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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]

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

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]

Lead Generation , , , ,

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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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

 

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Lead Nurturing , ,

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.

 

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Content Marketing , ,

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.

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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Lead Generation , , , ,