Avoid striking out before you even get to the plate: five early-stage lead gen tips

The very top of the lead gen funnel is a dangerous place. Potential leads at this stage haven’t given you any information yet, so you don’t get a second chance to win them back. And they’re just beginning to interact with your brand, through your content or a social channel, so chances are they’re also looking at your competitors and other alternatives.


They’re fragile, easily distracted, and busy: it doesn’t take much to lose them. Here 5 keys to improving performance at the beginning of the lead generation cycle.

1. Send good trust signals

Before they even digest a word of your content, potential leads are evaluating how trustworthy your company is. Things like having a professional-looking design, making real-world contact information like phone numbers very visible, and including recently-updated information all contribute to their initial impression of your business.

Even things like having text that’s free of typos and other mistakes contributes to your trustworthiness. Although it’s not usually a conscious decision, prospects can be turned off by landing pages or lead capture forms that seem amateurish or flimsy. Here’s a little more about sending good trust signals.

2. Speak their language

If you know your target audience well enough, you’ll know how to speak to them in the language they use. I don’t mean “English” – I mean, if you’re selling to farmers and ranchers, the type of words you should use on your lead gen materials is different than it would be if you’re selling to IT professionals.

Use real examples that matter to your target market, don’t speak down to them or try to sound more technical than necessary, and you’ll help those prospects keep reading long enough to decide to take the next step down the funnel. Here are some good suggestions on how to figure out exactly what language is important to your potential customers.

3. Don’t ask too many questions

We’ve talked before about the importance of keeping lead capture forms short. While the instinct to collect as much information as possible is a good one for marketers, it goes wrong when asking for more information prevents users from completing your form at all. There is plenty of data on how asking fewer questions improves conversion rates – don’t ignore it. Ask just enough to enable you to follow up and get the most elementary idea of how qualified the lead is.

4. Provide the info they need in the form they want

At the top of the funnel, you’re dealing with potential buyers who are still early in their evaluation process: they’re just gathering information. You can’t demand much from them at this point – you need to concentrate on giving. Don’t put all your content behind registration gates: prove your value by giving away actionable, helpful content that isn’t just focused on your products.

Also make sure you’re providing that content in a variety of formats so you can reach the most users. Some will be looking for web pages to bookmark, others will be looking for blogs or Twitter accounts to follow, still others will be searching for PDFs or other documents they can download or print out and digest later.

5. Don’t sell too hard – yet.

Potential buyers at the top of the funnel aren’t interested in your finely crafted sales pitch yet. They’re simply trying to gather information on the products and players they’re dealing with. Their first interaction with you will shape their overall opinion of your company, and if all they get is ‘sell sell sell’ they’re less likely to return to you.

If you provide assistance – answers to their questions, online tools they can use, worksheets or lists that can help them make a decision – you’re going to be remembered more favorably when the prospect is in a buying state of mind. Then you can bust out the sales pitch.

It doesn’t stop there

There are plenty of opportunties all down the funnel to improve your overall results – but the not-yet-contacted prospects at the top are a huge pool of potential customers. What have you done to help draw these people into your funnel? Share your tips below.

Image via Charles Haynes on flickr

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