This is a guest contribution from Larry Alton.
In the early days of blogging, there were lots of small niche blogs that resembled online journals or diaries. They were nothing more than virtual spaces for storing thoughts, beliefs, and memories. However, as the internet evolved, so did blogging. Hobby bloggers disappeared for the most part and a new wave of bloggers began to shape what has now become a billion-dollar industry.
Instead of blogging simply to have some fun or blow off steam, blogging is what people and businesses do to generate revenue – both directly and indirectly. To use a business term, blogging has become a key source for lead generation. That begs the question, are you maximizing your blog’s lead collection efforts?
Identifying Your Blog’s Purpose and Audience
Before you can maximize your blog’s lead collection efforts, you have to begin by clearly identifying and understanding the two cornerstones that are foundational to each and every blog.
- The first thing you have to figure out is your blog’s purpose. Is your blog designed to collect email leads or are you trying to convert direct sales straight from the blog? Are you merely building a brand or are you hoping to drive traffic to specific landing pages? Are you hoping to generate ad revenue or are you focusing on affiliate marketing? Each purpose necessitates a unique approach and you must identify the goal you’re trying to reach.
- The second foundational cornerstone of a successful blog is target audience identification. You need to know exactly who you’re targeting with your content and what makes them tick. Demographic information is a start but it goes well beyond this. You need to understand what their pain points are, what they’re looking for in a solution, how they shop, and what points of friction exist.
Once you successfully identify a purpose and an audience, you’ll find that you suddenly have much more clarity surrounding your blog. This clarity will ultimately enhance your ability to generate leads.
Give These Six Techniques a Try
Too many bloggers try to jump into lead generation without first tending to the aforementioned cornerstones. Be sure that you deal with your blog’s purpose and audience before focusing on leads. But once you get those elements squared away, you can turn your attention towards developing a lead generation strategy that ultimately yields a significant return.
1. Provide a Reason to Believe
By now, most bloggers have some sort of opt-in form built into their blogs. You’ve been told over and over just how important it is to collect email leads for future marketing and sales pushes. And while it’s good that you’ve done the legwork and integrated opt-in forms into your web pages, are you doing enough to encourage subscriptions.
Reducing the number of fields is one thing you can do, but there’s always more. Another good strategy is to create some sort of incentive or reason to believe. People are much more likely to give you their email address and other personal information if they know they’re getting something tangible in return.
Spend some time brainstorming ideas with your team. What will it take to move blog visitors to action? Depending on your target audience and your blog’s goals, this could range from simple to complex. Here are the three popular ideas:
- Free trial. The simplest incentive is a free trial offer. This usually works best for service or subscription based businesses. Not only does the free trial offer increase your ability to collect leads, but it also naturally pushes those leads further along in the conversion process by giving them a taste of your product.
- A discount is slightly easier but has the same effect. Discounts usually help you collect and drive leads in one fell swoop. Not only are you getting their information, but you’re also incentivizing them to make a purchase.
- Free physical gift. The most effective incentive you can present to visitors is a free physical gift in return for an opt-in. The key here is to give a gift that’s cheap, easy to ship, and points the recipient back towards the brand. Something like a custom calendar with your brand’s logo is a good choice. If you buy in bulk, many companies will sell you calendars for just a couple of dollars per unit.
- Free eBook or eCourse. People love to feel like they’re getting exclusive information that will allow them to improve and grow. That’s why so many users are willing to opt in to an email list in return for a complimentary eBook or eCourse that teaches them something of value. It’s a highly effective – not to mention cheap – method of attracting leads.
Feel free to think even further outside of the box, but if you can find an incentive that fits into one of these three categories, you should see a noticeable bump in your lead collection efforts.
2. Make Use of Sidebar Real Estate
The sidebar is one of the most underutilized areas of the blog. Either the sidebar is overcrowded with superfluous elements or isn’t used much at all. Both extremes are egregious mistakes and you need to make sure you put this valuable real estate to use.
When it comes to generating leads, the sidebar is a gift. Whereas your header and footer are only visible on certain portions of the page, the sidebar is ever present. Not only should you include a concise opt-in form in the sidebar, but you should also incorporate some value-adds that keep the reader engaged. Depending on your objective, this may look like featuring similar posts, incorporating related affiliate links, or throwing in a unique sales offer.
3. Host a Webinar
Today’s internet users want to see more engagement. Consuming a post is great, but engaging with the voice behind that post is even better. One way to collect leads and drive value is by hosting occasional webinars.
“Simply collect visitor contact information in exchange for a reserved spot,” marketing strategist Andy Beohar says. “Webinars can be used to go over a particular topic your audience has a problem with, demonstrate a new product or service, or just to start a discussion.”
While hosting a webinar obviously allows you to garner leads in the days and weeks leading up to the event, it goes far beyond collecting an email address and plugging it into a spreadsheet.
“A huge benefit of a hosting a webinar is the feedback,” Beohar has discovered. “Beforehand, you should ask your audience what topics they’d like to see discussed. During and after the webinar you should also invite as many questions as possible. These questions give you a feel for what your audience really cares about, and should give you plenty of ideas for content to blog about in the future.”
4. Use Social Influencers
You’re certainly sharing blog posts on social media, but how big is your reach? Even if you have a few hundred or thousand followers on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you face an uphill battle when it comes to gaining significant traction. What you really need to do is tap into larger networks by connecting with social influencers in your niche.
Groove, a leader in help desk software, has come up with a method that they believe offers the most promising results. You start by identifying influencers in your industry and making a list of people you want to build relationships with. Next, you start engaging them by liking content, commenting on posts, sharing posts, etc. The goal is to get noticed without being annoying. Finally, once you’ve built up some credibility, you need to send them an offer they can’t resist.
“We’ve gotten more than 5,000 subscribers and 535 trial signups through our blog efforts [using this method],” says Alex Turnbull, CEO and founder of Groove. “From a revenue standpoint (since that’s what this blog is all about), we’ve generated about $3,425 in transactional revenue, though the real test of how valuable these new users are over time remains to be seen.”
5. Get Involved in the Comments Section
The comments section of a blog doesn’t usually get the attention it deserves. Sure, you may get a few comments and even reply to some of them, but it’s time that you stop looking at it as an afterthought. By engaging readers in the comments section, you can really drive some impressive results. Just check out what leading blogs are doing to get an idea of what can and should be done.
While you want to avoid being too “salesy” in the comments section, you can generate leads by answering questions with specific calls-to-action. In other words, if someone is having a problem and you have an eBook, webinar, white paper, or case study that speaks to the issue, direct them to the appropriate landing page with an opt-in form.
6. Use Exit Intent Popups
You’ve certainly experienced them at least once or twice in the past. Exit intent popups are the screens that suddenly emerge when you’re getting ready to close out a page or go to another tab on your browser. While these popups can be a little annoying, they tend to work.
“Your visitors are already on their way out, they have signaled their intent to leave and their attention is quickly being focused elsewhere,” marketer Sid Bharath says. “Your options are to do nothing, and perhaps never be able to count them as a returning visitor, or take your best shot, display a popup, and try to convince them you are worthy of their time.”
It may be a last ditch effort, but it’s never too late to collect a lead. Use exit intent popups and track the results. If they seem to be working, then continue to leverage them as part of your lead generation strategy.
Maximize Your Blog’s Value
Well-designed blogs with regularly updated content and robust SEO and backlink strategies are a dime a dozen these days. If you want to be competitive and accomplish your goals, then you have to be proactive and really hone in on some of the different ways in which you can drive leads directly from your blog. It’ll take some time and effort, but you’ll be better off for the resources you pour into it.