Here's a popular way to generate online leads: Buy a keyword ad on a search engine site. In your ad, offer free content, such as a whitepaper, to respondents who complete a short form.

In theory, this type of campaign works well: The people who respond get something of value. You get leads. Everyone's happy.

Not so fast. Too often the sales department follows up on those leads and tells marketing they're no good.

Why? What went wrong?

The campaign described above is a wide-net campaign. When you post a search engine ad—no matter how targeted it is—you will attract people with diverse motivations and different pain points. Some of them are sales-ready. Others are simply interested.

But this doesn't have to be a problem. In fact, it can be a golden opportunity to learn who is interested in your offerings and to tailor your sales and marketing to their desires.

A wide-net campaign can yield terrific results if you know how to craft it. These six steps will help you get the most from yours.

1. See the big picture

When using wide-net marketing vehicles, it helps to take a longer-term view of lead generation. Wide-net campaigns are often the first step in a larger program. In fact, lead generation that starts online has to be a process that combines effective online and offline tactics to nurture and qualify an inquiry until it becomes a lead. Perhaps you begin with a whitepaper, then send an email or offer a webinar. The point is, you're generating interest—and building on it.

2. Talk to your sales team

Don't wait until the end of the campaign for your sales team to tell you the leads aren't good. Find out in advance what sales needs, and build it into your marketing strategy. We'll use this example: You are marketing a product to healthcare companies. The sales team wants to talk to decision makers at large hospitals. Make this a part of the campaign. How?

3. Find out who's clicking, who's converting, and who's abandoning

For a wide-net campaign to pay off, you must know who's responding. You do this through post-click marketing. Rather than directing respondents to a single landing page, offer a landing path—a series of pages that collects information from the visitor. Using our example... Your ad promises a solution for healthcare companies. The respondent arrives at the first page of your landing path and sees three choices: "Solutions for small hospitals," "Solutions for large hospitals," and "Solutions for other healthcare agencies." (Your segmentation can be driven by whatever information you'd like to know.)

The visitors make a choice, giving you an important bit of data in the process. As they move along the path, be sure you're delivering on whatever promise you made on the previous screen. Did you promise them a solution for a large hospital? Give them some information that pays off that promise. Respondents will continue along the path, and they'll give you valuable information as they do so. Even those who abandon before converting (i.e., filling out the form) leave important data.

The beauty of post-click marketing is that it allows you track respondent behavior. What does a visitor click on? How much time does someone spend on a page? You have this information. And the more you know about the respondent, the better your sales team can focus its efforts.

4. Score your respondents

Assign scores to respondent behavior. Remember that our sales team wants to talk to decision makers at large hospitals. So when someone clicks "Solutions for Large Hospitals" on your landing path, you'll assign that person a high score, giving a lower score to someone who chooses the small hospital option. Let's say your large-hospital respondent not only completes the form but also clicks every link on the "thank you" page you included in your path. More points.

Design your post-click strategy and scoring any way you like. Remember: It should serve the goals of your sales department.

5. Feed information to the sales team

In a successful post-click marketing campaign, you have a lot of information on a lead by the time you turn it over to the sales team. You can pass along not only the contact information but also statistics on behavior that give clues about their interests. And because you've scored each respondent's behavior, the sales team knows the value of every lead it receives.

Armed with information from the post-click campaign, a salesperson knows whom she is calling. If it's a decision maker at a large hospital, she'll talk about solutions for large hospitals. She might discuss case studies of larger hospitals, etc.

6. Use your campaign knowledge to nurture those leads

Because the sales and marketing teams have solid information on respondents, they can plan their follow-up strategies accordingly. The large hospitals go to the top of the call list. Small hospitals are second. Non-hospital respondents might get regular emails on topics related to healthcare. And within these categories, sales can prioritize its calls and tailor its efforts based on scoring and behavior information. Did someone download a demo? Sales can contact them to let them know about a more recent demo that may be of interest.

Post-click data can even be used to divvy up leads. Perhaps the hottest ones go straight to the sales manager, while others go to a support team. Marketing may even decide to hold off on sending certain leads to sales, and instead plan a series of follow-up campaigns for some respondents. So a prospect receives a whitepaper as fulfillment, then gets a personal email with an additional piece of content. By the time sales gets the lead, perhaps this person has indicated further interest, or at a minimum has received additional, supporting content on the topic he or she originally expressed interest in.

* * *

As you see, a wide-net campaign can yield terrific results. With solid planning, strategy, and execution, you'll collect valuable data that helps you streamline sales and convert clicks into clients.

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image of Anna Talerico

Anna Talerico is executive vice-president of Ion Interactive, a company that pioneered in post-click marketing. Anna and her colleagues provided professional guidance and assistance in the development of SmartTools: High-Performance Landing Pages specifically for MarketingProfs PRO members.

LinkedIn: Anna Talerico