Online Lead Generation: How SMEs can consistently generate qualified leads online for their business
For small and medium enterprise (SMEs) in Singapore, the changing online landscape has proven to be a little more challenging for the average business owner.
With the emergence of new online market places, social networks and platforms over the past few years, SMEs are faced with more choices of where they can allocate their online ad budget. On top of the existing channels of Google, Email, and Facebook, business owners are also introduced to WeChat, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, mobile applications.
At the same time, SMEs who are have been running paid advertising campaigns such as those on Google Adwords have noticed that their cost per clicks (CPC) are inexorably creeping up, as more competitors are hopping on board to capture the low-lying fruits of intent based searches.
Taking the example of an interior design company, a quick search on Google reveals that the current CPC for “interior design” related keywords is around $5. This roughly translates to approximately 200 clicks for a $1000 budget, which may yield zero inquiries or leads. It is an understated fact – most SMEs do not run online campaigns for awareness, impressions or views. Any ad budget invested has to bring a return, typically in sales or at least qualified inquiries.
The scenario above is playing out across different sectors among SMEs and many business owners are still trying to find a working model for getting positive returns on their online marketing.
So how can SMEs leverage on online marketing to create a consistent and predictable pipeline of quality leads for their business? Below are five key steps that SMEs can follow to improve their online conversions.
- Drive targeted traffic through Paid Advertising
Most SMEs do not have the luxury of allocating ad budget across multiple platforms and networks. Don’t get bogged down doing too many things at once. For SMEs who want to start generating leads online, the key is to test it quickly and scale up fast with paid advertising. Paid advertising includes advertising on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, or any other advertising network on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis.
While non-paid avenues such as search engine optimization (SEO) or content marketing are important in the long run, paid advertising gives businesses an immediate volume of targeted traffic to their website for awareness, conversion and ultimately sales.
In Singapore, the two main channels of paid advertising would be Google and Facebook. Traffic from Google Adwords is typically more targeted as it comes from intent-based searches. However, Google’s CPC may be more prohibitive for SMEs, particularly in competitive segments. Facebook is more popular with B2C businesses, particularly those targeting the mass-market segment. At the same time, Facebook current cost-per-click (CPC) is at a much affordable range compared to Google Adwords
- Review your existing campaigns
If you are already on Google Adwords, review your results to see which keywords are bringing in the clicks. You can do so in the search terms report within your Google Adwords admin panel. Chances are, you may be paying for some irrelevant keywords due to the setup of your campaign. E.g. a web design company might be getting clicks for ‘web design job openings’ from job seekers instead of potential clients. You may have to add in ‘negative’ keywords to ensure that you are not paying for irrelevant variants of the keywords you are looking for.
If you are on a limited budget, go for Google search network and disable Google display network advertisements. Visitors from Google search network are usually higher on intent and they tend to convert better.
- Determine what a conversion or qualified lead means for your business
Figuring out what your end point is in the online lead generation cycle is one of the most important steps in building an online sales pipeline for your business.
If you run a business selling training courses, you would want to get sign ups for your upcoming preview seminars. If you run a bridal studio, you would want the contact details of couples who are getting married within the next 12 months and searching for their wedding gown.
For most SMEs, online lead generation would entail getting the essential contact details of prospects that are interested in their products or services. At this stage, the online lead generation process would then continue in the traditional offline sales process.
- Deploy a landing page to capture leads
Most SME business owners or marketers drive paid traffic (i.e. from Google or Facebook) to their website by default. Up to 70% of visitors that goes to your website leaves within the first three seconds. Typically this is due to a poorly designed website that is not optimized for lead capture amongst other reasons. The loss in traffic can be stemmed, by deploying a landing page for visitors coming from paid advertising.
A landing page is a simple web page with only one objective of conversion or lead capture. Typically the landing page articulates the value proposition of the product or service, as well as the offer or a lead magnet if there is any. The eventual goal is usually to lead the visitor to submit their particulars (i.e. name, email address, contact number) for a follow-up. Additional fields can also be included in the lead capture form (i.e. age, income level, etc.).
For instance, an interior design firm might want to capture leads with the following fields: name, email address, contact number, property type (which may be a proxy of budget size), and expected date of renovation (a proxy of time frame).
Figure: Example of a landing page
A landing page guides the visitor to the ‘conversion’ that the business is expecting and removes all other distractions towards this goal. SMEs can deploy their own landing pages quickly via third-party landing page tools such as LeadPages, Landerapp or Unbounce. These software offer a drag-and-drop interface for easy landing page creation and AB split testing.
What kind of conversion rates can we expect? This really depends on a host of factors including the industry, the company, the offer, etc. In our own experience, we found that the average landing page conversion rate was around 2.1%. The top 10% of landing pages in each industry perform 3-5 times better than the average landing pages. The top landing pages have compelling, unique offers that help them stand out from the crowd.
- Track what works and what doesn’t
Once your paid advertising campaign is driving targeted traffic to your landing page, it is time to monitor the results and improve on them. For each email inquiry that comes in, you would want to track where the lead came from (e.g. Google or Facebook) and from which campaign or keyword. Based on the volume and quality of leads that are coming in, SMEs can re-adjust their advertising budget across the different channels accordingly to maximize the number of leads they are receiving and lower their overall cost per lead.
It is also as important to track inquiries from phone calls coming from your landing page. For some industries, it is more common for prospects to call in rather than to send an email inquiry. There are multiple call tracking services available online which can be integrated into your paid advertising campaigns. With call tracking, businesses can attribute each call to the source and pinpoint which of their online campaigns are working.
For SMEs looking to extract more value out of their online campaigns, they may also consider setting up online marketing dashboards to monitor and manage their online lead generation campaigns. Google Analytics is one way for SMEs to do this cost effectively. The key statistics of concern are: number of leads received, cost per click, cost per lead, cost per sales. With these figures in place, it is a straightforward matter of reducing cost per lead and cost per sales for each sale obtained.
Online marketing is still a very viable lead generation channel for SMEs despite the rising costs of paid advertising. In fact, it is one of the most cost-effective ways of lead generation compared to traditional offline marketing. SMEs who are already marketing online should re-evaluate their online lead generation process as shared above. SMEs who have not started marketing online may wish to follow the steps outlined above and start getting a consistent flow of leads online which are qualified and cost effective.
 Google display network advertisements refer to both text and banner advertisements displayed in third-party websites within the Google advertising network. Google remarketing is not examined in this article.