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Brian Carroll

15 Tips to Generate More Leads in 2015 (Part 3, featuring tips 11-15)

January 26th, 2015

To kick off the new year, I’m sharing 15 ideas on improving your lead management. I have so much to share that I’ve split this post into three parts (you can read Part 1, with tips 1-5, here and Part 2, with tips 6-10, here), and today will be the final Part 3, with tips 11-15.

As you’ll see, this series isn’t just about getting more leads but about generating better and higher quality leads. These 15 tips (across all three blog posts) will help make your lead management more effective.

Without further ado, here is the final Part 3 of this three-part series, featuring tips 11-15:

 

11. Use a single voice when communicating with leads

People pay attention to who is sending them emails. Anonymous email servers may save money and be scalable, but they don’t build connections. The re-engagement process has to start with a human being.

You need to have a person behind the email and the phone call. Also, it should be the same person. Our goal is to build the relationship through one person to the point to where the lead is sales-ready, then hand that relationship off to the next person.

 

12. Nurture organizations, not just people

It’s important to have a closed-loop feedback system so that you can track all activities with all leads inside an organization.

Especially with B2B, selling happens at a corporate level and a business unit level in addition to an individual level. You need to be able to track interactions to be able to determine the program of selling the entire organization.

 

13. Market to the role, not the title

It seems like everyone is a vice president these days. You need an intelligent process to identify the person’s function and role in the company, rather than going by title.

With a recent MECLABS partner, we developed a process for determining a contact’s function in the company based on a series of conversations. Unless you do that, you don’t have a way to segment your lead accurately and send them the right content for where they are in the buying cycle.

 

14. Have a clear hand-off process between Marketing and Sales

The point at which Marketing hands a lead off to Sales is like a relay race — it’s important to keep moving fast without dropping the baton.

For one partner, we got Sales to commit to contacting all leads within 48 hours if they had the following three things:

  • The lead conforms to the universal lead definition
  • Confirmation that the lead wants to speak to a sales representative
  • Qualification information for each lead

It’s important to document the process so that both sales and marketing can track all steps and evaluate the process objectively. This documentation is shown in the following figure:

Sample 1

 

15. Create a process for joint marketing and sales “huddles” to gauge progress

A football team would never think of skipping the huddle between plays. Sales and Marketing should view their work together in the same way. They need to talk frequently about what’s happening with their leads if they want to see ROI.

It’s important to close the loop on every lead and to talk about ways to improve the process. In my experience, Sales and Marketing should huddle on leads at least once a month.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • How many of the leads we’ve given you in the past two weeks are active?
  • Have you talked to them?
  • Are you moving forward?

It’s also important to celebrate wins together as part of these huddles. You need to feel that you are all part of the same team. When that happens, you start seeing improvements at all levels.

For example, one partner had an administrative person at the meetings enter information about leads into the CRM system as people were talking. Soon, sales began to see why they needed to capture accurate information about leads in the system. If they do it, they can see that nurturing will happen on their behalf.

 

Key takeaways from this three-part blog series

  • Marketing must create a marketing funnel to develop sales-ready leads and nurture those that aren’t ready to buy.
  • Sales and Marketing need to agree on a universal definition of a lead.
  • The hand-off process between Sales and Marketing must be clearly defined so that leads do not languish or become lost.
  • Sales and Marketing must have regular meetings to gauge progress.

 

Bonus material: 

Embed the passion in your organization

Building clarity around the lead process helps build passion for making a difference in your organization. It creates closer ties between Marketing and Sales and helps Sales do its job better than ever before. You will begin qualifying leads in a disciplined and rigorous way.

No more dropping the baton in the hand-off between Marketing and Sales. That will bring a significant improvement in revenue generated from marketing.

 

You might also like

Where’s the Passion in B2B Marketing? [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: How to empower your program like Siemens Healthcare [MarketingSherpa webinar archive]

Marketing Research Chart: SEO most effective tactic for lead gen, but also among the most difficult [MarketingSherpa chart]

Lead Generation: 3 questions every marketer should ask themselves about incentive [More from the blogs]

Marketing Strategy , ,

Brian Carroll

15 Tips to Generate More Leads in 2015 (Part 2, featuring tips 6-10)

January 19th, 2015

For the new year, I’m sharing 15 ideas on how to make your lead management more effective. There is so much to share, I’m splitting this post into three parts (you can read Part 1 with tips 1-5 here), and today is Part 2, featuring tips 6-10.

This post isn’t just about generating more leads; it’s about generating better and higher quality of leads. These 15 tips (across all three blog posts) will help make your lead management more effective.

So, without further ado, here is Part 2 of the three part series, featuring tips 6-10:

 

Lead Nurturing Funnel6. Define lead nurturing — and which leads you should nurture

Lead nurturing is a relevant and consistent dialog with viable potential customers, regardless of their timing to buy. The people to be nurtured are generally those with whom you’ve had a direct meaningful interaction via phone or email and who are in companies that fit your preferred profile. The point is to build a relationship with them over time without trying to qualify them during each interaction.

 

7. Filter content by role and by the stage of the buying process

Executives get too much undifferentiated content. However, if you can demonstrate that you’ve done some filtering on their behalf, you can get through to them.

We found that readership went up significantly by sending one targeted piece to leads rather than a generic newsletter targeted to everyone.

Begin by asking your sales team:

  • What questions do your customers ask most often?
  • What do they care about?
  • What issues are they facing?
  • What content have you shared that has helped the most with conversion?

In addition, ask your sales team about the prospects involved in the buying process and what challenges they all have in common. Try to get Sales to articulate the problem they are trying to solve. Then, you can deliver the content and help Sales find what its looking for at each stage of the lead nurturing process.

Find content — such as articles, blogs and white papers — that addresses these issues. Pass this content by your sales team, and ask them whether their customers would value it. As much as you can, repurpose content. For instance, white papers can be transformed into articles, and articles can be transformed into blog posts.

A job title can give you clues about a prospect’s role in the buying process, but it’s best to determine their role through a phone conversation and a series of questions. Once you’ve determined who they are, you need to support a continuing conversation.

For example, if you have a webinar, send them a follow-up email with more information. Afterwards, call to ask, “Did you find that webinar helpful? Did it bring up other questions?”

 

8. Touch leads frequently

To remain relevant during the nurturing process, you have to be consistent. My threshold for consistency is to reach out to leads at least once a month. Different marketers have different thresholds, but I would say that quarterly isn’t enough to be remembered — there is just too much noise over that timeframe.

 

9. Don’t sell; educate and help

Most case studies and whitepapers have a sales edge to them. That won’t work for lead nurturing. The content must be educational and helpful. One MECLABS research partner worked with an outside publisher to develop educational webinars and brought in some editorial support to help them develop some thought leadership pieces that didn’t focus on products or sales.

 

10. Use third parties to add credibility

Most marketers try to generate all the content they send to leads themselves. However, third parties can do that work for you and, more importantly, validate what you are doing in the marketplace. For example, one partner started partnering with analysts covering their industry. They paid a fee to repurpose the research and shared it with their target audience.

Meanwhile, linking to third-party media articles costs you nothing. You don’t need to get permission to send hyperlinks to articles that you think are relevant. It helps to personalize the emails. For example, you could write something along the lines of, “I saw this article in IndustryWeek that I thought you might find relevant based on our last conversation.” Having clear profiles of the different leads means that you can somewhat automate that process.

 

Image Attribution: Keith Hoffart

 

You might also like

Lead Generation: How one company increased leads 96% by changing the presentation of incentive content [More from the blogs]

B2B Lead Generation: 6 social media tactics from 7 experts [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Lead Generation: How to empower your program like Siemens Healthcare [MarketingSherpa webinar archive]

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

Lead Generation , , , ,

Brian Carroll

15 Tips to Generate More Leads in 2015 (Part 1, featuring tips 1-5)

January 12th, 2015

It’s a new year, and you’re likely kicking off marketing and lead generation programs to drive more new leads for 2015. Most new leads go nowhere. Why? Often, it’s because Sales and Marketing have not agreed on a true lead definition and have not created a joint process for finding who’s ready to buy and building relationships with those who aren’t.

It’s not about more leads; it’s about doing better with the ones you already have. Here’s how. In this extended post, I’ll share 15 ideas on how to make your lead management more effective. Because there’s so much to share, I’m splitting this post into three parts of five tips each with today’s post featuring the first five.

 

Example 11. Create a marketing funnel, not just a sales funnel.

Most organizations don’t have a marketing funnel. Instead, they have a sales funnel that looks more like a bucket with lots of holes in it where leads leak out. Marketing needs to create its own funnel to understand whether leads are Sales ready or not.

The purpose of the marketing funnel is to bring leads into one spot and qualify them. By qualifying them, I mean that they are ready to talk to a salesperson. Then, there is the hand-off process between Marketing and Sales to consider.

I find that connecting the marketing and sales funnels together is really a big challenge and that is a big stopgap for most demand generation programs. You have to understand your sales process to know at what point the sales team views a lead as an opportunity and begins actively pursuing it.

The bigger and better you make your marketing pipeline, the bigger and better you make your sales pipeline. In the end, this isn’t about generating more leads; it’s about generating actionable leads. The marketing funnel creates sales-ready leads while nurturing the leads that aren’t sales-ready.

 

2. Create a universal lead definition. 

If you are trying to measure lead generation and you don’t have an agreed-upon definition for the word, you won’t be successful — especially in high-growth organizations where the number of leads is growing all the time. In this situation, salespeople will have a tendency to focus on those companies they already know and relationships they already have, ignoring the others. They need to keep their numbers up and not trust uncertain leads to move the needle.

To get past this, you have to sit down with the sales team and ask, “What are the major things that you need to know in order for you to feel that something is viable?”

In my work with one organization, these are the key points of information that Sales often wants to know about a lead:

  • Role in the organization
  • Authority is in the buying process
  • Business need
  • Timeframe for buying
  • Defined internal initiative
  • Stage of investigation

It’s important to remember that the lead definition process is iterative. It’s not a one-and-done thing. Revisit the definition and make changes. Also, make sure you’re asking questions, such as are we asking the right questions?

 

3. Use the phone.

The phone is the gold standard for qualifying most leads. We found that you can email, you can do Web profiling, you can measure all these touch points, but in the end if you want to know something, you need to talk to someone and engage them in conversation.

For further reading on this, you might also like to check out: How to Put the Customer First in Lead Generation  and Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing.

 

4. Ask about goals — don’t sell.

One of the mistakes we see in lead handoff is that Sales sees that someone downloads a whitepaper, so they do a follow-up call and want to set up an appointment. That’s not going to get you anywhere. You want to be able to engage them in more of a discussion rather than trying to make an immediate qualification.

To do that, you need to ask a question: What question were you hoping to answer by downloading our white paper?

The next question is, was that you asking the question, or was that someone else in your company asking the question?

The goal is to be a trusted advisor or a relevant resource to your audience until they move to the point of being ready to talk about initiatives or even a specific project.

 

5. Create a process for re-engaging “dead” leads.

Consider going back to your year-old or older leads and re-engage them in some meaningful way. I shared this case study at MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Summit.

At InTouch, we helped a partner re-engage 2,500 leads by simply calling them based on what we knew from their profile data on the Web form. We reminded them of the interaction they had had and asked if we could be a resource for them.

The follow-up touch was an email. Of the group, 40% were people that were still interested but had no defined initiative. They were prime candidates to be nurtured. A further 15% were ready to become sales leads, and 7% converted into sales. In total, we invested $40,000 to do this work, and the business was worth $1.2 million.

 

You might also like

A/B Testing: How to improve already effective marketing (and win a ticket to Email Summit in Vegas) [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: How to empower your program like Siemens Healthcare [MarketingSherpa webinar archive]

B2B Lead Generation: 6 social media tactics from 7 experts [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Marketing Research Chart: SEO most effective tactic for lead gen, but also among the most difficult [MarketingSherpa chart]

Lead Generation , , , ,

Brian Carroll

How the Halo Effect Drives Lead Generation

December 22nd, 2014

Building upon my post from last week, I was reminded of an important lesson I learned on influence that’s served me my whole life.

My dad taught me many lessons growing up, and one that stands out as relevant to lead generation went something like this: He said, “Choose your friends carefully because we become like the people we spend most of our time with, and [like it or not] we’re judged by the company we keep.”

He didn’t know it the time, but he explained how the halo effect works. In this post I’m going to explain how it applies to lead generation.

The halo effect works like this: By helping thought leaders and subject matter experts build their platform and influence, you will also build your influence and platform.

This MarketingSherpa case study, “How to Impress Conservative Fortune 100 Business Prospects by Allying With Academia,” demonstrates the practical application of the halo effect. It explains how Steelwedge, “a previously little-known software company became a trusted and admired brand in a couple of short years” and got the attention of Fortune 100 companies.

How? They built alliances with nuts-and-bolts professors in America’s heartland.

How do you get on the radar of thought leaders and industry experts? The following images shows how conversations, and in turn alliances, progress.

You’ll notice it’s a series of touches over time:

Example

 

This idea is already in the lead generation playbooks for most large consulting firms. We see the halo effect demonstrated in places like the Harvard Business Review, where it’s quite common to see business executives collaborate on papers with a professor or sponsor research projects.

These experts can become a source of speakers and webinar presenters. You may want to co-market an event and share the attendees list. There are also opportunities to post articles and materials by these experts on your website or as links in an e-newsletter. The ultimate objective is to have some of their credibility to rub off on you.

One way to start relationships with professors is to find those that have their own consulting practices. Think about how you help build their practice, and they may be more inclined to help you.

You can start putting the halo effect work by leveraging the four steps to I previously wrote a post on: “Lead Generation via Influencers and Experts in 4 Steps.” This post gives specific suggestions to help you get started.

 

You might also like

MarketingSherpa: How to Impress Conservative Fortune 100 Business Prospects by Allying With Academia [MarketingSherpa case study]

Inbound Marketing: Tech brand increases online sales 271% with original content and influencer outreach [MarketingSherpa case study]

Essential Guide to PR 2.0: Social Media Dos, Don’ts [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Lead Generation , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Lead Generation via Influencers and Experts in 4 Steps

December 15th, 2014

Proactively building relationships with influencers and industry experts is a powerful way to generate leads and positive word of mouth (WOM). Most of us know this as influencer marketing, aka influence development.

Influence development is a practice of building relationships with key individuals who have influence over your buyers’ decisions. There are multiple opportunities with influencer development, which include:

  • Getting more opportunities with people and companies you may have not otherwise engaged with
  • Increasing your close rate and reducing sales cycle time by earning an influencer’s “seal of approval,” thus leveraging their credibility
  • Increasing your influence via the “halo effect” by helping thought leaders build their platform, which will also help build your influence
  • Testing and refining your messaging and value proposition. Influencers feel the pulse in the marketplace, and you can learn how you’re perceived and what messaging works in the market by talking to people who live and breathe within each space.

Here are four steps to engage and develop leads via influencers:

Four Step Engagement

 

Step 1: Target — Map out the key players, experts and opinion molders in your industry

Look at speakers at industry events, authors, bylines of contributed articles in trade journals and blogs authors. Also be sure to interview your sales team and your potential buyers. This will give  you a pretty good map of the people you need to know.

 

Step 2: Focus — Research them, their companies and their clients or customers

Do they work with companies that fit your ideal customer profile? To determine whether or not your customer bases are similar, you can search for relevant keywords. You can also use tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Alerts.

Create your short list, and prioritize who you think will make the biggest impact. Remember, less is more. Build personas for your influencers. Clarify your value proposition from an influencer point of view by answering the following:

  • Why should I pay attention?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • What’s in it for the people I influence? (i.e. my customers, audience)

 

Step 3: Execute — Engage them and be relevant

The following chart shows how influencer engagement might look. The point is to see it as building a relationship and a conversation over time.

Also, Kevin Cain’s post on Convince&Convert has some great suggestions on how to engage influencers and what to say:

Conversation Over Time

 

Step 4: Measure your results and make adjustments

Developing an influencer program takes time, but as you measure you can make adjustments.

Here are some questions to ask as your measure:

  • Can we see the impact our influencer program is having on targets?
  • What testing can we do to determine if we’re targeting the right influencers?
  • What can we do to improve?

Influence Marketing Program Q1 Report

 

Bonus material on influencer development:

Many influencers and experts will give you permission to post their articles and resources on your website or newsletter. The “about the author” section will give them more exposure as well as position you as an expert because their credibility rubs off on you. This means you benefit positively from the halo effect.

As you build your lead generation program, your experts may be interested in codeveloping white papers, special research reports, articles and even events with you.

Experts and influencers pride themselves on their professional integrity, so they will likely refer business to you and a competitor (assuming you have them) at the same time. You will still have an edge by investing in the relationship. They are more likely to favor someone who has shown an interest in them and given them value.

Why does this work? You begin by being genuinely interested in their business. Secondly, experts stay experts by continually updating their knowledge of industry trends, information, key players, tools and ideas.

Experts need to be “in the know.” Consider this as you engage them. They will continually seek out other relevant resources that could possibly help their clients. If you can be a good resource for their clients, they need you.

Finally, when experts are doing their consulting, writing and speaking, they are not completely focused on new business development. The result of this is many experts and influencers go through phases of feast and famine. You and your company could be sales lead referral source for them as well.

 

You may also like

Influence the Influencers: 5 Tactics to Generate Demand [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Amplify Your Content Strategy with Influencer Marketing [Via Convince and Convert]

Lead Generation: It’s all about building relationships [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing in 6 Simple Steps

December 8th, 2014

What’s the quickest, cheapest way to implement lead nurturing?

I get that question frequently when I talk to marketers about lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is pretty easy to understand, but hard to execute when you have little time or budget.

I thought I’d share my barest-bones lead nurturing strategy. I’ll do my best to resist the urge to elaborate. Volumes could be written about each bullet point. In fact, they have been.

 

Step #1. Set up your nurturing database

Include all of the people you could potentially sell to, such as people you’ve met at trade shows, who have spoken with your sales team and who have responded to your website.

 

Step #2. Review your database

What do you know about the people in it? What industry are they in? What are their titles? Where did you get their names?

B2B Personas

 

Step #3. Segment your database into personas

Not everyone is the same. Make sure you understand what each persona looks like, their needs and goals, what information they’re looking for and how they prefer to receive their information.

Persona Example

 

Step #4. Decide what information would be most relevant to them 

Begin by asking your sales team, “What questions do our customers ask most often? What do they care about? What issues are they facing?”

Find content – articles, blogs, white papers and the like – that addresses these issues. Pass this content by your sales team. Ask them whether their customers would value it.  As much as you can, repurpose content. For instance, white papers can be transformed to articles and articles to blog posts.

 

Step #5. Email prospects this relevant content, but whatever you do, don’t pitch

These should be simple emails that are written as if you are speaking to them directly. Be genuinely helpful.

Provide your sales team with email templates so that they can follow up and engage in their own conversations.

 

Step #6. Follow up with a human touch

Make a personal connection and follow up emails with phone calls to directly gauge prospects’ interest. Never rely on email alone.

Lead nurturing can be executed without expensive marketing automation tools; there are plenty of simple, low-cost platforms to start off with.

You can create databases in Excel and run mail merges from Microsoft Outlook.

 

Here’s some extra lead nurturing material for a deeper dive into the topic

I hope this is helpful as you implement lead nurturing for your organization. I’d love to hear your tips on what you found helpful to get started with lead nurturing? What else have you learned to implement lead nurturing programs in your company?

If you want to dig deeper here’s some lead nurturing bonus material:

 

Checklist of lead nurturing questions

When you’re designing a lead nurturing program, ask yourself the following:

  • Exactly who do I want to nurture?
  • What problems does the prospect need to overcome each day?
  • What is the prospect’s top priority right now?
  • Do I know what the prospect worries about?
  • What messaging do I want to communicate?
  • What is the best way to deliver the message?
  • What action do I want the prospect to take?
  • Will I need to demonstrate my product or service?
  • How often should I strive to be in contact?
  • Which tools require direct sales involvement?

 

Thoughts on lead nurturing channels and timing

Lead nurturing is not a single marketing campaign. Instead, it’s better to think of it as a conversation.

Lead nurturing takes on the form of a series of steps and communication tactics with defined objectives and strategies that are tailored to developing and building a relationship with the potential customer – out of which will come conversations that convert to sales.

The channels you’ll use and the frequency of touches will depend on the product or service being sold and the buying cycle of the prospect. A general rule is to bring sales people into the process about six months before the targeted purchase time.

A simple lead nurturing path might look like this for your personas:

B2B Lead Gen

 

The mix and selection of lead nurturing channels and content should be based on what is being sold and how the specific market and prospect have been shown to prefer acquiring information.

I just covered using the phone and email, but you can use several channels, as evidenced by this mindmap of lead nurturing channels and content:

B2B Mindmap

 

You might also like

Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing [More from the blogs]

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

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

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

Lead Nurturing , , ,

Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: What it is, and what it is not

November 24th, 2014

Building on my post last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a marketer who was meeting with her new boss to explain the need for a new lead nurturing strategy.

The problem was that her boss felt their current integrated marketing campaigns qualified as lead nurturing. We discussed the challenges of communicating what is and isn’t lead nurturing.fortune-cookie

A lot of marketers say they are “nurturing” their prospects, when in reality, all they are doing is sending out nice brochures, landing page links or marketing copy focused on product releases or company announcements.

Starting to get my point?

Pretty, well-designed fluff is not going to “feed” your prospects. Creating a nice layout and clarifying your value statement isn’t going to contribute to the development of your client or your relationship with them.

Let me break it down even further by giving a few examples of what is and what isn’t lead nurturing.

 

Examples of what is NOT lead nurturing:

1. Sending out an e-newsletter on a monthly basis

2. Blasting your entire database with a new case study that’s unlikely to be relevant to many list members

3. Sending all early stage leads the same series of emails, regardless of their behaviors

4. Randomly calling leads every four weeks to see if they are ready to buy

5 Salespeople calling early stage leads every month just to “touch base”

6. Offering content that promotes your company’s products and services and does not take into account your prospects’ interests or needs at their stage of buying

 

Examples of what IS lead nurturing:

1. Sharing content that’s relevant and valuable, even if they never buy from you

2. Sending a targeted email that includes content based on:

  • Recipient’s industry and/or role in the company
  • Stage in buying process or interest
  • Previous conversations or content engaged that’s likely to be relevant

3. Helping to answer a question or offering more information

4. Sending information that is relevant to the recipient’s problem

5. Making calls based on touch point data that adds value to the interaction – being a “plus” to their day

6. Giving them useful information that sticks with them and/or helps them grow as an individual or company

 

It’s all about building trusted relationships with people. That’s what we really need to do instead of expecting to drive conversion from a single event or email. You do this by consistently offering relevant content in the context of lead nurturing and delivering value.

 

Image Attribution: The Vacant-Green Camera

 

You might also like

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: Pilot campaign increases conversion 32.6% with automated emails [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: 3-part funnel campaign creates 70% increase in inbound calls to sales reps [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: How intent data lifted a B2B email campaign’s CTR 248% and forwarding rate more than 400% [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing , , , , , ,

Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust

November 17th, 2014

I recently had coffee to catch up with my friend Jill Konrath and we were talking about new opportunities, ideas for the improvement of lead nurturing and I’m currently pondering my next book.

If you’re not familiar with Jill, she’s the best-selling author, sales guru and is a featured keynote speaker at companies like LinkedIn, HubSpot and many others.

Both of us attended Dreamforce 2014 (Jill was a featured speaker) and we stopped by number of trade show booths to see the different vendors and learn what’s new in their companies.trade-show

As you might guess, we both experienced lead nurturing follow-up after those visits. It was fast. They all used marketing automation to rapidly follow up with me via email.

But two things were missing: relevancy and trust.

For example, Jill was a guest speaker for one company at Dreamforce, but the marketing messages and phone calls she received after the event didn’t acknowledge they knew her, or that she was featured on their website.

Rather than pitch demos (that were irrelevant or unnecessary) I would have started by addressing what motivated us to stop by their booth. How could they help me right now? What might interest me in their offer?

 

Don’t sell – be relevant

Today’s prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold. People are weary of pitches, hype, pushy sales people and irrelevant marketing messages. They are time constrained and too busy to think. So what do they do with most of our sales and marketing messages? They simply ignore them.

There’s an incubation period that needs to happen before sales professionals can even think about taking the relationship to the next level. You don’t ask someone to get married on the first date – the relationship you’re looking to start with customers is built over time with trust.

 

You can’t automate trust 

Marketing automation can help you manage lead follow-up and lead nurturing, but you can’t automate trust.

Building that trust takes time.

Trust is earned by being helpful, relevant and honest with your prospects. Relevance is the foundation of lead nurturing, which is, at its core, a series of conversations.

Like real-time conversations, we can’t bore the recipients of our emails by talking about ourselves all the time – we have to discuss what they care about:

  • If all we do is focus on winning the sale, they’re going to tune out or opt out.
  • If we focus on how we can help them, we’re going to build trust, and when they trust you, they’ll stick around and likely buy whatever it is you’re selling.

My research shows that executive buyers choose the salesperson who has been a resource and developed a trusted relationship with them regardless of their timing to buy. These people are called trusted advisors.

The foundation of nurturing is relevance, which is knowledge of your potential customer and their world:

  • Know the likely problems they’re facing.
  • Know what makes their lives easier or harder.
  • Know how your value proposition helps them.

For this reason, I think it’s critical to contact and have initial conversations with future customers that are devoid of sales pitches. When we begin a conversation with those prospects, their attitudes and beliefs are being shaped and primed by the information they have already soaked up through various sources.

I think a perfect way to do this is through lead nurturing. A key aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to provide relevant, valuable content and information to prospects.

 

Build trust with lead nurturing

Look up the definition of “nurture.”

Here’s what a quick search of the Web will tell you: foster, help develop or help grow; the act of nourishing or nursing; tender care; education; training; that which nourishes; food; diet; sustenance; the environmental influences that contribute to the development of an individual.

Lead nurturing is all about having consistent and meaningful dialog with viable prospects regardless of their timing to buy. It’s about building trusted relationships with the right people. In the end, it’s the act of maintaining mind share and building solid relationships with economic buyers. It’s not about having a salesperson calling up every few months to find out if a prospect is ready to buy yet.

I’ll be sharing more on building trust and what is – and isn’t – lead nurturing in my post next week.

 

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

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

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

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

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Brian Carroll

Introduction to Lead Management

November 3rd, 2014

If Sales and Marketing were a manufacturing operation starting with raw materials — leads — and ending up with 5% to 20% in deliverable product — won sales — it would soon be shut down to determine what is wrong. However, companies continue to spend untold dollars on lead generation efforts ultimately doomed to fail.

 

Lack of lead management impacts lead conversion and ROI

I think the major cause for poor lead conversion and ROI is the lack of lead management, also known as passing unqualified leads, or marketing qualified leads (MQLs), directly to sales reps.

MarketingSherpa captured some of the key lead management issues in the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. Of the 1,745 marketers surveyed, the research showed the following:

  • Inverted Funnel68% of study participants have not identified their Sales and Marketing funnel
  • 61% send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified
  • 79% have not established lead scoring
  • 65% have not established lead nurturing

In my own experience working with companies, I’ve found the top issues include:

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs aka inquiries) have been sent to sales people without qualifying them first or sending leads to Sales based on lead scoring alone.

A lead nurturing program has not been implemented.

Sales has not been given the means to hand leads back to marketing to reengage for further work or nurturing on their behalf.

 

Lead management defined

Lead management is a multi-stage process that manages the conversion of sales leads to customers. It’s the process of managing and tracking customer interactions from first contact to close.

The above illustration shows map of lead management. You’ll notice the funnel is inverted because people are not falling into the funnel; they are falling out.

The idea is that the buyer’s pipeline requires a series of “micro-yes(s)” before getting to that “macro-yes” in the form of the final conversion-to-sale.

Here are the 5 major stages of an effective lead management process:

  1. Lead capture (Generating inquiries)
  2. Lead qualification and scoring (Are they engaged? Are they a fit? Are they sales ready?)
  3. Lead nurturing (Progressing early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent)
  4. Lead distribution (Handing off only “sales-ready leads” that meet the universal lead definition, aka ULD to sales)
  5. Lead tracking and reporting (Closing the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have your process for each of these steps documented and understood by key stakeholders? If not, start now.

 

Marketing automation alone doesn’t equal lead management 

Many marketers hope that buying technology and tools will help  marketing automation and drive better lead management processes.

Marketing automation can’t spontaneously generate collaboration between Sales and Marketing. It also cannot  create processes nor will it generate sales-ready leads on its own. Marketing automation tools just enable lead management, but they’re only part of the solution. There are more fundamental aspects of lead management that often get overlooked.

Lead management requires the following elements:

 

People

  • Dedicated resources (i.e. sales development reps, inside sales team) directly connecting and qualifying leads
  • People focused on getting the highest conversion rates on leads and the most efficient cost per opportunity

 

Processes

  • Centralized lead qualification process prior to sending leads to the sales team to filter raw inquiries and disqualify those that don’t fit your ideal customer profile (ICP)
  • Clear and universal lead definitions created with the sales team determining what exactly is a qualified lead
  • Provide qualification information for each lead while making it clear who owns the lead
  • Lead nurturing content marketing to help progress early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent
  • Rapid engagement of inquiries to qualify interest and fit
  • Clear service level agreements (SLAs) between Sales and Marketing on what Sales will do once they are passed a “sales-ready” lead.  Then, require a time-limit on a turnaround once leads are distributed, and track the lead throughout the process

 

Technology

  • Marketing automation tools to enable lead scoring to prioritize the human touch rather than replace it
  • CRM tools to manage inquiries and track sales lead interactions from first contact to close
  • Effective data management to cleanse bad data and append missing data on leads
  • Clear metrics to manage the process of inquiries: MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, closed vs. won business, etc.
  • Established training for sales reps on how to engage and convert qualified leads in the CRM

Companies that adopt effective lead management processes generate more revenue from their lead generation investment and have overall higher close rates on marketing generated leads than those that do not.

 

You might also like

Building a Marketing Funnel and More Lead Management Tips [ITSMA article by Chris Koch]

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop [More from the blogs]

Lead Management: 4 principles to follow [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: 2 simple tactics to determine cost per lead [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

10 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Conversion Rate

October 27th, 2014

The ultimate goal of B2B marketing and lead generation is to help the sales team sell. Marketers spend a lot of time and effort creating inbound leads but struggle getting those leads to convert into customers after they hand them off to sales.Following Up

As I talk to marketers about their lead generation results, I often hear statements like, “We’re generating lots of leads, but they aren’t converting” or “We need to increase lead quantity” or “We need to generate more qualified leads.” Does this sound like you or someone you know? I’m going to share 10 levers you can use to improve your lead conversion right now:

 

1. Shorten your follow-up time and do it personally.

The velocity of following up matters. When people ask for information, they expect a rapid and personal response. Numerous studies show that swift follow-ups increase conversion. Make sure your email reply has a real person’s name on it. Remember, people buy from people. The more you can humanize your lead follow-up the better.  Use your manners. Read, call or email? That’s the question.

 

2. Go beyond what they expect.

The way you treat your leads tells them about how you’ll serve as customers (from generating interest, through nurturing and into your sales team). Go above and beyond, especially when it comes to those leads that fit your ideal customer profile. It can be things like giving them extra relevant content they didn’t expect or, if they attended a webinar, giving them a follow-up executive summary or an extra white paper that’s relevant. Serve them.

 

3. Qualify leads with teleprospecting to help maximize the sales team’s effective selling time

80% of marketing leads are lost or discarded, according to  a MarketingSherpa presentation delivered at B2b Marketing Summit 2009. The biggest reason? They’re not ready to talk to a salesperson. The prospect may have responded to marketing campaigns and provided basic contact information, but sales professionals need much more than that. They need a valid business reason to talk to them, and you’re not going to get that on a web form. Improve your lead qualification process to increase “sales ready” lead conversion rates. Delivering leads that your sales team really wants based on your universal lead definition.

 

4. Understand buyer motivation to help you share content that helps them convert.

Without being annoying, you need to stay in their radar until they’re ready to talk to you.  It’s critical in lead nurturing to know where a prospect is in their buying cycle so that helpful information relevant to the need at a specific point in time can be delivered. Knowing when to provide a case study versus a technical white paper versus a product demo can make a huge difference in converting a lead to a sale.

 

5. Create content geared toward lead progression, not lead capture.

Invest as much in creating 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. Sales people 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?”

 

6. Focus on increasing relevance with your lead nurturing.

Relevance is critical lead nurturing. Like most marketers, you’ll start with a more general focus, but the key as you begin learning about your prospects’ unique needs lies in tailoring your lead-nurturing content. This is where using marketing automation can help you understand more about your customers based on what content they’re engaging. As you learn more, you can move from more general content toward content you’d share in a one-to-one relationship.

 

7. Leverage and test lead scoring to focus the human touch, not replace it

Most marketers use lead scoring as the only means of lead qualification before they route leads to their sales team. Lead scoring should prioritize the human touch, not replace it. Develop your lead scoring system to be consistent with opportunity potential. Not all leads are equal in value and shouldn’t be treated the same. Leverage your ideal customer profile and build segmentation to look at which leads converted into customers. Then, use this information to begin predicting those that will become future customers. Also, leverage lead scoring to help you track engagement. By focusing more on the best prospects, your conversion rates will rise.

 

8. Improve Sales, marketing systems and process alignment.

Make sure your entire team knows how you generate and qualify leads, where they’re stored, how to follow-up and engage them, what’s expected of them, how to use the CRM and how to convert leads correctly. Let your entire company know you’re past conversion rates and current outcomes. You can make a huge impact by focusing first on creating an Ideal Customer Profile (company-wide, for each product, service or solution). Then, create the Universal Lead Definition of a “sales-ready lead.” Finally, connect the marketing and sales process to the customer’s buying process.

 

9. Re-engage past leads and get more out your investment.

The year-end push is on, and I know you may be wondering, “What else can I do to drive more revenue with little or no remaining budget?” I’ve found the best way is to focus on the leads you already have. Get your sales team to hand leads back to marketing for re-engagement. Lead reengagement is one of the most powerful ROI tools marketers have available to them. Why? You’re getting more out of the money you’ve already spent by going deeper within the opportunities you already have. It seems like common sense, but the reality is, very few companies think about it because they assume it’s Sales’ job.

 

10. Engage in lots of testing beyond lead capture.

It’s important to think of lead generation as a process that can be continually improved through ongoing testing and refinement. Most marketers stop testing after the first step of lead capture (getting people to raise their hand). However, testing hot to increase conversion after they leads respond can have a huge impact on results. One of the most important things you can test is your messaging.

I look forward to hearing how these ideas work to help you increase lead conversion.

 

Photo Attribution: Jack Rose

 

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B2B Content Marketing: 100% increase in lead gen for customer service software company [MarkeingSherpa case study]

B2B Email Marketing: How a global information company transformed from batch-and-blast to persona-driven email marketing [MarketingSherpa video replay]

Ecommerce Research Chart: Overall conversion rates [MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week]

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