Published On: Sat, Apr 5th, 2014

A Blueprint for SME Lead Generation the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking to friends who are immensely skilled, determined and brave enough to have taken the plunge and set-up their own business. Although they have a small roster of clients which help pay the bills, they realise that sooner rather than later they will need to generate business from new sources.

While my friends may be highly adept in their various niches, the idea of lead generation is not something they are overly familiar with. In fact, it’s pretty alien. I’ve been discussing how they can create a lead generation strategy and the various tactics at their disposal to grow the marketing funnel – and pretty soon I found that the blueprint I was helping them develop, would make an interesting blog post.

Before I get down to the nuts and bolts of lead generation, there’s a few things I need to clarify. In this post I define a “lead” as someone who fills in their contact details and agrees to be contacted in the future and a “conversion” as a sale. The examples i’ve used are based on the assumption your business sells its products or services through a sales team, not an online shop.

Secondly, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to lead generation, but the best approach is to measure and test everything. Start off small and find out what works – and what doesn’t. Fail quickly. Discover what activity yields the greatest return for the smallest outlay – this is the activity you should focus your limited time and money on.

Here’s how to create a lead generation strategy:

1. Getting ready for business

First things first, to get your business off the ground you’re going to need a website. Think of it as your shopfront to the world. A shopfront that is never closed. You can get one built or use a template. Either way I would suggest using WordPress as it boasts a fantastic community of developers who continually improve its offering. WordPress is low cost, high quality and easy to use. Just make sure that your website is responsive, includes a blog and strong SEO functionality – it will also need to be populated with information on who you are, what you do, who you work with and how people can get in touch. These component are hugely important.

Google Analytics
Next up install Google Analytics tracking on your website. It’s a free industry standard product, easy to use, and most importantly lets you see the performance of your website. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the many Google Analytics features, and then set-up goals – people filling in their contact details should be a goal as should a sale. This will give you the visibility you need to optimise activity further down the line (and funnel).

Right from the start you need to agree upon metrics, so you can understand how the business is performing at any moment in time. There are many detailed metrics out there, but as an SME I suggest you focus on the following:

  • Number of leads e.g. data capture
  • Number of conversions e.g. sales
  • Conversion rate
  • Cost per lead
  • Cost per conversion
  • Customer acquisition cost

Landing pages
Now you’re ready to start building out your website by adding product landing pages. Think of landing pages as the aisles within your shop. They should be branded, social and consistent, as well as contain product information, imagery and most importantly some form of data capture. Once you’ve set up your PPC and email marketing, they should point to landing pages, rather than your homepage as this will increase your lead volume.

Call-to-action buttons
You should also look to add call-to-action buttons to your website. These are the data capture forms that often appear on the right hand side or at the bottom of web pages. By adding the buttons you can dramatically increase lead generation and understand what type of content resonates with your customers.

Corporate blogs are a fantastic tool to raise awareness of your company, enhance SEO, drive web traffic and generate leads. In the launch phase, make blogging everyone’s responsibility and aim to post twice a week until you have the resources to take your marketing to the next level. Blog about topics related to your products or services and industry (here are 10 tips to keep your content fresh) as these will most likely contain the keywords you want to rank for e.g. if you sell insurance, blog about topics to do with home and motor insurance.

Once you’ve been blogging for a while you’ll notice some of your posts are doing well and may even be evergreen content. This is content that consistently generates high levels of search traffic – long after it’s published. Typically evergreen content is on the first page of Google for a very specific search term. Once you know the topics that drive leads, consider how you can create blog posts with a similar focus.

Social media
Set-up your social media accounts e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Linkedin, SlideShare, YouTube and Instagram. There are examples where social media generates lots of leads (often large companies with established profiles and big budgets), but I would advise you to think of social media in terms of brand building, traffic generation and SEO. Social can help amplify campaigns, but the majority of people use social media for entertainment, rather than buying products – presently there is little data to suggest people want to buy through social.

However, a lot will depend on the industry your business operates in. If you’re an online clothes retailer, social has a great chance of generating leads, but if you provide video production services it could be more difficult. Experiment and see what works for your business.

2. Lead generation

Google AdWords
In my mind there’s nothing more effective and measurable than Google AdWords for lead generation. AdWords are the ten adverts displayed on any Google search page (three in the prime position at the top and seven along the side). Each month put aside some of your marketing budget for pay-per-click (PPC) activity. It gives you prime positioning at the perfect moment when people are actively researching and getting ready to make a purchase.

Experiment to begin with and see how many leads convert into customers – and how much money they make your business. Once you’re equipped with this information you can work out how much you can afford to buy leads in via AdWords. The good news is that you’re in full control of setting budgets and can make changes at any time. AdWords genuinely is an amazing product and once you’ve used it, you’ll see why it’s Google’s main source of revenue.

To make managing your account easier split your PPC campaigns into:

  • “Brand” e.g. the name of your business
  • “Non-brand” e.g. the service or product you supply
  • “Competitor” e.g. your competitors’ names

Each will typically have very different results and dividing it like this will help you to understand how your customers search, arrive at your website and turn into leads. And once your ads are set-up, make sure they too point to landing pages with data capture.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Now it’s time to think about SEO. Search engine visibility and understanding what is best practice always needs to be in your mind as neglecting it will harm web traffic.

You should think of SEO being made up of two strands:

  • Content
  • On-page factors

Content means creating a website, blog, landing and product pages that are populated with fresh, unique and quality content. While on-page SEO encompasses page title, meta description, URL, H1 headline, ALT text and markup. You need to consider both of these areas.

Then you should begin to think about the keywords you want to rank for. I would suggest building a list of your products and common search queries e.g. “video agency” and “video production in Yorkshire” and tracking these, as well as the phrases you bid on in your PPC campaigns. Start to create content around these keywords on your blog, landing pages and social media.

A tool like Positionly will help track where you rank for keywords. Remember SEO is an important, long-term activity. Once it’s executed correctly you’ll begin generating vital organic traffic to your website.

Once your PPC and SEO efforts start paying off, you’ll soon develop a database of leads that you should contact via email marketing campaigns. At the very least segment your database into “customers” and “prospects” so you can send the most relevant content to the right people e.g. product news and “how-to” guides to your customers and case studies and special offers to prospects.

Email marketing is the third part in the trinity of SME lead generation. It’s relatively low cost, yet high impact in terms of lead generation and sales. MailChimp boasts templates, analytics and segmentation – it’s a great provider to get started with.

Focus on getting Google AdWords, SEO and email marketing up and running successfully before attempting other initiatives. It’s better to get a small number of activities running effectively than trying to do everything.

3. Funnel optimisation

Turning traffic into leads
Once you have grown the top of the funnel and are generating sufficient traffic and leads, it’s time to look at funnel optimisation. This means carrying out tests that let you understand what traffic turns into leads and how you can increase your conversion rate.

Look at your all your analytics and aim to find out:

  • What are your most valuable leads?
  • Where do they come from? E.g. email, PPC, organic, social etc
  • How do you qualify leads?

A good place to start is by A/B testing landing pages, call-to-action buttons and your email marketing campaigns. Then look at your website, blog and social media activity to see what works. Test and test again.

Equipped with these insights you can begin to optimise your marketing efforts so more traffic turns into leads and sales. You can either create A/B tests yourself or use a tool like Optimizely for your website, while most email services provide some level of testing, and it’s easy to set-up in Google AdWords.

4. Taking your marketing to the next level

Once your marketing efforts have consistently delivered sales you can take activity to the next level by investing in people, tools and content.

With Google placing such great importance on content i’d advise you to hire someone who can define your content strategy and execute it. This will mean recruiting a specialist to frequently create high value assets such as webinars, ebooks, whitepapers and case studies, as well as short-life promotional content like videos, infographics, social media and blog posts – all of which will ramp up your lead generation efforts.

Marketing tools
As you grow you should invest in tools that help automate process, streamline workflow, integrate across-platform and unify analytics – generally any tools that make life easier. Three that i’d suggest you take a look at are Nimble, Moz and HubSpot.

Nimble is a low-cost CRM aimed at SMEs. At some point you will want to move away from Excel spreadsheets and Nimble will help you keep track of customer interactions across a range of platforms. Whereas Moz and HubSpot are fantastic marketing software that have come from different backgrounds, but both now position themselves as ‘all in one’ solutions – so i’d suggest you do your homework and see which best suits your needs and budget.

Final thoughts

If you’re an SME remember to focus on the activities that yield the biggest rewards for the smallest outlay. It’s not about about chasing every single lead out, it’s about focussing on the right leads.

About the Author

- Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at and Chief Quaffer at .

Displaying 2 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Hi Ben,

    Great post, thanks for the Tweet pointing this out, I predict a series of these to come. Surprised you didn’t mention Podio 😉

    Here a few more tips to help SMEs optimise their website:

    * Get to know Google Tag Manager (GTM), this relatively new tool allows a SME Marketing Team to install rule based website reporting using the browser (not just Google products) usually without the need to pester the Development Team every 5 min. A marketer with GTM experience will soon be a hot commodity.

    * If you’re not mobile compatible you’re not in the game. Make sure your website employs a responsive design for use on all device widths; all other mobile solutions have hidden canonical issues that may work against you SEO wise now or very soon.

    * Enhance search results for higher CTRs:

    ** Link your website and connect your content through authorship to Google+.

    ** A new website should employ Rich Snippets / Microdata; on an existing website use the Google Webmasters Tools Data Highlighter.

    * Website speed effects leads and conversions; don’t use a bloated template and test, test, test.

    * Website targeted Social Media advertising can be a real competitor to AdWords, but this will depend on your brand’s target audience. Use GTM to install conversion tracking if the channel supports it.

    * No Duplicate Content! (I’ll let Ben tell you why this is important).

    * Use a Search Engine friendly URL structure.

    * Learn Whitehat SEO:
    ** Webmaster Academy
    ** Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO
    ** SEO Book 7 Days to SEO success

    * Use an Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificate on pages that capture user data because data protection is important and customers are more likely to convert if they see the green address bar. Plan ahead, it can take weeks to go through the EV process.

    * Focus on converting not on ‘Features’. Tell the HIPPOS they’re wrong, the numbers don’t lie.

    As you know, on this topic, I could go on and on. We should catch up soon for a coffee / pint / game of Ping Pong to discuss a post series?

    Cheers, Jim

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