We all know that a steady stream of leads is an essential ingredient in keeping a business afloat—but coming up with original and effective ways to attract and convert qualified leads is easier said than done.

And, especially in this new age of the self-directed buyer, marketers need to constantly deliver innovative, unique ways to reach potential customers and get heard through the noise. Brands today are planning, executing, and spending considerable amounts of money around the clock to both get consumers to raise their hands and create potential opportunities to win those consumers' business.

For marketers who are challenged to optimize their customer acquisition programs without going over budget, after they get consumers to raise their hands is when the hard work really begins.

However, the biggest mistake companies tend to make in optimizing the performance of incoming hand raisers is to marketing to those leads the same way they market to their CRM database.

Inbound B2C lead conversion can be truly optimized when marketers design a strategy to confirm the interest of each lead, build trust, and treat new leads to a special experience that both creates urgency and helps new prospects get to know the brand.

A vital goal of marketers is to do everything in their power to nurture each lead so they can get the highest number of sales possible. And the best lead gen process should provide a way for the consumer to take action while still providing the most relevant information for marketers to act upon.

Marketers should consider these tips to make lead gen more actionable:

  1. Use email to confirm interest. Consumers who quickly take a second action showing interest in your brand are likely going to be your next group of top-performing customers. Studies show that people who respond to confirmation emails are future winners for the business. Those who do not confirm interest, especially after a series of confirmation emails, are unlikely to prove profitable in the long run.
  2. Build trust. Share your brand story, product recommendations, employee bios, and more. Keep those areas on your site regularly updated to remain current.
  3. Create a sense of urgency. For example, provide a great offer for first-time buyers that's not available to anyone else (you really, really want that first sale!).
  4. Increase frequency for new leads. One tried and true approach: Communicate daily for the first week. Then, try to stay in touch two-thirds of the second week, and so on. The goal is to get that second confirmation of interest.
  5. Follow all email best-practices. Be prepared to provide expected messaging, based on the ad that originally prompted leads to raise their hands. Communication must be relevant. And, if necessary, make it sufficiently easy for users to unsubscribe.
  6. Integrate an incentive. Have a structured viral component to your lead gen program, using email to encourage your most enthusiastic customers to help you drive new business with regularly scheduled "invite a friend" or "friends and family" campaigns. Provide an offer for the consumer so that they can benefit by emailing your link to their contacts—for example, a credit toward one of your company's services, or a free coupon for a partner's service. Doing so not only builds rapport with consumers but also benefits all parties involved.
  7. Turn enthusiasm into a lead gen source. Incorporate a structured viral component, using social media to harness your most enthusiastic customers to help you drive new business with look-alike customers. Remember, a satisfied customer can help you reach a huge audience via social media. And, unlike email, which is traditionally bidirectional (sender and receiver), social media is inherently a many-to-many medium. Just as people share news with their friends on social media, who in turn share it with their friends, marketers can use a positive customer experience to reach their entire social network.
  8. Monitor leads and be patient. Don't give up on new subscribers too quickly. Though you should add only active email addresses to your ongoing CRM program (those who respond to a strong welcome campaign), new opt-in leads should continue to be nurtured for at least three months before you give up on them.

Finally, no matter what form of content you use to generate leads, your ultimate litmus test should be this: Is this information relevant and valuable enough that prospects will be happy to give me their contact information in exchange? Remember the old adage: You've got to give to get.

The best leads are those that keep working for you, so make structured viral marketing part of your core email nurturing strategy. The best gifts keep on giving; similarly—with patience and persistence—great consumers lead to more consumers.

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image of Neil Rosen

Neil Rosen is CEO of CertainSource, an eWayDirect company, providing B2C marketers with a customer acquisition management (CAM) platform for managing and optimizing ongoing omni-channel customer acquisition.

LinkedIn: Neil Rosen