Brian Carroll

4 Steps to Lead Nurturing: Walking the buying path with your customers

April 20th, 2015

Lead generation can take you on a long hike. The one thing I can guarantee you about the journey is that more is not better if you don’t know how to nurture. The goal of lead nurturing is to help progress leads from initial interest toward purchase intent. It’s about progression.

That said, I’ve seen companies spend most of their budget getting people to raise their hands but not putting enough toward progression. Get out your walking shoes, and take a journey with your customers.

walk in shoesI define lead nurturing as consistent and meaningful communication with viable prospects (those that are “a fit” for your solution), regardless of their timing to buy. It’s not “following up” every few months to find out if a prospect is “ready to buy yet.” True nurturing involves a sometimes long and circuitous path, but along the way, you’ll be building long, meaningful and trust-filled relationships with the right people.

Salespeople often struggle with developing nurturing content without support. If you’re wondering what kinds of content helps progress leads further faster, ask your sales team. Start by asking your sales team questions like, “What’s the content you share with leads that helps them convert?” or “What’s the content you use to help take people to the next level?”

The first step on that path to success is to start thinking like a customer.

 

Step #1: Walk in your potential customers’ shoes to build a customer journey map

Be the customer, and get as you close as you can to their experience by really observing the behaviors of your customer. After you’ve gaining a solid understanding, build your customer journey map.

What is a customer journey map? It tells the story of the customer’s experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.

The journey map is about helping you understanding the key interactions that your future customer will have with the organization. What are their motivations? What are their questions with each marketing touch point? Try to understand what they want and the concerns they’ll have along with peers they’re interacting with. The goal of customer journey mapping is to gain customer wisdom.

As you do that, consider the questions that customers have in mind before they make a buying decision:

  • How will this product or service help my company?
  • We’re doing OK, so why do we need this?
  • Is there another company out there that is better?
  • Will their solution really work? Can they prove it?
  • Is the company credible?
  • Can we afford it?

Help prospects find the answers to these questions, and you’ll remind them of the benefits of working with you. You’re creating value by giving them useful information in digestible, bite-sized chunks.

 

Step #2: Plan your path to create content geared toward progression

Invest as much in forming creative and content for lead progression as you do for lead capture. I’ve seen companies spend most of their budget getting people to raise their hands but not enough toward progression.

The goal of lead nurturing is to help progress leads from initial interest toward purchase intent. It’s about progression.

Read “Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing” for ideas on content to use. Through the combination of all these, you’re providing relevant, educational and thought-leading content. For more ideas, read “Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content.”

It’s worth noting:

  • The tactics employed and the frequency of touches will depend on the solutions being sold and the buying cycle of the prospect.
  • You need to create different lead nurturing tracks based on demographic criteria, such as size, industry, role in the buying process and more.

 

Step #3: Walk the path with your customer

In a complex sale, the journey can be long and challenging to help people move from initial interest to purchase intent.

Your only job is to make certain you nourish your customer along the way and guide them with a meaningful compass toward the right and best decision for their needs.

Think of your marketing team as trail guides who will need to point out all the sights along the way that are useful in the decision-making process.

Slow down, and walk at the customer’s pace, even if that means taking the long route with them when it comes to buying your service or product. If you hurry them along, you might end up with an exhausted customer who doesn’t feel good about the journey and won’t turn to you to continue the path to purchase.

 

“How you sell me is how you will serve me”

Most economic buyers subscribe to the notion that how you sell me indicates how you will serve me. Here’s where that little statistic I mentioned earlier comes in. A study of business-to-business buyers shows that salespeople who become trusted advisors and understood the needs of economic buyers are 69% more likely to come away with a sale.

The complex sale requires that your prospect:

  • Must be familiar with you and your company and with what you and your company do.
  • Must perceive you and your company to be expert in your field.
  • Must believe that you and your company understand his or her specific issues and can solve them.­
  • Likes you and your company enough to want to work with you.

Remember you can’t automate trust. Trust-building should be the theme of your nurturing efforts.

 

Building trust

By providing valuable education and information to prospects up front, you become a trusted advisor. You are then perceived to be an expert. You don’t sell; you don’t make pitches. Instead, you provide insights and solutions all within the realm of your expertise and, as a result, become the first company they turn to when there’s a need.

Make your marketing program’s single point of focus be to develop trust, and your business will become more profitable and less reliant on competing on price. Selling, per se, is reduced in the interest of more open and honest conversations with prospects. You win more business on a sole-source basis, and more new business referrals come your way.

 

Step #4: Keep marching

Startling as it may seem, recent research (and even studies from 20 years ago) shows that longer-term leads (future opportunities), often ignored by salespeople, represent almost 40 to 70% of potential sales. Research compiled by the MarketingSherpa Lead Generation Benchmark Report showed, “marketing departments with a lead nurturing campaign reported a 45% higher ROI than marketing departments that did not utilize a lead nurturing track.”

If inquiries are simply passed on to salespeople, reps, partners or distributors for follow up, beware.  You may be leaving as many as eight out of 10 sales prospects on the sales path for your competitors.

Now, get your compasses out and begin the long-yet-fruitful journey toward an effective lead nurturing program. You’ll be surprised how many potential customers will want to join you along the way.

 

Photo courtesy of Sujay Sarkhel.

 

You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.

 

You might also like

All You Need to Know about Customer Journey Mapping [From Smashing magazine]

Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: You could be losing as much as 80% of your sales; here’s how you keep them [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content [More from the blogs]

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Lead Nurturing , ,

Brian Carroll

Optimizing Lead Distribution for Higher Conversion

April 13th, 2015

The management of sales leads is critical to generating marketing ROI. Sadly, sales leads often land on the scrap heap because marketers throw leads over the wall and then expect salespeople to catch them.

I was recently asked by someone how to utilize lead distribution to gain the best results. That’s a complex question when you think about it.

Almost every company that has salespeople has those who are stronger performers and those who are weaker performers. However, when you add sales territories and fairness into the mix, this is far from easy. So do you invest your hard-won leads in your top performers, or do you try to help your weaker salespeople?

Many of you reading this post do not have a choice of who you distribute leads to. What can you to do optimize your lead distribution process for higher conversion?

 

Qualify all marketing leads as sales-ready before the hand-off

The key is to match readiness of the lead (i.e., future customer) with expectations of your sales team. Otherwise, you’ll have a serious disconnect. You need to qualify and examine each lead as if they are “sales-ready,” meaning they are ready to speak to a salesperson. You can find this ideal point in the relationship by leveraging lead scoring and lead qualification. There is only so much information that you can get off a Web forum or that someone will volunteer in an email.

For more, read: “Lead Qualification: Stop generating leads and start generating revenue

 

Make the hand-off to Sales, but still help drive conversion

baton teamworkIf that relationship were a baton, there would be a point in time when both Marketing’s and Sales’ hands are on the baton and you are making that introduction. It has to be clear at what stage Marketing is going to hand the lead off so that Sales can run with it and so that you don’t drop the baton or drop the relationship.

 

Set up a service-level agreement with your sales team

The logistics for the lead distribution process are established with each sales representative and, in general, completed by email within 24 hours of the generation of the lead. In extremely “hot” opportunity cases, where lead distribution is needed instantaneously, the sales representative will be contacted by telephone, text, etc., on a real-time basis. In CRMs like Salesforce.com, you can automatically notify salespeople when activity has developed in their territory, vertical market or other criteria that you deem to be important.

One company I worked with centrally qualifies all their leads (via phone) against their universal lead definition within two hours, distributes and requires their field sales force to follow up on those that are sales ready within eight hours. If a qualified sales lead is not followed up by the assigned salesperson within 24 hours, they can count on an email or call from their sales manager. If a sales lead goes more than 48 hours before being touched, that salesperson risks having that lead assigned to someone else — someone with more selling time capacity.

 

Preschedule appointments for the sales team — Help eliminate “telephone tag”

For lead generation campaigns, I recommend that Marketing or inside Sales sets appointments for the sales force or its channel partner with leads. Reduce the “endless game of telephone tag” that can occur between sales representatives and qualified prospects. By presetting appointments during the sales opportunity generation campaigns, you can dramatically improve the efficiency of the lead follow-up process and increase effective selling time.

 

Develop a centralized process to track lead follow-up by Sales

Lead follow-up supports the real-time tracking and reporting of leads that may be selected based on multiple criteria.  Ideally, you will be able to track leads at any stage in the sales pipeline, as well as by industry vertical, sales person, territory, marketing campaign, lead score and forecasted purchase time frame.

 

Test your lead distribution approach

If you have influence or control over lead distribution, here are some approaches you can test to optimize conversion:

 

1. Match leads to sales skill

Each lead comes with different needs. Chances are they can be categorized in the qualification process. Consider using tiers to prioritize what level of skill leads require based on the need. More general inquiries can go to inside sales reps and qualified first. Do not frustrate field salespeople with requests for brochures and marketing resources. No matter what, make sure you are sorting those needs and distributing them as quickly as possible.

 

2. Match leads based on product or industry vertical expertise

People sell from different backgrounds, giving them unique talents based on their past experience, current and past customers, personality and motivation. Leverage this. The more you know about your salespeople, the more you can use that information to match them with leads they’ll have the most success with. This is why round robin lead distribution can be deadly to conversion. It assumes every salesperson is the same.

 

3. Match leads based on location

If you have a large distributed field team, you’re probably already doing this in regional territories. However, smaller teams and inside sales teams can leverage localized lead routing. Don’t lose an opportunity to help your sales team make local connections.

What’s worked for you to optimize lead distribution? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

 

Photo courtesy of  Family Business

 

You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.

 

You might also like

Sign up for the B2B Marketing Newsletter to learn more B2B trends and strategies

Introduction to Lead Management [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation That Converts Leads into Sales Opportunities [More from the blogs]

15 Tips to Generate More Leads in 2015 (Part 1, featuring tips 1-5) [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Generation That Converts Leads into Sales Opportunities

April 6th, 2015

Ask most executives and marketers what salespeople need to sell in this economy, and they will say one thing: more leads.

That’s why many marketing and lead generation programs tend to focus on quantity. Unfortunately, as little as 5 to 15% of all marketing inquiries (aka leads) turn out to be phonetruly Sales-ready opportunities. Marketers who really want to help Sales perform better will focus on higher-quality leads, which have better odds of converting into pipeline opportunities and customers. However, according to MarketingSherpa’s data, generating “high-quality leads” is the B2B marketer’s No. 1 challenge.

Most marketers realize the more validation and verification of each lead or database, the better the quality of the lead. So, what’s the best way for B2B marketers to efficiently verify the accuracy of their lead data captured online before turning said inquiries over to the sales force?

 

Create a marketing funnel 

The purpose of the marketing funnel is to bring inquiries (aka leads) into one spot (your marketing database) and qualify them. It creates Sales-ready leads and nurtures the leads that aren’t sales-ready.

Lead qualification first must classify leads according to their “Sales readiness” and business fit. Second, it must manage all the incoming leads effectively.

 

Keep the ‘giving of information’ at a comfortable level

It is important to remember that most people coming to your website aren’t coming to purchase right away. They come to your site for information. An early-stage lead shouldn’t be expected to give up the same kind of details as a later-stage lead. People start to question the value of providing too much information on forms before you’ve earned their trust.

You’ll do better by thinking of lead generation as a process of micro-conversions that build an opportunity profile over time. Start with requesting basic information such as an email address. In the next step, request first and last name. Later, request more detailed insights — after a relationship has been established.

I read recently that a company trimmed its registration form to include an extremely basic two-field form and found its conversion rate more than tripled with this simplification. At the same time, the company expanded its email follow-up process and was able to increase the amount of personal data collected over time.

 

Create the universal lead definition, and apply it to the remaining inquiries

There are things your sales team must know before an inquiry is worthy of being called a lead. You should:

  • Identify company size, industry and geography. You may choose to remove inquiries based on specific marketing requirements or limitations at this point, including non-U.S. or student email addresses, or contacts residing in locations or industries that you don’t serve. This step can reduce your leads by as much as 10%.
  • Ask business situation questions, such as number of users, current systems platform, etc.
  • Determine the inquiry’s role in the organization or authority in the buying process.
  • Determine if your organization can help based on the lead’s business need.
  • Identify the prospect’s stage in the buying process. Many “leads” are actually still early in the buying process and are conducting general market research. Although these contacts are very valuable and should be nurtured and managed over time, they clearly aren’t ready to buy.
  • Purge those inquiries containing any obvious bogus information. Remove duplicates and invalid names and email addresses. (Simple forms tend to generate less invalid information than lengthy, time-consuming forms.)

 

Create a behavior model to prioritize leads based on activity and data

Use your CRM or marketing automation suite to prioritize based on:

  • Size of organization: Is there an organization that fits your “sweet spot” better than others?
  • Fit: Can you meet leads’ immediate needs?
  • Differences in activity based on time frame: Emphasize recent activity. The ongoing uncertainty about the health of the economy doesn’t necessarily reflect every prospect’s current situation. Even in beleaguered sectors, strong companies will see opportunities for growth. Activity within the past three months — such as downloading a whitepaper or responding to emails about upcoming events — receives a higher score.

The same activities that took place six months or a year ago receive lower scores if a prospect has not engaged in additional marketing activities since then. This technique allows Sales to focus its attention on prospects that have demonstrated strong interest in recent marketing campaigns. Definitely maintain older leads in your database, and keep these lower-scoring leads in the nurturing program until their activity increases again.

 

Use the phone (or email) to qualify high-priority leads based on scoring

Some companies may use third-party list providers to verify information. Just remember, the phone is the gold standard for qualifying most leads. A good conversation is the best way to assess a company’s interest. (MECLABS has found email to be a great way to create a one-on-one dialogue by asking questions as well. Be sure to test this with your audiences.) Use data from your lead-nurturing and lead-scoring systems to have relevant chats with prospects.

Based on your company’s value proposition research, ask questions that show you understand the challenges your prospects face. Introduce ideas about how your company can help them meet those challenges.

Most salespeople are really good at what they do, and they want to help prospects meet their challenges. Make sure you give them the highest-quality leads you have. It’s worth the effort to move through the qualifying process slowly. In this economy, prospects’ buying cycles are getting longer, making it even more important to start out slowly. You’ll earn trust more quickly this way, and you’ll build relationships that truly impact your Sales pipeline.

 

Photo courtesy of  Rudolf Vlček

 

You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.

 

You might also like

Sign up for the B2B Marketing Newsletter to learn more B2B trends and strategies

Lead Generation Optimization: 7 ‘must-haves’ to improve your campaign planning process [MarketingSherpa case study]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to Sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how to article]

Lead Generation: How one additional form field decreased conversions 11% [Lead Gen Summit 2013 live test] [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Generation: Testing form field length reduces cost-per-lead by $10.66 [More from the blogs]

15 Tips to Generate More Leads in 2015 (Part 1, featuring tips 1-5) [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

4 Perspectives That Should Shape Your View of Value Propositions

March 30th, 2015

If you think a value proposition is just a catchy phrase or the elevator speech your salesmen can spout off to customers, consider what Michael Lanning, the creator of the term, has to say.

“It should drive what you communicate, but more,” he explained. “It should be the heart of your business strategy — an articulation of how customers will be better off if they do what your business proposes.”

Three decades ago, Michael invented the concept and coined the phrase while he was a consultant for McKinsey & Company. I recently had the privilege of speaking with him about how this term should be applied in the B2B context. (For an overview of what every value proposition should include, go to my MarketingExperiments blog: Direct from the Source: What a value proposition is, what it isn’t, and the 5 questions it must answer.”)

Here’s a summary of what Michael revealed:

 

1. A real value proposition defines the purpose of your business model.

Value proposition is  a strategic choice — agreed to by all business functions — that details:

  • Who your target customers are, what you want them to do in what timeframe and the competing alternatives.
  • As a result, what specific, measurable experiences these customers will get, including price. How do these experiences compare to the alternatives? This includes both superior and inferior experiences.
  • How your business improves your customers’ business more than competing alternatives.

“Your business should then be completely integrated around delivering that value proposition. Every business function should agree on it, then be controlled and driven by it,” Michael said.

However, what typically happens in practice is that value propositions are developed too late to serve this purpose.

“People decide what product they want to make, how they want to make it and where and how they want to sell it. Then they write a value proposition to dress it up,” he said. “They should carefully choose a superior value proposition, then design and improve their products, services and other functions to deliberately deliver and communicate that superior value proposition. Don’t write a value proposition to help sell your product; create a product and communications to help deliver it. ”

 

2. Insights into better value propositions come from studying your customer.

To take a fresh approach, Michael advises to stop staring at lists of competitive features or what customers say they want and, instead, climb into their life and business. In essence, become them:

  • Identify and deeply understand what’s happening in their business right now and what’s imperfect about it for them. Understand what they are trying to accomplish and where they fall short.
  • Think about how your products and your competitors’ products help or hinder them.
  • Imagine an improved scenario in which they derive a much better set of experiences than they get today from you or your competitors.
  • That improved scenario is the basis for a winning value proposition. Ask yourself, “If we make that scenario happen for the customer, will they see it as a superior solution?”

“Seriously try to think like the customer. Get as close as you can to their current behavior and experiences,” Michael said. “Understand what’s happening. Define how ‘better’ would look to them — better than their current experiences, better than they could get from competitors — and then analyze how close you can get to making that happen, profitably.

“This perspective is different from trying to sell the products you enjoy making or dutifully making what customers tell you to make. It’s about creatively discovering and then profitably bringing about the outcomes they would value most,” he said.

 

3. A B2B value proposition isn’t a once-and-done deal. Consider the entire customer chain.

According to Michael, B2B businesses shouldn’t deliver a single value proposition to all of the customers your product touches or treat them as equally important. Customers at different levels of the chain have different agendas and priorities, sometimes in conflict with each other. Customers at some levels will be more crucial to the success of the business.

“With B2B, you have to deliver value and influence behavior across that whole, long, complex chain,” he explained.

The chain may begin with the immediate customer, who incorporates your product into their product that is sold to a distributor, who in turn, sells it to a final user.

“You need to think about what value needs to be delivered across the spectrum of businesses, and perhaps, ultimately consumers, that your business and its products touch,” he explains.

Then, you need to prioritize these value propositions.

“Think about where in that chain it’s most crucial for a superior value proposition to be delivered,” he advised. “With a long B2B chain, the answer isn’t obvious. It often is not the one you deliver to immediate customers, even though they literally write the check. All value propositions you deliver across the chain must support and complement the most crucial one.”

 

4. A value proposition is not your whole strategy — just the driving vision for it.

Your strategy comprises your value propositions and how you will profitably deliver them. That strategy should include every nuance of how your business interacts with and benefits customers across your chain. It should inform how you:

  • Provide the value proposition, such as products, services, operations, distribution and partnering
  • Communicate it, such as through sales, advertising and packaging

Everyone in your business, and sometimes your partners as well, must understand and buy into this vision and how you will make it happen.

Through this strategic, customer-focused approach, your value propositions will still inform and determine what you communicate to customers. But they will be much more — they will form the heart of your winning, profitable business strategy.

 

You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.

 

You might also like

Direct from the Source: What a value proposition is, what it isn’t and the 5 questions it must answer [More from the blogs]

Michael J. Lanning’s Academic Lecture Series [From MECLABS.com]

Powerful Value Propositions [MarketingExperiments resource]

Value Proposition: 4 questions every marketer should ask about value prop [More from the blogs]

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Uncategorized , ,

Jessica Lorenz

Inbound Marketing: How a B2B company used a content marketing strategy to improve customer experience

March 23rd, 2015

Inbound marketing is typically a term reserved for B2C companies striving to draw customers in with flashy social media campaigns, witty tweets and beautiful infographics.

B2B companies have the very unique challenge of asserting themselves and becoming a voice of authority in their respective industries, and inbound marketing can be a powerful way to do that — the nuances of which are not just reserved for those speaking directly to consumers.

Starting off, attracting the right people and the speaking to the right audience is essential in a B2B inbound marketing campaign.

Using three simple questions that you can use to structure your own campaigns, see how Stephen Bruner, Marketing Manager of Vertical Markets, Precor, detailed  how the fitness equipment company successfully navigated an inbound strategy with a complex sale at Email Summit 2015.

 

Who are we speaking to?

Before you start sending a message, you first need to understand who it is that you’re communicating with. Different audiences require different perspectives, pieces of information and credibility indicators than others.

In the example below, Precor identified three key industries that it targets as customers. Each industry will demand unique selling points that will best serve the end user.

For instance, a traditional club gym might care more about user-friendly entertainment systems and headphone connectivity — features to distinguish them from competition — whereas an educational facility, such as a university gym, would want to know about longevity and quality of products.

12 month awareness

 

What message are we trying to convey?

Once you’ve established who your audience is, establish how you fit into the conversation. This can best be done by either accentuating the positive elements that they already have or reducing, even possibly eliminating negative experiences.

In the Precor example below, the team focused on reducing a pain point or anxiety that a future gym owner is facing. (Realize that Precor first targets a specific audience before refining the messaging.)

Although the content is from Precor, notice that they are not selling product at this level. The content is simply establishing who the brand is in the mind of the future gym owner. The message being conveyed is simply presenting Precor as a resource for fitness center owners.

Creating this type of shareable and digestible content makes it easy to follow Precor on Twitter, with the understanding that these articles will help owners alleviate pain points throughout their careers — creating an association of credibility with the Precor brand at the genesis of the business.

social example

 

What do we want them to do?

Lastly, establishing a year-long calendar for each persona is essential in maintaining a healthy relationship with your customers and followers.

In Precor’s example below, you can see the color-coded strategy for each persona across the year, having “flow-ups” through the second half of the year.

As you analyze the content schedule, you can see a very clear funneling throughout the year, pointing each group toward a purchase. Pointing, that is, but not pushing.

For example, from January to April, you can see the healthy content mix of infographics, videos, white papers, blog posts, with a few promos throughout. Fitness equipment is a complex sale, with expensive equipment and a limited budget.

12 month situational awareness

 

This is a very intentional use of email and social content, driving the customer down the funnel with informative and sharable content. This plan establishes when a conversation will happen in a logical order throughout the course of a year, focusing on the long-term relationship between Precor and its customer.

By establishing such a plan and creating a hub of content, Precor is not only helping customers make decisions, but also creating fans and building credibility within the industry as a valuable resource.

 

You can follow Jessica Lorenz, Event Content Manager, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @JessicaPLorenz.

 

You might also like

How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Leads [More from the blogs]

Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing [More from the blogs]

Lead nurturing via email series and content marketing [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

How to Use LinkedIn to Generate Leads

March 16th, 2015

You need to rethink the way you use LinkedIn. Without some of us even noticing, LinkedIn developed into a useful publishing platform and lead generation tool for marketers and sales people looking to build relationships with prospects.

But if you’re looking for an easy lead source, you won’t find it here. After using LinkedIn to build my own discussion groups, I’ve discovered that using LinkedIn as a lead generator can be a pretty simple process  — if you’re willing to invest a little time sharing your expertise and thought leadership.

Here are some ways to make the most of LinkedIn for lead generation:

linkedin

 

1. Create a polished and personally branded profile on LinkedIn.

If you haven’t already, spend some time perfecting your profile to make sure it is clear what you do and what your strengths are. Focus on your headline and summary. It should be compelling.

Your headline will automatically be displayed as the last job you’ve had, unless you do it manually. My friend Jill Konrath put together a great video on 4 steps to writing your linked in headline and summary. I’m starting to apply her lessons to my own profile.

Dan Schawbel of Mashable, the social media guide, suggests that you brand yourself for the job you want, not the job you have. For instance if you are Marketing Specialist for Toyota, reword it to say “Internet Marketing Expert for Fortune 500 Companies.” Schawbel also suggests that your profile include keywords that recruiters or any individual who uses LinkedIn as a talent search engine will be looking for. Ask for recommendations from clients and colleagues.

Also, be sure to leave your email address either at the end of the summary area or put it in the contact field labeled public. Don’t be afraid to update your status as often as you need to.

 

2. Connect and reconnect.

Start connecting with your current and past contacts, focusing on relationships where trust already exists. It’s easy to conduct a search on LinkedIn to find individuals you’ve lost touch with. These people usually want to help you as you want to help them.

Accept any invitations that make sense to you. When you get a new business card, look the individual up via LinkedIn and invite them to connect with you. If you’re just starting out as a LinkedIn user, you can import your contacts from Window Live, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! or AOL. Be sure to include your distinct URL in your email signature, on your traditional resume, on your blog, on your website and on your business card so that others can connect with you easily.

 

3. Reach out to former clients.

You can track what your former clients have been doing since you last saw them — with no awkwardness. When contacting a former client, instead of sending an open-ended message, make a positive comment about their achievements and ask questions about their new projects.

 

4. Join LinkedIn groups where your clients/customers gather.

Groups can be extremely powerful to your brand. Use Advanced Search to find practitioners within your firm and in industry at-large. Through these groups, you can learn a lot about your industry by tuning into the conversations. You may discover new industry-wide pain points and learn about options to solve those pain points. Learning more about your industry by watching from afar will give you real, everyday insight into ways you can help and connect.

 

5. Post relevant content on groups and answer targeted questions.

Start building your credibility in the group by sharing relevant content. This includes relevant blog posts, links to articles you have written, articles that quote you and event notices for webinars.

Be sure to stay sensitive to the dynamics of your group and don’t ever try to dominate the conversation. Your materials should be a resource, not a sales push for you or your prospects.

Answer targeted questions. Many group members use LinkedIn as a discussion board, and you’ll find many questions posted on any given day. Take time each day to answer a few or to post a few questions yourself. Answer questions that are relevant to your expertise or something you’re passionate about.

If you find a question you can answer well from someone who’s relatively senior in a company and you would like to do business with, take the time to write a detailed, high-value response. You never know who’s reading the information. Lots of members gain a foot in the door because of the expertise they lend to a discussion.

 

6. Check out individual profiles

Find out if your prospects contribute to blogs. Learn what events they are attending and even the books they are reading. This is the beauty of LinkedIn: how many other sources will tell you where senior execs of your prospect organizations used to work?

 

7. Use the information to turn a cold call into a warm call. 

An introduction received via LinkedIn is much warmer than a cold call because it comes with a bit of trust. You’re not the stranger trying to upsell something; you come with a recommendation from a person that the receiver is connected to, or you share a common membership in a professional group.

Even if you can’t find a path to connect to someone, sending a direct message via LinkedIn is better than sending a cold email because LinkedIn implies a business context. So when you are checking out a prospect, you can review their profile, discover their interest and determine if you have something in common with them to help warm up your call with them.

 

8. Search with Advanced Filters.

One of the best features of having a LinkedIn Premium account is being able to use Advanced Filters in search. Not only can you search by company and relationship, but Premium advanced search on LinkedIn allows you to search by function, location, seniority level and company size, too. Pair that with InMail, and now you can contact them directly without a referral.

When I write personal relevant emails with research I get via LinkedIn, I almost always get a response.

 

9. Create your own LinkedIn group and share relevant content. 

Starting your own group gives you control over its content and reach. You can choose to open the group only to people you know or if appropriate, and if you have the time, you can open it up to a much larger audience. The goal is to engage your audience and leverage your thought leadership to make a difference with members of your group.

LinkedIn offers tips for consultants using the channel to build their business, demonstrate areas of expertise and leverage their network. Check out the B2B Lead Gen Roundtable Group on LinkedIn. I founded this group, and it’s all about sharing ideas that focus on the many aspects of B2B lead generation such as lead nurturing, lead management, teleprospecting and more.

The group has grown to 17,742 members, but I’m even more excited about the quality discussions. I’m learning a ton from members. We have rules about what can and can’t be posted, and there is a group manager dedicated to ensuring that the rules are followed.

If you are going to do this, be ready for the time commitment this will need to be a successful group.

 

10. Post regular updates.

Spend a minute posting an “Update” or “what’s on your mind” to your LinkedIn network each day. You can use updates to share a link to an article, blog post or a video that you think is relevant to your potential customers and network. Or use the “Pulse” feature on your LinkedIn dashboard.

When you post an update, what you post gets displayed in the feed of all the people you’re connected with. Remember this isn’t the place to sell. However, don’t be afraid to share significant announcements or news either. Add value with each update.

It’s that keeping-up process that will spark conversations about opportunities for both you and your contacts. It’s in these conversations (which could also be done by email) that ideas will arise about prospective clients, possible partnerships and other revenue-generating projects.

Implementing these tips into your daily routine will require a time commitment, but it’s easy to join the conversation for a few minutes each day and check in with various groups. Also, LinkedIn is constantly evolving, so keep an eye on it. As it continues to grow, people will find new and smarter ways to utilize it. You’ll want to be there, ready to dive in.

 

Enter for a chance to win Welcome to the Funnel: Proven tactics to turn your social and content marketing up to 11 by Jason Miller, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn. The deadline for entries is March 22.

 

You can follow Brian Carroll, Executive Director, Revenue Optimization, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @brianjcarroll.

 

You might also like

MarketingSherpa Case Study: Using LinkedIn for Lead Generation: 6 Lessons

Forbes: 4 Best Practices For Generating More Leads On LinkedIn

Jill Konrath Research the #1 Facet of LinkedIn: Headline and Summary

HubSpot Blog: LinkedIn 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter [New Data]

Small Business Trends: 13 Creative Ways to Use LinkedIn for Lead Generation

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: Unique tracks and impactful tests

March 2nd, 2015

I was recently interviewed by Marketo for their Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing eBook, and I wanted to share some ideas that didn’t find their way into the guide as well as some additional thoughts on lead nurturing with you.

Here are a couple of questions they asked me that ended up on the editing room floor that I want to include here in the B2B Lead Roundtable Blog:

lead nuturing


What is one of the most unique lead nurturing tracks you have heard of someone creating?

Paradoxically, the most “unique” nurturing tracks are the most basic and have been executed long before the concept of lead nurturing ever existed: where a sales, marketing or customer service professional sends a prospect information focused specifically on meeting the client’s need.

Think relevance.

This is the essence of lead nurturing.

Lead nurturing is based on relevance, and what is relevant differs — even slightly — from person to person because we all have unique needs and motivations. Without relevance, lead nurturing becomes just another marketing campaign.

 

What is the most impactful test you’ve run for lead nurturing programs?

A global IT leader provided us approximately 50% of their leads generated that year (1,500 leads) that had not engaged with the organization for at least 90 days. We reviewed each lead to identify what motivated them and then phoned them. The conversation was based on their last engagement, and we concluded the call by asking the prospect if the IT provider could serve as a resource.

After three months of calling, 40% wanted to continue to be in the IT company’s lead nurturing program, 15% moved further along in the sales cycle and 7% converted into customers.

For an investment of less than $50,000, within three months the IT company gained $1.2 million in sales from leads that had essentially been untouched or forgotten.

 

A few more thoughts to share:

And, here are some more recent thoughts on lead nurturing which I’ll likely expand on in the future posts:

  • Lead nurturing supports the conversation of the customer before, during and after their buying process.
  • Sowing + Nurturing = Reaping. As you sow, so shall you reap. A relationship properly sown, tended to and helped-along lead should reap a long and bountiful harvest.
  • Lead nurturing is about building relationships through relevant conversations, not campaigns.
  • If your sales team is following up on nurtured leads, give them relevant and related talking points to use. The first impression matters. So does the second. And so does every single touch after that.
  • Consistency and relevancy are key. Don’t let up. Be consistent. No matter how busy you are, make time to do lead nurturing activities.
  • Treat “leads” like “future customers” because that’s what they are.
  • “Tell-and-sell” is a thing of the past. Become a trusted advisor by adding value with each interaction and sharing relevant information. Read what is and isn’t lead nurturing.
  • Nurture your existing customers. Don’t just emphasize new account acquisition nurturing. You should look to nurture your current customers with the same energy and optimism as you do with prospects. You’ll be amazed with the results.

definitive-guide-lead-nurturing

 

Photo Attribution for nurtured plant: englishme community

Photo Attribution for guide image: 2015 Definitive Guide to Lead Nurture

 

You might also like

Marketo blog: 2015 Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing

Marketing Research Chart: The ROI of lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing [More from the blogs]

Marketing Research Chart: Messaging tactics for effective lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

Lead nurturing via email series and content marketing [More from the blogs]

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Selena Blue

A/B Testing: How adding a second CTA increased clickthrough 291%

February 23rd, 2015

How do you serve “ready to buy” customers and “just looking” prospects on the same page?

You don’t want to alienate one group while speaking to the other. However, you still need to offer both sets of customers the next step they need no matter their level of interest.

To answer that question and more for one B2B SaaS nonprofit, Jon Powell, Senior Executive Research and Development Manager, MECLABS Institute, worked with Shari Tishman, Director of Engagement, and Lauren Wagner, Senior Manager of Engagement, both of VolunteerMatch.

VolunteerMatch was selected as the “client” for this year’s Email Summit live test. The team designed a three-part series of experiments, the first two leading up the interactive live test to launch tomorrow, Feb. 24, here at Summit.

Since today marks the first day of Summit activities I’ll be giving you a behind the scenes look at Test No. 2 of the series. Check out the MarketingExperiments Blog to learn about the test background and call for treatment ideas and to learn about the results and what they mean.

VolunteerMatchBefore we get into the specifics of this test, let’s review why this test is important to the series. The solutions page test will help us to understand the most attractive derivative value for actual sales-ready leads to include in the call-to-action section of the email for optimization at the Summit.

Basically, we should be able to take what we previously learned about prospects and transfer it to another channel of testing: email.

 

Experiment background

Primary Research Question: Which call-to-action variable cluster will achieve the highest contact page conversion rate?

Secondary Question: Which call-to-action variable cluster will achieve the highest total page click-through rate?

Test Design: A/B split test

Before the test

Prior to the test and its control, the VolunteerMatch team had already updated the call-to-action (CTA) on the product page. The original CTA read, “Let’s Get Started Together.”

CTA1
While the CTA did a good job of attracting customers across the spectrum of motivation levels, it seemed the pipeline became full of leads not motivated enough to move forward. This caused a lot of fruitless time for the sales staff.

Motivation

 

That led the team to create a new CTA, which is the control for this test.

 

Control

To limit the amount of leads entering the pipeline, so that there are more qualified prospects, the team changed the copy to “Contact Sales for a Quote.”

CTA2

Motivation2

 

However, this left no option for those prospects simply trying to learn more. This lead to the creation of the two-option CTA for the treatment.

 

Treatment

When conducting analysis on the solutions page, click tracking showed that 2.39% of visitors were leaving the page to go to the demo page.

Since that would be a useful place for prospects to learn more if they weren’t ready to buy, the team thought it would make the most sense as a secondary CTA. Instead of letting those lower-motivated prospects blindly stumble around the site, a demo CTA would allow VolunteerMatch to guide them there.

CTA3

 

The copy of the Contact Sales CTA was also changed. The team hypothesized that “Contact Sales” could have produced a high-level of anxiety in visitors.

There was also a lack of clarity. What exactly does “contact” mean? And what will a quote consist of? To help answer some of those concerns, the team developed the “Speak to a Director” treatment of the CTA.

 

Results

Let’s look at the metric results to the secondary research question: overall clickthrough rate.

Results

 

As you can see, adding another CTA increased overall clickthrough. The question after that would be if it this impacted the clickthrough to the Contact Sales CTA. However, there was no statistical difference between the control and the treatment.

In fact, no visitor who clicked through to the sales contact form page on the control filled out the form. However, of those who landed on the sales contact page from the treatment, 30% of visitors filled out the form.

Additionally, of the 8.1% visitors to click on the demo CTA, 12.5% of them converted on the demo.

 

What you need to know

It’s possible to serve two groups of prospects on one solutions or product page. There can be fear when adding a second CTA that you will lose clickthrough or leads, but you won’t know if you don’t test.

For VolunteerMatch, that wasn’t the case at all. The second CTA did not diminish clickthrough to the contact form page. Rather, it seems as if the update copy in addition with another option to learn more allowed better qualified visitors to click through, seeing as the rate of completion went up.

Additionally, we were able to better guide lower sales-ready visitors to a page that might be better suited for them: the demo.

Adding the demo CTA allowed us to decrease the need for unsupervised thinking on the part of visitors. If left to themselves, visitors might not have found the demo and could have left the site without gaining information that would have led to an eventual sale.

 

Email Summit live test

Be sure to attend Jon’s session tomorrow after lunch with VolunteerMatch — “Hands-on Live Test Lab: Learn how to improve your already successful marketing” — to contribute to the live test.

If you’re not able to join us here in Las Vegas this week, we’ll be sharing a case study about the Email Summit live test in the MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing newsletter after Summit.

 

If you liked to learn all of the top takeaways from Email Summit 2015, stay tuned to the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Newsletter. An event recap with everything you need to know will be published in the coming weeks.

You can follow Selena Blue, Manager of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute on Twitter at @SelenaLBlue.

 

You might also like

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 — February 23-26, ARIA Resort, Las Vegas

Lead Management: How a B2B SaaS nonprofit decreased its sales cycle 99% [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Generation: The power of copy [More from the blogs]

5 Traits the Best Calls-to-action All Share in Common [More from the blogs]

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Erin Hogg

Lead Generation: How an insurance company reduced acquisition costs in purchased leads

February 16th, 2015

Generating leads organically can ease the qualifying process, throwing “bad” leads out that are simply not worth pursuing. Growing a list organically also allows marketers to know more about a prospect right from the get-go, passing more qualified leads on to Sales.

However, when you start supplementing organic leads with purchased leads from a third party, how can you be sure you are getting the most bang for your buck?

According to the Salesforce 2015 State of Marketing report, lead quality is the No. 2 most pressing business challenge for marketers today.

Plymouth Rock, one of the largest insurance groups offering car and homeowner’s insurance in New Jersey, faced the challenge of ensuring lead quality.

“There are a lot of expenses associated with purchasing hundreds of thousands of leads annually, so we are constantly working to maximize acquisition economics,” explained George Hurley, Director of Marketing Analytics, Plymouth Rock Management Company of New Jersey.

The team at Plymouth Rock needed a way to ensure that the purchased leads were going to be viable with the ultimate goal of lowering acquisition expenses.

Lead Generation

 

Identify “risky” or “bad” leads

With so many leads being purchased by Plymouth Rock, the team determined it would be cost effective to bring on a tool that would help identify bad leads instead of doing it manually.

George and the Plymouth Rock marketing team categorize bad leads, or leads that do not sell, in terms of how that lead was generated.

For example, if that purchased lead was generated in less than five seconds, that would be a lead Plymouth Rock would not want to pursue.

With form fields containing multiple questions and often multiple webpages, George explained that oftentimes, it is impossible for a person to fill one out in less than five seconds.

Concurrently, the fraud detection product can also tell the team if thousands of leads were generated from the same IP address located in a foreign country. If that’s the case, it’s highly unlikely they would be looking into insurance in New Jersey.

 

Change the way leads are purchased

With the knowledge of how a purchased lead was generated, the Plymouth Rock marketing team now prefers to buy leads from aggregators and generators that are also using the tool to identify bad leads.

Using the tool for lead audit and fraud prevention is now a best practice for the marketing team, which has lowered expenses at Plymouth Rock.

“We hope that others in the industry will follow this practice, driving down expenses,” George explained.

The marketing team couples the data now known on how that lead was generated with another tool that provides insights into a particular lead’s authenticity. An example is a lead for “Mickey Mouse” at “123 Main Street” with a phone number of “867-5309,” which is clearly false information.

“There are very different purposes in the two technologies, but both work to eliminate leads that we believe to be bad leads,” he said.

 

Communicate successes across the organization

By better understanding how purchased leads were generated, the marketing team has been able to improve the relationships with the sales team because they are providing better-quality leads.

Results are communicated via monthly meetings with stakeholders, including multiple leadership departments, and the marketing analytics group pulls daily reports to demonstrate how leads are performing on any given day.

“We’re very heavily focused on the acquisition costs, so that’s a conversation piece we’re always having, but with the help of the advanced analytics team … we are also looking into lifetime value metrics,” George said.

Since using the lead audit and fraud detection tool, Plymouth Rock saw a 68.8% decrease in cost per acquisition and identified 528% more fraud.

The team also noted that almost zero percent of medium- and high-risk leads converted, confirming the success of carefully analyzing how purchased leads were generated.

 

You can follow Erin Hogg, Reporter, MECLABS Institute, on Twitter at @HoggErin.

 

Source: LeadiD

 

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How the Halo Effect Drives Lead Generation [More from the blogs]

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Building Your Strategic Lead Generation Portfolio [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing

February 9th, 2015

I was asked by a reader to provide some examples of what lead nurturing touches may look like.

Lead nurturing is something that’s fairly easy to understand, but for many, it’s become a frustrating thing to consistently execute for two reasons:

  1. Lack of content
  2. No plan for consistency

I’ve found that many marketers get stuck on not having enough good and effective lead nurturing content. My advice is to start accumulating and building your lead nurturing library now.

 

How do you build your library of relevant lead nurturing content?

A lead nurturing program can leverage existing investments that you have made in other marketing efforts such as trade shows, webinars, direct mail, PR and other marketing collateral by repurposing the existing content. Third-party resources and content can also be effectively utilized to bring you an aspect of credibility through the halo effect.

Begin by developing a catalog (think: library) of all of your lead nurturing content. Unfortunately, if you have a lot of content this can be tedious process, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Here are some examples of lead nurturing content ideas:

 

What can you send via direct mail?

Direct mail examples: personal letters, dimensional mailers, books, post cards, newsletters, press releases, white papers, event invitations, research reports, case studies, success stories and third-party articles

 

What can you send via email?

Email examples: links to bylined articles, blog posts, links to third party articles, case studies, press releases, white papers, e-newsletters, event invitations, archived event links, research reports, blogs, success stories, video, podcasts, third-party articles and website content

 

How can you leverage events?

Event examples: trade shows, live seminars, webinars, webcasts, executive briefings, workshops, conferences, road shows, speaking engagements and on-demand events

 

What can you do online?

Online examples include: blog posts, podcasts, videocasts, videos, webinars, e-books, personalized microsites, wikis and other multimedia. Be sure to give your audience a way to subscribe to get updates either via RSS or email.

 

What can you do via phone?

Phone examples include: share new ideas, develop relationships, confirm correct contacts, get internal referrals, get opt-in email addresses, personal invitations to events, reengage aged opportunities and identify sales ready leads

 

Nuturing channels

 

Here are some more lead nurturing content ideas:

  • Articles and media mentions — Email by lined articles written by you or about your company or snail mail reprints written by you on relevant topics to your future customers
  • Third-party articles — Email or mail links to articles of interest (that tie into your value proposition) to your future customers
  • Blog posts — Email links to recent posts you wrote or were written by others that will be relevant to your readers
  • Podcasts — Email links to recent podcasts you’ve done or have been done by others that will be relevant and interest your audience
  • Books — If you found a book that’s relevant to audience, you can send a copies or executive book summaries. One marketing consultant purchased bulk copies of my book (and shipped them to me to autograph; I happily obliged) and mailed an autographed book to each of his clients and top prospects. They loved it, and he got more business.
  • Handwritten notes or letters — When was the last time you received a handwritten note? Personal messages in your handwriting show you made an effort and value them. People appreciate effort that benefits them.
  • Emails — Email is a one-to-one medium. Keep your emails brief, relevant, helpful, informational, but not promotional.
  • Events — Invite your audience to trade shows, live seminars, webinars, webcasts, executive briefings, workshops, conferences, road shows, speaking engagements and on-demand events.
  • Newsletters — Print or email, or both, with articles that address customer challenges
  • Press releases — Will they value it? Maybe; just make sure the content (the news) is relevant to your readers.
  • Guides or e-books
  • Glossaries of industry terms, directories and how-to guides
  • Research reports — Presenting findings from your research or that have been conducted by third parties. You can break out charts and graphs and repurpose them into other channels, like blog posts.
  • Special reports — Think industry trends, what’s hot and buying guides.
  • Webcasts and podcasts — Send a link in emails.
  • White papers — Discuss industry trends and challenges, and solutions.
  • Develop a lead nurturing calendar — Map out your activities for each month, and then really follow it. Don’t just make irrelevant pitches more often. Create a plan to add value every time you touch your future customers with relevant ideas, content and resources.

The tactics employed and the frequency of touches will depend on the solutions being sold and the buying cycle of the prospect. Possible timelines might look like this example lead nurturing track:

  • Touch 0 — First contact phone call and follow-up “thank you” email
  • Touch 1 — Third-party article on pertinent technology via email
  • Touch 2 — Industry relevant case study via email with follow-up call
  • Touch 3 — E-newsletter with voicemail alert to check
  • Touch 4 — Third party article on pertinent technology via email
  • Touch 5 — Relevant white paper via email
  • Touch 6 — Targeted campaign via direct mail
  • Touch 7 — Relevant e-book via email with follow-up call
  • Touch 8 — Link to relevant podcast via email with follow-up call
  • Touch 9 — Free report via direct mail with follow-up call
  • Touch 10 — Invitation to webcast via email with follow-up call
  • Touch 11 — Call to invite to industry trade show and follow-up with registration link
  • Touch 12 — Prospect calls you and becomes a sales ready lead

 

The above example is pretty basic. It’s a single track process rather than a multi-track process. I have a client that started lead nurturing two years ago. They now have 18 different lead nurturing tracks with 27 steps based on industry, job function and role in the buying process.

This client told me, “Lead nurturing has given our sales force more sales leads than they can handle. It’s gotten to the point where we have to completely reorganize our sales department in order to accommodate the leads that are coming in. We have 90 percent more sales ready leads now than we did a year ago.”

It should note that this client reallocated 20% of their marketing budget to lead nurturing activities. They kept the rest of their budget intact but almost doubled their leads.

Stay tuned, I’ll be writing more about lead nurturing in future posts.

 

You might also like

Lead nurturing via email series and content marketing [More from the blogs]

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale [More from the blogs]

Marketing Research Chart: The ROI of lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

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