How to Create Your Own Leads 101

Jan 07, 2010Marketing and Lead Gen

This is the question everyone asks me and there are so many answers it’s hard to keep it simple. It really comes down to knowledge and risk. There are many ways you can create your own leads leveraging existing technology. To do it on a grand scale you need money, knowledge, and a healthy amount of courage. It can give you an anxiety attack putting your hopes in a marketing method without knowing a predictable outcome. This is where experience, knowledge, and trial and error come into play. I will summarize the main ways that you can create leads and the benefits and risks for each.

1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is the art of getting your website to rank for a given keyword or range of related keywords across major search engines without paying for clicks. What you are paying for is the building up of one way links pointing to your website. This makes your website seem relevant to the major search engines.

Method
The equation is simple:
1. Website that is content rich without a lot of images
You need a professional web developer that understands what is needed in site design
2. One way links pointing to your website
You can rent or buy a service to build these links
Note: Find a good service to build them it is much cheaper than renting
3. Original content that you or your writers create
You should not take articles from other sites or article dumps
4. Website age
If you just buy your domain and expect it to hit right away think again. It could take months if you have an older site. Or if you can buy a site with some age, then do that.

Risk
Money and time are the main risk. If you do it right, it’s just a matter of time before your site ranks.

Google and most search engines will sandbox your website, meaning they won’t let you rank until a given amount of time has passed. Building a site, buying links, creating or buying content is all very costly.

Cost
For a given site expect to spend a good $7,000 to $10,000 to get it to rank for less competitive keywords.

Benefit
Good leads from people who actually are seeking out your service are the reward for your patience and commitment. Most big companies invest serious coin to be number 1 for their keywords. If you are trying to compete with major companies for a keyword you are better off buying leads.

Bottom Line
Do your research. If you find some keywords that have little competition you may have a shot at climbing the ranks. With anything it takes a lot of reading and research before you should ever spend money. Test your skills with a blog first and then move up the chain. Get used to writing lots of content or finding someone who can.

2. CPC, PPC (Cost Per Click or Pay Per Click)

Method
You have simple call to action websites that you know can convert consumers looking for your product into a lead or a sale. You setup an account with Google, MSN, or Yahoo search marketing. You will be provided with an interface that allows you to pick keywords you would like to target. You will bid for the top spot and pay more for a top spot for a given keyword. Each search engine has paid placement at the top of each search and to the right of each search. See example:

CPC

 

Risk
The main risk associated with CPC is lack of conversion due to your form not converting. If you lock in daily spends you can see within a couple of days if your form is actually converting. Most people fall into the trap of paying too much for their bids and then don’t convert what they expect. It breaks down to Cost per Lead. If it takes 10 clicks at $2.00 per click to equal one lead, you are creating an organic lead at $20. That’s actually not that bad depending on the lead type. If it takes you 20 or 30 clicks to convert, you are in trouble. If you don’t set daily spending caps you also open yourself up to a big expense.

Cost
You need forms built that are call to action. This should cost about $300-$500 based on the skill set of your programmer. You can start testing your account with a spend level you are comfortable with. Just be careful to monitor your account. Some search companies are real time while others are not. You won’t see results for 24 hours which could be bad if you are just starting out.

Benefit
CPC is a good way to augment your existing volume and can even help with SEO. It’s not a bad idea if you’re promoting a particular site via SEO to also do some CPC along with it at first. Scale back once you really get your SEO going. CPC should not be relied on, it should be a way to supplement your current lead volume.

Bottom Line
Don’t make CPC your ace in the hole. Use CPC to supplement your main marketing methods. If you’re an expert at CPC by all means make it your winning marketing method but for anyone starting out take it slow. Don’t go crazy because you start seeing traffic and you think you’re going to make it rich. It boils down to cost per lead or sale created. Sharpen your pencil and stay on top of it before it gets away from you.

3. E-Mail

Method
There are two methods to e-mail. There is compliant e-mail which is basically e-mail solicitation to people who have already visited your site and opted in. Ok, so how do you get people to your site in the first place? It’s hard and this doesn’t yield a ton of leads. The second method is to buy opt in data from a reliable source and send a million e-mails out to prospects advertising your product. E-mail is by far the hardest to do and stay compliant. You not only have to follow the letter of the law but you have to be pretty savvy with technology or have someone on staff that is. I caution anyone getting into e-mail, this is by far the riskiest of all the marketing methods.

Risk
You could end up getting a call from the attorney general of your state or other states you sent e-mail to, so you better make sure you are 100% compliant in case that call ever comes. You can also spend money on lists that don’t pan out. You can have networks like Hydra do it for you and then the risk boils down to your form. If it doesn’t convert you’re stuck paying upfront for the service. If you have a great form, product, and money to test the waters you can win at this method.

Cost
Outside of building a good call to action form you need to research compliance. Knowing what constitutes compliant mail vs. non-compliant is going to take time and energy on your part. You will have to pay up front for mail services or you can purchase your own servers and give it a go. I would advise against this unless you are trained and have industry experience.

Benefit
Many will tell you that e-mail leads are the highest quality. For whatever reason people who are solicited and actually take the time to go to your site and fill out the form, yield a higher interest level than those that are surfing the web, solicited via phone, or click on a banner. It has been proven, take my word for it.

Bottom Line
Don’t buy leads from some guy who calls you and says he can generate a thousand e-mail leads per day. The last thing you want is to be liable for some third party that is spamming. Do your homework and either work with a reputable company or do it yourself. Don’t risk your company or your career because some guy tells you that they can turn on the juice and send you thousands of leads. Be smart and do your research on the people you decide to work with.

4. TV / Radio

Method
You place an advertisement on a radio station or television commercial with an 800 number for the potential client to call. Based on the 800 IVR system you are using, you can then route and record the call to your potential client. ClickPoint boasts an advanced 800 IVR routing system that can route calls to any client based on rules like round robin, price based, zip code, and voice prompt.

Risk
The risk here is pretty big. You have to put up a good amount of money to test your pitch. The reward is great and can be worth the risk. Many companies are now moving to this medium because of recent advances in technology which make tracking and monetizing much easier. It used to be difficult to move all the calls that came in and get a decent ROI. Now there are catch all accounts and resources for marketers to make use of all the calls that come in on their 800 number.

Cost
Can be pricey but the investment is worth the risk. Expect to spend a good amount on advertising. You can test out Google Radio and Google TV which allow you to set caps and bid for your ads. This isn’t a bad way to get used to how this works. Take the time to properly setup your call scripts and really execute a good pitch.

Benefit
Exclusive calls to a customer are fewer headaches than internet leads or any other type. How can a client argue about quality with a live person calling them? They may complain about debt amounts that are too low or loan amounts not high enough but they can never say the leads aren’t good. If you have sold internet leads you know the quality argument will take its toll and a lot of marketers prefer to send calls straight to their customers where there is little room for debate in regards to quality.

Bottom Line
Don’t attempt this without a good 800 IVR and call routing system. You will waste money, time, and credibility. I don’t care if you use our solution, just use one. If you don’t, you will have calls coming in with no way of tracking and routing them.

5. Telemarketing

Method
You hire a firm or have your own firm that calls people while they are at home eating dinner pitching a refinance right in the middle of meatloaf. Telemarketing was the old way of getting people to respond to ads. Now, companies have gone as far as robo calls. Let me first say I am not a fan and never have been. I personally hate it when someone calls me at home or shows up on my doorstep trying to sell me something. There are a few places that you should be able to be safe from intrusive $8 dollar an hour telemarketers harassing you with an offer you don’t need.

Risk
Your creditability, the quality of this type of lead is sub-par at best. The only way it works is if they are live call transfers, and even then if they are solicited in a way that is intrusive your conversions will be low. If you go oversees throw in an even lower conversion.

Cost
You can usually negotiate a cost per lead so your risk in regards to cost is minimal.

Benefit
If you have technology to create live call transfers it’s not a bad option. You can do it the right way and create some additional leads for your customers. Just be careful who you work with. There are companies like Double Positive and Leads 99 that do create a great lead, but they call on people who have already shown interest. They are not blind calling. If you go this route, make sure you have great data and a list of people who have already shown interest, otherwise, you will create a sub-par lead.

Bottom Line
Unless it’s a live call transfer, stay away from this form of marketing. National DNC laws are strict. One violation could set you back as much as $5,000 to $15,000. Make sure your compliant and not calling people on the DNC list unless they have visited your site.

6. Banner / Affiliate

Method
You create a banner that directs people to your landing page. Often you use affiliate add networks like Commission Junction, DirectTrack, or ShareaSale. These ad networks will put your banner up and promote it to their list of affiliates. The quality of the ad network you are working with is paramount. The ones that are good are often selective and expensive to join. Don’t be fooled by affiliate networks that promote no setup fee and little in the way of making sure your offer is legit.

Risk
Unless you are working with one of the most reputable ad networks, it can be very difficult to monitor quality. Unless you have a system like LeadExec that can filter leads that are bogus. You are basically trusting this network to find quality advertisers to host your banner. This system has been ripe with fraud and the only way to police it is to have quality affiliates. The big networks do have quality affiliates, but still are open to fraud.

Cost
You can usually set spending limits and a cost per acquisition or CPA for each lead created. This is good in terms of keeping cost down.

Benefit
If you can get in to one of the big networks like CJ or LinkShare you might have a shot at creating some quality leads. If you join a network that is not one of these two, be very careful which affiliates you work with. Fraudulent leads will be the quickest way to end your lead business. Phone verify your leads and make sure your quality control is turned way up to ensure bad leads do not make it your customers.

Bottom Line
Affiliate marketing and banner advertising can be good if you find the right affiliates. I have never been a big fan because I get to see score reports every day on which sources work and which don’t. If you go this route be careful and do your homework just like any other route you may take.

Gabriel Buck

Gabriel Buck

Combining years of startup entrepreneurial spirit, with hard work and a healthy dose of passion, Gabe has created a winning culture at ClickPoint Software. He is passionate about lead management, customer service, easy-to-use software design, and creating tools that help marketers create more valuable leads. You can find him in the trenches looking to improve any sales or marketing process in need of improvement.