If your business is like others in your industry, you’re spending a ton of time, money, and creative energy on lead generation. The question is, are you spending it in the right way? Not all leads are created equal and you may need to switch gears to find success in 2020 and beyond. 

Paid vs. Organic Leads: Exploring the Difference

You can slice and dice lead generation in any way you please, but the cleanest split is right down the middle between paid lead generation and organic lead generation. Neither approach is perfect, but there may be value in focusing on one approach over the other. 

Let’s start by considering paid lead generation, which generally means pay-per-click (PPC) advertising through Google AdWord, Facebook Ads, or Bing Ads. The pros of PPC include:

  • Immediate visibility. When you pay for PPC ad placement, you immediately catapult to the top of the first page of Google. This stands in stark contrast to the months (and even year) of hard work it can take to organically achieve a first-page ranking. 
  • Fast results. PPC allows you to get immediate results. As soon as your ad is served, people are able to click and convert. 
  • Total control. With PPC advertising, you have total control over the messaging, the keywords, and the audience. Assuming you know exactly who your target customer is, this gives you a chance to convert at a high ratio. 

However, paid lead generation isn’t perfect. There are a number of cons associated with PPC as well. They include: 

  • High cost. PPC isn’t free. Depending on the industry you’re in and the keywords you’re attempting to rank for, it could cost you a few dollars per click. This can cost you thousands of dollars per week just to stay relevant. And if you aren’t converting on these clicks, you’ll rapidly drain your budget dry. 
  • Management required. Contrary to what some may tell you, PPC requires extensive ongoing management from an expert in the field. Otherwise, you’ll get outranked and/or outperformed by the competition. 
  • No long-term stability. PPC is an investment in the short-term at the expense of the long-term. As soon as you stop paying for ad placement, you lose your visibility. This is fine for businesses that intend to shell out money indefinitely, but doesn’t work for brands that eventually want to lower customer acquisition costs. 

Ultimately, paid lead generation efforts have a place, but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of your strategy. Instead, it’s highly recommended that you gravitate towards organic lead generation techniques.

Organic lead generation is best described as authentic strategies that focus on core tenets of brand building. If paid lead generation is advertising, organic lead generation is marketing. Examples include SEO, content marketing, and social media. 

While it does require time – and you’ll have to pay people to carry out an organic strategy – organic lead generation is far less expensive and costs very little to maintain. It also creates a lasting impression that improves credibility and builds brand awareness. 

However, organic lead generation efforts do take time, patience, and precise execution. Brands that are unwilling to take on the work required should pursue other strategies. 

5 Tips for Generating More Organic Leads

If paid lead generation is the fast-food restaurant that runs obnoxious TV commercials every five minutes, organic lead generation is the fast-food restaurant that simply lets the delicious aroma of chargrilled burgers waft through the air of a busy downtown street. One is pushy, forceful, and direct. The other is warm, inviting, and confident.

If you want to more of your leads to be organic, you need a plan. Here are a few helpful tips and techniques to get you on the right track:

Lay a Good SEO Foundation

The consumer views most marketing and advertising methods as unwanted interruptions. Radio commercials interrupt music. TV ads interrupt the show. Pop-up ads interrupt website browsing. Even billboards interrupt a driver’s view of the surroundings. 

“With SEO it’s completely different,” Floodlight SEO explains. “With SEO you’re not an interruption. With SEO you’re the solution to the problem they’re experiencing right now. They’re happy to see your site. They’re happy to call you. See how that’s a fundamental improvement?”

A good SEO strategy serves as the bedrock for organic lead generation. It creates a stable, long-term foundation that will hold up for years to come. (It’ll even continue to produce a healthy ROI long after you finish intentionally contributing.)

Build a List

You might think you control your online image and marketing efforts, but the reality is that someone else owns the majority of your lead generation supply chain. 

Consider, for example, what would happen if Google suddenly went downhill and the company crashed. Would your business survive without AdWords traffic or prominent search rankings? The same goes for that Instagram account you’ve worked so hard to build. What if they kick you off for a violation of rules and dissolve your account? (They can do so without reasoning or warning.)

There are only a couple of things you genuinely have full control over. Your website is one of those things. The other is your email list. 

If you want to develop a sustainable and organic lead generation strategy that withstands factors outside of your control, build up a powerful email list that you can leverage to push out content and move people to action. 

Educate Through Content

Most brands understand the significance of content, but they don’t leverage it in the correct manner. If you want to utilize content marketing to generate organic leads that convert at a high clip, spend less time selling and more time educating. 

As unnatural as it feels, you should be giving away some of your best ideas in the form of free online content. Whether it’s ebooks that take a deep into a topic, white papers that provide free research and data, or video webinars that walk people through exactly how to do something on their own, the long-term ROI of educational content is significant.

“The more prospects who read your content, the smarter they’ll be about what your business actually sells and can offer them,” digital marketer Pamela Vaughan explains. “The better they know this, the more qualified they’ll be as leads, and the easier it will be for your sales team to close them as customers. Inbound marketing greatly improves lead quality because prospects are essentially volunteering themselves as leads.”

Get the Right People Talking

Consider your response when a friend of yours goes into a long, drawn-out monologue about how great his company’s products are and why you should buy them. Even if he’s convincing, there’s a part of you that knows he’s biased. He has skin in the game and everything he says has to be taken with a grain of salt. 

But then think about what happens when someone totally unrelated to the company backs up everything your friend is saying. Suddenly, the fact that a third-party individual is speaking up makes these statements seem more credible. 

This same principle applies in your own lead generation efforts. You can only say so much about your brand before people discount your ideas. What you really need is people who are viewed as reliable and independent to vouch for you. 

The best way to get people talking about your brand is to identify people who are considered influencers of your target audience and to send them free products or services with no strings attached. Some of them are bound to like what you send them and, in return, will wear, use, or talk about your products.

Expand Your Audience

Finally, you need to expand your audience beyond your current circle of influence. This is the only way to consistently scale up your lead generation efforts over time. 

One of the best and most cost-effective ways to grow your audience organically is to invest in guest blogging.

Guest blogging, when done right, allows you to publish content on other websites and reach people who are already likely to be part of your target audience. 

Guest blogging also has the dual benefit of helping you grow your own professional network – both with the business owners and bloggers you connect with, and the readers that consume your content. It’s the perfect platform for cultivating a status as an expert in your respective field. Here’s a good guide on how to get started.

Shift Your Strategy 

You wouldn’t go into 2020 with the same revenue goals that you had for 2019. So why would you enter into a new year with the same lead generation strategy? If you want to achieve better year-over-year results, revisit the drawing board and reimagine what things would look like if you shifted away from a strategy that’s heavy in paid lead generation and instead adopted a strategy that’s centered around organic tactics like SEO, content, and social media.

Organic lead generation is the best approach in 2020 and beyond. Now’s the time to reevaluate, reposition, and reclaim your spot in the marketplace. Will you seize the opportunity?