Tuesday, November 18, 2008

8 Tips to Improve Your Company’s Lead Generation

Improving the process of lead generation and the overall quality of leads generated is a constant goal of both B2B and B2C marketers. According to BtoB magazine – Interactive Marketing Guide 2008, marketing professionals report spending growth for lead generation, or referrals, will increase 30.9% over last year, beating out all other categories of spending except rich media/video. Lead generation involves getting access to information on qualified consumers interested in your particular product or service and in the end, isn’t about generating more leads; it’s about generating actionable leads that drive sales. Optimizing the lead generation process and activities translates to improvement in lead quality, ultimately shortening the sales cycle. Using the 8 tips described below will give you actionable ways to improve your lead generation - resulting in more and better leads, more deals, more revenue.

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1. Define and clarify what constitutes a “qualified” lead within your enterprise. This puts marketing and sales on the same page with regard to both the sales process and the each group’s goals. As new technology increases the amount of leads generated online, the quality of the leads has seriously deteriorated, creating a need for effective lead ranking, or scoring. The discussion between marketing and sales to set parameters and decide on what constitutes a qualified lead provides the basis for an effective lead scoring system and allows marketing to be able to focus on producing more targeted leads. It is really the process, not the number, which provides the value of lead scoring. Once “qualified lead characteristics” are established, sales and marketing can work together to manage and nurture leads. It also allows marketing to get the “A-identified” leads into the hands of the right sales people at the right time to increase conversions through rapid response.

2. Have an integrated, multi-step, multi-touch marketing plan.

B2B marketing and selling is all about carefully building relationships with potential customers. Clearly communicating value and solving buyer’s frustrations and needs constitutes effective B2B marketing campaigns in today’s marketplace. Astute marketers know that to reach new prospects, no single marketing channel or strategy can be left untouched. Yet keeping track of the multiple email blasts, traditional media coverage, content to bloggers, social networking sites, tradeshows and SEO marketing, etc., becomes a complex management task. And funneling and filtering the leads generated by these activities requires multiple people and departments within the enterprise. Consider being judicious in the number of email reach outs you send to prospects – make sure different departments are not sending out emails to the same prospects without a concerted marketing effort. Aim for quality, not quantity. Otherwise, your opt-out rates will increase. Don’t measure marketing success by the number of leads produced. Measure how your ideas spread online or how many prospects are actively engaged with your brand. Create, manage and coordinate your messages across all channels for a consistent customer experience. It all gets back to the old Marketing 101 mantra - right target, right message, right timing, right channel.

3. Enhance your landing pages and call to action on each page.

When your future lead clicks on a search or paid ad online, the resulting landing page should be exactly what the prospect was looking for and provide them a compelling offering (webinar, whitepaper, demo, etc.). The value of the offer increases with an accurate, concise description of what the prospect will receive. A relevant landing page delivering content that solves the visitor's problem induces the reader to, not only consider the offer, but to pursue it. And a strong call to action that clearly shows how they can “act now” provides the incentive for lead capture, in turn allowing your company to continue the dialogue and nurture the lead.

4. Refine your surveys and registration forms.
Develop and implement productive online surveys that capture relevant prospect data and furnish quality leads. Review each of your lead generation forms, create and use more than one. Aim for capturing limited information on the initial contact and keep it short and sweet You can ask for more info as the dialogue progresses. And provide value when capturing data. Data capture is not an event, but a process leading to conversion to a customer through nurture marketing. There needs to be an exchange between you and the prospect to understand who they are and how you can meet their needs.
Additionally, the Interactive Advertiser’s Bureau (IAB)’s “Lead Generation Data Transfer Best Practices” Oct. 2007 report suggests that all personally identifiable information (PII) be received and transferred in encrypted and secure formats. However you get your information, it’s preferable to get permission to use it. If you don’t get permission in the first action, then try to get it on the next interaction. It helps to give recipients a clear indication of what you’ll be communicating, ensure prospects that data will not be abused and deliver on your promises.

5. Test, Test, Test
Search engine optimization (SEO) and Pay per Click (PPC) advertising to generate leads are labor-intensive activities with ever-increasing demands for personalization and message optimization. Evaluating the best use of these activities for your enterprise requires much experimentation. Even simple sequential A/B testing when used often and repeatedly can yield valuable results. Yet testing needs to be a consistent habit leading to cumulative tests over time – a one-shot test will tell you very little. Reliable test results give marketers a concrete means of demonstrating marketing effectiveness to upper management and increases your company’s knowledge base. Not testing leaves marketing in the dark – make sure you test extensively to get the lead results your company desires.

6. List segmentation is critical.
Using segmented lists for your online campaigns is crucial for your target (or niche) marketing promotions – which in turn can increase lead generation capture, conversion and retention rates. Personalization of campaigns to suite the needs of specific market segments is becoming even more important as competitive pressures mount in all industries.
List segmentation comes in infinite forms – by demographic factors, by offer, by day of week sent, by time of day sent, or by subject line - to name a few. An approach can be simple or sophisticated. One example – Varying the campaign offering by sending executive level information to executive titles vs. technical information targeted for technical level titles. This concept of message matching is based on the theory that contacts only pay attention to relevant information that matches their needs. Segmentation driven campaign personalization and customization allows marketers to delivermore focused campaigns, which help to build more targeted lists and boost response rates. By segmenting your lists, testing and retesting, you can improve the quality of your lead generation results.

7. Broaden your on-line lead generation measurements with accurate and reliable campaign analytics/metrics.
Having some form of campaign/email marketing analytic reporting or metrics is essential to understanding how and where your marketing dollars are generating sales for your enterprise. In this environment of constantly shrinking marketing budgets, improving campaign ROI is the bottom line. To gather precise information about campaign effectiveness, marketers need to tap into the full spectrum of metrics available in email marketing. Once armed with a broad range of rigorous on-line lead generation measurements, any company can optimize their campaign spend and gain a competitive advantage.

8. Automate, Automate, Automate
As primary marketing tasks have shifted from using traditional marketing techniques (direct mail, print, TV, radio and trade show advertising) to using on-line marketing strategies, the process of marketing has rapidly become technology-centric. Lead generation capture, processing, filtering, selling and delivery tactics are inherently labor intensive activities and shifting much of the prior manual workload to automation systems saves both time and resources. Additionally, automating a part or all of the lead generation process reduces complexity and makes work-flow more efficient as contacts, leads, prospective clients, and sales professionals interact. The possible interactions and subsequent actions that are created have a variety of potential outcomes, both productive and counter-productive to customer acquisition. This ever-increasing number of scenarios generates critical opportunities to mishandle an inquiry that reduces or destroys its potential value. Application of marketing automation systems can help to appropriately manage these scenarios and reduce risk.
Marketers can also stay competitive with other firms already using sophisticated, multi-step, multi-campaign lead generation programs through use of automation. And better collaborate with their sales team to groom and close prospects. The biggest premium to be gained from marketing automation comes from the ease of gathering and analyzing performance metrics for marketing campaigns. This analysis can be used quickly to enhance subsequent campaigns, provide the best possible message to each customer at the lowest cost per communication, while fulfilling the promise of the closed loop marketing vision.

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(Content property of Marketbright, Inc.)

1 comment:

  1. Number 9:

    Companies seem to ignore the single largest online advertising venue available: their own regular external emails. Why not use these emails to market the senders company?

    You have a website.
    You send emails.

    Why not multiply your sales-staff by “wrapping” the regular email in an interactive letterhead?

    No other marketing or advertising medium is as targeted as an email between people that know each other (as opposed to mass emails). These emails are always read and typically kept.