For any sales or outreach strategy to work effectively, companies need a core base of solid leads. As a member of the development team at Cardwell Beach, I’ve implemented lead generation plans across the web. I sat down with Matt Hansen to talk about best practices for generating quality leads that can make a difference for your business.

Q: Let’s talk about the basics of lead generation. What should organizations keep in mind when they are starting out trying to capture leads online?

A: It starts with a very strong landing page. It has to be very clear and have a great call to action headline. It also needs a web form that captures the information that you’re looking for, with the email and name as a minimum. Of course it’s dependent on the specific landing page, the product and the company you are selling, but at a minimum you want the name and email.

In addition, you want to make sure the data being sent to you is clean and valid. The last thing you need is to have bad or inaccurate data being sent through your servers and your email programs, because that can actually hurt you and your Email Service Provider (ESP).

Let’s say you have a site that gets hit with thousands of people per day and people are filling out their email addresses and these get sent automatically to a system like MailChimp. If you don’t have valid emails being submitted, your bounce or spam rate has the potential to go up.

That causes trouble not just for you, but for the email services that are sending your emails. The last thing that MailChimp or Vertical Response or AWeber wants is for their servers to be flagged by Google or Hotmail or Yahoo for sending spam. So, it’s very important to make sure you have clean and valid data going through your system.

Q: Let’s talk about managing all the customer data that comes in through a lead generation system. What are some good principles to keep in mind when organizing your incoming data?

A: Before you even get to the point of sending emails, you have to decide between a double-opt or a single-opt for people who submit their email address through your landing page. In a perfect world, you would want to do a double-opt, in which someone submits an email and then needs to confirm their email. Only once they’ve confirmed their email is it then added to the list.

In some cases, you may not get all the email addresses you’re looking for with a double-opt system. So many people choose a single-opt, which automatically adds a submitted email to your list.

Once you have your leads, it’s good to segment them into the appropriate categories, if applicable. What’s great about many email providers is that you can actually segment user data as they go down the sales funnel.

Let’s say you have one big bucket and you send out an email about Product A, B, and C. Those users that clicked on Product A should go into one list, B another list, and C another. That way you can actually fine-tune your marketing and cater your emails to their liking. That creates even more incentive for them to open your emails and continue down the path towards conversion.

Q: There seems to be a lot of planning needed before an organization even creates their first landing page. How can a brand or an organization or an individual begin organizing their thinking about the process?

A: The first step is to review your Google Analytics and see what kind of data you have there. What are the top pages being viewed on your site? What kind of information are people seeking? How much time are they spending on the site? What content or keywords interest them? Are they mobile or desktop users?

Once you look at all that data, you have a good starting point to start crafting your funnel and message.

Then you sit down and plan that out. It’s much more difficult to figure out your system when it’s up and running. You will end up doing more trial and error when you should be hitting the target. Being ill-defined in what you’re trying to do when you first start capturing leads can really make a mess of things and you can potentially lose out on customers, conversions, and sales.

You also need to make sure you have a competent person managing your email systems. With CAN-SPAM laws, you have to make sure your emails are following the rules, meaning you need an unsubscribe link, a mailing address where you can be reached if they choose to opt out or have any problems, and an option to change your subscription method if you offer multiple types of subscriptions.

Make sure your emails are coded correctly, too. Basic steps like ensuring your email templates look their best across multiple devices and your “from” email corresponds to a real email address and website can make or break email delivery.

If you’re at the level where you’re using a CRM such as Salesforce, consider whether you want your landing page leads to automatically populate in your CRM at the same time.

Another aspect that a lot of people forget is to make sure their terms of service and their privacy policy is up to date. They go a long way towards protecting you if something does happen that gets you in trouble. Having a solid up-to-date version of these policies will really help you in the event of a lawsuit or a dispute.

Overall, just remember that the email address is the new gold in the digital world. Everyone is checking their emails. You have a direct line to your customers all the time and any business should take advantage of that.

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