article

TAG: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Lead Generation

Posted:
3/2003

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Lead Generation

By Tara Seals

Closing
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
hot leads.

"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
program."

ONLINE: THE PROG ROCK OF
MARKETING

One
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."

CLASSIC RIFFS

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."

‘Tips’ for Online
Prospecting

Fortunately for marketers,
innovation in lead generation is ongoing. For instance, Tips Marketing
Services Inc. has a unique online lead generation program specifically for
telecom sales organizations and agents. The program uses an e-mailed HTML
survey to catch the interest of businesses that have opted in to receive
e-mail from Tips.

Recipients fill out the
survey, which is in the body of the e-mail, rather than as an attachment
or link, to get a free, anonymous quote to save money in 75 different
communications categories. After filling out the survey, the person’s
information is sent automatically to a participating marketer in the
category for which the prospect requested a quote. Tips guarantees the
leads are less than a minute old and only one company receives a
particular lead.

To avoid conflict between
multiple participating marketers in the same category, the automated
system uses a rotation system that can be visualized like a wheel. When a
prospect submits the survey, it goes to the marketer A. The wheel then
turns, and the lead after that goes to marketer B, and so on, so everyone
on the wheel gets a turn in order.

The number of leads going to
each marketer also varies by the number of addresses it purchased. Tips
aggregates partners into category blocks that contain 100 million e-mail
addresses. It breaks the blocks down into units of 1 million e-mails, so
there are 100 units, arranged in the rotational wheel format.

This means if partner A buys 7
million emails for the "flat-rate phone service" category, it
gets 7 positions on the wheel. If partner B buys 14 million e-mails in the
same category, it gets 14 positions. That means partner B appears on the
wheel 14 times out of the 100 and receives 14 percent of the leads for
that category.

If Tips doesn’t sell out the
category, the remaining spots on the wheel are divvied up between
participants. The remaining leads are distributed by the computer server
at the same ratio that the existing partners had in that category. So in
the previous example, if there were 84 positions on the wheel left over,
partner A would receive 28 of them, and partner B would get 56 extra
spots.

The opt-in database Tips uses
is built as businesses sign up through the company’s other online loyalty
and directory programs, available at Web sites like www.SavingsSites.com,
www.TotalIntrusionPreventionServices.com
and www.TipsGroupDiscounts.com.

The company supplements its
in-house information with purchased opt-in e-mail databases from other
reputable sources. Tips has about 1,300 e-mail companies in its database.

"We are a multifaceted
advertising firm, both online and offline," says Al Inga, the
company’s founder.

Tips does impose a cap on the
number of e-mails it sends out per marketer.

"We can’t over e-mail the
public," says Inga. "If the public sees our e-mail more than
twice per month it will hurt us in the long run."

Participants purchase spots on
the wheel at different prices depending on the category. Long-distance
service, for example, costs $150 per million e-mails sent. Marketers also
can receive "exclusives" if they spend a minimum of $100 per
category. If a category has a cost per million of $20, an agent would
purchase 5 million e-mails to satisfy the $100 per category minimum.

The company also offers a
group category discount. A marketer can buy one million e-mails in six
different categories for $200, which works out to be only $33.34 per
million e-mails sent.

Links
Global Reach www.global-reach.biz

Group9 Communications www.group9communications.com

Market Wise Inc. www.marketwise.net

Tips Marketing Services Inc. www.noloseleads.com


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