Understanding the Difference Between List Building & Lead Generation
List-Building with blog content is a great strategy for creating an inbound lead channel for your Managed Services Business. To understand how this strategy works it is first important to understand the difference between list building and lead generation. When someone opts in to your “list” (list-building) they are not technically a prospect at that point. Calling and emailing them right away as if they asked you to do so (lead generation) is likely going to scare them off and prompt them to unsubscribe. These two activities are both very important parts of building a successful funnel but require a much different approach. Here are some of our proven tactics to create an email opt-in funnel that turns ordinary consumers of your blog content into serious buying prospects.
Identify Your Exact Target Audience
Before even putting your fingers to your keyboard, it is important to first understand who you are writing the content for. You should know all of their pain points in their business and what value and benefits they look for in using a technology vendor such as your company. This should be as specific as possible, and should vary from post to post.
For example, you may want to target Office Managers in the Healthcare industry, or Presidents in the Construction field. These two people likely have very different problems and see value in different things, but could both benefit from what you have to say. It is important to give them both a unique experience in how they consume your content in order to get them to opt-in for more.
Optimize Content For Conversion
Once you have identified exactly who you are speaking to, it is far easier to frame and produce your blog content. Remember, if you try to please everyone all of the time, you could very well end up pleasing no one. I would start by identifying a few pain points that most of your major verticals have in common and start writing posts that address some of their issues. As you start to see what type of content converts the highest for certain groups, you should begin to optimize your efforts, eventually producing less of the type of content that fails to convert.
Key indicators when judging content success are the Click Through Rate, as well as the Average Session Time. When looking at your conversion rate in your analytics dashboard, also be sure to sort Conversions by Entrance Page. I call this our “first impression” filter, as it gives me a good idea of what articles give the best first impression to visitors when they click through to our site.
Drive Traffic From Social Media
After your site is indexed and your articles begin to rank on Search Engines, you will start to see a steady flow of inbound traffic that will help build your list. While the ROI on these conversions is unmatched, it can unfortunately take three to six months before you see any significant results. One of the most common mistakes MSPs make when attempting this strategy is not being patient enough to see it through.
If you want instant satisfaction in your list building efforts, LinkedIn and Facebook are a good place to start. Both of these platforms allow you to target by Work Industry and Job Title so you can target the exact people that can relate to your content (thus making them very likely to opt-in for more). We recommend taking the time to write advertising copy for each specific Job Title. If this is done when bidding on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis, you are likely to get a high Click Through Rate and will benefit from a very low average click cost. If you can generate a list contact for $7 or less, than the math is likely to be in your favor for a positive ROI at the end of your funnel, when it comes time to generate sales leads for your services.
Use A List Building Form Plugin
There are numerous different ways to get your readers to opt in to your list, but the easiest way to deploy and manage these efforts is through a plugin. If your blog uses WordPress (most do), than we recommend using Hustle, OptinMonster, or a similar list building plugin. These will allow you to create pop-up, slide-in, and embedded forms that grab your reader’s attention at the perfect time to convert.
Over the years we have tested almost every variation of form and have come to the conclusion that the “exit-intent” pop-up is by far the most effective for desktop traffic. Slide-ins that are deployed by scrolling behavior are the most effective that we have found for mobile visitors. It is a best practice to ensure that the forms do not deploy too early as they will likely just be dismissed or will increase the bounce rate on your page. We try to give users enough time to consume at least 33% of their first article before seeing a form, this way they have a good idea of what to expect from the rest of our content. It also recommend that you use an embedded form at the end of each article, in case your pop-ups or slide-ins were dismissed prematurely.
Segment Your Audience By Vertical
Once your list has starting piling up with contacts, it is important to maintain the list appropriately to maximize its use-potential in the future. Most list management softwares such as mailchimp allow you to tag your contacts with keywords. If you are able to identify your contact’s vertical by their email domain, we recommend adding it as a tag to their profile. This allows you to then segment your audience and deliver them more relevant content in the future.
Instead of sending one standard newsletter to your entire audience, you should look to create different variations of the newsletter for each respective segment, optimizing the content for the highest results possible. Not only will this increase the open rate and engagement of your emails, but it will also lower the unsubscribe rate of your list. If your audience consistently sees content that is irrelevant to them, then they are more likely to opt-out.
Deliver Valuable Content Routinely
No matter how big or how small your list might be, the most important part about the list building process is delivering emails on a consistent basis. If your articles are of poor quality or if you fail to send messages on a routine basis, your list that you worked very hard to build is likely to deteriorate. It may seem like hiring a freelance writer is the easiest way to produce the amount of content necessary, but if they do not have experience in Managed Services and can’t identify with your audience than this is likely going to do more harm than good. If you are able to insource a minimum of three high quality articles per week among your entire team, then your likelihood of success will be significantly higher than the alternative.
We found that the best time to send emails to a contact’s Business Email is during the middle of the week (Wed., Tue., Thu.) between 7-8am in whichever timezone your audience may be in. If you have a global audience, you may want to use a feature that will batch your send times based on the timezone in which your contact last opened an email from you. This will ensure that the data you receive for the overall engagement of your audience is not skewed negatively toward audiences outside of your company’s timezone.
Prompt Call-To-Action To Engaged Contacts
After you have delivered emails on a consistent basis, offering valuable and contextual content to your audience, you will be able to identify who the most engaged contacts are. These will be the contacts with the highest amount of opens, clicks, forwards, and shares in your list management reports. To complete the final part of your funnel, you will segment your list by the most engaged contacts and in addition to the standard newsletter for their segment, you will also include a call to action button in their email. This will be your primary lead generation offer, whether it is a free quote, audit, or demo.
Waiting until this point to show this sales-focused content will ensure that your audience is not put-off prematurely. It will also ensure that the content is only being shown to the segment of your audience that is most likely to click through and complete your lead generation form or contact you about your services. As your list grows larger, this segment will increase in size and you will begin to see a more steady stream of inbound prospects that have read through your content for several weeks and slowly transition to a serious buyer of your services. It is at this moment that your patience pays off and you now have a warm lead that is familiar with your brand and appreciates the value that your company can bring to their business.