Where do Internet leads come from?

The journey of a new lead sketch

Internet lead generation is a complex and often mystical interplay of art and science. 

Many lead buyers simply accept that people (consumers) magically become leads and do their best to turn their leads back in real people – relationships.

Sometimes that works. 

But, the most successful lead buyers dig into and understand where Internet leads come. Perhaps even more important, they learn the journey these consumers have been on and create sales experiences that will delight them.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the deep and intricate world of internet leads and demonstrate many of the likely customer journeys of your leads.

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Before a Consumer Even Hits the Web

An Internet lead is a person. Try not to forget that as you stare at your CRM and row after row of contact information – leads.

If you keep that sense of humanity in your lead generation and management program a lot of good things will evolve from that mindset. You’ll be more personable in your outreach, you’ll understand they have interests beyond the product you’re selling, and you’ll be far less likely to spam or violate their privacy. This mindset not only helps you compliance, but also your sales performance.

Having said this, as people, these folks are doing a lot of other things before filling out your web form. Things outside of surfing the Web and even when they hit the Internet, besides visiting your website.

All of these other activities are part of the genesis of an Internet lead.

Building Impressions Before the Need

Conversations at church, the dance recital, the little league game, and at work with friends and co-workers often trigger the first sense of need or desire and more often than not a reference or referral to your product or company.

These offline conversations and discussions are often the on-ramps to Internet and getting sucked into the lead generation cyclone. 

The Modern Referral

Closely tied to the general conversations about a product or company is the modern referral.

Long gone are the days of the business card and the Rolodex.

Today’s referral is more like a marketing impression. There is a conversation and a company or salesperson’s name is dropped – “You should call Lucy at Acme Mortgage.” From that brief mention, the person goes to their phone (most probably) or computer and does a couple of quick web searches to try and find the person. 

If they find you then they might do something at that moment, but more likely they will make a mental note that you are easy to find and they’ll just do that same search later when they are in a better place to do some research or move forward with the process.

If they don’t find you quickly with a Google search, or two, the journey is over. There is no referral or future lead.

Facebook is Listening to My Conversations

How many of you have said or heard someone say, “Facebook is listening on my phone.”?

I won’t debate your paranoia, but I will encourage you to appreciate the level of precise audience targeting that is available to savvy digital marketing experts. The ads you see on Facebook and your favorite websites are meticulously served in response to all your other little digital activities and behaviors. As you enjoy the wonders of the Web, Facebook and Google are skillfully collecting and turning all those micro-actions into targeting interests and heuristics.

Relevant to this discussion is the fact that these targeting opportunities allow marketing experts both in-house, agency, and lead generators to begin building impressions for your brand and products.

Impression after impression, skillfully driving them towards a form fill or phone call – a lead.

Lead Providers and Lead Aggregators

Once these folks actually arrive on the web there are a whole host of marketers competing for their attention. Over the years, one of the biggest and honestly most powerful groups of marketers are those who have built businesses on generating leads.

At the core, these companies design and develop websites to help educate and inform consumers about products, and sometimes companies, that can meet their needs.

These companies are also exceptional digital marketers generating or aggregating enormous amounts of traffic (web visitors). Specifically, this typically means that they are running Google Ads, Facebook Ads, SEO, content marketing campaigns, and in some cases email marketing to generate and drive traffic into their websites – to be converted into leads.

Finally, these companies also work and partner with other digital marketers, lead generation websites, and affiliate marketers to aggregate more traffic and leads to support surges in demand from lead buyers.

This ecosystem of hyper-marketing is important to understand because it is the environment that causes, entices consumers to shop, compare, and request quotes and information with little thought. They fill out web forms and submit requests to be contacted on a full spectrum of intent, from curious to ready to buy.

Generating Your Own Leads

Many of you are probably not buying leads. Rather you prefer or would like to generate your own leads, directly on your own website.

This can be challenging because you may not have the same level of digital marketing skill or focus in-house, as compared to lead generators. However, it is possible to generate quality leads in much the same way as lead providers.

Generating exclusive, branded Internet leads simply requires the right strategy and skill sets, or the help of an experienced digital agency that specializes in lead generation, like Kaleidico.

Even the savviest lead buyer should learn to generate their own leads. 

Not only will it improve your overall lead ROI, but it will further increase your understanding of the lead customer’s journey.

Lead Generation Strategies

Now, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of generating Internet leads.

Whether a professional lead generator or an in-house marketing and lead generation team, the strategies and tactics are similar.

This is the basic framework:

  1. A website – this is your home base and fundamental marketing platform. Your website should be designed to blend valuable and often educational content with calls to action and conversion elements that promote lead acquisition.
  2. Audience development – this is the process of determining the marketing channels you us and how you design campaigns to target consumers in those channels.
  3. Traffic – this is the results of your marketing campaigns. These are the web visitors, the people that are interested in your company and products as a result of your marketing campaigns.
  4. Web forms and phone numbers – ultimate these are elements that generate your leads.

Website

Let’s start where the consumer ends – the website.

Lead generation websites are designed to answer questions, overcome objections, and frictionlessly move consumers into lead generation paths, guide journeys into a web form fill or phone call.

Here is an example of how NerdWallet.com executes this fine art.

As you can see, once you are on a highly optimized lead generation website it is full of valuable information, but all “paths” lead to generating a lead (pun fully intended).

Google Search

How did that consumer get there? The same way I found this example.

I Googled “how do I refinance my mortgage?” This was the very first result.

Most consumer lead journeys begin like this. They have a question about a process or product and thorough a series of searches and website visits, they find a site that answers their questions and gains their confidence.

Then when they have more personal or specific questions or they’re ready to buy, they fill out the web form asking for someone to contact them.

These form fills become leads and get sold to multiple buyers.

Social Media

Social media is another way to grab consumers’ attention and move them onto the path to becoming a lead. However, the consumer’s mindset and ultimately the lead is likely to have a very different level of intent.

Facebook ads, like this one from Rock Mortgage (Quicken Loans) and NerdWallet can be highly targeted. They can be programmed to only be shown to people who are likely to be interested in buying a home, refinancing a mortgage, or otherwise have shown interest in real estate or personal finance topics. 

Despite the precise targeting they are inserted as interruptions into the social media feed. Consequently, it is very unlikely that these leads will have the same level of intent and urgency that a searching consumer might.

Although social media advertising might not have high intent, it can still be a highly effective way to grow your lead generation program. Social media is one of the most effective means of growing brand awareness, driving web visitors, and creating trust and demand for your products and services.

Email Marketing

Another popular marketing tactic for generating leads is email. 

Email is an exceptional way to segment and nurture a large audiences that have subscribed to a newsletter or sit in your CRM, opted in from a previous lead inquiry.

Lead generators and aggregators often acquire very large email lists. They regularly email valuable content along with the occasional “offer” to the list. This process drives many of the subscribers back to the website, which generates many fresh new leads.

Email marketing works equally well for in-house marketing teams and lists. 

Many of the leads that you buy or generate won’t be ready to immediately move forward. However, they shouldn’t be neglected because most of them will convert sometime in the future.

If you don’t stay top of mind with a content-based email marketing, lead nurturing campaign they will simply do another Google search and find a competitor.

These leads have already shown interest and you have continued to educate them about your products and services, so when they inquire again you’re probably getting an excellent lead.

Video

One of the hottest marketing channels at the moment is video. Consumers increasingly turn to YouTube to figure stuff out. 

Although this channel is not as efficient and direct as the others in generating leads, it is a highly effective channel to gain trust, credibility, and significant brand awareness. In addition, despite being the second largest search engine behind the more traditional Google search engine, it is remarkably easy to gain top rankings.

Leads generated from video are likely to be well informed and of high quality. And, it is a reasonable assumption that most leads generated through other marketing channels have been influenced by video in some capacity along the way.

Know Your Leads Can Increase Conversions

Understanding where your leads come from and the journey these consumer have been on can help you convert and nurture more of them into closed deals. 

You be better at crafting marketing campaigns that seem human. You’ll consider where they are in the process of educating themselves and comparing options. Most importantly, you’re more likely to approach them as people trying to figure things out and less like lines of data. 


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About Bill Rice

Bill Rice is the Founder & CEO of Kaleidico, a digital agency. Bill specializes in providing law firms, attorneys, banks, and emerging technology clients with lead generation strategies enabled with content marketing, SEO, PPC, and email marketing.

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