Lead generation basics for a Web world

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Achieving results is the core mandate of any online marketing strategy. Your goals are nothing less than gaining maximum, efficient exposure among your target audience, generating as many qualified leads as possible, and turning those leads into customers.

The starting line of your strategy should be marketing fundamentals. The backbone of traditional marketing has long been the four Ps: product, pricing, placement and promotion. While these fundamentals still hold true, the Internet has changed marketing and the fundamentals we apply to it.

This environment has brought forth the need to complement the classic four Ps of marketing with a variation called the four Ts: target, tactics, transact and track.

The four Ts are simple concepts. They can be integrated into every company's sales and marketing organization without requiring dramatic changes to business processes, investments in expensive software systems or wholesale organizational changes. However, what they do require is a commitment from sales and marketing to work together.

Target. Target is all about keeping a steady focus on your audience and knowing exactly who you are going to reach with your marketing. It's believing that your target prospects' behavior, needs and goals should drive your decisions on how to market, communicate and work with them. Remember: With the Internet, your prospects are now in the driver's seat.

Tactics. Tactics are your mix of various programs and media used to reach your target audience. While a blend of programs is essential to penetrate broadly and deeply into your target market, online marketing is the most important strategy for companies in the industrial sector today.

Through online lead capture mechanisms (for example, registration landing pages), companies can ask questions and collect data that allows them to segment their audience into different lead types: those that are immediately ready to buy and those that require more information and nurturing. This will help you more appropriately communicate with them when the time comes.

Transact. This key fundamental is the bridge you create between prospects and your organization and how you begin building the relationship that will result in a sale. Transact refers to opening a two-way line of communication with customers and prospects based on the nature of the inquiry. A combination of smart direct marketing and the involvement of your salespeople to follow up is the key. A good working relationship between marketing and sales is critical in order to successfully manage leads from the point they are identified, on through the entire sales cycle.

Track. With businesses demanding more accountability from marketing, few marketers can justify a program whose effectiveness is difficult to measure. The adage that you can only manage what you measure is true. This does not require sophisticated CRM systems to get started. A simple spreadsheet will do, as long as you take the time to track.

The four Ts have emerged as new marketing fundamentals for two primary reasons: they help you get the most out of the Internet in business-to-business sales and marketing efforts and they help improve the alignment between sales and marketing within an organization.

Search engines and online communities are replacing printed directories and trade magazines as top information resources. Today, widespread use of the Internet by your prospects determines to a large extent what tactics are effective for reaching your target audience. The Internet also provides a timely communication channel to interact with your prospects and customers.

To that end, salespeople do not want to be buried by unqualified leads that are not really sales opportunities. Good salespeople will take quality over quantity any day, which leaves quantity for marketing to nurture and further qualify. According to authoritative research, the long-term leads that are often ignored by salespeople because they require more nurturing represent 77 percent of potential sales.

Following the guidelines of the four Ts can help you gain a competitive advantage and make the most of your marketing investments. They complement and extend classic marketing fundamentals in the Internet era in the way that online marketing complements and extends traditional marketing strategies.

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