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How to optimize your funnels for lead generation

By Dmytro Spilka · February 19, 2021

The massive changes that happened in 2020 were tough for small businesses, there's no question about it. But they also now give businesses a chance to reset and review their lead generation strategies. If you've been resting on the same strategy laurels for years, now's the time to shake things up.

I want to share with you how my team has tackled lead generation. Because every business will have different lead gen strategies, your journey won't look exactly like this, but the goal is for it to spark some ideas that help take your lead gen to the next level.

Looking for more lead management tips? Here are 3 ways to automatically track your leads and 8 ways automation can help you nurture and manage leads.

Content, CTAs, and email marketing: the lead gen dream team

Content as a marketing strategy isn't new, and no one will argue against its merits. But there's little room for shoddy work in the world of lead generation, so that means your content has to be good. Not just...there.

There are lots of options for creating high-quality content. For example, you might use some internal data that you have within your business and conduct a deep-dive analysis on it. Zapier's Fastest Growing Apps reports are a good example of that.

Content on its own is great for brand awareness, but when it comes to lead gen, you're also going to need to pair it with other tactics. Here's what we did at my company—a single strategy that generated over 15,000 qualified leads and 680,000 pageviews.

A screenshot of Google Analytics showing page views to the blog post

At Solvid, we provide businesses with copywriting and content services, and part of our long-term strategy is to build a network of loyal brand ambassadors—a.k.a. affiliates—that promote our services in return for a generous commission. 

Our goal was to generate enough quality affiliates that we didn't have to spend a dime on paid marketing. Our affiliates would take care of it for us. In order to do that effectively, we had several options:

  1. Run paid search and social ads promoting our affiliate program. Questionable quality here and expensive (if done at a needed scale). No-go on this option. 

  2. Reach out to popular bloggers. This could potentially yield great returns, but it's very time-consuming. Plus, the most popular bloggers would be much harder to reach.

  3. Generate highly-targeted organic traffic and drive natural leads. Yes! 

Content was the answer. 

Another interesting strategy that's becoming more popular is using quizzes for lead gen.

Content as lead gen

First things first: we needed to make sure that we were reaching the right people. 

We knew that bloggers, when their websites start generating traffic, tend to begin monetizing their blogs. One of the most effective ways to do that is through affiliate marketing. But when you're just starting out, you would normally need guidance on which affiliate programs to sign up with, their commission level, entry requirements, and everything else. 

So after a few days of keyword research and competitor analysis, we came up with a strategy: produce an in-depth blog post covering the best affiliate marketing programs for bloggers.

A screenshot of Ahrefs showing keyword volume for the post's keywords

We created the piece, and within a few months (which is what it takes to gain traction with SEO), it started generating around 500 daily visits. We'd initially not included our own program in the list to avoid seeming overly self-promotional on the first go, but once we saw that our content was offering value to readers, we added our own affiliate program to the list (only at the second spot). 

A screenshot of the blog post

And we were getting signups from the blog post, too. We use Finteza to see how many conversions specific pages generate. Our funnel for this blog post is pretty simple: Affiliate marketing programs post > Affiliate registration page > Portal (once registered) > Page that contains unique affiliate links.

A screenshot from Finteza showing conversions from the blog post

In the image above, you can see a glimpse of this for a specific time period. The post generated 316 unique visitors, 34 of whom proceeded to the affiliate registration page. From there, 17 registered (though none have viewed their unique affiliate links yet). That's a ~5.4% conversion rate. Not bad for a blog post, considering that our affiliate program is listed second on the list.

CTAs for lead gen

The content on its own did generate a number of signups, but we needed to add some layers. We used two types of call-to-action (CTA) to get more traction:

  1. Sticky CTAs

  2. Exit intent CTAs

Here's what our sticky CTA looked like. 

A screenshot of the sticky CTA

This banner wasn't very intrusive, and it generated a good number of sign-ups (over 600, which we measured through OptinMonster).

Our exit intent pop-up was intended to capture email addresses of people who were about to leave the website (meaning they were moving their cursor toward the close button). 

A screenshot of the exit intent CTA

Some people might think of these CTAs as a bit too aggressive, but not everyone—it does the job pretty well. This single pop-up generated us over 700 email subscribers in the last 12 months. 

Email marketing as lead gen

But these are just email subscribers, of course. They're not affiliates yet. We've connected OptinMonster to our marketing automation tool, ConvertKit, so once someone subscribes to our email list, they're segmented into a very specific email channel with its own chain of automated emails relevant to their interests—in this case, affiliate marketing.

A screenshot of ConvertKit showing the email automation flow

The first email is a welcome email that includes links to resources on our blog that might be helpful for someone just starting out with affiliate marketing. We include a link to our affiliate program, but it's not front and center quite yet.

A screenshot of an email sent through ConvertKit

Two days later, we send out a second email, designed to promote a few specific affiliate programs—including ours. And the automated emails continue until someone signs up, at which point they're moved into a different email journey. 

It's pretty well established that personalized emails lead to higher open rates, click-through rates, and conversions. But before you create a personalized email journey for your subscribers, make sure you understand the journey you want them to take: visualize the steps that your customer will take as they move through your sales funnel. And be sure those steps lead them to where you want them to be, whether that's a signup, a purchase, or anything else. 

So that's one blog post and multiple layers of lead generation. And it worked.

As you start to collect more emails, here are 4 ways to automate your email marketing for better communication.

Using data to build a lead gen strategy

You've taken the effort to create content, add CTAs, and develop email campaigns. But tracking and analyzing your conversion funnels is an essential part of generating more leads. Here's how we did it.

Using heatmaps for lead gen

Heatmaps are a helpful way to see areas of value and double down on them. Or, on the flip side, figure out what parts of your content or site people aren't engaging with and stop doing it. 

Here's a heatmap of our affiliate marketing programs blog post we talked about.

A screenshot of a heatmap

Within a given timeframe, the first spot on our list generated around 6% of total clicks; the second spot on the list, which was our own affiliate program, generated the same number of clicks, even though people had to scroll to get to it. We assume that's because they're already on our website and are already familiar with our brand—and it's good confirmation that we're ok keeping our program in the second spot to avoid being overly self-promotional.

We can also see that the description of the program, including the commission and earnings, seem to catch readers' attention.

A screenshot of the heatmap around the description

What we learn from this: people want information, not just a list. And big figures are always appealing, especially when you're starting out with affiliate marketing. As we create more content, we know to include this information, which will hopefully get us more qualified leads.

Google Analytics for lead gen

Google Analytics 4 better represents user behavior and offers predictions technology that can do things like automatically alerting marketers to emerging data trends. It focuses on the entire customer lifecycle, which is exactly what you need to improve and optimize your conversion funnels. If you're already using Google Analytics, it's a free upgrade: go to Admin > GA4 Setup Assistant > Get Started

You can see how visitors are engaging with your website and how many of them actually stay. For example, in the Engagement section, we're able to easily track how many unique visitors and views our affiliate marketing programs blog post gets, and determine how long readers stay on the page. By comparing to the previous week, we can see that the post is improving: about a 39% increase in just a week. 

A screenshot of week-over-week stats from Google Analytics

This kind of data helps us understand if we need to refresh our content (if pageviews begin to tank), focus our CTA efforts on certain posts that are doing well, or add certain content that people seem to like to our email campaigns.

It's more important than ever to care for your bottom line and avoid wasting time and resources on lead generation tactics that aren't pulling their weight. By tapping into the right analytics platforms, you can monitor your progress and decide to take action wherever you feel like you're coming up short. 

2021 is set to be another year that's going to pose new challenges for businesses as we slowly emerge from the pandemic. With an adaptive, forward-thinking lead generation strategy, you can outmaneuver your competitors in winning new conversions at a faster rate. 

This was a guest post by Dmytro Spilka, CEO at Solvid, a creative content creation agency based in London. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.

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