Lead Generation: One common term with many understandings

What do you think of when you hear the term “lead generation?”

Does the phase bring to mind purchasing contacts from a list broker, collecting business cards at a trade show, or cold calling?

Here at REV, we believe these actions can certainly generate names for us to put in our databases, but are they leads worthy of our limited (and therefore precious) selling time?  Instead, we define “lead generation” as “sparking interest on several fronts from prospects we believe are interested in our company’s services or products.”  We rely on multiple channels working together in an integrated strategy, rather than putting all our proverbial marketing eggs in one basket and hoping for the best. 

(On a sidenote, I’ve always wondered about that phrase:  When I collected eggs on my grandparents’ chicken farm as a kid, I did only use one basket. . . hmmm. . .)

Some of the channels we might recommend include email campaigns, direct mail, social media, tele-prospecting, Webinars, special events, Internet marketing, video, speaking engagements, etc.  Within all of these channels, our goal is to consistently communicate a message that resonates with our intended target audience and produces some sort of response.  From there, we can develop that  response into potential sales for our companies.

Here are some must-have tools we recommend in your lead generation endeavors:

  • LinkedIn: Read this fabulous article from guest author and REV strategic partner Richard Kirby on four strategies for using LinkedIn to find and develop prospects.
  • Webinars:  We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again.  Webinars work.  Webinars allow you to communicate your expertise to an audience you know is specifically interested in the topic at hand.  To capitalize on the effort involved in putting on a Webinar, we highly recommend joining forces with a strategic partner to reach as many target prospects as possible in one session.  Need help organizing a Webinar?  Let us know.
  • Contact databases:  While it may seem obvious, we find that often our clients simply don’t have enough contacts in their existing databases.  This may necessitate buying additional contacts or aggressively home-growing your database.  In any case, to make any significant impact on the number of leads you can generate, most companies need 2,000-3,000 contacts at a minimum.   While not the best resource for finding information on small (<$50M in revenue) companies, a subscription to Hoover’s is a valuable resource for researching and obtaining contact information for larger companies in your target market.  If you focus primarily on small-to-midsize companies in Atlanta, Charlotte, and/or Dallas, we highly recommend BusinessWise.
  • Email marketing service or marketing automation software:  If you are going to use email campaigns to generate leads, you need to have a way to track the response from your intended prospects.  At a minimum, you’ll need stats on the opens and clicks for every email sent. This leads to using an email marketing service such as SwiftpageEmail, MailChimp, ExactTarget, etc.  To get a more comprehensive understanding of how your prospect is interacting with your company over time, we recommend a marketing automation platform such as Act-On, Infusionsoft, or Marketo that will develop a “lead score” for your leads based on their email responses, Website visits, social interaction, and event attendance, and can automate the nurture marketing process.  We plan to delve more deeply into email marketing services vs. marketing automation in a future article; in the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions or to help you choose a service.

Questions or comments on the tools listed here?  Any we missed?  What do you think of when you see or hear “lead generation?”  We’d love to hear from you.

Four LinkedIn Strategies for New Business Development

by Richard Kirby, Executive Impact

When I joined LinkedIn (LI) in 2003, there were less than half a million subscribers. As of January 2013, they now boast over 200 million. LI has become, without question, THE online social network for business.

Are you and your business leveraging the phenomenal potential of LI? In this article, you will learn four key strategies that will gain you new customers and revenues you never knew were possible.

Strategy 1: Attract new prospects by increasing your online visibility. Similar to SEO for your company web site, a more “findable” LI profile will insure that more prospects find your offerings 24/7/365. With 90%+ of buyers researching online before making purchases, it is critical they find you in their LI search results.

So, what can you do to improve your “rank” in LI searches? First, broaden your network by inviting desirable contacts to connect and accepting such invitations when offered. Second, follow the recommendations LI offers when you log on and add information to complete your profile. Third, add to your profile keywords that prospects are likely to use when searching for your products and services (see my profile as an example).

Strategy 2: Encourage prospects to contact you by increasing your LI credibility. Once you have increased your visibility, it is critical that you create an attractive first impression. Major sources of credibility are endorsements and recommendations. Endorsements are likely to come organically from satisfied customers and positive business relationships. Recommendations, on the other hand, will require focused action.

Here is an action plan for increasing your credibility:  Start by making a list of your most satisfied customers and asking them to provide you a recommendation. Better yet, write a brief two- or three-sentence suggested recommendation, send it to them, and ask that they modify it or use it as provided. As you receive recommendations, elect to show them on your profile so visitors can view them.

Strategy 3: Establish and/or improve your LI company page. The previous strategies referred to your individual LI profile. If you are a solo entrepreneur or the principle in a very small company, this may be sufficient. If you are not, then you should create and fully populate a separate company page. You can find information to guide you through the creation of a company page by clicking on Help Center at the bottom of LI pages and entering “company page” in the search bar of the subsequent Help Center page.

Strategy 4: Identify prospective clients and reach out to engage them. You can find prospects on the Advanced People Search page utilizing keywords, company names, job titles, etc. With over 200 million users, you can find many people you desire to engage through these searches.

Don’t have the time or need some help to enact a more effective implementation of these or other business development strategies? Check with REV Demand to see how they may be able to assist you. Good luck and happy selling!

Since 2002, Richard Kirby, CMC, CPC, has been a full time career consultant (coach) to C-level and mid-level managers seeking improvements in their careers.  Richard’s expertise includes career assessments, goals definition, self-marketing strategies, business networking, strategic interviewing, and compensation negotiations. Richard is a member of the Georgia Career Development Association, the Society for Human Resource Management, and the Institute of Management Consultants.  You can learn more about Executive Impact at http://www.executive-impact.com.

Top 5 Pointers For Prospecting

For most of us as business owners or revenue generators, the frustrating part of sales is not the moments we spend in front of interested parties uncovering needs and explaining our services.  That’s the fun part!  It’s getting to those moments—you know, prospecting—that we really don’t want to do.

Why is prospecting such a dreaded activity?  In talking with clients about this, our consensus is that prospecting can seem 1.) time-consuming, b.) unfocused, c.) too “cheesy,” or d.) all of the above!  For most of us, prospecting takes place when we have a few extra minutes (and need some new business).  We make a few calls or send some emails, resulting in some hits and some misses.  Then we’re on to the next piece of “real work” we need to do.

Are there more systematic, efficient and effective ways to prospect?  We think so.  Use our top 5 prospecting tips below to get started on the path to learning to love prospecting:

  1. Redefine prospecting.  One of our clients told us he “hates” to cold call, but he’s “happy to ‘warm call.’ ”  Although prospecting can and should involve calls, expand your definition of prospecting to activities such as sending a newsletter, setting up a meeting, writing a “nice to meet you” note, inviting to an event, posting a comment on a blog or LinkedIn group discussion, or sending an article you think will interest the prospect.
  2. Make a list of your top 25 prospects, your top 5 clients, and your top 10 referral partners.  (If these numbers don’t quite fit your business, they can be tweaked.)   This is where you should spend 80% of your available prospecting time, as this is likely where you will get 80% of your business.
  3. Narrow the field.  Analyze your top 5-10 clients; what do they have in common?  Define the characteristics that make them a top client (size, industry, buying cycles, type of decision maker, etc.).  Now, list the top 3 problems or pains your business solves for them.  Build your prospecting efforts around solving these issues for this type of client.
  4. Qualify, qualify, qualify.  This is the most important thing you can do to increase your closing ratio and maximize your prospecting time.  Qualify by using broad appeal approaches such as Webinars, white papers/reports, free newsletters, and/or email campaigns to separate the wheat (prospects) from the chaff (suspects).   Once you’ve figured out who’s interested in what you have to offer, now you can nurture them with more time-consuming strategies such as calls, personal emails, and meetings.  (Again, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your database.)  Work with your go-to marketing resource (need one?) to develop a plan for different levels of prospecting efforts.
  5. Automate the follow-up process.  “I’ll shoot you an email with that information.”  We have all the best intentions in the world to follow up as promised with our prospects.  However, we are human, and our attention is constantly diverted.   To get started with automating, look at your 3-5 most-often sent emails (such as a follow-up email after a meeting) and decide if they can be setup as templates that automatically generate, merge in specific contact info, and send to your prospect (known as auto-responders).  Once sent, this activity then sets off a series of subsequent emails or other sales activities.

There are marketing automation systems such as Infusionsoft, Hubspot, etc. that can automate content marketing and integrate contact management, email tracking, Web forms, and other functions as well.  However, developing a simple workflow on paper and building out templates in Word to support it can go a long way toward automating your sales process.

Have questions?  Contact us, and we’re glad to help.  Happy Prospecting!

Tara is focused on her clients and the need to get their messaging out in the best way possible. Her guidance and advice come from experience and expertise in effective communication to clients and prospects. Her advice to me over the years has been extremely helpful. Tara is a professional in every sense of the word! | David Shavzin

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