List building in 2020 – New inbound marketing channels you cannot ignore!

February 23, 2020 - 19 minutes read

70% of marketers think that lead quality is a bigger problem for their organization.

That is, the problem in list building is not getting new leads – it is getting quality leads who are genuinely interested in your organisation.

Why is lead quality important?

Despite a large email list, nonprofits found that fundraising from email decreased by 8% in 2019 

This problem unfortunately, is not unique to the nonprofit industry. It is across sectors

Advocacy organizations find that despite having a large list of ‘members’, the volunteers who turn up for the rally are considerably lesser. 

For businesses, there is an endless battle between sales and marketing on the lead list and conversions – for the leads that marketing brought in were simply not ‘ready’ to buy!

Please note: in the above scenarios, there are two fundamental problems:

  1. The quality of the leads who are in the list are not ‘ready’ just yet. So they are reluctant to make a donation or attend a rally or even buy your product. 
  2. The organization is not aware of this reluctance and pushes for the end conversion (of making a donation, or buying a product). Needless to say, this direct ask fails.

That is why, in this post we will look at how to build a quality list of prospects for your organization and also see how to encourage them to convert!

Traditional list building is broken!

A typical buyer’s journey is visualized as a funnel. The buyer systematically moves down the funnel based on the efforts by your organziation.

Based on this funnel, here’s how traditionally list building happens across organizations:

1. Build landing pages for the cause/objective they want to promote

To be honest, it is not even a landing page. More often than not, organizations that are pressed for resources use a simple (and a rather generic) form on their nonprofit website to capture leads.

2. Invest in content and SEO to drive ‘interested traffic’ to that page

As an organization, you know that your interested audience is out there. So you just focus on the keywords that bring you the most traffic to your site!

3. Send repeated emails to leads, asking them for time/money 

Once your prospect signs up on your page (or a form), you immediately shoot out an email requesting them to ‘get more involved’

4. Or, reach these leads via phone calls to get them to act

That is, while the lead is still ‘hot’, you make a call and see if they can jump onboard right that instant. 

Looking at it objectively, this model of list building follows the sales conversion funnel quite faithfully. 

From awareness to engagement (reaching the via emails/calls), the above list building strategy hits all the right spots. 

What is the problem with this approach?

If you were following the same, then you know that this method does not get you results!

1. Organizations get a lot of ‘bogus’ email ids or low quality email ids 

Landing pages or forms with low-conversion barriers attract junk emails. It also encourages ‘fake’ signups by bots. Neither of these sign ups are usable for your organization

2. Reaching a lot of people who are not ready to commit just yet 

Some of the ‘good leads’ who sign up do so because they were curious. They would simply be trying to learn more about your organization or services. So when your sales team calls them, they aren’t ‘sales-ready.’

3. Does not address the change in buyer journey

The fundamental problem with this method is that it assumes a linear prospect journey. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  

95% of the buying journey happens outside this funnel!

Having a generic list building strategy, followed by a blanket ask will only hamper conversions.

4. Does not involve new avenues of lead generation 

The traditional method of lead generation does not take into consideration these channels (and relies quite heavily on website and email engagement). Clearly, this affects your conversion numbers!

However, the channels he uses to reach the same end goal is different. The traditional method of lead generation does not take into consideration these channels (and relies quite heavily on website and email engagement)

What can you do to fix this?

To begin with, there are certain low hanging fruits that you can get started with right away. 

1. Build-up to the ask (follow a hierarchy)

Even if a lead is interested in your cause or in your organization, they wouldn’t be ready to jump into action right away. 

Be it contributing money, getting on a call with your agents, or simply signing up for a demo, it is too high an ask for the first time. 

Instead, you can gradually build up to the big-ask, not with just educational content, but also with a series of low-barrier actions. 

For instance, when the lead comes in to your website, you can start a conversation on what information they are looking for. It could be a simple ‘stay updated’ button. 

That could be the start of the conversation. You can then engage the lead with pertinent information and then make the next ask – for a phone number or email.

Since the lead is already engaged and the request for information is made via a conversation, the chances of you getting the contact details is higher. 

After you have made this ‘slightly high-barrier ask’, you can ask the lead whether they would be interested in talking to a human. 

If they say yes, then of course your agents can jump in and take over the conversation. If they drop off, you still have enough information to engage them later.

Intercom-list-building

Notice here that it was not just what was sent to the lead to engage them – it was how the ask was made. 

The initial high-barrier ask of making a purchase or taking a demo was broken down into a series of low-barrier requests. Since the friction was quite less at each touchpoint, the lead smoothly flows along the funnel and finally converts.

2. Make the ask to ‘join’ more actionable

In your website form, instead of asking them to merely ‘join’ your cause (or even a newsletter), have a more powerful CTA. 

Eg. ‘Sign up to make a difference in a child’s life’

The difference this will make is twofold. One, it tells the lead exactly what they can achieve by supporting you (something a mere ‘join us’ doesn’t convey). Second, by articulating a solid impact, you are increasing the chances of the lead actually signing up!

3. Trying new channels

Last year, the online gaming channel Twitch enabled numerous nonprofits to raise money on their platform. It allowed these organizations to publicize their cause on their site during sessions of video games. 

So gamers across the world who were playing DOTA (for instance), or viewers who were watching them got to know of their cause. They also chipped in to help. 

For the nonprofit, this was a huge win. Not only did they meet their fundraising goals, but they also uncovered a whole new universe of donors! All they had to do was tap into a different channel for this opportunity!

The same goes for your organization as well. I am not saying go invest in live fundraising. I am merely encouraging you to explore other avenues (or channels), that will bring you in touch with new audiences.

Texting (or SMS), for instance, could be a new channel you explore. It is fast emerging as a preferred channel of communication (for both leads and organizations.)

sms-list-building-channel

4. Capturing more (and better) information

Redesign your website forms so that you capture more than just an email and a first name for each prospect. Getting more data – eg. verifying their phone number would be highly effective. 

The advantage here is two-fold:

  1. You can reach leads via texts: Since text messages have a 95% open rate, you have a better opportunity at conversation with your leads.
  2. You can weed out junk leads: Junk leads and bots who are signing up will automatically be prevented. 

Keep in mind though that asking for a phone number is a high-ask. That means, it could very well turn out to be a friction point, if not used right. 

Since not all leads (even when interested), will be ok with giving out their phone number, the lead drop off here will be high. 

To address that, you can ensure that you ask for a phone number in only those forms that have a high-intent of conversion (like ‘request-demo’ form or a ‘try it free’ form)

4. Framing the ‘ask’ to ensure maximum conversion

Messaging is a crucial aspect encouraging action. Be it to sign up, attend a rally, or just make a donation, how the ask is made is statistically proven to have an impact. 

For starters, you can go over your existing lead nurturing content to see if you it is ‘persuasive‘. If not, that would be a great place to begin. 

You can also look at customer engagement data and frame your messages to reflect the prospect’s behavior (we will look at this more closely in the next chapter- segmentation).

Remember that at each stage, your strategy will be heavily based on who your audience are, where they ‘hang-out’, and how interested they are in your organization.

What list building channels can you try in 2020?

If you are looking for inspiration on what new channels to try for your list building efforts, I have got you covered. 

Think of these channels as building new doors (or pathways) for you to reach your customer. The less you have, the lesser you reach. 

1. Custom bots (eg. facebook messenger bots)

Social media as a platform for just pushing ads is passe. In 2020, you get to engage with your leads in a conversation and thus inspire them to convert. 

Facebook messenger bots are remarkably useful on that front. They allow you to talk to the leads on the same platform, without switching screens!

In the above example, Shopify attracts attention using an ad. It then seamlessly uses a bot to complete the transaction.

For your organization, the end goal need not be making a purchase. It could involve signing a petition, donating for your cause, or simply getting a ticket for an event.

More importantly, they are quite nifty in getting consent. Once a lead interacts with your page (say ‘likes’ it), you have a 24hr window to engage with them via messenger bot. 

If, during this time, they respond to your engagement, then they have automatically consented to receiving communication from you. 

So, the first message you send your prospects has to be highly compelling. It could be a simple yes or no question. Or simply a question asking them to confirm their preferences. 

2. Text messaging (opt-ins)

It’s easier to shoot a text than fill out a form. A text is simple, brief, and is definitely less cumbersome than a paper that needs filling out. 

The MN350.org team (that passionately fights climate change), witnessed this firsthand. In a climate change rally they conducted last year, volunteers approached the attendees and asked them to sign up for the cause. 

Some of these volunteers were armed only with a clipboard and a pen. The others went around asking the attendees to opt-in using text messages. 

Of the 6000 people who attended their event, about 2919 chose to opt-in via text messages.

That is, half the attendees chose to opt-in using text messages – because it is so much easier!

sms-opt-in-list-building

As an added plus, once a prospect texts in with the keyword, you can also collect more information about them (like the example above).

You can also send them a link to your website, direct them to read specific information, or simply gather more details about the lead – all via a back and forth conversation.

This example also highlights how lead generation channels can be combined for maximum impact. If you are anyway conducting an event to generate interest and raise awareness for your cause, you can promote opt-in text messaging during the event to participants. 

The event attendees have already taken a high-barrier action (of attending your event).

A well presented ask (via an opt-in campaign) is an excellent way to channelize that energy and cultivate it further so that it benefits your cause.

3. Website forms (progressive profiling)

Yes, there is nothing new with website forms. However, where it is positioned, what it asks, and the action it encourages all influence lead generation. 

For instance, if you have a long lead capture form, breaking it down into different sections will help in it’s completion. That is how Yumi (a baby food company), has split theirs into a multi-step journey.

Even better, you can progressively collect more data about your lead with each touch point. For instance, the website landing page can have a simple form – name, email field and the phone number field (yea, don’t skip this one). 

After a lead fills it out, you can start nurturing him with targeted emails. The first email can be a question (e.g. why the lead chooses to give? Or what industry they belong to? Or even their stance on a political issue). 

When the lead answers this question, you can record it in your database, and move them along to the next touch point!

Or, you can quickly call high-intent leads to see if you can help them with what they are looking for.

Takeaway

Keep in mind that your lead generation strategy does not function in isolation. When you choose to utilize even one of the ideas mentioned here, you also have to figure out how to collect, store, and use the information so as to get the maximum benefit. 

One way to get the most of your lead generation efforts would be to use the data you collect to segment your audience further. 

Based on this segmentation, you can plan further engagement strategies and encourage your lead to conversion. 

We shall cover segmentation and targeting of leads in the next chapter.

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