the big pillar of online generation right now. He admits he once thought Facebook was “for people just messing around,” but has since changed his opinion and thinks it just keeps getting better. Why?
Facebook Ads Manager, because you can target the audience that sees your ads based on their demographics. You can create custom audiences, which are the people who have already shown an interest in your business based on your contacts, site traffic, or mobile app; or you can create lookalike audiences, which are people who are similar to audiences you already care about using people who like your page, conversion pixels, or custom audiences.
You can target your ads by location, gender, age, interests, behaviors, connections, relationships, job titles, and more, which allows you to very precisely reach just the people you’re looking for.
Creating a Facebook ad
Once you narrow down to your audience, you need to create the actual ad. Kern suggests three kinds of ads: discounts, free account, and information or education.
Offering a discount is pretty straightforward—all you need is an add that reads something like “Want a free laser hair removal consultation? For the month of October, get 50 percent off laser hair removal in San Francisco. Click here for info.” That way it’s not just a discount—it’s also a free consultation and draws your target audience right in.
Creating a free account is a little different. You might think of it as something for financial services or software, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Kern points out this Williams-Sonoma ad: “Register at the only store that will teach you how to use every gift that you get.” Clicking the link leads you to where you can create a free gift or wedding registry—but of course, they get your contact information so they can follow up. They probably targeted those ads to young women who just got engaged within the last 90 days.
And the there’s “plain ‘ol’” information and education. This path isn’t solely reserved for people who sell information—it’s also great for professional services. Are you a real estate group? Offer up information on house hunting tips in your area in exchange for an email address. Or you could do it like Log Homes, which offers a 3D video tour.
Send people to a Web page
Your ad has to lead people somewhere so you can convert them, and Kern cautions that the way your web page looks isn’t as critical as sending people to the right place. You shouldn’t just send people to your home page—you need to send them to a landing page designed specifically to capture their information. And if you’re really savvy, you can design landing pages tailored specifically to someone’s point of entry, so creating a landing page specifically for those who clicked from your Facebook ad can help make your lead capture even more effective.
The purpose of a landing page? To have your lead capture mechanism right there. Visitors won’t have to search around or, more likely, not know what to do and just close out your page. Here’s the landing page for the laser hair removal site:
Here’s the one for the Log Home:
Here’s one that Kern himself used:
When he used this landing page for a webinar, 57.69 percent of people who went to that page became leads, which is a very high opt in rate. Remember, how a landing page looks isn’t the primary function—getting leads is.
2. Direct mail
Yes, you totally just shuddered and thought “Direct mail doesn’t work!” But actually it does work—when it’s done right , it is one of the most effective lead-getting methods around. So here’s what you need to do direct mail right for lead generation.
The right lists
If you tried direct mail before and it didn’t work, chances are you sent that mail to the wrong list, like everyone in an entire zip code or something, and it wasn’t targeted enough. For direct mail to be effective, you have to target just as you would target in a Facebook ad. If you did send to the right list, you may have been using the mail to sell, instead of using it as lead generation.
The right process
The right process is what happens after someone responds to your campaign.
Here’s the story: a new women’s gym was opening in a hypercompetitive market. The city was considered one of the fittest cities in the world, which meant fitness was big business. There were seven other gyms within two blocks of the new gym’s location.
The campaign’s goal was to get as many local women as possible to come in and try the gym. So the owner bought a list of women who live within five miles of the gym. But this gym was pretty expensive, about eight times the cost of a normal gym, so the owner had to target a specific type of woman. So she targeted women in a single family home, thinking that if you’re in a single family home, it means you either own or rent the house and would be more likely to be able to afford an expensive gym than if you were living in an apartment.
The owner segmented even further to people with a household income of over $100,000, so that the cost of the gym membership was not prohibitively expensive. Finally, the owner wanted people with a history of buying weight loss and fitness products and services.
So they sent a piece of direct mail to women on that list that made what Kern calls an irresistible offer: “Leave your credit card at home and try it for free.” They also made it a way to respond to their letter in a non-threatening way—instead of just giving the gym’s address, the offer was to respond to the letter and they’ll give all the details then. The response was a little postcard that gave three options to redeem the offer: by texting a code to a number, calling and leaving a name and email address, or to scan a QR code.
Take a look at some of the pieces of the direct mail offer:
You’ll see phrases like “Please DON’T bring money,” an offer for free training sessions for the entire month of June, and a list of reasons why you should work out at the gym.
From that one-time direct mail, the gym collected more than 250 leads from voicemails and texts (the QR code response rate was low).
So why did it work? The offer was sent to the right prospects, and it was the right offer. It didn’t ask for money, it asked for information. And finally, the mail offered different ways to respond.
3. In-house leads
The third way to generate leads quickly is to get them in-house if you have a brick and mortar establishment. It’s a way to get your best customers back more often. Let’s look at this form from Italian restaurant chain Buca di Beppo:
Kern says this could work, but it could also work 100 times better. What’s wrong with it? First, no one wants to fill all that out. You also have to assume they have a pen handy, which is a gamble. Then the owners have to decipher their handwriting, manually enter the customer’s information, and then follow up. There are too many breaks in the chain for this to be successful in-house lead generation.
To make this work, it has to be easy for you and for the customer. This works not just in restaurants, but in gas stations, salons, or at trade shows, but let’s improve a form like this for a restaurant.
Instead of a form, rely on people to have their phones (because who doesn’t?). Then create a campaign where they can text, say, the word “dessert” to a number, provide their name and email to get a code, and show their server a code for a free dessert.
Suddenly, the restaurant owner has a name, email, and mobile phone number to work with. For instance, you could text these customers a promotion that says “Hey, this Wednesday you get 20 percent off all pasta and seafood.” This can be deployed at all kinds of businesses, not just restaurants.
Now follow up
Now use your automated email follow up system to put these leads in the funnel and convert them. With automated marketing follow up, you can direct your leads to that core offer through a series of emails Remember, having leads doesn’t get you anywhere, you still have to follow up. Once people sign up for your webinar or your free drinks, you need a sales process to turn them into customers with your core offer, whether it’s turning them into patients, gym rats, or frequent diners.
Frank Kern will be a keynote speaker at ICON. To see him and other small business experts, register here.