Leads let you down? Look at the source

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You can't implement effective lead generation initiatives without a good database. Four lead generation experts share their tips on keeping data clean, sourcing data, qualifying leads and following up.

Mac McIntosh
President and principal consultant, Mac McIntosh Inc.

Getting the best lead generation results often comes down to business-to-business marketers focusing on the right things.

First, target the right prospects. Review who has bought from your company over the past nine months, then develop an "ideal prospect model" based on the answers to these questions: What industries are represented? What size companies? What problems did they need to solve? Who started the buying process at their end, and who else was involved? Who made the final purchase recommendation? Why did they select your product or service instead of the competitions'? How did they justify the decision to purchase now? Who approved the final purchase decision? The answers should give you a pretty clear picture of who best to target with your lead generation, and what to say to get their attention.

Take a look at your existing prospect database using your "ideal prospect model" as a filter. You generally don't have to start from scratch with the prospects in your existing database as many have already expressed an interest in your products or services by responding to previous marketing programs.

Second, use the right offers or calls to action. Create a suite of offers, each designed to address the different stages of your prospects' buying cycle. Rather than creating offers from scratch, consider reusing, refreshing or reformatting existing sales and marketing materials.

Third, be in sight and in mind at the right time, and use the right media. One of the best ways to increase your chance of generating a lead is to touch the prospect while he or she is thinking about the need or problem. That means multi-touch lead generation campaigns are the way to go. E-mail also can be a quick and cost effective way to generate responses and identify qualified leads, if you can get through the filters and acted upon. Other direct marketing tactics, like direct mail, can also help you generate the maximum number of leads from your database.

The Takeaway
Effective lead generation all starts with targeting the right prospects


Jeff Liebl
VP of marketing & product sales, eBureau

For-profit, higher education giants like the University of Phoenix, Corinthian Colleges and Kaplan University spend about $1 billion combined each year buying leads from third-party aggregators and affiliates. They hope to convert perhaps 1% or 2% of those leads in new enrollments. Sure, each new student might represent $10,000 or more in tuition, so the marketing math works. But buying leads being generated by potentially hundreds of different affiliates without knowing which ones might convert can feel like picking stocks while wearing a blindfold.

Some of the savvier online education industry marketers are leading a quiet revolution in how online leads are both bought and sold. They've borrowed a textbook from traditional direct response marketers, which have long used predictive modeling techniques to identify the best consumer prospects. Before they purchase leads, schools run them through a custom-built lead conversion algorithm that leverages massive databases of billions of consumer identity, demographic, purchase and other real-time behavioral data. What emerges is a digit that calculates the likelihood that a lead will result in a student enrollment. Leads scoring close to zero have no chance of converting, while those scoring in the 900s may be 20 or 30 times more likely to convert than the overall average. Education marketers look at the lowest-ranking leads and ask, "How much am I spending on these?" Its better to spend premium advertising dollars on higher-scoring, higher-quality leads.

At the top of the chain are the crème de la crème of prospects. Education marketers want to buy as many of these scarce, very high scoring leads as possible, because their cost per enrollment is much lower. In a competitive lead-buying environment, schools can justify paying more for these higher-scoring leads. In other words, not all leads are equal. The net effect: CPL advertising moves to a score-based, individual lead pricing approach.

The seeds they have sown are beginning to spread to other industries. Along the way, the dynamics of online lead generation are being altered permanently.

The Takeaway
Advances in predictive modeling help marketers better evaluate leads


Kathy Rizzo
VP of marketing, TeleNet Marketing Solutions

A vague definition of lead can often create disconnect between marketing and sales departments and misdirect an organizations' business cultivation. In the business-to-business telemarketing world, a sales-ready lead is defined quite specifically: someone who has engaged in a meaningful conversation and has a defined purchasing project or need, a timeframe to buy, a budget and a willingness to further the conversation with a sales team member. To align marketing and sales and focus efforts on prospects that can turn into revenue, it is crucial to carefully qualify your leads. As they are qualified, prospects should be categorized to determine which will be added to your marketing database for ongoing marketing touches, escalated to sales as an opportunity or tossed out all together.

Qualifying identifies what set of criteria applies to a lead with revenue-generating potential. Without qualification, you will inevitably add inaccurate data to your marketing database and pass false leads on to your sales team, diluting your lead pool. On average, 20% to 40% of marketing leads from online media sources, such as Web forms or purchased data, will prove unusable when qualified via telemarketing. Unusable data includes those who aren't true decision-makers, organizations outside of your target market or invalid contact data. Only a small fraction — typically less than 10% — will be viable leads that should to be advanced to the sales team immediately.

Qualifying raw leads via telemarketing also allows marketing departments to identify which data sources are producing the highest conversion to sales-ready leads. This intelligence is invaluable, as it helps pinpoint which activities and online media or data sources are actually leading to business for your organization. In the world of lead generation, quality over quantity is key. By mapping what qualifies a viable lead, you'll increase your chances of getting where you want to go: increased revenue.

The Takeaway
It's important to qualify leads promptly to determine which are sales-ready


Matthew Conlin
Sales director, Clash-Media US

Online lead generation can identify hand-raisers who specifically request marketing materials from your brand. This helps ensure that the leads are relevant and the consumers you market to are genuinely interested in hearing your brand message.

It's a good idea to build relationships with network owners, who control a number of sites. There are more than 7 million Web sites run out of this country, but only 10% of them actually carry offers or campaigns of any kind. That means there's a lot of potential places for marketers to implement lead-generation campaigns.

Sourcing and qualifying data is an integral part of the campaign, but what really helps boost ROI is a regular review of data quality in line with early campaign results. This helps to focus in on the sources that are producing the most interested consumers - increasing overall campaign performance.

Qualification of leads can be done at a number of different levels, depending on what the marketer requires. Verification of telephone numbers, postal address or e-mail address is basic, but has a huge impact on the campaign's effectiveness - the costs incurred by following up bogus contacts can be severe. However, there are higher levels of verification - for example telephone verification of not only personal details, but also interest in the product or service. This creates a very hot lead that can be passed directly to a sales agent. This typically results in positive ROI.

Follow-up of leads should not be constrained by how the potential customer has been identified. If they have requested information from your brand online, they may still prefer to be marketed to through offline channels via postal and telephone campaigns. A good way to find out this information is to include a drop-down box at the point where you capture the lead, with the title, "How do you prefer to be contacted?" We create a custom form for every landing page we run.

Organizations will find that an investment in high quality data coupled with an aggressive follow-up campaign across multiple channels creates a higher sales conversion rate and minimizes cost per acquisition.

The Takeaway
When capturing leads online, you can still contact customers through other channels

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