Every business wants sales—but before someone becomes a customer or client they usually start off as a lead.
A lead is someone who has expressed interest in your brand, service, or product but has yet to make a purchase. This interest is usually expressed by giving you their email address so they can learn more about what you have to offer and how you can help them.
You see, most people aren’t going to buy from you after just one interaction. You need to earn their trust and prove your value before they’re willing to hand over their money. Once you have someone’s email address you can build a relationship with them and eventually turn them into a customer.
This is why building a lead generation funnel is so important.
Follow the steps below to start gathering valuable leads for your business and learn everything you need to know about lead generation funnels.
What is a lead generation funnel?
You’ve probably heard of a sales funnel. This is the journey a customer takes from their first encounter with your brand all the way to becoming a customer. There are four stages of a sales funnel:
Your lead generation funnel is essentially the top of your sales funnel and encompasses the “awareness” and “interest” stages. It’s a collection of assets (ads, content, videos, etc.) that are designed to introduce new people to your brand and convince them to hand over their email addresses.
An example of a lead generation funnel could be:
- A blog post that answers important questions about your niche and introduces your audience to your brand.
- Retargeting ads that target those who viewed your blog and send them to a landing page.
- A landing page that encourages people to submit their email addresses in exchange for free training that helps them solve a problem they’re having.
A lead generation funnel doesn’t contain a sales pitch—it prepares people for the pitch. After someone’s gone through your lead generation funnel they’ll be familiar with your brand. You’ll have also proven yourself by already solving one of their problems. That way, when you finally offer them a paid product or service, they’ll be much more likely to take you up on it.
How to build a lead generation funnel
Now that you know what a lead generation funnel is, it’s time to build your own. Follow the steps below to start generating leads and growing your pool of potential customers.
Step 1: Define your ideal customer
Before you create your funnel, you have to figure out who you’re targeting. This will determine the type of content you’ll need to attract the right audience.
If you have an established business, dig into your data to see who your typical customer or client is. Answer the following questions:
- Are they generally younger or older?
- Are they predominantly male or female?
- What are their interests?
- What are their goals?
- What problems are they struggling with?
If you’re starting a new business, do some research. Study your competitors to see who is interacting with their social media. Look at their ads to see what type of people they’re targeting. You should be able to make an educated guess about who you should target.
Create a profile of your ideal customer and keep them in mind while building your funnel to ensure everything is geared toward their wants and needs.
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Step 2: Create brand awareness content
Before you ask someone to become a customer, you have to ask them to become a lead. And before you ask someone to become a lead, you need to introduce yourself.
So, once you figure out who your ideal customer is, the next step is to create some content that will get their attention and serve as an introduction to your brand. This content won’t have any call to action (or if it does it will be a fairly soft one, like following you on social media). Instead, the goal of this content is simply to educate your audience and provide value.
Draw on your research from step one to create content that your ideal audience is likely looking for. A good place to start is identifying a problem they’re having and then developing a piece of content that answers their questions.
Some examples of brand awareness content include:
- Blog posts
- YouTube videos
- Social media posts
Consider this content the foundation of your lead generation funnel (and sales funnel). It might be tempting to create more conversion-focused content first, but by building a library of educational brand awareness content you’ll set yourself up for success later on.
Step 3: Develop one or more lead magnets
A lead magnet is a piece of gated content that requires users to submit their email address in order to access it.
The thing is, most people aren’t going to hand over their email address for no reason. Sure, they might have read one of your blogs or watched one of your videos, but they still need a little incentive before they invite you into their inbox.
That’s where the lead magnet comes in. If you have a piece of content that solves a problem they’re struggling with, they’ll be much more likely to submit their contact information.
Some examples of lead magnets include:
- Resource lists
Think of your brand awareness content as a way to answer your audience's initial questions and your lead magnets as a solution to their problem.
For example, let’s say you want to help people create a content calendar for their business. You could write a blog post about your process for planning your content for the year. Then, you could offer them a template they can use to create their own content calendar (in exchange for their email).
Your brand awareness content might not always tie in perfectly with your lead magnets, but you get the idea. Start by giving them the information they need to get going, then offer them a tool to speed up the process and make it easier.
Step 4: Build a landing page
Next, you’ll need a landing page to host your lead magnet. This is known as a lead capture page, as the main goal of the page is to collect leads for your business.
If you’re new to building landing pages don’t worry—there are plenty of landing page builders available that make creating pages easy, even if you have no experience with coding or web design. For example, Leadpages offers over 200 professionally-designed templates and a Drag & Drop Builder that allow you to launch your page in a matter of hours.
Here’s what your landing page will need in order to be successful:
- An enticing headline. Use your headline to highlight the specific problem your lead magnet will solve and the benefits it provides. Be as specific as possible to grab the attention of your ideal customer.
- Powerful imagery. The images you choose also have a big impact on your conversion rate, especially your hero image. Use pictures to show the benefits of your lead magnet.
- Social proof. Include testimonials from current customers, logos of past clients, and any other proof you have that your products and services do what you say they do.
- A strong CTA. If you want someone’s email address you have to ask for it. Ensure your call to action tells visitors what they’ll get and why they should submit their email.
- A lead capture form. Your form can either appear on your landing page, or it can pop up when someone clicks your CTA button.
Take the time to perfect your landing page. Your lead magnet might be extremely valuable, but without the right pitch, it won’t be successful.
Step 5: Connect your landing page to your email marketing platform
You might be wondering what to do with all those email addresses once you get them. If you’re a Leadpages user, your leads will be automatically stored in your Leads Library. Here you can sort, filter, and delete leads as you please.
However, to make it easier to follow up with your leads you’ll want to connect your landing page (specifically your lead capture form) to your email marketing platform. Most landing page builders make this easy. For example, Leadpages seamlessly integrates with MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, and all the other leading ESPs.
Once you connect your email marketing account with your Leadpages account, you can configure your lead capture form to send any emails you collect straight to a mailing list within your email tool.
Step 6: Create an automated email sequence to nurture your leads
While this step isn’t necessary for collecting leads, it’s a good idea to set up some sort of automated email sequence before you “turn on” your lead generation funnel. Having this in place will allow you to build a relationship with your leads, establish authority in your niche, and guide them toward making a purchase.
The process will differ slightly depending on the email marketing platform you’re using, but essentially you’ll create a mailing list for the leads you collect with your funnel. As soon as someone lands on that list, they’ll receive a sequence of emails you’ve pre-written. These sequences generally include five to seven emails, with one email being delivered each day.
The key to an effective email sequence is to start by providing value and then slowly work towards the sale.
Here’s an example of an effective lead nurture sequence:
- Introduction/link to your top resources to get started.
- A blog post related to the lead magnet they downloaded or a potential problem they’re having.
- An invitation to a webinar or free training event where you’ll be demonstrating your product or service.
- A special offer that’s only available to subscribers.
- A reminder/last chance email where you restate your offer and close with a strong call to action.
The great thing about this is that you don’t have to worry about manually following up with every lead you get. It will all happen automatically so you can focus on other areas of your business.
Step 7: Drive traffic to your content
With all the pieces of your lead generation funnel in place you’re ready to spread the word and start driving traffic to your pages.
Here are some of the top traffic strategies for you to consider:
- Search engine optimization: SEO takes a while to make an impact, but it’s also the best long-term strategy (and the most cost-effective). Your lead capture pages will likely be too short to rank for keywords, but if you have brand awareness content that generates organic traffic you can use pop-ups and alert bars to direct people to your landing pages.
- Social media: Share your content across your social channels. If you don’t have a large audience, or simply want to expand your reach, consider using social ads to boost your traffic.
- Search ads: This is a good option if you want to appear in searches for your desired keywords but are too new to be ranked for them organically. Just make sure to choose keywords closely related to your products and services to maximize your ROI.
- Retargeting ads: This is a great way to introduce people who have been exposed to your brand awareness content to your lead magnets. Use these ads to target people who have visited your website and blogs.
Depending on your budget, experiment with a few different traffic sources to see which ones yield the best results.
Step 8: Monitor, test, and refine your lead generation funnel
Even when your lead generation funnel is launched and traffic is flowing in, your work isn’t over. If you want to maximize your results you need to keep an eye on things and pinpoint any areas where you can improve.
Some of the stats to watch are:
- Traffic to your pages. Is there a way to increase your traffic? Are your traffic sources working as intended?
- Landing page conversion rate. Anywhere from a 5% - 15% conversion rate is considered average. But don’t be satisfied with average. Consider performing A/B tests to optimize your page.
- Lead to customer rate. How many of your leads are turning into customers? Consider altering your lead nurture sequence if this number is too low.
The best lead generation funnels are constantly evolving, so continue to monitor every stage and come up with new ideas to improve the experience for your audience.
Start building your lead generation funnel today
Leadpages offers you the tools you need to build a high-converting lead generation funnel. With the Drag & Drop landing page and website builder, professionally designed templates, and integrations with leading email marketing platforms, you can have your funnel up and running sooner than you think.
Try Leadpages free for 14 days to start generating leads and customers.
Try Leadpages free for 14 days
Easily create your website and landing pages with the only platform engineered by marketing nerds.
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