As a business, you’ve probably heard the term “generating leads” more than you can count. And there’s a reason for that – your business’s online marketing strategy and subsequent prosperity revolves around your lead generation process and converting those leads to customers. But how can you be sure you are generating the right amount of leads for your business?

The truth is, leads don’t generate themselves. In order to market successfully, you need to know how much to put in and the reasonable expectations from those efforts. There are so many tools out there for marketers; it’s hard to narrow down what’s most helpful for your business, and it’s absolutely impossible to try them all.

Setting a plan in place for your marketing strategy from the research phase to the end goal is very important. The steps along the way to getting a lead are as important as the steps you take turning that lead into a customer. We’ll help walk you through the process with 6 sure-fire steps to improve your lead generation process this year:

  1.     Set a benchmark and goal.

Setting long-term goals is a great way to address and be familiar with where you want to be as a business in the long run, but it doesn’t necessarily set you on the right track to getting there. An important part of assessing  what your future marketing goals should be is to look at past results to first set a benchmark. Knowing where you’ve been can help guide you to where you want to be. It’s important to look at how you have performed in the past so you can set realistic expectations on how you will perform in the future.

For example, if in the past year you received an average of 100 leads per month through your website, setting a  goal of 500 leads per month wouldn’t be wise. Look at what results you have obtained in the past and what marketing campaigns you will be launching in the future to change these results, helping you set practical and achievable goals.

After setting your benchmark, define your long-term goals and several short-term goals to make sure that you stay on track over the year.  Setting short-term goals with time-sensitive, specific results will help you break down the long-term goal into bite-sized chunks that won’t feel as daunting to your team. These need to be reasonable  goals that can smoothly transition into the next short-term goal.

  1.     Make a plan to reach this benchmark and goal.

After you set a benchmark and a goal, list the immediate actions you plan to take to achieve that goal. These actions could be tasks like optimizing your paid campaigns to spend more of the budget on the highest converting ad groups, increasing the media spend on these high-performing campaigns, optimizing your website or blog content for keywords that your audience is looking for, optimizing your website so that it’s easier to capture a lead, etc.

After these actions and goals are completed, make sure you are analyzing how your marketing campaigns performed to make sure that you are hitting your goals and are learning what’s working and what isn’t so you can constantly adjust.

  1.     Research how much you need to spend in order to reach your lead goal.

Research is important in planning your online marketing strategy and tailoring your lead generation process to your business’s specific needs. Google is one of the most powerful and important ways to market online. There are several tools to research both past and potential Google marketing trends for your business.

An incredible tool businesses can use to analyze their online marketing strategy is Google AdWords Keyword Planner. This tool helps you understand and analyze your monthly search volumes, data about your competition, and average cost-per-click for each keyword – which is invaluable data to support your lead generation efforts.

Use Google Analytics to research your previous Google impact – how many leads you were obtaining on average from each source. Then, set a benchmark goal based on that, and then use Google AdWords Keyword Planner to find out how to reach that goal based on your monthly paid media budget.

  1.     Don’t aim higher than you can handle.

Be reasonable with your goals. Just because you can generate tons of leads doesn’t mean you should. Your team should be focused on generating leads that are high quality and are likely to turn into a sale; any other leads are a waste of time and money. Also, if you plan to increase your leads, make sure your company and your employees are equipped to handle a rapid increase in leads and sales. You don’t want to harm your reputation or your customer’s experience with your brand by trying to grow too quickly. Short-term success does not necessarily equal long-term sustainability. Put a plan in place to grow responsibly and in a way that translates to a long and healthy business future.

  1.     You have to spend money to make money.

The classic phrase is true. In order to see results in your efforts, you have to plan to spend money on marketing campaigns that will increase your marketing impact. However, just spending money doesn’t work if you don’t have a specific plan in mind.

It‘s imperative for you to be strategic with what marketing tactics you implement.  If your goal is to improve your lead generation process in order to generate more leads, your spending should be focused on marketing tactics that support that goal.

As a business, you can’t simply expect to get leads without spending time or money on your lead generation process – from the research, to implementation, through to the constant and persistent improvement of the process.

How do you know the right amount to spend? First, figure out what your average customer’s lifetime value is in order to determine how much you should spend to get their business. From there, research your average conversion rate so you can make a plan for how much you should spend per lead. The key ingredient to this equation is to know exactly where to spend and how much.

  1.     Analyze and optimize to get the best results.

Spending money on something that doesn’t generate leads isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Knowing what doesn’t work is almost just as valuable as knowing what does work. That way, you know to stay away from spending money in that particular area for your current business needs.

A good way to measure what works and doesn’t work is with a web analytics tool, like Google Analytics. These types of tools will let you know what sources your leads are coming from to see if you are hitting your goals or not so that you can adjust from there.

The process of generating leads and nurturing those leads into customers is a cycle. The good news is that it’s not a one size fits all process. You can try different tactics, analyze the results, and make changes where you see fit at any time. For more insight on ways to generate leads online, here is another blog post with great tips. Or, if you’re still completely lost, we’d love to chat and help you figure out a lead generation strategy that best fits your business model.