Lead generation is a marketing technique you can use to grow your audience and increase your sales. There are a lot of tools and strategies you can use to set up a lead generation system in WordPress, which is what we'll be going over in this post. Basically, it uses blogging, email marketing and many of the things you already use on your site in a way that helps you acquire subscribers who are most likely to become customers.
We'll cover what exactly lead generation is before going over how it helps you generate subscribers who will eventually become customers. We'll also go over the tools and services you need to set up a system of your own, how to optimize it and what to do after you capture a lead. Let's get started.
- What is lead generation?
- Components of a lead generation system
- What you need to build a lead generation system with WordPress
- Creating a content marketing plan to generate leads
- Choosing an email marketing service
- Using email opt-in forms with WordPress
- Amplifying your lead generation system with lead magnets
What is lead generation?
Your business does a lot of things, but your number one goal should always be to generate revenue. After all, if you're not generating enough revenue to sustain yourself, you're not succeeding as a business. Lead generation allows you to use your email list for more than just keeping in touch with your subscribers through newsletters.
It gives your email list a higher purpose by giving you a plan that encourages casual visitors to follow a path that ends with them becoming a customer. It removes the guesswork and wishful thinking woven into the marketing plan your sales team designs. With a steady, healthy supply of qualified leads, your sales will increase eventually.
What is a lead?
A prospect; someone who's interested in what you do or sell, and is at least somewhat likely to make a purchase at some point in the future. That means a lead is a potential customer. More specifically, it's a visitor you encourage to subscribe to your email list in a specific way so you can pre-qualify them and put them on a path to become a customer. This strategy is designed to enhance the way you approach sales and marketing.
In traditional marketing, you present a product to a customer in different ways, whether that means serving advertisements to them or getting them to browse your products. This usually means low conversion rates and very little revenue for most companies, even with targeted marketing.
How does lead generation work?
Here's how lead marketing works in terms of content marketing. Let's say you own an online business creating and selling photography courses, and you have a course designed to teach beginner photographers how to produce their first professional photos. With a combination of lead marketing and content marketing, you can create blog posts and other forms of free content targeted toward amateur photographers.
You can use this type of content to set the visitor on a path to buying your course by placing special opt-in forms on blog posts and landing pages that feature that targeted content. Doing this separates, or “segments”, those subscribers on your email list, allowing you to send targeted emails designed specifically for amateur photographers.
You can then use this segment to nurture these qualified leads before asking them to buy, at which point you'll have already established a relationship you wouldn't have had you asked them to buy as soon as they landed on your website. With a simple but effective lead generation system you can take your business to the next level.
How do you generate more leads?
When you get the basics of lead generation down, you can start using what's known as a “lead generation system”. You need to consider the journey a new visitor takes into becoming a customer to do this properly. It starts with attracting them to your site in the first place, which you can do in a variety of different ways.
You do this with blogging in WordPress. It's part of a form of marketing known as “content marketing”. When you blog regularly and use smart SEO tactics, your content will start ranking higher and higher in search engines. You'll see an increase in organic traffic as a result. When you attract new visitors, you need a new way to convert them into leads. You do this by placing email opt-in forms on your site and connecting them to an email marketing service.
Once you capture a lead, you can start nurturing them. You do this with your email marketing service as well. We'll talk more about nurturing a little later. Basically, you continue sending the lead more free content related to the product you want to sell before you ask them to buy said product. A lead generation system allows you to streamline and even automate this process. This can result in higher conversions and additional revenue for your business.
Components of a lead generation system
A lead generation system is made up of the following components. We've already touched base on what each of these entail, but we'll now dig a little deeper:
- Attract leads – A systematized approach to attracting qualified prospects based on effective channels.
- Capture leads – A systematized way to capture the personal information (email address, name) of those prospects to contact them with their permission.
- Nurture leads – A systematized way to nurture those leads once captured and nudge them along the buyer's journey, ultimately converting them into paying customers / clients.
Ways to attract leads
You'll use what are known as “channels” to attract leads to your site. Start by identifying your channels. Each channel represents a separate source or stream of potential leads for your business. For example, social is a channel. Paid online ads constitute a separate channel. Blogging is a channel, which is part of the larger content marketing channel.
Not every channel will work for every business. Most brands will benefit from some mix of what we can call “the fundamental channels”: Some type of content marketing, social media and email marketing. The three main channels you should consider using are blogging, social media marketing and advertising. All three of these can even go hand in hand. You can publish an “epic” post on your blog and advertise through Facebook Ads. Many bloggers use this alongside lead magnets to grow their email lists.
Once you've developed a basic system for the fundamentals, then you can add other channels proven to work for your niche or industry. Search for data and case studies related to each channel for your niche to find the best options. You can also work on building up your social media profiles and publishing on platforms like Medium, LinkedIn and forums to expand your online presence. You could even start a podcast or form partnerships with competitors to develop joint products, content and more. Next, you'll need ways to capture the leads.
Ways to capture leads
As we said before, once you attract leads to your site, you need a way to capture them. This is typically done online with sign-up forms and an email list. Email is the king of all lead-nurturing channels. It can boast an impressive return on investment for your online business. It's usually also the most effective way of targeting your leads precisely where they are in the purchasing process. But first you need to capture leads efficiently on your website.
Start by choosing an email marketing service provider who offers features designed to help you develop and automate a lead generation system. Next, you'll need to place email opt-in forms strategically throughout your site. I say “strategically” because the types of forms you use and the way you choose to display them play huge roles in how effective they are in generating high-quality leads for your list.
Ways to nurture leads
This is why you need to choose an email marketing service that offers advanced features. Features such as segmentation allow you to identify subscribers you've determined to be high-quality leads. This allows you to send broadcast emails directly to these subscribers rather than your entire list, giving you the perfect way to nurture them.
You'll need a strategic plan to nurture those leads along as they make a buying decision. Preferably, in a way that encourages them to buy from your brand, of course. You'll want to adopt channel strategies and tactics based on an understanding of the basic stages your leads will go through on their way to becoming paying customers. That journey can vary significantly between niches and brands, but usually, it includes:
- Awareness: If potential customers are on your site, of course, then they're aware of you. But there's also awareness of a need, of what you do to fill that need, and why / how you do it better than your competitors. Make sure that you outline what you can do for your customers.
- Evaluation: Once they're aware of their options, the leads evaluate those options.
- Purchase: Here, leads who are ready to purchase will begin shopping around for the best deals or price breaks.
Example of a typical lead generation system
When creating a lead generation system, your job is to create the right kind of content, to be distributed along your selected channels. You need to hit each of your leads at each of these separate stages. What would that look like? It depends on your brand, your audience, and the specific journey they typically go through. For example:
- 1st stage content would help demonstrate your authority and bona fides, perhaps through case studies and data-driven blog posts.
- 2nd stage content would give your leads more detailed information about your process or product that would help them evaluate you against your competition.
- 3rd stage content would help persuade them you’re the best value — for example, coupon codes on social media or through your email list.
What you need to build a lead generation system with WordPress
Now that you know what makes up a lead generation system, let's go over what you'll need to use this strategy with a WordPress site. It starts with a solid content marketing plan. You need to start developing high-quality content that has value and trumps what your competitors are doing. You'll also need to ensure your site and content itself are optimized for search engines. You could even use your content marketing plan to outrank your competition.
Next, you'll need an email marketing service that allows you to segment your email list. You'll also need to make sure this service integrates with WordPress. Use email opt-in tools that integrate with your email marketing service provider of choice as well as WordPress if your provider does not offer a simple solution for integrating your site with the platform. The email marketing service and opt-in tools are crucial for your success, choose them wisely.
Speaking of which, you also need to add email opt-in forms to your site, which means you'll likely need to choose a service designed to help you capture more leads. Lastly, you'll need a plan designed to nurture a lead into becoming a customer to ensure you have a positive conversion rate when all is said and done.
Creating a content marketing plan to generate leads
One of the most effective ways to generate leads is to use the blogging channel to create a content marketing plan. It's typically cost effective, though it may eat up a lot of your time if you aren't able to hire writers at the moment.
The most important thing you need to worry about is offering high-quality content search engines and your visitors alike will love. This means creating content your readers actually need, offering more value than your competitors are offering for similar posts and ensuring content is high in quality throughout. Try to focus on topics that solve problems when it comes to determining what to add to your blog. You'll need to conduct a bit of research to find out what problems your audience is having. You can start by asking your audience themselves.
For example, the photography site we used as an example before can send a broadcast email to their entire list asking their subscribers what the hardest part about being a photographer is and what problems they're currently having. You can also do this by creating a simple survey and linking to it with a pop-up module of some sort. You can even have one-on-one conversations with members of your audience.
Here are a few places to check out to research problems your audience might be having:
- Niche-specific forums
- Facebook groups
- LinkedIn groups
- Low-star Amazon reviews*
*Look up your niche on Amazon, and sift through the reviews of books written on topics related to your niche. Look for 3, 2 and 1-star reviews. They'll give you insight into the problems members of your niche are having even after reading books meant to solve them. This is where you can gain an edge over your competitors and offer your audience something they aren't.
SEO & using cornerstone content
You should consider using an SEO plugin to ensure your site is optimized for search engines. WordPress itself is SEO friendly, and you should always make sure you're using quality WordPress themes from trusted developers to ensure their code is clean and optimized as well. This gives you already a solid fundament for good search engines rankings.
You can also use a growing SEO strategy known as “cornerstone content”. Cornerstone articles are extensive pages on your website that feature longform content going over one of the main topics in your niche. For example, the photography site can create one cornerstone page all about cameras, another all about lenses and a third all about photography styles. These pages should provide highly valuable content for your target audience.
The goal is to get Google to see these pages as authoritative and rank them higher. You do this by covering the topic fully even if it means creating an article that's thousands upon thousands of words long. You should also make sure the content is well written and complemented by high-quality images.
When Google crawls your website, it looks for your top pages right away. As such, you need it to view your cornerstone articles as top pages. You do this by linking to them wherever possible. Link to them in your navigation menu, your homepage and especially blog posts. If that photography site publishes a blog post reviewing a new Canon camera, they should also link to the cornerstone article about cameras.
Choosing an email marketing service
Lead generation requires precision if you want to take potential customers on a journey from first-time visitor to first-time customer. This requires the right set of tools, which means you need to choose your email marketing service carefully. A service that simply allows you to place an opt-in form on your site, build a list of email addresses and send newsletters to that list usually isn't going to cut it.
What you need is an email marketing service that offers what's known as “segmentation”. This feature allows you to segment parts of your email list based on a variety of different conditions, such as subscribers who subscribed through certain forms, active subscribers, subscribers who clicked a particular link, etc. Let's go over four different options you can choose from. There are a lot more than four service providers out there, but we feel these particular services offer the most in terms of features.
ConvertKit is a small but growing email marketing service provider designed for bloggers and other types of content creators, though it does have a few ecommerce integrations. It's one of the most powerful and easiest to use services out there in terms of segmentation and automations.
MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing service providers out there with millions of new users generated and over 200 billion emails sent per annum. It comes with multiple segmentation options, including one that allows you to automatically add a subscriber to a specific group at sign up. It also includes powerful ecommerce features and advanced automations. You can try MailChimp for free and use it for up to 2,000 subscribers.
AWeber is the best service provider to use after ConvertKit and MailChimp. They're another popular service and typically a direct competitor to MailChimp. They offer segmentation and automations. Similar to ConvertKit, it's best to use this service for blogging as it only offers a few integrations for ecommerce.
ActiveCampaign is a powerful email marketing service provider. They offer segmentation and automations bloggers will love, but they also offer advanced features for ecommerce companies, including specific sales and CRM features.
Using email opt-in forms with WordPress
Lead generation is a multi-faceted marketing tactic that requires a specific set of tools to work properly. This includes email opt-in forms that allow you to capture leads who visit your blog and landing pages. Your email marketing service provider will have forms of their own you can embed on your website, but it's best to use a lead generation tool to optimize the way you handle the conversions of leads on your site. Here are the types of opt-in forms:
- In-Line – This type of form appears as an “inline element” within the content area.
- Top Bar – This type of form appears as a bar above the header and can use a sticky display style.
- Pop-Ups – This type of form is self-explanatory, but they come in lightbox, slide-in, timed and link-triggered display styles. Try to stay away from intrusive pop-ups to avoid potential Google penalties.
- Widget – This type of form appears in widget areas, such as the sidebar and footer.
- Fullscreen – This form type takes over the entire screen until the user subscribers or closes the form.
- Content Lock – This form type blocks a user's access to your content until they subscribe.
- Multiple-Choice – This type of form allows the user to choose between multiple opt-in incentives.
Now let's go over four different tools you can use to add opt-in forms to your site and generate leads. Some of these lead generation tools are exclusive to WordPress:
Thrive Leads is an email marketing tool available exclusively as a WordPress plugin. It comes with every form type mentioned above as well as powerful features. This includes a two-step opt-in form powered by Thrive Leads' SmartLinks tool. You can use this tool to disguise a pop-up opt-in form behind a call to action. The form will only appear when the user clicks the call to action. This tactic typically generates higher-quality leads.
Another feature of Thrive Leads includes A/B testing you can use to test two versions of the same forms against one another to see which one converts better. You can also use the SmartExit tool to only display a pop-up form when a user exits the site. Overall, Thrive Leads is a great list building and lead generation plugin for WordPress
OptinMonster offers the same selection of forms and display styles Thrive Leads offers and even includes a geo-targeting form. You can even design your own forms with a drag-and-drop builder and use mobile-friendly pop-ups. It comes with advanced reporting features, A/B testing and more. You can even segment subscribers into groups in case your email marketing service provider doesn't offer that feature.
With over 30,000 active installs in the WordPress plugin repository, Icegram is a young but growing email marketing tool. However, that hasn't stopped the developers of this plugin from adding a few features you won't find in the previous tools. This includes the following form types:
- Toast Notifications – Small alert boxes you can place in one of the four corners of a web page.
- Tabs – Appears as a small tab along the side of a web page. The user can click on it to trigger an opt-in form.
Advanced features include user-behavior targeting, call-to-action targeting, A/B testing and more. With Icegram you can easily create beautiful opt-ins and call to actions of your choice, show them to targeted visitors and convert your visitors to customers and fans. This definitely is a helpful opt-in, list building and email subscription plugin.
Bloom is another email opt-in and lead generation plugin for WordPress. This plugin doesn't have as many features as the previous tools have, but it's still a fairly powerful email marketing tool. It comes with only four form types (pop-up, inline, widget and content lock), but the additional features it offers are what make it a competitive solution.
This includes over 100 customizable pre-made templates and custom borders, image orientation, and unlimited colors. You can even filter where each form displays by excluding it from certain pages or posts. The Bloom dashboard includes an A/B testing tool as well as reports for growth rates, conversions and other email statistics.
Amplifying your lead generation system with lead magnets
One of the most effective lead generation strategies you can use is the lead magnet. You need to use generic calls to action without it, including the classic “subscribe to receive my newsletter” call to action. A lead magnet, also known as an “opt-in incentive” or “lead bait”, is a free offer you present to encourage a visitor to subscribe to your email list.
Most visitors ignore generic calls to action. Lead magnets, on the other hand, are known for helping marketers grow their email lists exponentially. Lead magnets work fairly simple. You write a great piece of content that's aimed squarely at people in the beginning / middle of your purchaser's journey. Along with that post, you also create a companion downloadable resource. This could be a PDF checklist or a worksheet, something truly useful to the reader who's interested in that topic. Here are a few lead magnet ideas you can offer on your blog:
- Ebook – Expand on a topic by creating a free ebook on it. You can either combine a few different posts you already have written and repurpose it as an ebook or create new content. Just make sure it's longer than the blog posts you typically publish so it has more value.
- Mini Course – Teach new visitors how to do something specific by creating a free mini course for it. You can host free courses on platforms like Teachable if you don't want to use your own website. Otherwise, use an LMS plugin, such as LearnPress.
- Email Course – Teach new visitors how to accomplish something while nurturing with an email course. Drip course content over four to five emails.
- Resource – If you have a blog post going over a list of something, create a PDF out of it, and offer it as a lead magnet. This includes shopping lists and recipe cards for food blogs, checklists for step-by-step guides, cheatsheets and more.
For instance, if you're writing a post about how to perform on-page SEO for blog posts, you could create a checklist version of that post. Or if you're posting a recipe, you could create a printable shopping list the reader can take to the grocery store. Then, in the middle of the post, you offer that upgrade to the reader in exchange for their email address. The best upgrades do just that — they upgrade the original content.
Content upgrades build upon your content, enhance it in some way, and provide additional value. They are not just the same value in a different context. There are dozens of other lead magnet ideas out there, but these are among the most effective lead generation techniques you can use.
How to generate leads with a lead generation campaign
Once you've defined your target audience, you can create your first product and market it with a lead generation campaign. This is an amplified version of a lead generation system. It allows you set new and current subscribers on a path to purchasing a specific product. This makes this technique great for product launches. Here are the steps you'll need to take to set one of these up:
- Choose a problem to solve in your niche.
- Create a fully-fledged product that solves that problem.
- Publish a blog post on a topic related to that problem.
- Offer a lead magnet that expands on that topic.
- Use an inline opt-in form.
- Nurture the lead with more exclusive content related to that topic.
- Spread this over four to five emails.
- Present a landing page promoting the product you want to sell.
Final thoughts on lead generation
Once you get the hang of lead generation, you can start optimizing your lead generation ideas and tactics with new campaign ideas. This includes using advertising, especially Facebook Ads, and worrying about things like cost per lead, which is the total amount you spent on a campaign divided by the number of leads you generated.
When you differentiate between a good lead and a bad lead, you can break this number down even further by determining what your cost per lead is in terms of sales leads. You can also use lead generation software to automate the more advanced forms of lead generation. Here are a few popular lead generation software services: Infusionsoft, Marketo, Pardot, Ontraport and HubSpot.
Lead generation is a complex topic, and this post is designed just to get you started. There's a lot more to know if you want to optimize your lead generation system and increase your conversion rates. The important thing is to get started. Above all, don't be afraid to experiment and track your results. Do you have any experience in using lead generation, especially in WordPress? Share your tips with the community in the comments below.