Lead qualification using scoring is a concept that’s not really new. All intelligent businesses realize that lead generation is not really the big issue; rather, the real one is separating the wheat from the chaff. The inability of marketing to identify and hand over the best opportunities in time to the sales team is what causes most lost opportunities, and the ever-prevailing tiffs between marketing and sales.

The Solution – Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is valuing your leads based on their demographic, firmographic and behavioral data. Simply put, you qualify your opportunities based on whether or not they fit the persona of your target audience, and how engaged are they with your business (their response to your email campaigns, their activities on your website etc.), and their position in your sales cycle.

Lead qualification

It does the great work of keeping your sales and marketing on the same page, while helping them identify what action to take for a particular set of leads. All this information would help you drive better engagement and faster sales closures for your business. Here is how a simple instance of activity-based scoring would look like.

Lead_Scoring

Look Beyond Lead Scoring – Engagement Scoring

However, there would be certain cases, where only lead scoring would not be enough. For instance, if in your database, there are 2 leads, with identical lead scores of 250, however, with drastically different ages, with Lead A being 7 days old, and lead B being 100 days old. Your sales team would not be able to identify the sales ready lead just by looking at the lead score here.

A concept more advanced than lead scoring comes into picture now – Engagement Scoring. Engagement scoring typically considers recency of your engagement related activities, in addition to their lead scores.

Let me specify how that would go down. Your engagement score is calculated based only on engaging activities, and a timeline that you specify, say past 30 days. So, the lead activities of only the past 30 days are being used to calculate your engagement score. So, you immediately know by looking at the engagement scores of these 2 leads (Lead A = 100, Lead B = 0), that Lead A is the one that is probably interested in buying from you.

Engagement Score

However, even with the evident benefits, only roughly 44% of businesses are using lead scoring (according to a survey by Decision Tree Labs, September 2013). Now, I would quote some benefits here that you would derive if you have a scoring mechanism set. Before that, here’s a stat from MarketingSherpa:

“Organizations that use lead scoring experience a 77% lift in lead generation ROI, over organizations that do not use lead scoring.”

Average_Lead_Generation_ROI

Yes, I know, this is an external statistic, and may or may not apply to your business, but it is a universal fact that you must align sales and marketing and sales need to focus their efforts on the best opportunities first. Therefore, if you have a good lead volume, or plan to grow in future, you must have a lead scoring strategy in place.

Benefits of Lead and Engagement Scoring

1. To identify the sales readiness of your leads and prioritize sales activities

Not all the leads you generate are sales-ready; in fact, quite a few of them are utter junk for your business. However, without a scoring system in place, this is how your database would look like.

A_typical_database_without_lead_scoring

With this, how on earth would your sales team identify which leads to call first.

Result they end up calling the junk leads first, thus not only wasting their own time, but also losing the opportunities that would have actually converted to sales, because they call them late.

“The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes are 100 times higher versus 30 minutes. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes are 21 times higher versus 30 minutes.”  (Source: Forbes)

Aftereffects of this – Lost opportunities and reduced sales morale. So, lead scoring can help you close this gaping black hole between marketing and sales functions, by giving the sales team a view like this:

Lead_Scoring_-_Identification_of_sales_ready_leads

This database has an accumulated score from all the different lead activities, therefore, the sales immediately know that the leads with the highest scores are the ones they have to call first, and the lowest ones can be deprioritized for now. Therefore, they make the right calls at the right time and consequently get more closures.

[Also Read: 15 Smart Sales Closing Techniques]

2. Identify up-sell/repeat sale opportunities from existing customers

Now, in case of businesses that can make repeat sales, whether now (most service businesses, like health and beauty clinics, spas etc.), or a year down the line (travel businesses), existing customers are a very viable business opportunity. This especially gets strengthened by the fact that it’s often easier to make a repeat sale, than a new one (The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Source: Marketing Metrics).

Engagement Scoring is your trump card here. If you suddenly see that a 1 year old customer has suddenly started accumulating engagement score again, in all probabilities they want to buy again and are looking for options. A call from sales at this point would result in a quick closure in such cases.

3. Helps marketers segment and target leads

So, your sales team has hand-picked the hot leads, made their calls and closed their deals. What about marketing? Lead and Engagement Scoring would help them identify different brackets of engagement and create customized offers to push your raw opportunities to conversion. What’s even more interesting is that they would be able to identify the lead sources that get the most immediate closures, and advise you to allocate your marketing budgets accordingly.

For instance, say your marketing ninja John has identified Facebook as the source from where the engagement scores have recently been higher, therefore, you can put in more money into Facebook to generate even more leads that would have a higher and quicker conversion rate.

4. Drive marketing and sales alignment

This is perhaps the least quantifiable, but most viable advantage of lead scoring. Everyone knows of the tension that typically exists between sales and marketing functions, with sales dissatisfied of the quality of leads marketing hands over to them, and marketing complaining about the lack of an accurate feedback from sales about the lead quality.

Now, with a common lead and activity management and scoring in place, not only would all the activities be tracked properly, but there is a transparency that comes only from having all the cards on the table from both ends. Whatever intelligence is available is derived from scoring of both marketing and sales-related activities, therefore there is more harmony within the team, and consequently more closures.

5. Find engagement percentage and take actions accordingly

Engagement Scoring would allow you to identify what percentage of all your prospects are engaged at any given point, and therefore devise strategies to increase engagement.

You can look into your existing data, and identify what kind of offers have driven higher engagement in the past, (like a survey/contest), and run a similar one again to reactivate your disengaged leads.

6. Identify the winners and laggards from your products/services

Identify which of your services/products are attracting more engagement and which ones are lagging behind. This would help you devise engagement campaigns for the services that are getting left behind.

Engagement_by_Product

As you can see, the prospects interested in the South African Tour Package seem more disengaged, so you can send them offers etc. to increase engagement and get them to close fast.

Some Stats for the Benefits of Lead and Engagement Scoring

To strengthen my case, I would quote some further statistics from Lead Scoring Survey by Kentico. They surveyed businesses that have already employed lead scoring in their business and asked them about the benefits that they received, and look at the awesome response that they got. The image represents the percentage of businesses that observed a particular benefit as a result of their lead scoring setup.

Lead Scoring Benefits

So, you know that there are definite benefits. So, let’s get you started.

How to start Lead and Engagement Scoring

1. Organize your Lead Capture and Management

Have a system in place that would not just capture leads from all your sources (yes, all) and store them, but would also track all the web activities, email activities, and everything else that would contribute to your lead/engagement scores.

If this is not set up, you would not only need quite a bit of manual effort on the side, but would also miss on certain kinds of tracking – which means inaccurate scoring. Without a central scoring system all your leads would not be scored equally, and that’s not what you want.

2. Try to Use an Integrated System instead of Segregated Tools

If you are doing different activities (email, lead capture, CRM, etc.) in different systems, you would have trouble managing the scoring accurately anywhere at all, and once again the gap between your marketing and sales would widen, leading to lost business opportunities.

3. Set up your Lead Scoring Criteria

Now, to develop an ideal scoring system, you need to consider 3 things:

a) Demographic/firmographic scores

For B2B Businesses, a certain industry, a certain designation (decision-maker) would hold more weightage than others would. And, of course, another thing to consider is whether or not a business has the budget to buy your solution, and what is the company’s size.

For B2C businesses, you need to define the age, gender, financial, locational (if), authority (decision-maker again) and other demographic attributes that would make your ideal buyer persona.

All/or some of this information would be captured during the prospect’s first interactions with your business on your landing pages/query forms.

b) Activity Relevance Scores

How actively and relevantly are they interacting with your business? For instance, if they are very active on your website, and visiting pages like your Product features, Pricing etc. they would score higher on your relevance sheet.

However, if they are active on your website, but visiting pages like Career Options, Work Culture etc. then they might be interested in your business, but not as a prospective buyer, so visits to these pages should have a lower score to bring them off your sales radar.

All businesses are different, so there is no set formula for the kind of activities you would rate, but some things are a given. Any activity that gets a lead closer to closure in your sales cycle is a positive lead activity and anything that gets a lead away from your business is a negative lead activity.

You would typically assign scores based on:

1. Importance marketing and sales assign to an activity – Both your teams would need to sit down together to define the activities of importance.

2. How an activity contributes to taking the lead forward and backward in the sales process.

3. Experience and anecdotal data – look at your database, talk to your sales and marketing people and you would be able to identify which activities push the leads down the sales funnel.

Let’s take a few activities as examples:

Marketing Related Activities

a) Newsletter subscription form filled = +2

b) Product Inquiry form filled = +20

c) Unsubscribe or email bounce = -50

Sales Related Activities

a) Sales person had an awesome conversation = +30

b) The prospect said not interested to buy your product or service = -100

As you can see, I have assigned scores based on the importance of the respective activities to the sales cycle. Even though newsletter subscription is a positive activity, it doesn’t say much about whether or not the lead is interested in spending money with you, therefore, the score assigned is comparatively less. On the other hand, an awesome sales conversation is a definite positive in the direction of sales closure, so a higher score has been assigned to that.

c) Recency Scores

Now, most sales closures are time-bound. If a lead was actively looking for a solution, and evaluating your offering 6 months ago, but is not active anymore, that might be because they chose another solution over yours, or temporarily dropped the idea of buying a solution. In both cases, these leads are relevant for your marketing team for nurturing, but not for immediate sales. Therefore, you must score your leads based on the recency of their interactions with you.

The last 2 points – relevance and recency are achieved by using engagement score.

4. Define a “prospect to opportunity” score threshold

This would vary for different businesses, and you need to start scoring before you can define a threshold. After a few closures in your new scoring framework, you would be able to identify the average score after which the leads are sales-ready. One of our clients from real-estate business shared that when a lead crosses a score of 200, it is ready for a serious sales conversation.

This would differ for you, depending on the scores you assign to different activities, and the length of your sales cycle.

5. Test. Analyze. Repeat

After you start, you need to periodically take feedback from your sales and marketing teams, and look at the conversion data to see if the relevance assigned to a particular activity is alright or not, and if the model needs some modifications. Like all things, your scoring framework also needs to be tested from time-to-time.

So, this is how you can get started with Lead and Engagement Scoring. Your turn! What are you doing to qualify your leads, and align your marketing and sales functions?

A number of interesting questions were asked at the webinar on ‘Lead Scoring: Strategies and Benefits’. Those of you who missed the webinar, here’s a summary of some of the questions asked during the session. You could also listen to the webinar recording on ‘Lead Scoring: Strategies and Benefits’ here.

Lead Scoring

View the Recording

Question 1

Will Lead Scoring help a Cosmetic Surgery Centre?

You have to understand that lead scoring is just a small component in your marketing process that helps identify the interest in a lead. If you are a cosmetic surgery business and you are gathering leads online, your potential buyers would first go online and search for clinics near their residence. They would find 5 or 6 different ads of clinics or organic results for each and fill forms based on the look and feel of the business. Once they have discovered your business online (and filled out a form), you can capture and track their movement (based on the different pages they are looking at one your site, and so on). You may get many leads coming to your site, but not all would be interested in what you have to offer. This is where lead scoring comes into play.

If it’s a small business, on a daily basis, you would get about 10-15 interested leads visiting your site. In that case you don’t need lead scoring initially. You can just call them and check if they are interested or not. But if you have more than that, lead scoring would give you an advantage of going after leads who are actually interested right from the beginning.

For example, if you have 10-15 interested leads coming to your site, 6 months down the line it could be 2-3 thousand. In your sales cycle, sales may not happen immediately – it make take the lead 2-3 months to decide if they want your service. During this period, you could connect with them through multiple ways. You can send out newsletters to your leads, telling them about how a certain customer of yours has benefitted from cosmetic surgery. Those leads who open the mail are actually interested in your service and would attract a higher score.

If you see the sales process in totality, you will find that lead scoring will aid you in understanding the behaviour of the lead and identify the ones who are most interested. If your sales scoring cycle is not like this and you don’t want to model it like this, then you would probably not need lead scoring.

Question 2

Do you have a step by step guide to use LeadSquared for Lead scoring?

If you are looking for direction in terms of which particular activity should be given which score, then we don’t have a guide specifically for that because it depends on the kind of business. However, whatever defaults we have set in the system are appropriate scores for most businesses. Scoring is something the business has to discover on their own. The fundamental rule is that anything (activity) that takes your lead forward in the sales funnel (cycle) should get a higher score. If an activity takes the lead in the opposite direction, it should be negatively scored.

This is how we do it at LeadSquared

Lead Scoring


If you are looking for guides to set up lead scoring and lead engagement, take a look these help documents:

1. How does Lead Scoring work?

2. Setup Criteria for Lead Engagement Scoring

Question 3

Can I integrate SMS/ WhatsApp/Emailer for landing page leads?

There are two parts to it

1. Lead Capture: This involves getting the lead in through website, chat, landing pages, phone calls or manual entry. All of this can seamlessly be organized in LeadSquared.
2. Reconnecting with the Leads: Once the lead comes in, you can reconnect with them through various ways:

i.  Sending an email

ii. Sending an SMS

Both are supported in LeadSquared. However, we don’t support WhatsApp because WhatsApp doesn’t open the API and I doubt they will open anytime in the near future. For WhatsApp, I assume you would have to export the date and import it to your phone and then synchronize that with your phone.

Question 4

What if we have multiple sources of leads – will this software help us organize it?

Of course. You would be able to organize leads from different sources in LeadSquared.

Lead Scoring

 This post will help you get started.

Question 5

Is there a centralized process in LeadSquared, if there are no excel sheets and no old school CRM system in place?

There is a centralized system in LeadSquared, where all your leads are captured, and their movement through different buying stages are tracked.

Question 6

How do you calculate lead score of offline leads?

You would need to create a custom activity that is important to you; say for instant “Event attended” beforehand and assign a score to it; say 50. This is a one-time thing. After your event is over, you would update the activity for the leads that showed up for the event. Then these 50 points get added to the total of that particular lead’s lead score. This can now be done in bulk.

Question 7

How to convert clicks into leads?

You would use landing pages or web forms based on whatever kind of campaigns you are running, to capture those clicks as leads.

Question 8

Is lead score useful for both B2B and B2C?

Lead score is a way to take a lead forward and it is definitely relevant for B2B and B2C businesses. We are a B2B business and we have been using lead scoring. It depends more on how you use it.

Question 9

How can we deal with leads with low lead score, to increase engagement score?

You can send them offers that are relevant to them, depending on the pages that they have viewed, etc. And if they are engaging with that, then they might become more relevant for you

Question 10

Does LeadSquared integrate with different tools?

Integration is an important element in today’s scenario so we do integrate with multiple tools.

Question 11

We have different systems for emailing, CRM, etc. What could be the best way for lead scoring here? We don’t want to switch tools, as it would create more issues. Any recommendations here?

If you are using an old-style system, a CRM system and an email system as you said, you can certainly continue to use the CRM system and run the marketing on a system like LeadSquared and obviate the email system. By doing so, you get the benefits of lead capture, lead scoring and lead tracking. Thereafter, when it is appropriate, you can move that lead to CRM system. In this case, you will get some benefit because there will be some integration involved in the process.

If your sales process is not very structured, then you might as well consider LeadSquared for that. However, it would require some work to be done. If you don’t want to replace any of your existing systems , then it would be very hard for you to adopt a lead scoring system.  Lead scoring cannot be done manually. It has to be automated.

Social media has long broken its traditional role of brand awareness and engagement, and eased into the territory of lead generation and customer service. However, with the social ecosphere going berserk and growing at the mad pace of close to 40-50% every year, (both in terms of user and brand invasion), reaching the relevant audience is getting increasingly tough.

There was a time, when it was possible to reach a fair share of people organically, but we all know how hard that is now on Facebook. Twitter is more generous, displaying all the tweets sequentially, but this generosity is the bane here. With the constant stream of tweets flooding you, it’s really hard to look at anything in particular. So, what do you do to grab attention?

Keep_calm_and_strategize_001

Just to put things in context, social media traffic can be great, providing great conversion opportunity. I have evidence. Take a look at some statistics from LeadSquared’s own Analytics data:

1. The average session duration for visitors coming from social media is 48.08% higher than site average.
2. The bounce rate for these visitors is 80% lower than the site average.
3. Pages viewed per session are 31.96% higher than the site average.
4. Goal Conversion Rate is 39.05% higher than the site average.

This proves how amazingly well-engaged is the traffic coming from social media.

So, let’s talk about what social media tactics can you employ to generate high quality leads.

(A little heads up: This post is a little Facebook heavy – I would soon do a sequel including more social media channels)

Strategy 1: Have a strategy, complete with goal definition

1. Create an audience persona

The very first thing to do is to identify:

a) Who your target audience is (persona)
b) What are the social media channels they frequent
c) What devices do they use, and

d) What influences their buying decisions

This information would help you create a customized social media strategy as these preferences vary for different demographics.

i) For instance, take a look at the most popular social media channels overall, and the demographics using the respective channels by gender.

Social Media Demography

ii) Figure out what social media platforms your target age demographics frequent.

Age_demographics_and_social_media_channels

iii) Figure out what social networks are popular in the geography that you are trying to target:

Social Media Tactics for Lead Generation: Social_Media_preferences_by_geography

Now, I know that these stats are great, but they are also external. What if you are an outlier? What if your target audience varies slightly from all your industry trends?

For that, look into the Audience section of your Google Analytics report; it would give you detailed insights about the demographics of your audience as well as their interests, thus allowing you to create interesting social campaigns.

Audience_

This data would give you a pretty good understanding of your own audience, and create social media tactics accordingly.

2. Set your campaign goals

The second part here is to understand what your goals are; it’s pretty simple in this case – your goal is lead generation, i.e. to improve the number of conversions. So, define what a lead means to you.

Also, here are few examples of how social media agencies gain clients.

Hint: It isn’t a new like, or a new follow. You should aim at actual lead details (at least a name and email ID).  

Here you have to remember to shift your focus away from vanity metrics, like “No. of likes”

Yes, it’s awesome that your likes are increasing, but that should not be a success metric for your lead generation campaigns. Instead measure the number and quality of leads that you are generating.

To measure if your social campaigns are aligned, you can set conversion goals in Google Analytics. Here’s how the social conversion report looks for LeadSquared.

Social_Conversions

I quoted “quality”, because it is also important to make sure that the leads you are generating are

a) Not junk (abc@xyz.com), and

b) Fit your ideal customer persona.

If, for instance, you are trying to sell adventure travel packages for couples, and your campaign is attracting families, then something is wrong. Similarly, if you are trying to sell a high-end travel package, and you capture budget travelers’ details, it wouldn’t be much help to you.

Now, that you have your campaign metrics set, let’s move on to the different ways in which you can use social to generate leads for your business. Remember that the strategies would be relevant for you if your target audience is on the respective platforms.

Strategy 2: Invest on Facebook Ads (the right way)

Facebook ads in general make pretty good sense, as with all the targeting options available, you have the capability to generate highly qualified leads. And I speak by experience; we have run Facebook campaigns in the past, and they have worked quite well for us, both in terms of cost per lead and the quality of leads. It has been reported to work extremely well for B2C companies as well.

1. First Time Lead Generation Campaign

This can work really well, because of the amazing targeting options available.

Social Media Tactics for Lead Generation: facebook_targeting_options

a) So, basically you can closely target people based on all the demographic data you found about your audience:

i) age

ii) location

iii) gender

iv) languages they speak

v) advanced demographics, like financial details etc.

b) Interest targeting

c) Behavior Targeting: This includes everything from browsing behavior, to online buying behavior, interest in events to traveling behavior, which is pretty cool if you are a B2C marketer.

2. Repeat Sales

Now, if you are the kind of business, where repeat sales make a lot of sense, then you can use Facebook’s custom audience feature very efficiently. The kinds of business that would fall under this category are online retail businesses, travel businesses, health and beauty businesses and basically anyone else in services industry.

How can you use it?
Social Media tactics for Lead Generation: Custom Audience

In most cases, you would already have a list of people who have made a purchase from you in the past; you can upload this list onto Facebook, and create a custom audience to market a similar category of products. Examples:

a) If you are an online retailer, and someone bought ‘Lord of the Rings’ books from you in the past, you can show the ads for ‘Games of Thrones’ to only this audience.

b) In travel business, if someone booked a family vacation from you last year in June; you can start showing them packages for more family tours from April-May itself (research shows that a travel planner usually takes around 40 days to finalize a tour/package). You can target them during this phase. And, because they already booked a tour from you in the past, the credibility would be good.

3. New audience of the same persona

If you are able to upload a custom audience (that fits the perfect persona of your target audience – if they have bought in the past from you), you can create a lookalike audience as well.

Social Media Tactics for Lead Generation: Lookalike audience

Let’s take an example of how using Facebook Custom Audience can be used in addition to your traditional email campaigns to generate better business leads.

Example:

Business – A Private MBA Institute

General modes of lead generation

a) 3rd Party lead generation websites (Sulekha.com, Shiksha.com)

b) PPC Ads

c) Facebook Ads

d) Buying Leads (not a recommended practice, but still is one of the most widely used).

The leads generated from PPC, Facebook, and Organic are better quality leads, if you have done the targeting properly.

However, when the leads are being purchased, or generated from 3rd party websites, then the usual strategy is to spray and pray. You send a bulk email campaign, and hope to capture qualified leads from that.

Now, if you absolutely want to buy these leads (though we do not recommend it), creating a lookalike audience would be putting it to a better use, in addition to your usual email strategy.

(Note: Creating a lookalike audience would generally work even better, if your leads have been generated using targeted Facebook and Google Adwords campaigns, and through other organic efforts.)

Benefit 1 : Better leads at lower cost

Let’s compare the cost of an email campaign to that of a Facebook campaign:

Suppose, the cost of sending 1 email = 10 paisa

Your Target Audience (contact volume) = 10,000

Total Cost for 1 Campaign = 1000 Rs.

Quality Leads received / Campaign = 10 (on an average, maybe more)

Cost/ Relevant Lead = 100 Rs.

If you invest the same amount (1000Rs.) On Facebook

Offer – Apply for an MBA

Demographic Targeting – Age : 20 to 25

Interest targeting: #MAT,#CAT #IIM #MBA and many more

Suggested Bid that Facebook shows me: 6.25 Rs. To 11.25 Rs (per click)

So, no. of clicks I can get in 1000 Rs, if I choose the minimum, i.e. Rs. 6.25 = 160

Clicks Average Conversion % (if the Landing Page is good) = 20% = 32 Leads.

If you give an offer, like a free counseling session, the conversion rate can increases to 50-70%, which means at least 80 Leads.

And they are all good leads, because not only are you targeting by a lead list that you bought, but also by other filters, like age brackets, interests etc.

Cost Per Lead = 1000/32 = 31.25 Rs./Lead which is a good deal.

(Note: This data was for Normal Interest Targeting (without uploading a Custom list on Facebook) – because I didn’t have one.)

Tech Crunch reports that Custom Audience increases sign-up conversion rate by 43 percent and decreases cost per lead by 30 percent, compared to Standard Targeted Facebook Ads.

So, when you are doing Custom Audience + Targeting, the cost would go further down by 30% = Rs. 21.875

Benefit 2: Lesser drop-offs = More leads

There are few roadblocks in the journey of an email from your computer to the actual lead capture:

1. Email Sent
2. May go into spam
3. If it escapes spam, the email maybe opened/not opened
4. If opened, the email may be clicked/not clicked
5. If clicked, form filled/not filled

When you run Facebook ads, there once again are roadblocks, but their number is reduces:

1. Facebook ad displayed
2. Ad Clicked/Not Clicked
3. Form filled/not filled.

Now, more number of steps = more drop-offs (as the drop offs would happen at each step)

Benefit 3: Higher number of audience reached

In case of email

Social Media Tactics for Lead Generation : Email Reach

In case of Facebook

Social Media Tactics for Lead generation - Facebook ad reach

So, the audience that you can hope to target is much higher in case of Facebook ads than your email list.

Benefit 4: You are being “less” intrusive

Another consideration is that emailing people without prior consent is generally an intrusive practice, and is frowned upon.

Strategy 3: Use mobile-only campaigns + responsive landing pages

Facebook mobile

Now, with these amazing stats in favor of mobile, I am sure you don’t want to miss capturing leads. So use, responsive landing pages/website, and run this campaign.

In case you don’t know, Facebook allows you to create mobile-only ads, so you can easily determine how they are working out for you.

Strategy 4: Google Pages for Local Businesses

Who’s it relevant for?

All sorts of local businesses:

a) Health and Beauty Clinics

b) Fitness centers

c) Restaurants

d) Other local businesses

e) Multi-centered businesses

Google Local pages can be great for improving your direct store walk-ins; the reason being these results along with the reviews occupy the topmost real estate on search just behind the ads.

How to do it?

1. Claim your local business and verify it

2. Put everything on your local page, including your business address (verify it for it to show up in Google search on mobile), phone number, business hours etc.

Social Media Tactics for Lead Generation - Google+_Business_Page_for_restaurants_

3. Leverage Google Business View

Especially, if you are in a business, where the visual appeal of the locations is important. Example Salon and Spa Businesses.

When someone searches for your brand name on Google, they can get a virtual tour of your facility.

You can even link these images to your business website. But, it, of course, comes at a cost, and using this would be a business decision.

4. Leverage Google Reviews

Let’s face it; Google controls search – so to increase direct bookings/footfalls, you need to be on Google’s properties to occupy the best real estate. Google Reviews are one amazing way for you to do that, so if you are in an industry where you can ask customers for review, do that. It would really help, believe me. Look at all these hotels right below the paid ads, only because they have a Google Local presence, and a good number of reviews.

google business view

Hotels_in_goaIt helps enormously in mobile search as well

a) This is how the local businesses show up on Mobile . There is a Click to Call option there as well (direct lead generation method. Best part – it is free)

Google search on mobile

Remember, you have to verify your business, otherwise you do not get any of these benefits

Strategy 5: Facebook Custom Tabs

So, yea I have spoken a lot about Facebook custom tabs before, and they can be great to get you a few leads if people somehow land directly on your timeline, but the chances are pretty slim, especially now that the custom tab icons have been reduced to a row of navigation below your cover image.

But, you can still make the best out of it by using a cover image that has a directional cue and a CTA + custom tab. Take a look at this example from WishPond. You can check this post to find how to create a Facebook custom tab.

wishpond

So, these were a few social media tactics that you can deploy for lead generation. Your turn; what social media lead generation strategies are you using?

Our last webinar on “5 Landing Page Optimization Tips to Improve Conversion Immediately” raised a number of interesting questions. Due to lack of time, we were unable to answer all the questions then. In this post, we have included the rest. Here’s the webinar recording, in case you missed it:

LP-optimizing-Tips

View the Recording

Question 1

Is it necessary to add client information on the landing page or can I add social proof on that page? In case of social proof, would that divert the visitor’s attention from the target page?

It depends on the kind of business you are in and what is the value of social proof for the kind of audience you are targeting. Social proof is often mistaken for just testimonials. There are different kinds of social proofs, like images, videos, customer logos, etc.

Let’s say, if you are selling some high value product or service – it could be a few hundred thousand dollars – then social proof would work best if the testimonial belongs to a well-known personality or organization. Hence, if you say, IBM bought my product or IBM bought my service, that would be much more important in my opinion.

However, if you are selling to consumers, then client testimonial will actually have a very significant impact. I’m not saying it would be zero or nil for B2B. I’m just saying the kind of social proof you use would depend on your product or service.

Testimonials with images or social proof are far better than just a testimonial (with no image or social proof). Here’s an example:

Sunstone_Business_SchoolNotice how the testimonial is accompanied by the image of that person. Client information has also been provided. In some cases, that is represented in the form of a social proof (Eg. Link to his/her LinkedIn profile). Ideally, social proof would not divert the attention of the visitor because the visitor is on your page because they are interested in your product or service. Rather, it would act as a benefiting factor by adding authenticity.

Question 2

Do pop up inquiry windows actually help in SEO or lead conversion?

Pop up inquiry windows will not help in SEO. But as far as conversion is concerned, they do matter. If someone is trying to roam around on your website and if you have something cool to offer to them, which they would otherwise not look for, but you throw that in front of them and they like it, then they will actually take it. Which means, they will convert. So yes, it helps in conversions.

The important element here is the offer. A pop up with a high value offer can double conversions. Here’s a good example of a high value offer on a pop, from Quick Sprout.

Pop upsOn the downside, it can also be very disruptive. If that is the case, you can use slider forms instead.

Question 3

For online corporate training, what is the best position for testimonial and lead capture form?

There is no best position really. I’m assuming you are inquiring about where to position the testimonial on the landing page and not the website. Ideally it should be visible above the fold. If you are doing corporate training then your other potential corporate trainers would look for some sort of validation of your firm. For example, what kind of customers has this company catered to, and so on. In case of students, I would take a personal approach. If I was a student, I would really look for the preview of the program. If I like the preview, then I’d probably look at the testimonial.

Question 4

If landing pages are not part of the website, should we create a new page every time a new offer is rolled out and delete the previous page?

You don’t need to delete the older landing page because you would want to analyze the conversion rates for a particular campaign later on as well. However, if your offer is completely different from the first one, then it does make sense to create a new landing page for the offer. On the other hand, if the offer is the same, and you just want to use it on different channels, then you can use the same landing page everywhere, but use tracking URLs, so that you know where the lead is coming from.

Besides, if you use a landing page creation tool, then you don’t need to create the landing page from scratch every time. There are multiple templates available for you to choose from. You can even clone your older pages, if your new offer is somewhat similar to the older one, and edit the elements that have changed (like, the headline, form, etc.)

Question 5

Are landing pages used in email campaigns only?

No, landing pages can be used everywhere – on your PPC campaigns, Social media campaigns, website, blog, and everywhere else, where you can put a link.

Question 6

Where to redirect after the submitting form?

The visitor should be redirected to a relevant page, rather a page which is related to the form. For example, if the form submitted was an “E-Book Download” landing page, the person should be redirected to that E-Book’s “Thank You Page” where the E-Book can be accessed. You could also share links to other E-Books or resources that you may have, from that page. The aim should be to keep the visitor engaged with relevant content, as long as you can. Here’s an example:

1. Visitor lands on E-Book Landing Page and fills up the submission form:

2014-09-11_15322. After form submission, visitor is redirected to the E-Book ‘Thank You’ Page:

2014-09-11_1530Notice how the redirected page has links to other similar resources like Webinars, E-Books, and Blog (on the top right).

Question 7

What is the acceptable load time for landing page?

Less than 3-4 seconds is what you need to aim for. Studies have shown that in some cases there has been a double digit dip in conversion where the load time has gone down from 2 seconds to 4 seconds, and substantial dip beyond 4-5 seconds.

Page-Load-Speed-and-Bounce-ratesIf you can have a server which can throw the pages faster, use them. This becomes more important if you have high volume of traffic visiting your page. Make use of Google’s Page Speed tools to find what your page’s loading time is, and what are the elements increasing the loading time on each page. Here’s an example of how that would look:
Google_Page_Speed_Test1As you can see in the image above, Google shows not only the problem areas but ways to fix them as well (both for mobile and desktop). Also, it shows what you are doing right. You can use Pingdom for the same purpose as well.

Make use of Google’s Page Speed tools to find what your website’s loading time is, and what are the elements increasing the loading time on each page. – See more at: https://www.leadsquared.com/things-to-consider-while-going-for-your-next-website-redesign/#sthash.wb2nzGqQ.dpuf
Make use of Google’s Page Speed tools to find what your website’s loading time is, and what are the elements increasing the loading time on each page. – See more at: https://www.leadsquared.com/things-to-consider-while-going-for-your-next-website-redesign/#sthash.wb2nzGqQ.dpuf

Question 8

How can we calculate conversion rates?

You would need to use a tool for this or set up the conversion appropriately in respective places from where you are driving traffic. Here are three things you could use to calculate conversion rates:

Question 9

Is the photo of a person necessary  in the testimonial? Does it add more value?

I think it helps the cause because it gives the visitor a better perception of what you are trying to sell and definitely adds authenticity. If you are using photos, try to get high quality photos. High quality photos help you engage or retain the attention of the visitor for a longer duration. I would recommend you to even spend money on it, if needed.

Question 10

Is it necessary for the colour of company logo, to be the same on every page?

If you have a company logo, which most businesses have, you can use that logo in all the pages to make it consistent. We have used our logo in variety of colours and landing pages, but what we have seen is that the conversion is not a function of just the logo. It depends on so many other things. Yes, for aesthetics, and to drive a brand identity, you may want to be colour-conscious. But I doubt that has a substantial impact on the conversion. Let’s say if you are getting fresh traffic, the visitor doesn’t even know about you, so he/she wouldn’t have looked at your website in the first place, to know the actual colour of the logo.

Question 11

What is the correct place for testimonials on a website?

I think that’s a question for the website people to answer. It can be on the first page itself. Wherever it is, it should be visible.

Question 12

What are your findings on which methods of signup are working for Facebook / Google / Email?

It varies from business to business. For consumer-led businesses, social would be a good option. In case of B2B businesses, a lot of our customers have told us that social doesn’t really give them relevant leads. In Google Ads, you will find people looking for the stuff you offer, but the question would be, are you making enough out of whatever you are spending? If you are, that is a good channel to go for.

Question 13

Can we use pop up windows in landing pages?

You can use pop ups while somebody is exiting the page. That would be the last attempt for you to ask them to share their information. But if someone lands on your page, you would want them to actually look at what you are trying to tell them rather than show them a pop-up. Here, I’m talking about traffic which you bring in from ad sources and not somebody who is on your website and then you are showing them pop ups. They are two different things. I’m assuming you are referring to the first one, not the second.

Question 14

What is the appropriate image to text ratio in landing page?

If you can convey your message without any text, go for it. Nobody wants to read long lines. If you go to the old-style websites where the content is written in very small Times Roman font, which is barely readable, you would probably understand what I’m trying to say. The only thing you need to worry about is heavy-loaded images. There is no conversion because the image is not going to load. The image needs to balance with the landing page load time as well. To counter this problem, try not to use external URLs for images, and use tools like SmushIt to reduce the image size. This would improve your page load time.

What should be the bidding strategy for running Facebook ads?

– See more at: https://www.leadsquared.com/webinar-6-lead-generation-strategies-using-social-media/#sthash.HouUYzWG.dpuf

Oh, the places you’ll go travel marketers, with just a tad bit of steering in the right direction. Travel is an experience – it is exotic and it is compelling. And, it’s way past time all you travel entrepreneurs and businesses realize how powerful is the thing you are trying to sell – dreams, adventures, memories – experience all in all.

All businesses are creating content – but travel businesses have the advantage of being the cool kid of the lot. You already have your stories laid out for you – you just need to package them in the right manner and on the right channels. So, today we’ll talk about content marketing ideas for travel businesses, and how travel marketers can use the power of compelling story-telling in their campaigns to stand out.

Oh the Places you'll go


We are the first generation of both consumers and marketers seeing the gaps between human experience and technological advances bridge up close. And there is no industry better suited to use this to their advantage than travel and hospitality.

True, technology has given you the power of easy discoverability, with all the travel planners researching online for options before making a decision. But, on the downside, it has also given you far more competitors that ever. Now, unlike your times in physical offices, you have to compete with not just your neighboring travel agents, but with the bigger travel planning websites as well.

The competition is fierce – so what do you do to stand out?

Answer – Create better content than everyone else!

This answer may seem simple in theory, but is far more complex in execution. Therefore, this post.

Let’s Talk About the Travel Planning Paradigm Shift

You have brains
Travel-Stats-682x1024

I have said this before; no longer are we in the age where booking a tour package meant finalizing a travel destination or a resort on that family friend’s recommendation, walking into the agent’s office, and bam. Travelers have options now – such great options.
And indeed, they can! The decision to travel might be taken in a moment of spontaneity, but the time between the decision and booking sees an enormous amount of research. Consider these stats for a moment:
And they are doing all of this online. They have a plethora of options to choose over you. It’s not only your 100 other competitors distracting them away, but the omnipresent Google’s curated content as well, with the best real estate on the search housing them – after all they do own the property.

In such a competitive ecosphere, how long would you survive with mediocre marketing? Or, you would survive, but would you triumph?

Where’s the solution?

The solution lies in having a consumer-focused mindset, and everything else stemming from there – create content, a lot of it, but while thinking from customer’s perspective.

1. Single out your Audience Before you Create the Content

A consumer-focused mindset begins with identifying to whom you are trying to sell. You would broadly have 2 kinds of target market, and you have to package the same aspiration differently for these 2 segments.

1. The first are the traditional ones traveling with their families.

2. The second are the millennials and Gen Xs raised on pieced up dreams of seeing faraway places, and nurturing wanderlust rooted deeper than the generations before.

Besides the two, you would also have different segments based on the budget brackets. This classification would depend on your own offering as well – maybe you cater only to the affluents, maybe only the budget travelers.  The secret lies in creating content that would inspire your target audience.

People would say that this type of aspirational and emotional marketing is biased towards big brands, with big budgets backing them. No way! In fact, smaller startups are at an advantage, because they begin with a digital mindset, as opposed to their larger counterparts that have been doing traditional marketing for many decades.

Many smaller travel companies have used highly compelling, customer focused marketing to improve their revenue. No matter what line of travel business you are in – tour operators, hotels, travel curators, or whatnot, you have the power to tell compelling stories, which brings me to the focus of this article – story-telling in travel business.


2. Self-generated Content to Create Stories

If you have a business model where you or an employee (a guide) accompanies the travelers, you can very easily capture the “experience” as photos and videos and share it on your website and other social channels.

i) Photographs

Showcasing photographs of the destination taken while actually on tour, is one of the best content marketing ideas for travel businesses. WOW Club is one Indian company completely kicking ass at this. They have a very popular Facebook page, accounting to the interesting content that they share with their followers, and the fact that they share real experiences in the form of pictures. Their target audience (women travelling alone) seems to be completely taken by the idea, which is clear from the growing popularity of the company.

They of course have a “cool” factor aiding them as well (that it’s more a women travelers’ club than a regular travel company), which adds to their popularity, but there is no reason why fellow travel companies (especially smaller ones) cannot replicate their success.

This is what they are doing right:

a) Sharing travel postcards: They share tour photos or “postcards” on their Facebook page – which most probably are clicked by the WOW tour guide (also a woman) that travels with the group.

b) Using real people’s photographs on website: Their website is also personalized with pictures from their travel groups. Of course, they cater to a smaller segment – women, in a higher income bracket, but they are doing it perfectly right for their audience. Their posts are exciting, personal, and aspirational for women who would one day want to travel alone – thus enticing others with a similar mindset to join in, expanding their audience size further.

ii) Videos
GreatWideOpen_Videos

You can film some excerpts from the expedition and share them on their website. Many businesses are already doing that. GreatWideOpen, a travel company that connects travelers to local tour operators is an example. These videos show interviews with the travelers on the expedition, tour experts leading them on etc. People planning their trips can get an idea of how how the experience would be, and make a choice accordingly.


 3. User Generated Content to Create Stories

i) Photographs/Videos

People that love to travel, love to document their journeys in the form of photographs/videos, and share them as well. You can ask the people who bought the package from you to share these experiences with you. You can then showcase them on your website (and social channels), along with their testimonials.

Channels other than website to capitalize this on

Social Media: Instagram and Pinterest are great for sharing this content in addition to travel business’ favored Facebook, even though they are just growing in India.

The best part – it’s not really a whole lot of extra work for your marketing team – you already have the content (or the users have it), you just need to promote them on the right channels (and that becomes easier with this exhaustive checklist for content promotion). There’s more about Instagram and Pinterest as photo-content channels later in the post. 

ii) Testimonials and Reviews
Reviews and Testimonials
Thrillophilia_Review_from_TripAdvisor

Before people take a trip, they want to make sure of what kind of experience they can expect at a particular destination. Photographs and testimonials from fellow travelers affect their travel plans quite a bit because of this. Consider these stats:
Reviews on TripAdvisor and Google Reviews are especially helpful for you as Google pulls them in organic search results as well. Bangalore based activity and travel curation company, Thrillophilia is doing that right. They have TripAdvisor reviews embedded on their site, in addition to video and email reviews.

iii) Contests

If you have a decent social following, one of the best content marketing ideas for travel is a contest. You can ask your followers to share photos, and their experiences with your service. Not only is it a great way to source user generated content and engagement, but it can be used as social proof as well. Channels you can run it on:

a) Facebook

AirBNB (a network of accommodations offered by locals) ran a contest on Facebook, called Destination Honeymoon. 

Aim

To increase their brand awareness and drive traffic to their website.

What needed to be done

Couples had to share their photographs with AirBNB’s Facebook page and answer a few questions; the ones selected by a panel based on their answers to the questions, and general likes by Facebook users would win a dream honeymoon package.

Outcome

AirBnB's Photo Contest

The campaign was successful, and drove engagement in the form of 10, 299 votes (Source: Strutta). Here’s how the contest looked:

b) Instagram

This is a platform where you market for discovery. Instagrammers are the ones that would actually engage with your photo-contests, therefore you need to have a presence and a decent following there yourself, before you can run contests.

c) Pinterest

People that create travel wishlists, dream destination bucket lists etc. are on Pinterest, and so are travel bloggers. Beautiful user generated and your own photographs would do wonders here.

How would this help?

The people repinning or following you might not buy from you, but would definitely spread word about you, and be your brand ambassadors, as long as you keep sharing interesting swoon-worthy content.

Example Campaign

Hotel deals website JetSetter once ran an awesome campaign on Pinterest “Pin it to win it.”

Aim To improve traffic to the website and increase stickiness.

What needed to be done

People were invited to create “The ultimate destination pinboard”, across several categories, like escape, adventure etc, with relevant pictures. The winners would get to be JetSetter Curators, meaning they would be sent to dream destinations under the category of their choosing.

Outcome

Jetsetter

During the campaign, the pageviews on JetSetter increased 150%, the referral traffic via Pinterest increased 100%, and the bounce rate decreased by 10-15%. (Source: Mashable)
Yes, Pinterest is not yet enormously famous in India, but it is decently famous in the your business category, so you might want to try it out.


 4. Influencer Strategy

If you talk about famous travel bloggers, photo-bloggers and the likes on your own blogs, it would gain the attention of not just these influencers and their followers, but virtual tourists as well (people searching for travel related content on the web).

There is a strong possibility of these 3rd category of people to become your customers, if your content entices them enough. Many of the influencers’ followers would fall in this category as well.

Hotel Trident’s #tridentsocialhotel Campaign to Engage Influencers via Twitter

Hotel Trident, Hyderabad ran a 2-day campaign (last year, December) encompassing Twitter + Facebook + Instagram + FourSquare, and 2 travel bloggers battling it out across several challenges. Even food orders were taken via Twitter.

It created quite a buzz, with the engagement happening among Hotel Trident, their followers, the bloggers and the bloggers’ followers with the hashtag #tridentsocialhotel. And, that wasn’t a one-time campaign; Hotel Trident ran the same campaign in one of its Mumbai Hotels early this year, and trended nationally for it, and created quite a bit of engagement once again.

This “Case Study” would tell you what they did:

Learning from the mistakes

And, they did turn out to be pretty good social listeners as well. During their December campaign, they had shared the bloggers’ room numbers via Twitter as well. It was pointed out to them publicly that it invades privacy; they implemented the learning in the March campaign, by DMing this kind of private information, instead of tweeting it.

The campaigns not just created a lot of engagement but got them new followers as well. You can find out more about the campaign here.


 5. Blog Strategy

This is an extension of both your self-generated and user-generated content. Thrillophilia have been doing an awesome job at creating content on their blog. Of course, with the exercise they have built a good community of brand advocates as well.

Not only do they generate awesome content on their blog, with exciting topics like “21 Best Backpacking trips in India to add to your bucket list”, that have enormous sharability, but interview travelers and source guest posts as well.

Lead Capture Content on Blog

Everything we have discussed thus far were discoverability and engagement campaigns to a large extent. However, after driving traffic to your site, you have to try and capture the lead details as well, especially if the visitors are not immediate buyers. The first offer that you see on Thrillophilia’s blog is a “Travel Guide” in exchange for your email address and name (they subscribe you to the blog in exchange for these basic details).

Travel_Guides_Thrillophilia

This is a pretty good strategy, because the casual virtual tourists that would land on a post might subscribe to this, and the next time they are planning their trip, or an activity, Thrillophilia would be in their inboxes and on their minds.


6. Use Email Wisely

Email has been every smart direct marketer’s choice of communication for a very long time, and still remains so even with the advent of social media and other fancier content marketing channels. This is not without a reason. Email gives you the power to communicate one-on-one with your prospects, and you should not let this opportunity slide.

You can combine the power of technology and story-telling to create highly customized emails and strike a real chord with the prospect. See how Etihad Airways has used it.

Etihad Airways pre-flight upgrade email
Emirates flight upgrade


Now the email goes out to customers that are travelling long distance and travelling solo (so it is highly customized offer).

Travel marketers can use this in a very efficient manner. For instance, if someone booked a 2 adults and 2 children tour with you last year, it would not make sense for you to send them a solo or couples only adventure tour this year. Send them family offers instead.


7. Content’s Best Friend – Mobile-friendliness

People do most of their travel search on mobile, and if your website (where most of your own content is housed) is not responsive, you are not just losing immediate bookings, but you are losing credibility in their eyes for future bookings and recommendations as well.

Responsiveness in Travel

Consider these stats:
That’s way too many people looking for information on mobile, you do not want to miss out on them.


8. Never be Tempted into Taking the Easy Road – Content Spinning

Let’s face it, you have one thing to sell – the place (and the experience associated with it). You have 100 other competitors trying to sell the same place, a similar projection of experience, and not enough bandwidth to create content that is unique and enormously appealing.

The Wrath of Google Panda

You might, in these cases, be tempted to take the easy path – of taking content that already exists on the web, and spin it around to place it on your website. I have only one advice for you – refrain! This may seem like the easy option, and might even work for some time, but Google’s junk finders are getting smarter by the minute, and you don’t want to be in its path when the wrath unleashes the next time.


9. Be Data-driven While Creating a Content Strategy

This should be the very first point in any marketing strategy, but there’s a reason why I have kept it almost at last. I would use a Hitchhiker’s Guide reference, because this post is about travel, and because Hitchhiker’s is awesome.

“The Answer to the Great Question… Of Life, the Universe and Everything… Is… Forty-two,’ said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.” “Forty-two!” yelled Loonquawl. “Is that all you’ve got to show for seven and a half million years’ work?”

“I checked it very thoroughly,” said the computer, “and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is.

Content Marketing Ideas for Travel Businesses - Know what you are trying to measure


Those that have read the book, would know what I am trying to reference. For others, according to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, the ultimate answer (to life, and universe and everything) is 42. The problem with the answer is that nobody quite knew (or knows) the question.

You can have all the metrics at your disposal, but you have to really know what it is you are trying to measure to make sense of the data.

You have to decide what your goal is – with any strategy. You have to be sure of what you want to do with your content – improve conversions, improve engagement, reduce bounce rates etc.

I quoted this point last, just to drive home the fact that just because all of these campaigns worked in case of the quoted examples, doesn’t mean it would work for you too – so define goals, run campaigns, create content – measure. Change strategy if it doesn’t give you ROI.


 10. Prepare to handle the Negative Impact of Easy Technology

a) First, try to provide the best experience

Super-connected travelers might really boost your reputation by giving you awesome reviews, but sometimes, things might turn the other way round as well. You cannot have dirty bed-sheets and expect that they would not tweet about that, if they can tweet about an awesome cocktail you served the last time they were here. People can be ruthless, and if they pay for an experience, they will not compromise.

b) If you do mess up, take responsibility, and make it right

In service industry, goof-ups happen; somethings are bound to go wrong, people are bound to get pissed off, but you cannot just ignore a negative feedback, and delete it off the website.

You can do that on  your own properties, but not on rented properties, like TripAdvisor, Google reviews and the likes. Not only would your reputation take a hit, if you do that (nothing can be swept under the rug, when people are so incredibly connected socially), but you would see the impact in the search rankings etc. as well, with Google now taking a head first plunge into the travel search industry as well. They display reviews from all of these external websites, and they would show up. You cannot hide them.

c) Monitor and Listen

Instead, what you need to do is keep listening; have your social mention monitoring set up using any of the tools like HootSuite, Mention etc. and listen for what people are talking about you.

d) Have an Appeasement Plan

If something backfires, have a compensatory back-up plan; appease agitated people with something like a complimentary travel kit (depending on the enormity of goof-up), and they would at least have the satisfaction that you are listening, and not ignoring customer grievances.

So, that’s it!

These were a few content marketing ideas for travel and tour businesses to create engagement, traffic, and new sales leads. What are your strategies – are you using content?

Lead Generation Strategy for Travel