Lead Generation in 2021: Your guide to generating leads on every platform

Leads, leads, leads. Do you want more? You should.

As the cornerstone of any successful business, leads are part and parcel of growth.

And you know what they say: “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

That quote applies in business as much as in life. Dramatic? Maybe a little. But in this super competitive, high-octane, forever online digital market, you can’t take your foot off the pedal, even for a second.

So, lead generation in 2021. In this guide, we’ll explore what to consider, how it’s done, and whether any one platform reigns supreme. 

BUT WAIT.

Before we get into it, it has to be said. Leads won’t solve all your problems.

They won’t improve your conversion rates, refine your service, or nurture your customers. 

More leads do not necessarily equate to more sales.

If you ask the average service-based business owner, the number one thing they need to scale is more leads. Or so they think.

Before committing to lead gen, you need to identify the exact pain points currently facing your business. Are more leads going to fix those problems, or is it something deeper? Maybe you’re too busy, or your existing customers simply aren’t being catered to properly. Are you in a position to even handle more leads?

(Of course, if you need help with any of these, feel free to get in touch)

You have to ask yourself the tough questions, and whether 1000 qualified customers through your door tomorrow would be a blessing or a curse.

Once that’s out of the way and you’re ready to bring in some brand new business, let’s talk lead generation.

GOOGLE LEAD GENERATION

First up, the all-seeing, all-knowing search engine juggernaut. Google is a staple for lead generation because it fills in a giant part of the equation for you – intent.

People are forever searching for solutions to their problems. Then, boom, there’s you with the perfect answer.

It’s streamlined lead generation. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, as being the home of the internet means Google is also where your competition plays.

Traditionally, there are two types of lead generation strategies on Google: organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to get your website to rank highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and pay-per-click (PPC) Google Ads campaigns. When optimised, both strategies direct potential customers to your business and convert them into leads.

Google SEO Lead Generation

The point of SEO is to make your web pages as relevant as possible to a person searching for specific information. 

It does this by matching search queries, called keywords, with your website content. A bunch of other factors are also assessed (over 200!), including the infamous PageRank, to determine your overall Google placement.

A handy breakdown based on testing. Source: Uptimisers.com.hk

So, first get people on your page, then get them in contact.

Generally, the faster and more quality content-rich your website is, the higher your results rank. Generally.

Ultimately, the algorithms are safely buried at Google HQ, probably in a bunker somewhere protected by laser tripwires. Nobody knows for sure all the intricacies that contribute to your rank except for Google themselves, meaning marketers must remain agile and adapt to each and every algorithm update.

Pictured: Google, probably (actually it’s the first Resident Evil movie).

That said, there are things we definitely do know.

SEO begins with research. Who are your ideal leads? What do they want? More specifically, what are they searching for?

You need to get inside their heads and do some digging. It’s totally cool if you spy on your competitors for inspiration (we promise we won’t tell anyone).

Google’s keyword planner and similar tools like WordStream’s offering will help provide the insight you need to create content that matches your ideal audience. But before you build anything new, it pays to take a look at your existing website and see if improvements can be made. 

Loading time is a big factor, so run your pages through a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to find out ways you can make them faster. There might be scope to tailor any current content to better match the keywords you identify, and maybe you can determine which pages are currently getting the best traction to see what you are doing right.

When writing new, quality content to match the search terms, whether it’s a service page, a blog post, or a product description, copy quality is key (as we explored here). Use compelling call to actions (CTAs), highlight the benefits of your offering, don’t plagiarise, and definitely don’t keyword stuff. Google hates that and has for a long time. 

Once you’ve got people on your site, make it super easy for them to get in touch with you. 

A responsive, intuitive website that looks good is a proven way to build your lead pipeline. Really, SEO should always be done with lead generation and the customer experience in mind. 

Otherwise, it’s like showing people inside your shop and then proceeding to ignore them. Rude.

Google Ads PPC Lead Generation

SEO is an effective strategy, but it takes time. Instead of building your pages to show up organically, you can instead pay for ads to show up for the same search terms.

When customers click on these PPC ads, they are taken to a purpose-built landing page, offering exactly what they are searching for on a silver platter. This page should prompt them to enter their details, subscribe, purchase immediately, or whatever else the goal of your lead generation campaign is. You get a click, you get a lead.

Psst… we’ve written a super handy guide on how to get started with Google Ads, over here.

You pay for these clicks (hence, PPC!) in an auction-based system. What you are bidding on is the chance to have your ads appear next to the search terms you wish to rank for. More competitive keywords are more expensive as there is more competition. Simple supply and demand.

Now, while SEO does not apply to paid ads, AdRank does. Similar to page rank, it’s Google’s method of assessing your ad value – and you’re going to want to be ranking as highly as possible to maximise the chance of people clicking through and becoming leads. 

Okay, so what affects AdRank?

Google breaks it down into six factors:

  • Your bid, and the maximum amount you’re willing to spend more click
  • The quality of your ads/landing page, based on value, relevancy, speed – all the things we touched on earlier
  • The AdRank threshold, which is the minimum reserve price for an ad
  • The competitiveness of your search terms
  • The context of the search, like user location, device and timing
  • Any ad extensions and how they will influence your performance based on a fancy algorithm

Optimising these six factors is going to be key to getting that coveted click. 

Once you do, the same rules largely apply as with SEO. The landing page users arrive at should load quickly (use PageSpeeds!) and be filled with clear, relevant, and compelling content. You need to build trust through design, copy and social proof if you want people to hand over their details and become a certified lead. 

If you want to be at the top of your game, aim for a conversion rate of around 10% or more.

Here’s a tip – when you request personal information, reveal exactly what it’s for (free quote, assessment, e-book, etc), keep your contact forms simple, and try not to ask people for too much. You probably don’t need to know where they went to school, it’s a bit creepy.

Also, in case we haven’t mentioned it enough, make sure it’s extremely simple for them to contact you, because a massive 44% of website visitors will promptly leave a site if there’s no obvious contact info. 

These two strategies, SEO and Google Ads, can also work hand-in-hand. Balancing the organic traffic to your pages with paid traffic from ads is a great way to maximise your coverage and your potential lead outreach. You can also use the data to identify your audience’s response to certain keywords, or opportunities where ads have lower competition.

Google Lead Form Extensions

By now, you’ve probably realised that comprehensive SEO and creating landing pages are fairly labour intensive, time-consuming tasks. 

Google has recognised this too, which is why they recently released lead form extensions.

Built for mobile, these extensions enable users to enter their information directly into your ad as it appears on the SERPs. That’s right, you can generate leads without the hassle of sending them to a landing page, streamlining your sales funnel. 

Mobile users have comprised roughly half of all website traffic consistently since 2017, so are likely to be a fair chunk of your audience. Simply create the lead form extension within the Google Ads interface and away you go. 

Google Lead Form Extension in action. Source: Instapage.com

However, you do have to meet certain criteria. Only some countries are eligible (Australia is one!) and the advertising business will need:

  • A good track record of not trying to game Google systems
  • A Google Ads account in a qualified vertical
  • A privacy policy
  • Depending on your campaign type, you may also need to have a total spend of USD$50k in your account

Not every business will find lead form extensions viable, but for those that do, it’s an invaluable and streamlined lead generation tool worth checking out.

FACEBOOK LEAD GENERATION

Let’s move on, with a scarily huge number: there are over 1.84 billion daily active users on Facebook.

Can you find customers there? You bet, but many businesses fail to adequately leverage Facebook and the massive potential it offers for lead generation.

There are two types of Facie leads:

Direct, where users click through content that leads directly to your website form, and;

Indirect, a slightly more sophisticated method where you offer high-value content first, then you point people towards your landing page.

Obviously, there are a few more steps in the indirect lead funnel, but it is also a far gentler, less salesy, and more organic way to get people behind your business.

Anyway, if you’re going down the ad route, Facebook has a few options. The main ones are:

Facebook Lead Ads

If you nominate “lead generation” as your marketing objective when creating your Facebook Ad, Facebook Lead Ads are your first port of call.

By embedding a contact form inside the ad, lead ads prompt users to submit their details without ever leaving the social media platform. Even better, their information is already pre-filled from FB’s data, ready to be sent to you in a few finger taps. We say taps, because lead ads are designed for mobile – where 98% of people get their Facebook fix. 

Highly versatile, lead ads are customisable and useful for a wide range of service-based business types. The incentive to click and submit could be anything, from free consultations, to newsletter subscriptions, quotes, demo requests, or registration for giveaways.

With lead ads, you can ‘bait’ users with especially valuable content, or incentives like webinars, courses or upgrades (known as lead magnets). You can also create dynamic ads, tailored to the likes or activity of a specific audience, and collate all your lead information through integration with your CRM.

Remember, the first rule of any lead generation strategy is knowing your customers.

No time wasted filling out forms, no landing pages necessary, and no reason to stop the feed scroll – it’s no surprise why Facebook Lead Ads are so popular…

Facebook Conversion Ads

…however, they’re not perfect. The broad nature of Facebook targeting, and the fact they are used at the top of the funnel (ie. people just discovering you exist) means Facebook Lead Ads can sometimes attract low-quality leads.

Luckily, you can take it a step further, with tried-and-tested Facebook Conversion Ads. In ye olde times before fancy lead ads, this is how lead generation was done: by sending people to your website to perform the desired conversion, be it filling out a contact form, viewing a specific service, or adding a product to cart.

The main difference between conversion and lead ads is that you are sending people away from Facebook to a site or specially designed landing page, much like a Google Ad does. 

Deciding where to send your users gives you more control, and scope to implement all the best-practice landing page techniques we mentioned earlier. 

Your Facebook Pixel will track all your conversions and give you insight into exactly how many leads you created. Source: Inman.com

While lead generation campaigns boasted an average 2% higher conversion rate than conversion campaigns, you have to consider quality, not quantity. The folks at WordStream found that when you look a bit closer and counted the qualified leads only, conversion campaigns actually converted almost 6% higher. They simply give your visitors a better idea of what your business is about.

Plus, having a dedicated landing page builds trust, proving you’re established and not just piggybacking off Facebook’s infrastructure.

For best results, use all that ideal audience research we know you’ve put together to target your conversion ad appropriately. 

From there, it’s a compelling hook in your headline, some winning Facebook Ad creative, and a call-to-action – making it very clear what to expect when the user clicks.

Facebook Boosted Posts

Now we’re in indirect marketing territory. As we mentioned, indirect is a more subtle, less shouty way of providing value to your prospects first and turning them into leads second.

Facebook boosted posts allow you to capitalise on great content by putting it on the feeds of targeted users. And, with organic reach on the platform pretty much nil – it might be the only way to get eyes on your content.

For example, if you know you have a popular or top converting blog post – say, a helpful, witty and engaging guide to Lead Generation in 2021 – you can boost this to a target audience and hopefully generate some leads yourself.

Sorry.

HubSpot did a handy little piece on leveraging high-traffic existing posts for lead generation.  

By providing value to your audience before hitting them with the pitch, you’re building credibility and warming those leads in a way that just feels more natural on a social media platform – and people appreciate it. Bring them in with a catchy headline, and make sure there’s a CTA somewhere in the post (near the top actually doesn’t hurt).

PS, if you got here via a boosted post, welcome. Thanks for coming.

INSTAGRAM LEAD GEN

Over to Facebook’s prettier cousin. Instagram might be all about the look, but the platform definitely should not be underestimated when it comes to lead generation. Turns out, a whopping 90% of Insta users follow a business account.

Instagram ads are made in Facebook’s Ad Manager, so you’ll need both a Facebook business page and an Instagram business profile to proceed. From here, it’s the same deal across platforms, selecting “lead generation” as your primary consideration to create your lead ad. You can define your audience, set your bid, and choose the format (remember, Instagram is overwhelmingly mobile-first). When you’re starting out, Facebook recommends “automatic placement” to get the most out of your budget using their optimisation AI. So do we.

Privacy changes for Apple users have certainly had an impact on finding and targeting audiences on Facebook and Instagram (although we’re adamant iOS14.5 is actually a great time for ads on these platforms). But, the users are still around, so there are plenty of opportunities to source warm leads with a bit of creativity. Or at least, room temperature leads.

One link to rule them all

Anyone who has used Instagram before knows they like to keep links to a minimum. In fact, your bio only has room for one. You only get one shot, so do not miss your chance to:

  • Keep the link short and sweet
  • Point people to your link in your posts by mentioning “link in bio”
  • Push the boundaries with a tool like Linkin.bio to convert your posts to links
  • Cheat a little more by collating multiple links in your bio with a tool like Linktree  
  • Use UTM parameters in your URL to make your links, and your leads, trackable

Business profiles on Insta have another card up their sleeve: action buttons. Depending on what you want your leads to do and where you want them to go, you can easily add clickable buttons to your profile, encouraging people to book, call, shop, reserve, and more. Be creative.

Being such a visual platform means appearances are everything on Instagram. Curate your profile so it is aesthetically pleasing, share valuable content regularly, and engage with your audience. Everyone loves a brand that communicates (just be nice).

It’s a popularity contest

If you’re popular enough, Instagram Stories are a goldmine, with one-third of the most-viewed stories on the platform from business pages. You can interact with your audience through polls and quizzes to find out more about your customers and what your leads look like. You can even pin evergreen or high-converting stories to your profile page. Plus, you can embed links to wherever you like, encouraging users to “swipe up” on impulse (soon to be Link Stickers) and arrive at a landing page. 

The caveat? You need at least 10,000 followers to use this feature. If you’re a bit short, it might pay to look into ways to increase your following first. Otherwise, you can pay to promote your Instagram story, and this will offer the swipe feature.

Finally, Instagram is bursting at the seams with influencers. Chances are, there’s one in your niche, and partnering with them is an effective way to reach new leads, by leveraging their credibility and existing fan loyalty. If the stars align, you might even build a blossoming, mutually beneficial relationship with your new brand ambassador. Cute!

Anyway, once you get that click, it’s up to the landing page to do the work. Luckily, you’re an expert on that now.

B2B LEAD GENERATION – LINKEDIN

LinkedIn might be the serious, no-nonsense dad of the social media world, but as the platform of choice for professionals, it is far and away the most popular playing field for B2B marketers. 

Almost all of them (96%!) use LinkedIn to distribute organic content, 83% for paid, and 66% claim the platform provided the best overall marketing results for their organisation.

Compared to Facebook, where organic reach is all but six feet under, on average LinkedIn generates nearly 300% more B2B leads. Globally, LinkedIn Ads have an average conversion rate of 9%, which, despite a higher relative cost-per-click (CPC), is a mighty impressive figure.

Using profile data and vast analytics on industries, professionals, and verticals, LinkedIn has the power to vet qualified leads, retarget them, and convert with efficiency.

Sponsored content allows your business to target a specific audience and capture their attention. Plus, you’ll gain insight into how effective your campaigns are and where to improve. Like other social media platforms, content can be an image, video, carousel or even an event, depending on your business model and your desired objective.

Interestingly, on LinkedIn, brand pages are not as effective or as engaging as on other platforms (at least not yet). It might be because employees tend to have 10 times more 1st-degree connections than a business page has followers. People just prefer to connect with people, so your personal profile should be professional, authoritative, and welcoming. Take it seriously, let people know exactly what you do and what you represent, and you’ll find they’ll be more receptive to your message.

Meme profiles like Chad’s are a rare delight on LinkedIn but may hurt your chances of bringing in any actual business.

As a networking platform, LinkedIn is all about reputation. Beyond your profile, participate in discussions, join Groups, and share valuable content. Go ahead, congratulate that co-worker on their promotion, or contribute to that piece from a thought-leader in the space. Not only is it polite and shows that you’re just an all-around lovely human, but it also demonstrates your values, helping build credibility and an audience you can appeal to when it comes time to find prospects. You know, networking. 

LinkedIn Ads have the additional benefit of streamlined Lead Gen Forms, pre-populated with users account information for easy submission. These can tie in with your sponsored content, or be used as part of targeted message ads, landing directly in your prospect’s inbox. 

A direct line of communication is cool, but whatever you do, don’t be spammy. The platform has recently developed something of a reputation due to the relentless approach of some marketers with irrelevant but persistent cold outreach. Does outreach work? Absolutely! Just make sure you’re targeting the right people and providing them with some sort of value. The spray and pray tactic is best left to traditional advertising media. 🤭  

LinkedIn gives you plenty of tools and analytics to continuously optimise your lead generation campaigns and identify your highest-value customers. Use them wisely.

B2B LEAD GENERATION – EMAIL OUTREACH

2021 marks 50 years since the first email was sent, and it’s still the de facto form of online communication. Half a century. Crazy, right?

Chief Marketer found email was still the top channel for generating both leads and revenue for B2B marketers. Humble it may be, but the potential for a well-crafted, strategy-driven email campaign is massive.

Emails have not remained completely exempt from advances in marketing technology. Automation, for example, is an incredibly popular tool that has largely eliminated the arguably insane practice of sending outreach emails one by one. Using sophisticated email flow chains, marketers can target users based on specific actions, and create complex sequences for the most effective timing and contextual impact of messages. 

Automation can take a minute to set up properly, and can quickly become unwieldy if you don’t have a clearly defined strategy – but once in place, they can save you a lot of time in lead generation.

An example of a nice, neat and clean email automation flow. Source: Automizy

In terms of finding your leads, ideally, some will be traffic from your website and your email list. (Note: always have an email list.) Tools like Impact Lists can provide you with quality lists of prospects in your industry or niche, letting you hone in on your target audience or even discover new ones. You can also use email lookup tools, like Hunter.io, to reach out to specific marketers and business owners directly. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, right? And then, you could always try and source emails or contact information yourself, by searching websites, social media, or Google listings. 

Without sounding like a broken record, whatever you decide to do needs to be well-thought-out and relevant for your business. Purchasing leads with reckless abandon and no clearly defined strategy is highly unlikely to bring it quality prospects, but it is likely to burn a massive hole in your pocket. 

When you’ve got your trusty list of, hopefully, promising leads, it’s time to craft your lead generation emails. In our experience, the biggest factors driving conversions are compelling, high-value subject lines, personalised, relevant copy, and an incentive for the lead to show interest; be it a free download, consultation, or discount.

IT’S STRATEGY TIME!

Variety is the spice of life, and if you’re using just one of these lead generation strategies in isolation, you may be hamstringing yourself.

There are many benefits to an omnichannel approach, maximising your reach, building a unified brand presence, and honestly – making your audience feel less bombarded on any single channel and tuning out.

At the end of the day, your strategy will be based on your customers and their behaviour, and if one platform is a clear winner, definitely double down. Insight and data will always dictate your next move – all we’re saying is, keep your options and your mind open.

Lead generation doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will depend on the channels and markets you pursue, the quality of your research, and a bit of good, old fashioned instinct. 

If you are overwhelmed by the sheer possibilities, or would feel safer having an expert take the reins, you’re not alone, and we’re here to help.

From identifying your potential customers to targeting them, converting and then nurturing, Megaphone Marketing has a proven track record in exceeding our client’s lead generation goals.