Talkin’ ‘Bout My Lead Generation
By Tara Seals
those sales might make you a telecom rock star in vendors’ eyes, but without an
ongoing, clear understanding of your target market, lead-generation efforts can
fail and the sales will begin to dry up. It’s as though someone cut the power to
the PA system right in the middle of your guitar solo.
To avoid that scenario — and the
possibility of being replaced by an aspiring sales star — agents should
recognize that quality lead generation follows quality sales development.
A few years ago, generic sales
approaches were effective because prospects had more money to spend. The
all-things-to-all-people approach now means agents could spend valuable time
mining potentially barren segments for customers. Targeted efforts are more
efficient in a down economy, and experts say to narrow the focus by first
examining sales resources.
Christopher Nein, president of
Group9 Communications, says determining a sales strategy, market segmentation
and an agency’s specific skill sets are the first steps in turning up warm and
"That’s so we can determine
where we want to try and push people to win business," he says. "And,
then that turns into understanding the specific target markets that this group
is going to go after [for that particular service]."
Looking at past successes can help
in the focusing process. "When times are hard people start to feel nervous
and panicky, and unfortunately the natural tendency is to move towards give me
anything now," says John Ahlman, senior vice president of marketing and
services at Group9. "When really, in these times, getting more clarity and
focus around the things that you do well and then really being disciplined
around that [is best]. A lot of the process is where you’ve been historically,
where you’ve been successful before and why, then developing the marketing plan
to cater to those strengths and reinforce them."
For example, salespeople can take
note of customer reactions to sales presentations.
"What do people immediately
have interest in? And the second and more intriguing question is, what are they
most surprised at, where they say, ‘You guys do that?’" Nein explains.
"Then you build programs that correlate that to a larger mass audience and
see if other people find that interesting too. So your whole strategy becomes,
‘Did you know we do IP?’ Lead generation sometimes comes from your sales
[experience] giving you information that allows you to create a broader
ONLINE: THE PROG ROCK OF
of the best ways to craft a lead-generation strategy that takes advantage of a
focused prospect list is to use the Internet. There are now 619 million people
online worldwide, 165.2 million of them in the United States, reports online
market researcher Global Reach.
"I think smart companies, even
small companies, that position themselves well and their message is there, [will
find the Internet] to be a very valuable source for good quality leads,"
says Kathryn McGeehan, a business development and lead specialist at Market Wise
Inc. "The challenge in marketing is, when you’re sending out information —
if you’re using ads or radio or TV or the phone — you don’t know if you’re
getting to the right people at the right time. Whereas if you position yourself
correctly online, odds are that if you’re in the channel where they’re seeking
information, you’re catching them at the right time."
Correct positioning requires a bit
of research — including determining how buyers go through the buying process
and where they go online for information.
"What search tools do they use,
and what search terms? To which e-mail newsletters do they subscribe?"
McGeehan says. "[Companies] should have some good tracking reports that
will tell them how people are finding their sites — search terms, search
engine, links from the Chamber of Commerce, etc."
Once an agent extrapolates the
buying behavior of his target group from research, the agent can get the message
out by or contributing informational pieces to sites or by sponsoring the
e-newsletters their customers are reading. Another tactic is to gain a presence
on the search engines people are using to turn up information about the type of
services an agent sells.
"And make sure the Web site is
very user-friendly from a marketing perspective — people shouldn’t have to hunt
for contact information," adds McGeehan. "It’s as simple as making
sure your contact information is at the bottom of every page, since people tend
not to bookmark stuff as much as print out Web pages. You really want to make it
easy for people to get that contact info, and product information should also be
easy to find."
For more brick-and-mortar approaches
to lead generation, marketing that can be measured (such as a direct mail piece
that doubles as a coupon for a month of free service) historically has been kept
separate from "image marketing" (such as display ads in magazines).
Ahlman suggests combining both tactics by focusing on activities that build
brand awareness yet bring tangible results.
"A lot of companies see the
world through two lenses — they want to get their name out there, so there are
awareness activities, and then there’s lead generation," he explains.
"But you can do both at the same time. Do things for your brand, but in a
way that gets people to hit your Web site, to take a sales call or go to your
booth at a trade show."
For instance, mention a planned
trade show presence in the ad. Then, instead of just attending the show, have a
quota for a number of meetings to set outside regular expo hall meet-and-greets.
That forces the salesperson to create more opportunities at the show.
"Then we support that person
with an e-mail telling people he’ll be there — and can he get a meeting? Or you
can do on-site things, like a cocktail party sponsorship, or taking people out
for golf and client entertainment," says Nein. "All of that is focused
around the salesperson being able to create legitimate sales opportunities
on-site at that time. Then we’ll follow up the meetings with phone calls."
The focus on a response doesn’t
preclude all image marketing, however.
As an alternative to advertising,
however, McGeehan says, "I would say look to public relations as a way of
getting a message out. Again, there are a lot of trade publications that are
hungry for good content. So if you can provide information that is useful to
your target audience, it’s a good way to get your name out."
Classic approaches to developing
leads persist, such as telemarketing and direct mail. Telemarketing has become a
hit or miss game, say experts.
"It depends on the market
you’re going after," says McGeehan. "For B2B the telemarketing
backlash isn’t quite as severe, but you do come across the problem of voice mail
and getting through to that end person."
Ahlman describes a telemarketing
debacle: "One summer we had a company that didn’t have many resources. But
they had little success on getting on the phone and calling anybody you could
think of," he says. "We learned you can’t just put people on the phone
and have them cold call everybody and anybody. That may garner some success from
[existing customers], but that’s it."
In contrast, direct mail still is
effective. "Response rates vary a great deal based on the quality of the
lists you have and how strong your call to action and offer is," says
McGeehan. "If you can offer something of value, that’s what we recommend
that folks do."
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|Global Reach www.global-reach.biz
Group9 Communications www.group9communications.com
Market Wise Inc. www.marketwise.net
Tips Marketing Services Inc. www.noloseleads.com