8 Research Hacks That Create Insanely Effective Lead Gen Campaigns

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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Anyone who’s truly killed it at lead gen will tell you that success all boils down to one thing: targeting the right person on the right platform at the right time with the right message.

It’s an elegant, simple idea, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, in the real world, it’s pretty challenging to come across high-confidence data that actually helps you fill the missing gaps in your lead gen equation. Sure, you could turn to your customer personas or revisit your brand positioning statement, but be real: there’s a 100% chance that either a) you’ve pivoted since they were made or b) they’re half-baked at best and non-existent at worst.

Let’s face it. Whenever tasked to build a lead gen campaign, you find yourself in the same place: research town.

Whether you’re building out a new lead gen engine or refining a broken one, you’re likely to spend entirely too much time searching Google (and social) analytics for some clue about exactly who your target is, how they’re accessing your (and other’s) content, when they’re most receptive to it, and what – if anything – they’re most interested in hearing about.

But you don’t have to. By using some traditional tools and resources in non-traditional ways, you can get what you need and be back on your way to crushing your lead quotas in no time.

Here’s how you do it.

Find the right person

The most important piece of the “great lead” puzzle is, of course, delivering your campaigns to the right person. Without them, you’re done before you get started.

Two great hacks for quickly understanding who your ideal audience is are:

1. Using contact data + social media to update customer personas 

Though I’ve written about this before at great length, it’s worth reiterating that your CRM already holds almost everything you need to discover exactly who you should be targeting with your lead gen efforts. By understanding who you have – who’s most receptive to your product – you can build lookalike targets and begin delivering them the “feeler” ads that lead them willingly into your larger lead gen experience.

2. Reverse-engineering your competitor’s most active Twitter followers

Especially good if you’re just starting out, taking to Twitter to discover who’s particularly active on your competitor’s feeds is a great way to discover the exact person you should be targeting.

Using a tool like Social Rank, you can quickly discover and export those handles, giving you powerful access to an audience (and a lookalike audience) that’s already been validated as interested in what you’re selling.

Use the right platform(s)

It can be so difficult to know whether you’re better off building out sophisticated, multi-track automation campaigns (and if so, which tracks?), leveraging this/that social network to drive people to gated content or landing pages, hosting some form of a daily/weekly webinar, or some combination of the above.

The reality is that there are a million possible variations for how to most effectively reach (and continue to engage) your customers, which experience flows will work the best for them, etc.

Fortunately, there are two simple ways to make sure that you’re knocking it out of the park. They include:

3. The “Steal + Pray + Iterate” (SPI) method

Pretty common in the business world, the SPI method is nothing new, but still remarkably effective.

Here’s how it works: first, you go through several lead gen experiences from competitors and complementary businesses, making notes about each of the steps. Then, you choose what makes the most sense for your business based on what you know about your customers, build a few experiences, and pray that you’ve gotten it right. Finally, when the results are in and you inevitably haven’t, you use your learnings to continue iterating on the experience until the campaign performs the way it should.

4. Leveraging social listening

Though sophisticated social listening is pretty new (and very expensive), it offers an incredible opportunity for knowing exactly where it’s most advantageous to start engaging prospective leads.

Using a tool like Hootsuite Insights, you can see exactly how/where your lead targets engage, giving you the opportunity to build experiences/flows that more effectively convert people from the organic digital environments they populate.

Launch at the right time

Even if you do everything else right, poorly-timed lead gen campaigns spell instant death (and poor returns) for all your hard work. By sending the right message to the right person at the wrong time, you can count on lukewarm (at best) leads that, if they convert, draw the sales cycle out 3-5x longer than is necessary and amount to a lot of lost time and revenue.

Lucky for you there are a few fairly simple ways to avoid this:

5. Track the buying cycle + the real-time career progress of your ideal lead

If you work in a scenario of incredibly targeted lead gen (as in, there are specific companies and / or decision-makers that you’re going after), the easiest way to determine the “right time” to begin engaging your lead is by tracking their career changes using a tool like CircleBack – to understand when they change jobs, get promoted, etc. – and coupling that intel with the known (or estimated) buying cycles of the business they work for.

Aligning these two bits of information makes for a deadly combo of “right time” delivery and offers you the opportunity to fill a need just as it’s becoming evident.

6. Work with your social / email teams to understand consumption trends

If you’re trying to cast a broader net, take your “right person” and “right platform” data and set a meeting with whoever’s running your social/email efforts. They have incredible insight into what works best on each channel and when.

Coupling their knowledge with the insight you have into the buying cycles of the industries you’re targeting should provide everything you need to know about when (and how) to push that first touch point out into the wild.

Convey the right message

Obviously, delivering the right messages is incredibly important. It’s ultimately what keeps your leads engaged and moving further and further into your qualification funnel. But really knowing what to say (and what kind of content or experience says it best) at each step can be challenging, especially with so many potential points of failure. After all, one misplaced infographic and your funnel could start leaking like crazy.

But knowing the kind of content you need to deliver is honestly the easiest part of the whole process. You just have to look in the right places:

7. Build a targeted RSS feed

A favorite of mine, building a targeted RSS feed provides a constant source of inspiration for which headlines, which content, and which content types are performing best for any industry. Starting with a tool like Feedly, follow a solid number of blogs (between 50-200) that you know is highly relevant to your ideal leads.

Then, each day for a week or two, read the headlines, make note of any trends in topics, content types, etc. that you see recurring, and peruse a few for the kind of language being used when discussing it. Once done, you should have a solid idea as to what kind of content makes for a great “entry” into a lead gen campaign, which would be great to supplement, and which you’re better off not including.

8. Conduct 5 “ideal target” interviews

Though a little more legwork than most people like, there’s really nothing that can compare to the feedback of the leads you’re going after. Find 5 friends (or business connections) who fit the bill as far as being an ideal target, and interview them about what’s important to them right now, what kind of content they like to see/are persuaded by, how they prefer to interact with businesses, etc. Interviews like this provide invaluable insight and are also great for gaining a better understanding of an ideal cadence of your campaign delivery.

And with that, you’ll have everything you need to crank out totally inspired, highly successful lead gen campaigns. These hacks – most of which are processes that, once initiated, accrue good data on their own – offer everything you need to deliver the right message to the right person on the right platform at the right time. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?


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