Plug-ins: lead generation

Direct and digital marketers are under constant pressure to generate sales leads. Lead generation tactics have evolved over time and become more sophisticated, and marketers of all sizes have been able to take advantage of the latest tools and processes for cultivating leads. However, the array of choices and opportunities can be dizzying enough to give even the savviest marketers pause.

Our columnists this month cut through the noise to offer their best practices and practical advice on creating and maintaining successful, cost-effective lead generation campaigns. Their advice includes effective cold-calling techniques and practices that can lay the foundation for long-term relationships; ideas on how to target the precise list of prospects for any campaign; tips on combining media channels for maximum effect; and a reminder to pay attention to the new rules that apply to prospecting in an often oversaturated, frenetic environment online.

Direct marketing creates sales-ready leads:
M. H. (Mac) McIntosh, president and senior consultant, Mac McIntosh Inc., and founding partner, AcquireB2B

Generating qualified, sales-ready leads is often a primary objective for b-to-b direct marketers. The good news is that direct marketing, if done right, is one of the most effective ways to generate, nurture and qualify leads. However, with today’s tight marketing budgets, you can’t afford to learn what works best through costly trial-and-error approaches to generating sales-ready leads. Here are four tips to doing so successfully and cost efficiently:??

  1. Invest in ongoing, database-driven, multi-touch direct marketing campaigns. When it comes to lead generation, one-shot direct marketing rarely works. Use ongoing, multi-touch direct marketing campaigns to keep your company and its products or services in-sight and in mind when your prospective customers are ready to take the first or next step in their buying process.?
  2. Target the right prospects. It doesn’t matter how good your direct marketing is if it is aimed at the wrong prospects. Who are the right prospective customers? Those most like your recent customers. What kinds of companies are they? What were the titles of those who made or influenced the decision to buy your products? ?Next, focus on recent inquiries and website visitors. They are often starting their buying process long before being ready to speak with your salespeople, reps or resellers. Direct marketing, and your website, can be your surrogate salesperson during the early steps in these prospects’ buying process. Finally, focus on your in-house list of prospects. Start cleaning up this list with delivery address standardizing, even if you plan to email. Determine which are most like your recent customers, and then consider eliminating those that are off target.
  3. Use the right media. Although email is now a preferred method of business communications, it is often difficult to get it delivered, read and acted upon. Use a top-notch email service provider and follow best practices. Consider using direct mail, especially to reach those without a valid email address or to gain ?opt-in permission.? Telemarketing can also be a great option for following up, nurturing and qualifying recent or high-value inquiries or website visitors or to re-engage neglected prospects or past customers. Often combining email, mail and telemarketing will get you better results than using any single tactic.
  4. Develop specific direct marketing programs ?designed to nurture your ?longer-term leads. Why? Because research repeatedly shows that three out of four of your sales opportunities will come from your longer-term leads.? The keys to success in nurturing your leads until they are qualified as being sales-ready are relevancy and frequency. Include offers or calls-to-action, designed specifically to appeal to prospects at specific stages of their buying process. Better yet, develop customer personas and use them to tailor messages to different types of decisionmakers and influencers. What will appeal to the CFO may be different from what will appeal to the CIO. Then give some thought to how often is too often when communicating with prospects at different stages of their consideration and buying process.

Cold-calling drives long-term relationships:
Kathy Rizzo, VP of sales and marketing, Telenet Marketing Solutions 

Even with the increase of social media and online marketing, cold-calling remains prominent as a ?component of b-to-b lead ?generation strategy.?

Cold-calling is one of the few marketing tactics focused on proactively initiating two-way conversations with decision-makers. When executed well, these conversations lay the foundation for long-term business relationships. Here are five tips to ensure a successful cold-calling approach.?

  1. Clearly define lead criteria. Marketing managers should meet with sales counterparts and jointly determine the criteria for qualified leads. Think two steps ahead, and delve into information that will be valuable in the sales follow-up process such as current infrastructure and competitive landscaping.?
  2. Set an agenda to guide the conversation. Verbatim scripts cannot start a real conversation. However, a call without clear direction will also fail. Conversation guides that equip callers should include key messages as well as pertinent open-ended questions to engage the prospect in a natural back and forth discussion.
  3. ?Be relevant. Effective cold-calling should be tailored ?to a specific audience. As you prepare your approach, ask yourself two questions: “What ?is the reason for this call?” and ?”Is it relevant to the target prospects?”?
  4. Create a voicemail ?strategy. A voicemail message acts as a mini-advertisement to prospects. A relevant message — touching on common critical business issues — will “warm up” cold calls and lead to a more productive and successful dialogue once your caller and your prospect connect.
  5. Integrate multimedia. Cold-calling tactics benefit from the use of multimedia content. Whitepapers, webinars, and social media elements ?provide value to the target ?prospects and in many cases ?offer a logical next step after?a successful conversation.

Lead gen game: Do lots of little things right:
Brad Dodge, CEO, Dodge Communications

This is not a pep-talk article that will emphasize the importance of updating your corporate Facebook page in order to generate leads. This article will encourage you to stand back and look at lead generation from a new perspective. ?

Here are six quick tips to reach the lead generation market.?

  1. It’s a game of inches. There are no silver bullets in today’s lead generation. You need to do lots of little things right. Once you get a lead, nurture it until it becomes a client.
  2. You’ll tire of your message before your market even hears it. Marketers get bored easily. The tendency is to change messages every week, and make them more interesting. Resist the temptation. Stay on your core messages over and over again ?in everything you do.?
  3. Your prospect can’t buy if they don’t know who you are. Amazingly, this point is often overlooked. It doesn’t matter how good, fast or cheap your product is if your target has never heard of you. Focus on this simple truth and make sure awareness is always the first objective.
  4. Pretend you’re a search algorithm. No matter your line of business, your market is looking for you on the Web. Everything you do to generate leads needs to ask the question, “Will this activity improve my search engine page rankings?”
  5. You must be fully engaged in social media. This is no longer an optional item for successful lead generation. A vibrant, robust social media program centered around a strategy will pay for itself many times over.
  6. Don’t require your market to make a leap. Some products are hard to describe quickly. It’s easy to sell beer because everyone knows what it is. Saying “less filling” is not a hard concept. But trying to sell server virtualization and it’s not so easy. Marketers want to say “less filling” for everything, but unless the market already knows what your product is and how it can solve their problems, the pitch falls on deaf ears.
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