James Arnold, Chief Digital Officer, Rooster Strategic Solutions

Look at any marketer’s plan and you’ll likely find lead generation strategies, even if they’re not labeled as such. And for good reason: Identifying those prospects who have expressed interest in our companies is a proven way to increase sales.

In theory, Lead Gen is simple. Prospects discover your business through a marketing channel, such as your website, social outlet, or trade show; the visitor takes action to indicate this interest, such as clicking on a link or an offer; they agree to share personal info – usually their name and e-mail address – in return for something of value.

In practice, Lead Gen efforts are routinely sabotaged by easy-to-remedy mistakes. Here are some of the more common obstacles.

Marketing and sales aren’t on the same page. Lead Gen, first and foremost, is a sales tool, but many marketers forget this fact. I’ve seen it time and time again: A marketing team will generate 1,000 leads they believe are high quality prospects and gleefully pass them on to the sales team … who does nothing with them, because “we don’t have time,” “we already know them,” or “they don’t buy from us.”

It’s important for marketing and sales to work together on any Lead Gen tactics to ensure that you’re reaching for actionable prospects. I’ve seen even better results when a marketing group scores the prospects’ names. There are any number of marketing tech tools to help score leads, and the score parameters will differ from company to company, but it doesn’t have to be overly technical. An Excel sheet can help you easily identify those prospects who clicked on a single link (low score) versus those who watched ten videos and downloaded a white paper (high score).

Your website isn’t ready. I worked with a company that didn’t understand why they weren’t generating more leads. Five minutes into their website, I could explain the problem. They had four separate pathways to learn about their product, with four distinct landing pages, three of which were “dead-ends,” that offered no call-to-action, not even a “learn more” link. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

Start with keyword research to understand how your target audience searches for your products, and make sure these words are baked into your site. Then put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Are they heading to the right place on your website? Is it clear what you want them to do when they arrive? “Learn more” is ok. “Watch this video” is better. “Call for a free demo” is better yet. No matter what you identify as the goal of the campaign, it should be an easy process for prospects to complete it.

You’re ignoring your regular customers. Selling to existing customers is cheaper and easier than cultivating new ones. Everybody knows that. So why do marketers spend all their time trying to find “new leads,” when the most likely purchasers of new products are the ones who have purchased previously?

Life cycle research can help identify when current customers may be in the market for a new upgrade or affiliated product or service. SEO marketing should be front and center here. E-mail and outbound mobile messaging are particularly effective tactics in communicating with established customers. I’ve also seen good response tying ag radio in with unique URLs or landing pages. No matter what channel you choose to employ, the goal is simply to get your prospects’ attention in an owned environment, give them your elevator pitch, and offer a clear and easy Call-To-Action (CTA) mechanism for them to express their interest.

You’re overwhelming your current customers. One of my clients shared an e-mail with prospects but didn’t get a positive response. So, they sent five more e-mails over the next two weeks – which led to more opt-outs than engagements.

E-mail is a great place to interact with people who are already familiar with your brand, but it should have a purpose. Make sure there’s something with perceived value. Don’t send the same message twice. Change up the offer, if necessary. Speak in a more personal way with dynamic messaging. And most important, know what you want them to do – see “Your website isn’t ready,” above – and make it overly simple for your prospects to act.

You’re not using your content to generate leads. Here’s a perfect example: One of my clients wanted to put on a webinar to educate prospects. And despite an expensive advertising blitz to promote attendance, only 25 people participated – many of whom were company employees. But when we took the presentation and wrote it up as a white paper, more than 350 prospects downloaded it off their website.

Prospects have a lot of knowledge at their fingertips and will do their own research long before they reach out to a sales rep. But it’s important to remember that people consume your content differently, so if you can make your offer available in multiple forms, you’ll experience better results. Routinely adding helpful and relevant content to your site will generate more leads.

Don’t forget that your social channels are Lead Gen tools! Most how-to advice on Lead Gen will tell marketers to focus on LinkedIn but when it comes to reaching farmers, you can expect more bang for your marketing buck on Twitter and Facebook. Use your own postings, be aggressive with hashtags, and make sure your content is engaging and has a clear path for prospects to “raise their hands.” Ag companies need to rely on their own first-party data, or partner with companies who truly know how to reach farmers. Most don’t.

Closing the loop. Any Lead Gen effort should have established start and stop dates. Many marketers will move time and space to hit the first of these but can’t or don’t take the time to analyze the results after the second. What do we know about the folks who responded? Were the leads scored for the sales team, and were they delivered in a way the sales reps can easily follow up? Did the prospects ultimately make a purchase? And if not, do we know why? Most of these are simple questions to answer, and the answers can help you identify future Lead Gen efforts, as well as those prospects’ names that can likely be removed from future efforts.

Lead Gen is a powerful marketing tactic – when it’s used correctly. If you have any questions or aren’t sure where to start tweaking your current programs, I’d love to have a conversation.