Time and time again, we in this industry are asked the same question, "what is the most effective way of generating leads???"
The answer to this question lies in one truth, and that is the attention span of the user. When a user signs up for a product they are at the peak of their personal interest level, but that level quickly diminishes. With each different type of advertising technique, the user is one-on-one with a product, and they longer they spend with it, the better the lead will ultimately be. The goal is to keep the user as interested as possible, for as long as possible, before making them do anything on their end (click a button, fill out a form, etc.).
Some of the main sources for leads of course are Search Engine Optimization, On-Line banner display, Co-Registration, and Dedicated E-Mail. All serve a purpose, and all are effective, but one stands above the rest. I wonder which it will be???
SEO - With SEO, users search for something triggering a keyword, taking them to a selection of links/products associated with the keyword. After clicking on the advertiser's link, the product is explained -- and if users are interested, they fill out a form. (Yes, I am aware that this is probably the simplest definition of SEO in history, but work with me here, I have a lot to cover!)
Search is by far the most cost-effective way of generating a great number of leads. Because of that, most people would say that this is the best. I beg to differ, though. The average user is not searching directly for the product. After clicking, they usually go away (which is why most SEO is charged on CPC). The ones that do stay are indeed informed, but confused because they weren't really looking for this type of product. They saw flashy lights and zippidy-doo-das, and signed up.
This did have the user's attention, but for a very short amount of time. The user begins the engagement with the product by reading the link. When clicked the user has shown interest, and if the user fills out a form, that is where the interest in the product plateaus. An immediate marketing strategy is effective, but in the end it usually isn't enough. This lead has at most a 24 hour turnaround time. If re-engagement has not occurred, the lead is most likely gone. Another step in the process before sign up would engage the user longer, thus making it a more qualified lead.
On-Line Banner Display - Banners can be all sorts of shapes and sizes. They are placed on a site, and when clicked, users see the product information, then if they are so inclined they fill out a form.
There are pop-ups, contextual, interstitial, video, etc. -- all of which are irrelevant without proper placement. If done correctly, the ads already match the demographic of the page they are on. So a golf advertisement should be on a golf site (or one that has the demographics of golf enthusiasts). That being said, this type of advertising is almost identical to SEO in respect to lead quality.
Just like SEO, the user is interested in something similar to the product they are clicking on. Then they are given more information and if they have an inkling of interest they fill out a form giving the advertiser the lead. And, just like SEO, the fall-off of lead conversion is great because they did not obtain the interest of the user for long enough.
The fact of the matter is, just like SEO most of the clicks are accidental and if a conversion is to be made, it will be because of a timely, poignant message delivered by post lead marketing. If more steps were added to the process of obtaining the lead, the outcome would be much better.
Co-Registration - After a user signs up for a product, a newsletter, or anything else that requires any sort of information, advertisements can be shown. This process of using the demographics and already obtained information is called co-registration.
This is my personal favorite type of lead generation -- mostly because of the fact that the advertiser always has something to show for the dollars spent. However, I am also a realist; I know that of all the ways to generate leads mentioned in this article, regular, old co-reg. is by far the worst. That's because it holds the interest of the user for only a fraction of what the others do.
When a user sees an offer after registering for something else, they usually do not have to fill out anything else; they can simply click on the offer. This then transfers the information and the lead has been generated. If marketing does not happen immediately after, it will not usually pan out. The user was only engaged for the briefest of moments and when contacted at a later time usually does not remember even clicking the ad. The only way to set this lead into motion is an engaging auto-responder e-mail or phone call with an effective call center. Even these are not usually timely enough.
Dedicated E-mail - With e-mail advertising, the user receives an email from a trusted source. After reading the headline, he decides to open the actual email, which holds some information, but mainly links to landing pages. The user can then click to find out more and then fill out the required information on the landing page.
This style of advertising, my friends, is the winner of the lead quality contest. Not because of flashiness, or technology, but because when the user gives his information to this advertiser, the user knows exactly what is going on. It takes three different steps for him to give information, so when the user fills out that form, it is because he truly wants to. The level of desire for the product surpasses that of the other forms of generating leads, making it the best lead-generating service.
It may take a great deal of time more, but if you sift through a haystack of leads, you will eventually find the needle. A campaign tactically attacking all of these techniques works best. Or if not, remember they all beat the hell out of print!!!