How to Create a Lead Generation Machine for your SaaS Business
Leads are the backbone of any SaaS business.
They're what make them grow.
But, despite what many business think, getting leads isn’t hard. Solve the right problem and promote your solution to the right audience in the right way, and you will get all the leads you need.
What’s hard is getting leads consistently and affordably.
We can discuss many lead generation tactics and their effectiveness. But none of them work well without a good underlying structure.
This is where a lead generation machine comes to the rescue.
In this article, I will show you how to create a lead generation machine for your SaaS business so you can start getting leads and growing.
Let's get started!
The elements of a lead generation machine
First of all, let's start by defining what a lead generation machine is and how it differs from a campaign.
A lead generation machine represents a systematic process in which a company attracts and converts a group of visitors into leads.
A lead generation machine differs from a campaign in its consistency. A lead generation campaign works as a one-time, short-term process. You create content, you attract people to it, and you get leads. This works great for most companies.
On the other hand, a lead generation machine focuses on getting leads consistently over a long period of time.
A lead generation machine, like any other machine, is made up of a number of pieces which make it work in a systematic way. Each of these pieces (or elements) doesn't have the same power on their own as all of them together. As Aristotle used to say, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." That's why it's so important to understand how they work and how to use them. One part out of line or broken and the whole thing breaks down.
The elements that make a lead generation machine are:
- A specific buyer persona
- Great content
- The right content format for the right step in the buyer’s journey
- The right sign-up incentives
- A high-converting landing page
- An optimized traffic acquisition channel
- A retargeting campaign
This article will explain each of these elements and how they complement each other.
A buyer persona is a fictional and generalized representation of your ideal customer (also known as target audience). Personas help understand the ideal customer your company is trying to attract while treating them as real humans and not just a statistic.
According to Adele Revella, author of the book Buyer Personas, in order to create a relevant buyer persona, you first need to talk to your buyers. In her own words:
"The most effective way to build buyer personas is to interview buyers who have previously weighed their options, considered or rejected solutions, and made a decision similar to the one you want to influence."
This means creating a buyer persona isn't a theoretical exercise. You can't sit down and "come up" with your buyers based on your own experience, thoughts, or a "gut feeling". You need to get qualitative data that shows you who your buyers are.
Two commonly used techniques to find this information are surveys and phone (or 1-on-1) interviews.
The first and most important question to ask them is "What is your biggest challenge?". Based on their answer, ask them "Why?", or any variation of that question, until you get valuable insights. Remember that people can't always explain their own behaviors. By digging deep on why they behave how they behave, you will get valuable insight about them.
Of course, you can use some quantitative data as well. My favorite ways are using Google Analytics' Demographics report and social media following analysis using tools like Followerwonk and Facebook Audience Insights.
Before moving on, you should have created at least one buyer persona. In most cases, companies have two or three buyer personas for which they create lead generation campaigns.
So far we have covered the first step of the lead generation machine, in which we get to know who we will be targeting. Once you get a crystal clear idea of this fictional individual, we need to move on to the next step: creating great content.
The goal of this element is to catch our audience's attention and make them interested in what we have to say. We can't just interrupt them and somehow convince them to sign up.
But here's a problem: content is dime in a dozen in the modern marketing world. Every day millions of articles are published in blogs all around the world in every industry under the sun. You can't just create content and expect results. The content you create must be top-notch and it needs to solve a problem your ideal customer has.
Great content has a few distinctive characteristics:
1. It provides immense value:
The most important attribute of any piece of content you publish is that it has to provide immense value. It needs to solve a problem; it needs to be relevant; and it needs to do so in a way your customers can understand it.
The Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization, developed by Moz, is a perfect example of a piece of content that provides an incredible level of value. If you are an SEO rookie, you will learn everything you need to know in this free guide. Who wouldn't then consider Moz as the ultimate SEO tool (even if it's not)?
This is the kind of impression you can give to your customers if you provide such a level of value without asking anything in return.
2. It’s well written:
Assuming you are going to publish a written piece of content, like an article or an ebook, you need to make sure it's written by a professional writer. The same idea applies for the editing. Just think about it, if you want to be considered as a professional company, your content needs to be done by a professional.
3. It’s well researched:
This may not apply to every piece of content you put out there, but in most cases, it pays to use research data on your content. It shows professionalism and it makes you look like an authority (even if the research wasn't carried out by your company). It's not hard to find good research either. Usually a "keyword + research" Google search will do.
Peep Laja, the founder of the conversion rate optimization agency and blog ConversionXL is famous for having created one of the top CRO blogs in the online world because of its focus on well-researched content.
4. It’s optimized:
If your content is great, your buyers will love you. But if you don't optimize it for shares, links, and conversions, you'll be leaving money on the table. Make sure you optimize each piece of content (and landing page) for SEO, social shares, and conversions.
5. It’s long:
It's been proven over and over that long content performs better. If you think about it, long content looks professional. I know, you can ramble on about many irrelevant things and make your content suck, but if your content is developed by a professional, this won't happen. Also, remember that people like sharing things that make them look smart. If longer content looks good, people will share it and link to it.
A famous study by serpIQ found that the average length of the top-rated content in the top 10 results of search queries was over 2,000 words.
6. Right content format
I previously assumed your lead generation content will be written. This is true for the great majority of cases. But in many cases, it's not. Video has been proven to work great for lead generation, so you should consider every type of content format available. Not every piece of content has to be an article, you know?
Nevertheless, it's important to understand that each type of content format is suited for different buyer's needs. It's not the same to offer an article to a buyer who just found your company than to one who's ready to buy.
The best way to separate these needs is by using a funnel. A funnel is nothing but a model that segments your buyers based on the step they are in their journey towards becoming a customer of yours.
There are many models that companies use to do this, but the most common is "ToFu," "MoFu" and "BoFu." Before you get all creeped out by this weird acronyms, let me explain to you what is it all about. The ToFu, MoFu, BoFu model segments your customers on three steps according to the place they are in their journey:
1. ToFu, or "Top of the Funnel:" This step represents those buyers who are trying to solve a problem or meet a need.
2. MoFu, or "Middle of the Funnel:" This step is made up by those buyers who know that they have a problem or a need that must be solved and have moved on to determining the best solution.
3. BoFu, or "Bottom of the Funnel:" This step is for those buyers that are ready to buy and whose only remaining question is who they will buy from. This is the part where you will be contacting them through a sales rep or with sales content.
Since the needs differ so much between step and step, the best thing you can do is use different types of content formats for each step.
For the top of the funnel, the most common types of content formats used are:
- Social media posts
- Guest posts
For the middle of the funnel step, it's recommended to use:
- Video tutorials
- Long-form guides
- White papers
The bottom of the funnel it's a bit trickier since in many cases it makes more sense to have a sales rep contact these people. Either way, if you are going to use content, you should consider the following formats:
- Case studies
When creating the content for your lead generation machine, consider the step the buyer you are targeting is, and use the right content format accordingly.
The Right Incentives
There's one thing that separates prospects who don't convert from leads who do: the latter have found a reason to give you their information to you, and the former have not.
In other words, if you want to get people to convert, give them a good reason to do so. With the right incentives in place, you can increase your chances of succeeding.
The best way to incentivize your visitors is by giving them something of value for free. As this article points out, things like an ebook, a gift certificate, a webinar, partner offers, coupons, a consultation call, among others, work great to incentivize people.
Marketers like to refer to these incentives as "lead magnets". As the name suggest, a lead magnet is any type of offer that makes it a no-brainer for someone to become a lead of yours. The goal of the lead magnets is to maximize the number of targeted leads you are getting for an offer.
But even if you call this a lead magnet, never forget the underlying psychological process: you are giving them an incentive for them to give you their information. Focus on what they get, not the other way around.
Even though this may take another article on itself, the best way to create a lead magnet is, as always, to start with your customers (remember the buyer personas?). Since you should already know who they are and what they need, it won't be hard for you to know what kind of valuable information you can give them for free.
Don't overcomplicate this more than it's necessary. If you already have a popular piece of content that has worked great in the past (say, an article), you can repurpose it and make it into something downloadable (like an ebook).
Another great tactic which I love using myself (something which I've used in this same article), is a variation of the lead magnet concept. Instead of coming up with a new piece of content from scratch and promoting it to your audience, you take an already popular piece of content and create a downloadable piece of content. This piece of content should work like an extension of the original one but improved.
Marketers call this a "content upgrade" because you are basically upgrading a piece of content. The key is that in order for your customers to get it, they need to sign up for your email list.
With either of these incentives, we will then create a separate page to promote it and get more leads. But this isn't a normal page, its purpose and design are completely different from the rest of your website's pages.
You can make someone sign up to get your lead magnets right from your content page, but it’s hard. Have you ever woke up and said to yourself "geez, I really feel like downloading an ebook!"? I know you haven't. So have your visitors. They want to consume your content because they want to solve a problem of theirs, just like you probably do (even if you don't consciously think about it).
That's why you need to take your lead magnets outside your content page (this includes content upgrades as well). We will call this new place a "landing page".
A landing page is nothing but a separate page where you will show your lead magnet, explains all its features and benefits, and gives your visitors a clear call-to-action for them to get it.
Unfortunately, not many businesses use landing pages the right way. According to MarketingSherpa's Landing Page Handbook (2nd edition), 44% of clicks for B2B companies are directed to the business' homepage, not a special landing page. Also, 62% of B2B companies that do use landing pages have six or fewer in total.
But even if you use landing pages, you need to remember that every lead-generation machine needs to have a high-converting landing page. I added the "high-converting" adjective for a reason: having a landing page that makes your prospective buyers go away isn't of any use. What we want is to have a landing page that drives people to become leads.
Here's a short list of tips to make and optimize your high-converting landing pages:
It has to have a clean and clear design. Your visitors need to understand who you are, what you’re offering, and what you’re asking in return in a simple fashion. The better you can explain that, the more likely that visitor is going to convert.
Develop trust and consistency on your landing page. Don't hide your business. By being clear on what your business does and provides, the more trust you will gain. The more a person trusts you, the more likely they’ll be prepared to convert.
Clearly communicate your value proposition. Be very specific describing the problem your product solves and how it can improve your visitor’s life or business.
My favorite tool to create landing pages is Wishpond, the company that hosts this blog. If you use their easy-to-use landing page builder, all of the tips I've previously shared with you will be already set up. You will only need to fill it with content and start promoting.
Traffic acquisition channel
Every machine needs fuel, just like your lead generation machine. In the case of a machine, like a car, the most commonly used fuel is gasoline or diesel. For your lead generation machine, you need traffic.
You can have the most amazing and perfectly-optimized landing page, but if no one sees it, what difference does it make on your business bottom-line? On the other hand, throwing traffic to an irrelevant landing page doesn't work at all.
But here's an interesting fact: you don't want any traffic, you want the right traffic. This means you need to be strategic promoting your landing page so the right people find them at the right time. You want to offer the right content with the right format to the right buyer when they most need it.
There are many traffic channels for you to promote your landing pages, but the best ones I've found are:
- Your own site
- Your email list
- Facebook Ads
- Company listing platforms, like softwarefindr and Capterra
The first and most obvious way to promote your landing page is on your own site. You can either promote them using sidebar banners, pop-ups, or inline blog post banners or create a whole new section of your site where you feature all your lead magnets (which link to the landing pages).
For example, Marketo has a Resources page where they feature all their webinars, slide decks, ebooks, and more. Clicking on each resource leads to a separate landing page where you have to give your information. They promote this page right on the main top menu. This way, their visitors can download all the information they need conveniently.
Another useful way to promote your landing pages is by using your own email list. Consider you already have an email list, as soon as you publish your landing page you should send an email to your segmented list letting them know about the new content. Of course, you should give them all the benefits your content provides.
Finally, another great way to promote your landing pages is by using Facebook Ads. Facebook Ads can help you promote your landing pages to a relevant audience in no time, even if it takes some experience getting to know its immense power. You only need to use your custom and lookalike audiences (which are made up by the same people who visited your site and similar people to your visitors, respectively), create a good looking ad (like the one you will see below), and start investing in it.
Even if some people get to your site, the great majority will probably leave without converting. This isn't a sad thing. It's a fact, and it's totally normal. What's sad is you don't do anything to bring them back. Retargeting is the tactic you can use to achieve this goal.
What differentiates retargeting from a common ad is that the people who get the former already know you, whereas the latter may not. This is why retargeting can boost ad response up to 40%. This can also explain why the average click-through rate for display ads is 0.07%, whereas the average click-through for retargeted ads is about 0.7%, ten times higher than a regular ad.
The key of retargeting, of course, isn't just to show them an ad. Rather, you want to use this opportunity to show them a relevant offer.
In the case of a B2B SaaS company, we can assume someone who visits your blog and reads more than 2 articles (a value that can be set up easily in any retargeting campaign) is already in the MoFu step, and therefore, we can offer them an ebook about the topic of the articles they read. If they convert, but don't sign up for a free trial, we can assume they are in the BoFu step, and therefore, we can retarget them with an offer that explains all the benefits of the app.
So there you have it. A full-fledged lead generation machine that can help you go from having a business that grows slowly to igniting your sales and revenue in a short period of time. Yes, you will have to work hard to get your results, but with the lead generation machine I showed you today your chances of succeeding will be much higher.
If you need some help implementing each element of your lead generation machine, then download this article's FREE checklist so you can use it whenever you want.
About the author:
Ivan Kreimer is a content marketing consultant that helps SaaS business increase their traffic, leads and sales. Previously, he worked as an online marketing consultant helping both small and large companies drive more traffic and revenue.