Online lead generation plays a vital role in any well-planned business development program. According to MarketingSherpa’s research, generating “high-quality leads” is the B-to-B marketer’s No. 1 challenge.
Why develop a lead generation program?
In sales, your most expensive resource is your time and or your sales team’s time. An effective lead generation plan makes your sales team more productive. When you develop a flow of qualified leads for your sales team, they can close more sales.
A well-developed sales lead generation program:
- provides a continuous flow of quality leads
- allows your sales team to spend more time on high-level sales activities (and not making cold calls)
- positions you as an expert with your target audience
- enables you to build a “top-of-mind” presence with your target audience
- delivers measurable results
- integrates your company’s marketing and sales efforts
Here are five essential steps to creating a winning lead gen strategy.
Step 1: Define Your Objectives and Goals.
Define your program’s key lead generation objectives. Take a look at your typical prospect’s buying cycle and buying stages.
Do you need a two-step sales process? In a two-step process, your marketing programs generate and nurture leads and your sales team closes the sale.
Or, can your Web site generate leads and close sales in one step?
Define your lead gen objectives based on your sales process. Determine the number of leads you need to reach your sales goals and revenue targets.
Step 2: Define a Lead and Set the Value of Your Raw Lead.
Make sure that marketing and sales agree on the definition of a lead. Based on your expected close rates, determine what a raw lead is worth to you. You will use this figure to set the overall budget and goals for specific campaigns. Example: If a company makes $50,000 per sale for financial services, a raw lead will be worth much more than a company selling a $100 software package.
Step 3: Select Appropriate Lead Generation Message and Channels.
Lead generation works differently from one industry to the next. Remember that most prospects need to hear your message more than once, before they respond. Develop a budget and plan for multiple touches.
Create Your Offer. What are you going to offer to entice the prospect to provide follow-up information for a two-step process? What will you offer to encourage a Web site purchase for a one-step process?
Do you typically sell to a committee? If yes, you should develop different messages for the members of your buying committee. Example: If you sell high-end software consulting, you may need to provide financial and ROI for the CFO and technical marketing messages for the CTO.
If your Web site is your lead generation hub, your outbound messages must sell the click to your Web site.
Your campaign’s landing page will do the heavy lifting of enticing response.
Use Least Expensive Tactics First. Few companies have all the money they need for lead generation. To use your budget wisely, use the least expensive lead gen tactics first and follow up with the more expensive tactics.
Typically the most expensive tactic is your sales staff. You should not use your sales staff to generate raw leads, referrals yes, but not raw leads.
Many of our clients rank their least to most expensive lead generation tactics as follows:
- e-mail (in-house)
- online PR and word-of-mouth (WOM marketing)
- social media marketing (this can take longer to show results)
- e-mail (rented lists)
- search ads (pay-per-click)
- ads in targeted e-newsletters
- direct mail (letters and postcards)
- trade publication ads
- trade shows
- personal visit by sales staff
Step 4: Develop a Response Process.
Before you launch your first program, decide how you will capture, measure and respond to leads. Will you direct responders to a dedicated web page or email address, a personalized web page or an 800 number? How will marketing pass leads to sales? Make sure your sales team is ready to handle Have your process set-up and test it prior to starting the first campaign.
Step 5: Maintain a clean database.
The least expensive tactic is to send marketing messages via email to a house list. For this tactic to work, your in-house list must be up-to-date. The key to an up-to-date list is database maintenance. This is often an overlooked and undervalued process. Make sure you practice good list hygiene. Diligently remove all unsubscribes, track your forward-to-a-friend, check for duplicates, etc. With each “touch” of a prospect, capture a little more information to improve your ability to target specific needs. If you cannot handle this in-house, use an outside service to periodically scrub your list.