Guest Column | October 17, 2013

What Every VAR Should Know About Online Lead Generation

By Clint Hofer, Owner, Slingfly Media

First of all, I want to tell you with certainty that you can explode your sales growth without ever having to set up another tradeshow booth or mail out a stack of brochures.  The days of using cold calling as your primary lead generation method have been replaced. If you’re a VAR, here is the first step in learning the new rules of online lead generation.

In the past, most lead generation methods focused on outbound activities such as cold calling lists and mailing information to potential prospects. I say “in the past,” but I mean no offense if you use these methods. The reason these methods were the standard was due to the limited technology that was available at the time. Can any of you remember stopping along the way to a meeting to use a pay phone? Times have certainly changed, but unless you adapt to take advantage of these changes, you’re going to be steamrolled by your competition as they scoop up all these valuable sales leads. Keep reading if you can feel the ground vibrating already.

Inbound marketing using your website allows your message to resonate and spread among your target audience in such a manner that they actually start contacting you for a change. In my previous article for Business Solutions, “How Social Media Is Killing Your Sales,” I highlighted how many social media outlets are a waste of time until your core online marketing is up to par.  Imagine a lead calling you out of the blue! This is what your competition is getting — now it’s your turn.

The first step in this process is to define your target audience. Just like using a GPS in your car when heading out on a road trip, you need the right directions in order to avoid wasted time, money, and effort. Defining your target audience is accomplished by identifying specific keywords this audience is using to search online. You can confirm this data in the form of keyword research, which — in a nutshell — calculates exactly what groups of people are searching for online and how many times they search per month. There are several tools you can use from Google and other providers. Here’s a stiff warning: you will be shocked at what you have been missing out on all this time.

Keyword research is one of the most overlooked strategies that companies fail to complete. Being in the software or services industry for decades, some business owners and sales directors feel they know the industry like the backs of their hands. Don’t be fooled. The data does not lie and will point you in the right direction as the GPS for your online strategy.

When identifying keywords, use terms that someone would search for if they had no idea your company existed. For example, focus on generic keyword strings and phrases that may not even mention a product name. Remember, if clients knew a name brand, they would likely already be calling them. This is the key to catching leads that need the solutions you and your company offer. Just to be clear, at this point in your strategy do not worry about keywords related to your brand name or the products you resell. Keep it generic and don’t be above using keywords that may have misspellings or sound odd to someone in your industry. Keep in mind we are serving the public’s demand for help — if they misspell a keyword phrase hundreds of times each month, jump on that bandwagon before your competitor beats you to it.

Once you have your list of valuable keywords, take a look at the list and prioritize it from most important to least important. Priority can be related to how closely keywords describe your solutions or the actual monthly search volume. This is commonly known as your “keyword master list.” This list should drive your online marketing strategy. Like that GPS, it keeps you pointed in the right direction. If you have already started an online marketing initiative, either internal or outsourced, here are some questions to ask in order to get a hold of the reigns:

  • What keywords are we going after?
  • How did we decide on these keywords?
  • Where is our website listed for each of these keywords?
  • Does our tracking software show more visitors since we began?

This master keyword list is your first step on the road to online lead generation. Jumping ahead without a clear direction will be a waste if time for you, your team, and your wallet. In my next article, I will discuss the why this keyword list is so valuable, and what to do with it on your journey to generating online leads.