Quality lead generation, sales and startup life

Best Tools for SMB Online Lead Generation

No single tool can answer to all your needs in online lead generation. You must find the best special-purpose tools for your needs. The problem is, which ones to choose? In this blog post I'll share my favorite toolstack and give you some ideas on what should be your criteria for choosing your tools.

Mailchimp integrates to Leadfeeder Best performing channels for B2B lead generation.

Let’s start choosing our toolstack by considering our preferences. The first priority is a tool that generates as many actionable sales leads as possible. There are marketing tools that are great, but these are meant for something other than lead generation.

When choosing any digital tools, something you want to avoid is vendor lock-in. Vendor lock-in (also known as proprietary or customer lock-in) means that when you choose a product you become dependent on the vendor and can’t make future decisions without taking into consideration your current tool.

One example of an every-day vendor lock-in is file formats: once you have used Photoshop to create dozens of beautiful illustrations, you can’t move to another image processing tool if it can’t open your past files.

Clearly you want to use as open systems as possible. Tools built upon standards or open APIs are better than closed systems. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you lose your precious business data if you decide to replace a tool.

Price is something that should never be your primary selection criterion, but it’s still very important. Some tools are based on the number of users, some are based on the volume of your leads or contacts, some have a fixed price. You know best what kind of pricing suits you most, but in most cases people tend to favor low or affordable price.

You should also take simplicity into account. What this means is that you should consider how your tool will actually be used. Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean lack of features, but about how easy it is to use. If the tool has a ton of features but you don’t know how to use, then they are useless. Remember, it’s not just you who will use your toolstack, but maybe dozens or even hundreds of other users. It should be easy to educate them to use your tools so that your marketing stack can be leveraged to its fullest in daily operations.

In short, your marketing toolstack for lead generation should be as open as possible, as easy to use as possible and of course as affordable as possible. We obviously want, too, that it creates as many high-quality leads for your business as possible.

I’ll suppose that you already have a website capable of handling form submits, like "contact us" forms. This can be anything from a simple Wordpress site to a custom-made non-CMS solution, as long as your users can fill their contact information somewhere. This is of course an important part of lead generation.

The recommended toolstack I’m going to promote is MailChimp+Leadfeeder+Pipedrive.

MailChimp integrates to Leadfeeder Leadfeeder, MailChimp and Pipedrive work in all stages of sales from lead generation to customer relationship management.

But what other options are there available? Fully fledged marketing solutions such as Marketo, Pardot or Hubspot do offer a lot of the same features out-of-the-box, so why not choose them?

One thing to consider is price, but it's not the main thing. These tools are a lot more expensive, ranging from hundreds to thousands of euros a month and to function correctly they must be incorporated into your current processes pretty heavily. This requires a specialist and can translate to even more costs.

If you are ready to pay for the costs, then you should carefully consider your expandability. If you change your processes to work with Hubspot or Marketo they offer a great user experience out-of-the-box. But if you want to do something that they don’t offer, there’s probably no supported way to do it.

For example, if your needs change at some point and you want to move from Hubspot to say Marketo or build your own tools, you will lose your historical data. You might even have problems migrating your content from Hubspot to your new system.

Here, an analogy with a Swiss Army knife works well. The Swiss Army knife is a perfect tool for a lot of uses but if you happen to need a saw, there’s no way your knife could transform into one.

The point is we are not looking for a Swiss knife; something that can suitably cover a number of use cases. We are looking for the best tool for each purpose – and which will integrate with other tools. Think a toolbox with the best-in-class tool for each job, or our very own specially designed Swiss knife made from specialist tools

So what kind of tools do we need to complement our website? First, we need an analytics solution. I’d go with Google Analytics, just because it’s simple, it’s widely used so it’s easy to find support for, it has the widest integrations and overall it works very well.

However, Google Analytics alone doesn’t really help you with lead generation. It can tell you important information about trends and statistics, but those really don’t convert into customers. We’ll select Leadfeeder, which integrates to Google Analytics. No need to install another script on your website to slow it down, Leadfeeder fetches data from your Google Analytics and transforms the information into leads.

Leadfeeder shows you companies that have visited your website and what they have done there. Let’s say you run a web design agency. Google Analytics shows that your website had 500 visits last month. Pretty nice, but that doesn’t generate any leads if none of these 500 visitors fills in your contact form.

Leadfeeder, on the other hand, can tell you that one of the biggest retailers in your country has visited your site and has read a lot about your past e-commerce projects. This is a great lead already, isn’t it?

Now we have a lead, but what do we do with it? Just write it down on a sticky note and leave it on our desktop?

No, we need a good CRM. There are some good CRMs (and some very bad ones, believe me!) and if we go back to our earlier criteria, we want it to integrate with our tools and be as simple as possible. There’s only one real choice here and that's Pipedrive.

Pipedrive is heavily focused on your sales pipeline. The pipeline can have as many stages as you set and your leads move forward in your pipeline, for example from “lead” to “meeting arranged” to “quote sent” and to “won”. Remember, you can name your stages in whichever way makes sense for your process.

Leadfeeder and Pipedrive integrate together very nicely. You can send your leads from Leadfeeder straight to your Pipedrive pipeline. This way, you can even have separate teams managing your Leadfeeder leads, which your sales team operates solely in Pipedrive. Think about it: your Leadfeeder team sends leads to Pipedrive and when your sales people see new leads in their pipeline, they get to work on them.

Because of this integration, evaluating your ROI gets simpler. You can easily see from Pipedrive how many of your Leadfeeder leads have turned into paying customers. Neat!

Some of your customers won’t turn into paying customers right away with the first sales email (or if they do, you shouldn’t be reading this but emailing your leads!). They need some nurturing and we need a tool for that.

Lead nurturing can and should be done in various ways but one of the most effective methods is email. Stay in touch with your leads, prospects and customers and of course closely measure the effect of your actions. This is best done using Leadfeeder's connection to MailChimp.

Mailchimp is a email tool that integrates to both Leadfeeder and Pipedrive. With these integrations, your lead generation toolstack starts to get some new life. You can easily segment your contacts in Pipedrive and send them an email. Let’s say you want to send a special offer to all your leads in US that your sales teams have already contacted at least once. This information is all in your Pipedrive and thanks to the integration creating a new campaign for them in MailChimp is simple – just select your leads and click a button.

And because Leadfeeder integrates to MailChimp, you can see how your leads interacted with your campaign. With the MailChimp integration, Leadfeeder won’t show you only companies, but individuals interacting with your site. And do you know what? Thanks to the integration, this data is available in Pipedrive too and first thing in the morning your sales people know that John Doe in Company Ltd seems to be interested in your blog post about responsive design.

With these 3 tools your lead generation toolstack has developed from a simple website to a lead generating powerhouse that generates online leads, gives valuable insights on your customers and lets you manage your sales pipeline efficiently.

The cost for all of this? Very little. Mailchimp is totally usable with the freemium package and the first paid package is 10$ a month. Pipedrive has a free 30-day trial and costs 12$ per user per month after that. Leadfeeder has a 30-day free trial, too and offers a free lite version even after that. Even the paid subscriptions are reasonably priced from 59$ to 299$ depending on the amount of leads you generate.

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