Lead generation should be the life force behind your business, capturing the attention of prospective customers and nurturing their interests, feeding their need for information and resources and, ultimately effectively converting them to happy, satisfied, coming back for more customers. Too often however, potential customers slip away as a result of inherent inefficiencies in the sales and marketing processes, allowing them to slip away to a competitor who will fulfill their needs.
How do you make sure your leads don’t get away? Fortunately there is much that can be done to overcome those inefficiencies; setting in place the right people and processes to ensure the hook is set, the prospect is converted, and the sale captured. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can ensure you’re making the most of your lead generation efforts by nurturing those priceless leads into sales.
Make Follow Up a Priority; Not an Afterthought
Precious leads can easily be lost on their journey from acquisition, through nurturing, and to the sales team if effective processes aren’t in place. Principal amongst these is follow up, which needs to be front and center in the lead generation process. Leads can easily be lost for one of three common reasons.
- Leads are not followed up with in a timely manner (5-30 minutes max)
- They are handed off to the sales team by marketing before they are properly qualified, or
- Enthusiastic marketers, who don’t recognize when leads are ready for conversion, nurture them to death.
Either way the prospect can be lost during the follow up process. This in turn can lead to a breakdown in trust between marketing and sales, neither properly understanding what constitutes a fully qualified lead in their process, and both blaming the other for the failure to convert. Not a healthy situation in any organization.
A clear process is required to overcome these potential roadblocks to sales. One potential solution is to insert a bridge between marketing and sales, facilitating a smooth transition between the two and ensuring both can be held accountable. Some companies go as far as to create a service level agreement between sales and marketing on exactly how leads are identified and managed with timelines and deliverables for each department. Once a prospect is deemed a marketing qualified lead (MQL) a Sales Development Representative (SDR) plays an important role of optimizing the follow-up process preventing fewer lost leads, making the sale team more efficient and effective, ultimately increasing revenue.
By thoroughly understanding a marketing campaign, the target audience, its acquisition goals, and where leads are in the sales funnel, an SDR can follow up appropriately to ensure the lead is handed off to field sales at the optimum point in the sales process. The addition of an SDR into the process can remove future conflict by acting as a liaison between the marketing and sales departments.
The primary goal of the SDR is respond quickly to new leads, qualify those leads for field sales or drop them into pre-built lead nurturing campaigns created by marketing.
This means that no one’s time is wasted: the lead is happy, the sales team is happy, marketing is happy and the SDR is delivering bona fide results.
Want to know more about how an SDR can be an asset to your team? Check out this article and video from my colleague at Broadsuite Media Group, Eric Vidal: Why Sales Development Representatives are so Important to Marketing.
All leads are not created equal. People are diverse and all at different points in their respective paths to purchase. The lead generation process needs to reflect this. The key to dealing with this challenge lies with segmentation, not only by the standard demographics (Job title, company profile, location etc.), but also segmentation by buyer persona, and propensity to buy.
These will of course differ from sector to sector, however I like to think of this in terms of four broad classifications. Keep in mind the vital importance of using the channels THEY prefer for contact.
Ready to buy. These are the hot prospects who have been identified as ready to commit to a purchase. They need immediate attention with frequent contact to answer any outstanding questions. Don’t delay; show them you care to keep them on the hook. Send them a personal letter via snail mail, connect on social media, call often but not too often. You need to go beyond sending email to influence a purchase these days.
Thinkers. The frustrating ones who are making all the right noises but the timing isn’t right. Keep them warm with weekly contact. Consider free consultations and discounts designed to draw them in and close the sale. Weekly emails and phone calls once a month work well for this segment.
Advocates. These are your fans. Repeat customers who have given you glowing testimonials and reviews and who show a willingness to be advocates for your brand. Make them feel special to keep the interest alive with monthly content, offers, and discounts. Advocates are usually the most profitable customer you have so it’s makes sense to connect on social channels and investing in personalized email, direct mail and phone calls for this segment.
Tire kickers. Not always easy to separate from genuine prospects, tire kickers can be a drain on resources if not identified and isolated. We’ve all seen the type—they can monopolize your time with questions and apparent interest but always find a reason not to commit. In your heart you know they’re not ready, but you still spend time following up. Maintain the relationship with monthly email contact and quarterly phone calls so you are ready to act if their interest hardens.
If you are ready to learn more about segmentation, the team at The Marketing Scope wrote a post on the topic: Segmenting Your Lead Database is More Important Than You Thought.
Be a Helpful Thought Leader
If you bombard a prospect with your sales pitch there is likely to be one outcome—they will feel pressured and maybe even harassed and will walk away. Present them with something of value, such as information that demonstrates your understanding of how you can solve their problems, and you can start a conversation that has the potential to convert a deal.
That’s why I think adding value with a content marketing strategy should be an essential part of every marketing philosophy.
Consider this excerpt from the excellent IMA article 6 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Strategy is Totally Failing (And How to Fix It).
“When writing blog posts, many bloggers make the mistake of not adding any value to their audience. These small business owners often blogged about their products and how awesome their products are. No, this is not how it works. Remember this: people won’t search for your company on Google. What they will do is search for solutions to problems or answers to questions.”
By demonstrating your expertise with useful content without always asking for something in return, you can add value by answering those questions and showing how you can help to solve problems. Giving value with effective content marketing has the potential to attract customers and build relationships, in the process enhancing your ability to convert leads into revenue.
Finally, don’t imagine for a minute you can do all of this manually in today’s big data driven landscape. Most marketers are going to have to implement marketing automation platforms (MAP) to keep up with today’s big data driven landscape let alone handle their lead management activities i.e. lead tracking, scoring, nurturing, and content marketing distribution. We are seeing a trend in the adoption of sales automation platforms working in tandem with MAP to further help sales professionals manage leads with automated cadences and task assignments and further assist in lead management activities at scale.
I’m a big advocate for the use of marketing and sales automation platforms integrated with a CRM to organize, implement, and track lead generation strategies. For today’s marketers and for companies large and small, marketing/sales automation is table stakes if you’re focused on delivering results. In fact it’s a topic I tackled recently over at the V3B blog: Why Marketing Automation Matters and How to Use it Effectively. This excerpt bears repetition here in the context of using automation to set the hook in lead generation.
“People can reveal a great deal about their interests and preferences in their online dealings with your business. It just makes sense to harness the power of MA to analyze and act on that data automatically.”
Setting the hook by implementing an effective lead generation program is essential for businesses of all sizes in every sector. My hope is that this dip into the ways it can be done will help to make sure your lead generation efforts don’t go to waste. Otherwise, you are more than likely wasting 75% of your marketing budget on leads that will not convert until years two or three. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.
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This article was first published on Integrated Marketing Association.
Shawn is recognized as a top marketing influencer, experienced marketing automation and conversion optimization specialist, provides advanced email marketing and database management expertise, and has a proven track record of helping brands develop demand generation and lead generation programs that deliver results.
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