In today’s data-heavy, research-driven, overcrowded online marketplace, it can be really difficult for marketing professionals to find multiple lead generation sources that are successful. Too often, software companies will get started with a successful lead generation channel and then once that strategy has become a reliable pipeline, they turn away from it.
Why do they turn away? For a couple of reasons:
- The pipeline has a long buying cycle and extended time is needed to propose, close, and fulfill new sales
- The direction of their time is shifted away from lead generation to oversight of new product development or service implementation
- The interest in building up a second lead generation channel from the ground up, in an effort to diversify sources
While many of the reasons listed above may sound like a great problem for your company to have, each reason can cause you to turn away from lead generation. This can quickly result in a dried up pipeline, the archnemesis of a marketing manager for a growing software company.
Because of this situation, you need to stay focused on lead generation and find several consistent sources for marketing and sales-qualified leads. Below, I’ve compiled 15 lead generation ideas that are both actionable and effective.
1. Best Practice Guides & Problem-Solving Tutorials
This is a very commonly used tactic by nearly every B2B solution provider on the Internet – whether they are a software company or not.
Your potential customers have to upgrade their legacy systems to stay competitive or get in line with newly placed industry standards. They may not know what they need to do, or they may only know what problems they experience with their existing solutions. You need to create content that serves as an educational opportunity for them and their team members.
Added bonus: Include buttons on this page that makes your guide easy to bookmark, print, PDF, email, or share on an office messaging platform like Slack or Yammer.
2. Chat Boxes
There once was a time I installed a chat plugin on a website and generated a lead for a tech company the very first night! While this can definitely work to generate more leads for your business, consider having an established policy for how to handle support requests that come in through online chat. If you don’t want to muddy the waters between your sales team and support team, then limit the use of your chat application on certain pages that existing customers are less likely to visit.
Added bonus: Some chat apps can even force popup on pages that you specify, like service landing pages, FAQ, or pricing pages. While this may turn away some visitors, an interested prospect is likely to engage you if they are that far along in their process.
3. Checklists, Worksheets, and Templates
Resources like this are comparable to best practice guides and tutorials, with the difference that they should be living, breathing resources that a prospective lead can interact with to chart their progress or repurpose in their daily work routines. If interactivity is not an option on your website, at least make this resource downloadable as a spreadsheet or text file.
Added bonus: If an interactive document is not possible on your own website, consider hosting a spreadsheet in Google Drive for users to copy to their own Drive folders. If you allow this, however, try to find a way to brand the file to avoid having another company re-brand a resource you created.
This is a commonly used tactic with channel program providers in both the computer hardware and software verticals. In most cases, your company can probably use this as a tactic online and offline and generate a variety of leads with limited out of pocket costs. In many cases, the partner will assist in helping you cover the marketing costs and also aide in cross-promotion of the event to their marketing list.
Added bonus: As long as your lead generation idea will also result in sales opportunities for the co-marketing partner, don’t shy away from requesting their support for a solution where you only white label their product. For instance, if a campaign you want to run results in sales that will require you to increase server space, API calls, or application installations of the partner solutions, tell them that when you apply for the marketing funds.
5. Contact Us… For Custom Options
If you target customers are medium-sized businesses or larger, then your software is likely going to be implemented within the framework of a legacy system. If your software isn’t going to be implemented as a solution, it will still likely require some amount of customization in order to be a viable solution. Make sure you give potential customers like these the opportunity to contact you directly with an RFP or fill out a quick form to discuss their needs. Otherwise, you may miss out on a game-changing opportunity.
Added bonus: Businesses of all sizes will review your pricing pages. Make sure you give clients that don’t fit one of your primary pricing models the opportunity to contact you with a clear call-to-action for custom projects on these pages.
6. Email Courses
While this strategy takes a lot of work to set up on the front end, it can be very effective for generating leads when your software requires a high amount of education and supporting documentation to create a sales opportunity. Email marketing empowers companies to cash in on leads.
Added bonus: Nearly all major email marketing solutions have drip campaign functionality included in them. The cost to utilize this strategy has decreased dramatically in recent years.
7. Gated Content
Yes, it is 2016… and yes, gated content still absolutely works as a lead generation strategy for software companies!
I know gating content is generally considered to be a no-no – especially in the tech world. But no matter what Spiceworks tells you in their reports, my own lead generation testing (and success) indicates that tech professionals will not only provide you information in exchange for gated content – they will even do so for your own sales literature!
The process is pretty simple – do a survey of something, develop a whitepaper or case study, create an infographic that relates to the challenges of your target customers… and then put it behind a form in exchange for newsletter signup or basic contact information.
This strategy works well because providing content as a download in exchange for contact information can be leveraged on multiple advertising platforms. In addition to generating organic traffic from search and social media, putting a few dollars behind these pieces of content on AdWords, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help turn those platforms into lead generation opportunities, also.
Added bonus: The less “valuable” the information you are providing to your target customer, the fewer form fields you should require them to fill out to receive the information. For an ebook or whitepaper, asking them to fill out detailed company information should be okay. For your sales brochure? Limit it to no more than first name and email.
Of course, this should work to generate more leads for your company… after all, who doesn’t like getting something for free?! One disadvantage to this strategy, however, is that you risk receiving a quantity of leads that may not result in quality sales opportunities.
To help combat the quantity over the quality challenge, make sure you require the downloader or person requesting your giveaway to provide some type of personally identifiable information about themselves in exchange. You can also consider requiring them to signup for your newsletter or share your link on a social network in exchange.
Added bonus: To use your free download offer as a benefit to your SEO efforts, send an exclusive free trial to bloggers and other social media influencers to review prior to public launch. Not only can you tap into their follower counts and subscribers for potential leads, you are also likely to earn some high-quality links back to your domain in the process.
9. Helpful Videos
But guess what? You haven’t tapped into 100% of your market, so there are still people out there who don’t know how great your software can be for their business. Instead of focusing on creating customer supporting videos, create helpful video content for the percentage of your customers that use other software solutions. Highlight benefits of your software over your competitor’s and show them how it will make their lives/jobs easier.
Added bonus: Share your video clips on YouTube and optimize the titles and descriptions of each clip for product comparison keyword phrases, like “Firefox vs. Chrome” or “Mac vs. PC”.
10. Newsjacking Major Industry Events
Even if it doesn’t directly affect you – good news and bad news happens in your industry on a regular basis.
Market leaders host conventions. Startups in your niche raise capital. Major platform providers get breached, hacked, or experience significant downtime. Competitors make customer service gaffes that impact a large percentage of their customer base.
Are you prepared to take advantage of the opportunities these events can provide to your business?
If you have a blog, the answer is most definitely yes! Create content around these events, and provide your own unique insights into each event, and how it relates to your target customers.
Added bonus: Depending on how aggressive you want to be with generating leads around this tactic, running AdWords campaigns on relevant keywords for these events (like “dreamforce 2017”, “bluehost hosting outage”, or “snapchat IPO”), can have a major positive impact on your lead tallies.
11. Pricing Pages
There are a lot of software companies – particularly SaaS companies that sell monthly package plans – that include pricing pages as part of their site structure. But on the other side of the fence, many B2B software sellers still often oppose publishing their pricing online.
Why? Because they want as many visitors as possible to request further information, schedule a demo, or take some other action… and fear they will lose sales opportunities if they are transparent with their pricing.
Well, those companies are right about one thing – they will likely lose leads by including pricing on their websites. However, my experience can also confirm that pricing pages eliminate a large percentage of leads that shop only with price as a deciding factor. Show your pricing, and save your sales team some time dealing with leads that “just want to know the price”.
Added bonus: if your software has variable pricing, list all of your rates as “Starting At” prices, include all of your available options, and use a “Submit RFQ” as your CTA at the bottom of the form instead of “Add To Cart” or “Sign Up Now”.
12. Product Comparison Vs. Top Competitors
Product comparison content is a great way to show how your software is different (and in most cases, better!) than your competition. Depending on how you choose to present your product comparison content, this can be done in a way that potential customers should easily be able to evaluate. If SEO strategies are a top driver of leads for your company, then product comparisons should be an essential part of your digital marketing plan if you are looking to expand your opportunities.
Added bonus: Having pages like this built on your site will also allow you to rank and run advertising campaigns for keywords centered around alternatives to your competitor (like “Hotjar alternatives” and “alternatives to Salesforce”) and take top positions for searches that include the word “versus” in their query (like “apache vs cloudera” or “WooCommerce vs Magento”).
Think about how many of your potential customers spend their spare time on Facebook trying to figure out which Kardashian they most closely resemble, and guess what quotes were said by either a presidential candidate or Larry The Cable Guy.
If they are willing to invest time into quizzing and educating themselves about these frivolous questions, do you think they would be interested in investing a few minutes discovering if their department or company are fully prepared to handle the challenges your software can solve? For the sake of humanity, I sure hope the answer is yes!
Added bonus: Instead of asking these quiz takers for their contact information before they get started, or after they see the results, suggest some of your gated content as further reading once they complete the quiz!
14. Resource Guides and Roundups
There’s a lot of content that can be bundled under this category – everything from a roundup of industry experts offering tips on a topic, to listicles that rank, rate, or review the best/worst of anything that is important to your audience.
Added bonus: We do this very well on our own site. Please check out our online marketing terms glossary or our International SEO Tips blog post with over 20 industry experts for examples of this marketing strategy at work.
15. Test Something With Your Software
Are you making a bold claim in your sales and marketing material, like that your software is successful in its tasks 100% of the time? Is it the only solution on the market that performs a certain task? Does it respond consistently under extreme conditions? Prove it by putting your software to the test with the help of an unbiased third party, and share the results publicly.
Just make sure to inform your marketing reps and copywriters beforehand, because after you publish the results they may need to adjust some verbiage depending on the outcome of the tests.
Added bonus: Make sure whoever you trust to do the tests don’t break your only demo version of your software. I’m not saying, I’m just sayin…
Final Thoughts On Software Company Lead Gen
As documented above, there are a lot of ways your software company can generate leads online. No matter what tactics you choose, each strategy requires testing, a varying degree of manpower to get implemented, and a few tweaks or customizations to fit the needs of your customers and help you achieve your goals.
No matter what tactics you try to help your pipeline grow, always be testing and regularly evaluate the results to maximize performance.
If you’re interested in learning how you can drive better results with search engine marketing, schedule a digital marketing consultation.