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9 Quick Tips to Optimize Online Sales Lead Gen

These quick tips are written by Managing Editor Eileen Shulock, who is an ecommerce fashionista at her day job. She sees firsthand what works and what doesn't when selling hip threads online. Your humble publisher (that would be me, Larry Chase) also contributed some key observations and to-do's that I've discovered from publishing Web Digest For Marketers since April 1995.

Eileen's Tips:

1. Have More Than One Lead/Offer: If you only have one promotion featured on your website or in your email, here's what happens: Your site visitor either likes the offer or he doesn't. That's a big risk to take, because if he doesn't like the offer, he leaves and is gone forevermore. If you are a B2B company, that means you should feature more than one whitepaper or other lead generator on your website. If you sell products, you should show more than one. If you offer very different leads, such as whitepapers on different subjects, you are segmenting your leads at the same time. Love those time-savers!

2. Study Your Influencers: A few key "influencers" drive the most quality leads and sales. Rather than targeting the whole world of influencers (blog editors, sites like Digg or community shopping sites, etc.), you track down the key people and woo them however you can. If you feature content, consider offering key people guest-editor spots on your site. Not only will they drive traffic/leads to your site; you will also be "top of mind" when they have new opportunities to share. Nothing works like flattery!

3. Offer Referral Fees or Gifts: An affiliate program is one well-known way to generate leads (i.e., you partner with like-minded sites to offer each other's products or services). In addition, when done legally and with tact, there is nothing wrong with wooing appropriate parties with special gifts or fees. "Fees?" you say with horror. Yes, indeed. When I am looking for leads in the fashion world, I regularly contact appropriate sites and offer referral fees or money for a sweepstakes or gratis products for promotional purposes. A gift such as a complimentary subscription to your service is an example of how this suggestion could work for you. In the offline world, this is called "nourishing the sales channel."

4. Offer "Out of Stock" or "Upcoming Products/Services" Notifications: Let's say you have a new whitepaper or product on your site, and you know you have more coming down the pipe. You can promote those future projects by offering to notify interested parties when said items are ready. This is an easily implemented tactic that creates a lead pipe with ease. If you offer more than one notification at the same time, do try to segment the subject matter so you have ready-to-go segmented leads. And do deliver what you promise!

5. Get Out There and Participate with Vendors: If you feature multiple vendors on your site, make it known that you are game for any promotions that they have in the pipeline. For example, I work with two fashion vendors to promote their new product lines. "What's in it for me?" you ask. Well, duh, you become the go-to source for that product or complementary service, and you piggyback on the time and money they've already spent to get the thing organized and rolling.

TIP: Ask the vendor what other companies are participating in the program so that you make sure none of your competitors is involved. You don't want to fight for the leads.

Larry's Tips:

6. Long Tail Landing Pages: As the publisher of Web Digest For Marketers, I've noticed that one of the biggest mistakes people make is to take their landing pages containing an offer down too soon. If it's an evergreen B2B landing page, you can keep it up without touching it for a very long time. Just be sure to harvest the leads from it, and watch how long that tail gets. I've noticed click-throughs on offers in Web Digest for over one year after the original offer ran.

If yours is a time-sensitive offer, you naturally have to address this and perhaps post a consolation offer for those who missed out on your promotion. Maybe you put a coupon up that is good for a full year thereafter. Then, watch how many redemptions you get.

7. Amortize Your Whitepapers: Another pattern I see as publisher of Web Digest is that some advertisers underutilize their creative assets. Often an advertiser will think a whitepaper has reached the end of its shelf life after running just once or twice. In contrast, I've seen advertisers run the exact same whitepaper repeatedly and get impressive click-throughs two, three and four times. In the email-marketing channel, this has much to do with list vitality.

TIP: While you can offer the same whitepaper, swap out ad copy, or at least the headline. But I have seen identical copy pull just as well the second time as the first time within a few weeks.

8. Make Marketers Listen to Sales People: For some stupid reason, marketers often think they know more than sales people. The opposite is often true. Why? Because sales people (be they in a trade show booth, on the phone or in a showroom) work where the rubber meets the road. These are the people who interact with your audience on a daily basis.

Marketers tend to talk to other marketers and persuade each other something is true when it often isn't. If your sales people say the leads you're feeding them are awful, listen. They may be right. On the other hand the sales people might just be complaining. It's probably a little bit of both.

9. Quick, Do a Vid: All the trends I'm seeing show that video is hot. People click on it because they can now easily play vids thanks to expanded bandwidth between server and client PCs. Maybe video is still a novelty, and it will wear off (but I don't think so). But, since video usage is increasing so rapidly, and it's so cheap to produce, why not?

Yes, producing video is more laborious than a simple text or banner ad; but, come on, it's still cheap and easy. Do it while the getting is good. It won't be long before you see video PPC ads in those sponsored listings that will compete with those must-click video stills in Universal Search results. Never underestimate the magic of motion and sound.