Lead generation is the lifeblood of small businesses. For most small businesses that don’t sell retail with walk-in traffic, generating new leads is one of the most critical activities you can do. If you are an attorney, CPA, consultant, personal trainer, contractor, insurance broker, real estate broker, or any other type of business that needs a steady flow of new sales leads coming in, this article about developing and using a lead magnet is for you.
Your website is a fantastic vehicle for feeding your sales pipeline, but not if you build the typical small business site. The typical small business site has an about us page, a list of services, hours of operation and maybe a contact page. Those items are OK, but if that is all you have, you won’t generate a lot of leads from your site. In the industry, we call those “brochureware” sites because they are like a brochure all about you. You need good content. You need a lead generating system. You need a lead magnet.
What is a Lead Magnet?
A lead magnet, in its purest form, is exactly what it sounds like. It is something that attracts new sales leads to your business like a magnet. In short, it is something you give a prospective customer, and in return, they give you their contact information and essentially raise their hand and say they are interested in what you have to offer.
Ideally, this lead magnet is NOT a discount on your services, which is far too common and presumes the buyer is ready to buy today, but simply needs a discount from you to move forward. The timing of a prospective customer hitting your website at that exact moment in time is rare. Instead, it is generally a piece of information that you share with a prospect after they give you their contact information. That information is something the prospect actually wants and will find helpful. Here are some examples of lead magnets:
- Tip Sheet
- Cheat Sheets
Here are a couple of basic examples of how to use these. If you are a CPA and looking for new clients, you might be creating a cheat sheet that outlines 10 tax deductions that small businesses can utilize. If you are a small business attorney, you might set up a video where you explain what the best type of business entity to use and why, i.e., LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc. An even better idea might be to team up with a CPA and the attorney discusses the legal protections of the business entity and the CPA discusses the tax benefits of each then each of you shares it as a lead magnet. If you are an HR consultant, you could give out a free workbook on how to build a useful employee handbook.
How do you know if the content you want to create is the best lead magnet for your potential customers? You need to develop a profile of what your customer looks like, which digital marketers call a buyer persona or customer avatar.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a dossier on a fictionalized version of your ideal customer. This dossier outlines items such as who they are, where they work, problems faced, and positions held in the company. It should cover places they hang out on the web, age, and lifestyle. The idea is to help you flesh out a picture of exactly who this person is. To generate a basic buyer persona, follow these steps:
Step 1: Define Your Ideal Customer
The first essential step is to go through your existing customers and identify your best customers. These are the customers that you would love to have more of. Think top tier “A” level customer. While it might be tempting to go straight to the customers that are largest or generate the most money, this is only one dimension you might consider. Other elements like how easy they are to work with or how quickly they pay their bills might be factors.
Quick story, back many decades ago, when Sears used to be THE retail and catalog company in the U.S., every small business in the world wanted to get a contract with Sears. If you were a small business, that made clothing, for example, and wanted to land Sears as a customer. Companies thought they won the lottery when Sears chose them. This was the beginning of the nightmare for these businesses.
While Sears would often buy a lot of products and generated big sales for these businesses, it also came with serious downsides. Sears routinely took 9 months before paying their bills, essentially using their vendors like a bank and had a variety of onerous terms on delivery, quality, and other demands. So, while they were the biggest customer, they weren’t necessarily the best customer.
Step 2: Define the Attributes of These Customers
Once you have a list of your ideal customers, then go through and begin identifying the common attributes they share. Are they in a specific industry? Do they hold certain positions in the business? Here are some things to identify:
- Size of Business
- Title the Customer Holds
- Pain Points that You Help Solve
- Geographic Location
- Social Media Platforms Used
- Business Goals
- Websites Browsed
If it isn’t obvious, what you are trying to do is get a portrait of this person and essentially get inside their head and learn how to think and make decisions. Once you do this exercise, you will often find commonalities between many of these traits that align with your best customers. Once you have a portrait of these customers, you want to write out this dossier and possibly put add a photo of them, a stock image will work, a real photo might be creepy. You can even give them a fictionalized name if you want. Doing this helps you personalize them and keep them top of mind when you are creating your content and lead magnet.
How to Create and Use a Lead Magnet
Step 1: Create a Lead Magnet for Your Buyer Persona
Once you know who the ideal customer is and have a dossier prepared on them, you are now ready to build your lead magnet. To begin, focus on the pain points that you help them solve. Start thinking what it is you do that makes their life easier. Ask yourself what types of information you can create that focus on some of these pain points.
For example, a CPA might choose medium-sized home builders and re-modelers as their ideal customer. After going through the steps above, maybe you discover that one of their pain points is tracking taxes owed in all the communities they do work in. You could create a simple tracking guide or spreadsheet and companion video on how to use this guide for tracking taxes.
Here is a second example, suppose you are a financial consultant that works with small businesses on managing their business finance systems. After doing the exercise, you discover a pain point your best customers have is building up a credit profile for their business that is in the name of the company and not in their personal name. You could create an eBook on how a small business can build a business credit profile and outline the steps they need to take to get this profile created and presented to a bank.
Years ago, we helped a CPA firm hold a seminar where they invited several commercial lenders as a panel and invited a room full of small businesses. The CPA asked questions of the panelists about what they looked for in a small business seeking a commercial loan. He recorded the entire event and used it as a lead magnet in attracting small business clients by calling his video and associated workbook he designed “A Small Business Strategy Kit on Commercial Loans”. He gave away the information and it generated hundreds of leads over the years.
Step 2: Create a Lead Generation System
Once you have your lead magnet created and it is ready to go, you must use it in a way that generates leads. It won’t do you any good to simply put a link for people to download it off your homepage without telling you who they are. If people don’t have to tell you anything about themselves before downloading your lead magnet, they won’t.
Step 2a: Generate a “Sales” Page for Your Lead Magnet
You will want to tell visitors to your website about this great piece of content you have for them. You can write copy that talks about it and why your customers will want it. You are essentially “selling” this free content by telling your visitors why it is so great and what they will learn by requesting it. You can put this copy on your home page, build it into a blog article, put copy on a services page, etc. Maybe that copy is just a little blurb, one paragraph, or call out box or a pop-up box that loads when they get ready to close the site. We call these CTA, short for call to action. It is designed to entice them to click a button or link that takes them to a full-blown sales page with your response form and another call to action to get the actual lead magnet.
Step 2b: Create a Gate for Your Lead Magnet
You need to create a toll gate. You aren’t going to charge money for it, but you will require that people give you some necessary information like their name, email address, company name, phone number, title, etc. Once they provide this information in a form on your website, they will go to a hidden page on your website where they can download this content. Digital marketers refer to this as gated content because it is essentially behind a gate, and you must give up something (contact info) to get the content.
One note here, many studies have been done on this concept, and one thing seems always to be right; the more information you ask for on your form, the lower the response rate will be. If you ask for every single piece of information you can think of, you will probably get a pretty weak response rate or worse, no response. If you ask for just an email address, you might get a pretty high response rate but won’t have much information. Some combination of these two extremes will probably work best.
Remember the goal here is to get prospects to request the information and give you enough contact information to know something about them. Your goal is NOT to try and sell them on your services. At this stage in the process, they are simply a lead. You will still need to follow up with them in the most appropriate manner possible and work them into a customer. Expect this process to take some time as you build trust with them over time.
If you are a financial planner, for example, and have a guide on your site about the top 10 retirement mistakes people make, don’t expect people to download this guide and then call you and transfer a million dollars of accounts over to you the next day. It doesn’t work that fast, which brings us to the final step in this process—the drip.
Create a Drip Campaign
A drip may be bad for your kitchen faucet, but it is a critical step in lead nurturing. Once someone has requested your lead magnet and you have some necessary information about them, you need to drip additional information to them over time and ease them into your business. Help them learn to trust you by sharing additional information with them, which could be articles you have written, other lead magnets, free videos, etc. You can share these items with them through an email newsletter and build a relationship with them over time.
As they get your information, they will come to see you are giving them value, staying top of mind with regular content, and building trust with you. When the prospect is ready, they will reach out to you. It is OK to give them personalized messages or contacts over time like a quick email directed to just them or possibly a quick phone call to learn a little more about them. Be careful on this step. If a prospect is brand new and downloads a lead magnet, don’t pick the phone up 60 seconds after getting the email and start asking for an appointment. You will blow it, and they will never want to do business with you.
The best analogy I heard from another marketer is thinking of this as dating. If you meet someone for the first time, you don’t walk up and ask them to marry you! Instead, you talk a little, maybe exchange phone numbers, go out on a first date, etc. Over time a relationship will build, and eventually, that could lead to marriage. That is how content marketing and lead magnets work. You provide value over time and let the prospect get to know and trust you. When a person is ready, you will get a new customer.
The next obvious question many people have is when it is the right time to turn them into a customer. First, this decision is not up to you. It is up to the customer. Second, it depends on how long the typical sales cycle or the buyer’s journey is in your industry. Learning to trust a financial planner or CPA that handles intimate details about your financial life will certainly take longer than perhaps giving a personal trainer a try for a few workout sessions. A good rule of thumb is the higher the perceived risk is to the customer generally the longer the sales cycle or buyer’s journey.
Developing a buyer’s journey or sales funnel is a bit complex and will be covered in a future article. For now, focus on the basic steps in this article to define your buyer persona and create the first lead magnet to attract more of these ideal customers to your business.
If you are starting on this strategy from the beginning and have never set up anything like this before you might be saying something like “I need customers NOW!” We understand, but unfortunately, this process will take a little time to set up and realize results from.
Once you have it set up and have regular traffic coming to your site and learning about this content you are offering you will start to fill up your sales pipeline. Eventually, you will have prospects at all stages. Some will be brand new and will be at the beginning of the sales cycle. Others will be much closer to the end because they have been getting your drip campaign for a while.
If you are disciplined in setting up the system right and working it, over time you will eventually have a steady flow of leads and customers flowing into your business.
Hire Some Professional Help
If you have never done anything like this before, you might be a bit overwhelmed and benefit from some professional help. You might need the help of a marketer, web designer, and copywriter. Ideally, you can work with one company or individual to help you through all these components, so everything works together. If you hire a separate person or company for each piece of this, you might find it doesn’t work well together, and the strategy doesn’t do much for your lead generation efforts. A polymath web designer may be just what you need.
If we can be of assistance in helping your business through this process, take a moment to schedule a free 45-minute consulting session where you are guaranteed to get 3 pieces of actionable advice at the end of the session. See what we did there ?