Leadmaster Best Practices In Lead Generation And Lead Management

There are many different solutions for generating and locating your next lead.

Radio & TV advertising are very popular with companies ready to spend millions for a 60 second Super Bowl spot. Some of those commercials may be memorable, but the ROI of those multi-million dollar investments can be difficult to track. Moreover, while they may be good for generating business long-term and building brand equity, they are usually not the most effective in selling more now.

Direct mail was an oft-seen but now decreasingly used marketing medium, perhaps with the rise of the Internet. While some may argue that the decline in competition makes direct mail more effective, for many companies, it’s still tough to justify a 20 page color brochure when 98% of recipients will immediately put it in the recycling bin. A less expensive alternative may be to send a postcard with a link to a 20-page online brochure. It would also be easier on the environment.

The popularity of print advertising is also on the decline thanks to the Internet. Back in March 2009, The Wall Street Journal had an article about the 10 most endangered newspapers in America. They suggested that 8 of the nation’s 50 largest daily newspapers would stop printing in the next 18 months. They included The Philadelphia Daily News, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Detroit News and the Boston Globe, to name a few. Why? As we all know, plummeting readership rates. So, not only is the effectiveness of this medium falling, but, as with radio and TV ads, it’s difficult to measure its true impact on sales. It’s like Henry Procter of Procter & Gamble said, “I know I waste half of my advertising dollars… I just wish I knew which half.”

Trade shows have always been a staple of lead generation. The people who attend are generally already looking for a solution in your market space. In fact, that’s why they’re there. But is it effective for creating new leads? The fact is, eighty percent of trade show leads are never followed up on. It seems that trade shows produce more sore feet, aching backs and hoarse voices than actual new business sales leads. While it may be a great way to see what the competition has to offer and catch up with old industry friends, creating qualified leads that turns into business is not a common feature of trade shows.

For some, the answer is cold-calling, good, old-fashioned knocking-on-doors and handing out business cards. In the early 80’s, I was a sales manager for a computer reseller in Chicago. We’d have cold-calling days. Each rep would be assigned a high-rise building in Chicago, and we’d start at the top of the building, visiting each office as we worked our way down. We had a short script, “Hi, my name is Andy. I work for Systems Source just down the block. We sell computers and office products. I’d like to leave you my card.” Sometimes we’d strike up a conversation that would lead to new business but most times not. Was that the most effective use of our time? Maybe back then, without the advances in modern technology, but by today’s standards, probably not. In fact, given that on average ten percent of cold calls actually create opportunities, most of that time prospecting is spent sifting through dead or inactive leads.

Corporate America spends a fortune on generating leads. Unfortunately, most is wasted or not able to be tracked. According to a recent survey by the Yankee Group, up to 80% of all leads are lost as they travel through the average company’s marketing/sales loop. Why is that?

The truth is, sales is about selling something today. Most sales people are focused on this quarter because if they don’t make their number this quarter they might not have a chance to close that deal next quarter. So if prospects aren’t ready to buy now, they often just collect dust in some faraway place in your database.

So how do you really generate ROI on your marketing activities? How do you make the most of your marketing investments? By utilizing best practices in lead generation. This usually consists of the following three-step process.

First, you’ll want to focus your sales energy on prospects who have demonstrated a need for your product instead of shooting randomly into the dark. Think what this could do for your business. Your sales team could interact only with qualified prospects, the ones who come to you looking for your product or service. They’d spend more time consulting with prospects to better understand their needs and even up-selling. Moreover, they would have more time for presentations and demos, instead of spending time on sifting through uninterested or dead leads; in fact, they would have more presentations and demos, period. In short, instead of wearing out shoe leather looking for prospects they’d be closing deals with qualified prospects.

Sounds pretty good, right? But how do you provide your sales team with such great leads?

This brings us to our second point, which is to incorporate a response mechanism into your marketing campaigns. Then you can easily find those who approach you for your goods or services. Now, all of the aforementioned methods of lead generation can incorporate a response mechanism, but the easiest way to generate response is through the Internet.

Everyday Google receives more than 91 million search requests. The top 5 search engines receive more than 200 million requests daily. Yes, some will be looking for what happened on last week’s Lost, but a significant number is searching for a solution just like yours. Plus, if you’re in the #1 spot of the search results page there’s a 56% chance that the reader will click on your link. And chances are, with a specific enough request, you’ll get a new prospect opportunity as well. For example, let’s say you sell hydraulic pumps and you spend enough on SEO that you land the #1 spot on search results. Most people aren’t Googling hydraulic pumps to see what it wore to the Emmy’s last night; they’re there to buy. Users click to your site because they need a hydraulic pump, and you got it. But, you’ve also got yourself a HOT new lead.

And you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to use Google Adwords. You can advertise a specific solution in a specific geographic area at a very reasonable cost with amazing results. With the Google content network you can get massive impressions for a fraction of traditional advertising. I’m running a campaign right now that in January had 451,863 impressions and 262 clicks for a total cost of $73.96. Not a bad deal.

Okay, so now, let’s say you’ve got all your marketing media integrated with response mechanisms. You’ve done your search engine optimization so that you’re getting qualified leads via the internet. You’re in great shape, right? Now you’re only interacting with prospects who are interested in your solution.

But not so fast. What if some of your leads don’t want to buy for 6, 12 or 18 months? It’s easy enough for your sales guys to qualify them to find out when they plan to buy so you can focus your efforts on those who are ready to buy now. But what do you do with lead that need some time on the burner? How do you stay in touch with people on a regular basis without spending all of your time staying in touch?

So there is one final step in best practices lead generation – lead nurturing. It’s fast, it’s easy and more importantly, it WORKS.

Start by sorting your contacts into groups. For example, you might sort by solution, industry, company size, interest group or some other category. Once you’ve got them in groups you can communicate relevant information to them as a group. Using lead nurturing software you can personalize the message without having to craft each individual email. You’ll want to touch base regularly but not so often that your contact sees your communication as annoying.

Also, your message must be relevant and be meaningful. Do your research. Think carefully about what you’re going to say. After all, this message might be going to 50 or 100 people who may become 50 or 100 hot new leads. Isn’t it worth the effort to take some time doing it right? Once you’ve crafted the message, you can send personalized emails to all one hundred with a single click of the mouse (with decent marketing automation software).

So, come time to buy, you’ll already be in your prospects’ thoughts. You can even include surveys in your lead nurturing track to provide additional information about your prospects’ needs and purchase timeframe. Then just keep nurturing those cold leads until they’re sales ready.

Of course, you can’t do it all with technology. Tweeting and texting are no replacement for the personal touch. You still need to pick up the phone and speak with your prospects. And you can make your conversation with them even more effective with a cloud-based CRM that records your organization’s complete prior communication with the prospect. But the point is you still need to personally stay in touch with your prospects. Even if it’s only a brief phone call once a month, talk to your prospects.

Lead generation has come a long way since I was handing out business cards. We’ve gone from walking miles on our feet from one lead to the next to emailing promotions and newsletters to hundreds of prospects instantaneously. We used to be limited to the city we lived in and the radius we could drive; now we have instant access (via email) to individuals and companies from here to Myanmar, whenever and wherever. And while some of us miss the days of person to person contact and face time (myself included), who says we can’t have both? Why not use all the advantages that modern technology affords us, but at the same time add our own personal touch by targeted emails, phone calls and touching base from time to time?

The point is this. Don’t sell yourself (and your sales team) short. You can make the best use of your time, resources and efforts, to the effect of dramatically increasing your success and the success of your organization.

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