Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lead Generation "Insights". Yeah Right!

lead nurturingRainToday which is typically a pretty good source for small B2B companies looking to market professional services almost blew it with their new research report called "What's Working in Lead Generation". While I didn't purchase the complete report, I had a look at the executive summary and wasn't impressed until the last few points. In the downloadable PDF, they provide 6 lead generation insights for 2007. These insights are really not that insightful. Here they are:
  1. Brand Matters. Really? I was "surprised" to read that those companies that have a stronger brand recognition generate more leads. Note the heavy sarcasm.

  2. Know Your Target Market. Are they serious? This seems pretty obvious. It was even more obvious that the companies that know their target market (includes knowing which companies to target, knowing the titles of the people of these organizations as well as the specific people) tend to generate more leads. Wow, that's groundbreaking there.

  3. Cold Calling Works. I don't even know where to start on this one. It's fairly logical that proactively calling someone will generate more business then just sitting on your ass. If you have your act together and have a decent strategy, you'll never really need to purely "cold call". This ties in with the next "insight"

  4. Integrate Your Tactics. This too is obvious to some marketers but was one of the better "insights" and demonstrated the strengths in combining different marketing channels such as email, direct mail and follow up calling. While it's easy to generate a list and blast out an email and wait for the responses to roll in, this obviously can't be your only tactic.

  5. Nurture the Leads you Have. OK, this was a good one because it's often overlooked. Many marketers talk about how many leads they generated at an industry conference and how many of those leads turned into sales. What about those leads that seemed to go nowhere - what happened to them? Were they not ready to buy yet? Did they not have the budget? What did your company do with these leads? A typical response I hear is that we don't really have a strategy here. Some companies rely on their sales team or demand generation team to follow up but do they really do this? Does a lead really want to get continuously nagged by a sales rep?

    RainToday notes that 50% of leads are not "sales ready" and require additional nurturing. This is crucial. By lead nurturing, I mean such practices as sending regular newsletters that demonstrate the expertise of the company in a particular industry inviting a prospect to a webinar and/or live event that provides tips to the target market and portrays you as a leader in your space. This is not just a "one-off" campaign but includes multiple touches over a specific length of time. Typically I see campaigns that direct targeted offers with relevant content that is delivered over a 1-2 month period. The goal is educate and keep in touch with a prospect until they are ready to buy your product or service.

    From my experience, lead nurturing needs to be easy to setup for it to work and you need to get buy in from all levels. The more automated it is, the better and the more you will get out of your efforts. Sales also has to be included in the planning process as they need to know that the goal is to help them and not get in their way. There are many times that I see these projects fail as sales (or the demand generation team) wants to send the messages themselves. Sales and marketing can work together. Lets repeat that. Sales and marketing can work together. That was pretty easy? :) For example, say marketing sends a prospect a new whitepaper on how to save your company money, sales should be able to see if the prospect opened the email and clicked through to the website and then follow up with that person. In this way, sales can focus on those prospects that are genuinely interested in your business. If they had the time to open your email or respond to a direct mailer, they shouldn't mind if you drop them a quick call.

    For the messaging itself, the relevancy part of this is crucial. Sending information that doesn't provide value to your prospect is a waste of time and can actually hurt you as the person may unsubscribe or look to your competitor.

    You can add complexity by sending different content based on the prospect's past behavior. For example, say the CIO your targeting doesn't open an email that you send, either send them another email with a different message or perhaps send them a direct mailer. This is easier to do then you think but does require a well thought out strategy. It's obviously worth it when you start to see those leads that were once considered losses turning into sales. You will also need a way to track which marketing initiatives helped get you the sale - in this way you can show your boss that the money you're spending is paying off and is not being "wasted". I always recommend starting small and monitoring the initial results. Once you prove that the strategy works, you can invest more heavily as you will have the proof to back up the needed resources to get it up and running and to maintain it. The main part here is creating fresh new content that will keep prospects interested.

  6. Indicators of Future Lead Generation. This section made no sense and was really just an ad for the entire report that I wouldn't purchase.
I would definitely recommend subscribing to RainToday's monthly newsletter but I wouldn't spend anything on the report unless your really new to this area. I would be more inclined to check out Brian Caroll's blog - even though he caters to the larger B2B deals while RainToday seems to focus more on the small biz market.

As a quick question, have you used lead nurturing? Has it worked? Any insights into lead generation that you want to share?



Anonymous said...

Hi Chad,

Good post. You're not mad though, are you? :)

I'd like to comment on a few of your remarks, as lead generation is difficult for many organizations.

Your sarcasm is well aimed at the branding issue. Sure, having a great brand is a huge asset, but how many companies (particularly smaller ones) can claim that? And what can they do about that today that will generate leads?

However, the target marketing is important and that's where lead generation starts. Now, assuming for a second that we're talking about a B2B firm with a reasonably complex (or considered purchase) sale. It's NOT just knowing your target market as Rain Today indicated. More importantly, it's having the messaging right...knowing what to say to uncover a need or develop interest. And what you say to accomplish that (what I refer to as Buyer Ready Messaging) varies between titles, as they all have different concerns.

Cold calling is a tough one. I recently did a post on unilateral selling, which is what's happening to most people, since voice mail and email often isn't returned. You're right that this is difficult, but I maintain that the success of this is tied specifically to A) targeting and B) messaging. The cold calling approaches that I've watched produce poor results are the ones where they buy a list and then use very typical, canned, scripted messaging. That won't work and it's a waste of money. I could go on forever here about how TO do this...

Nurturing makes sense. Absolutely. Consider that you exhibited at a trade show, or you advertised, or you produced a webinar...whatever the tactic, you INVESTED money generating those leads. When companies don't follow-up on a CONSISTENT, but COST-EFFECTIVE basis, then they're throwing those assets away. That doesn't make good business sense.

Everyone needs to remember that when prospects inquire, particularly B2B, they're generally in the early stages of buying. Only through ongoing nurturing and effective messaging will they ever result in leads and closed sales.

The nurturing tactics you use should depend on where the prospect is in the buying cycle. To know that, you'll need some sort of lead scoring system, and ideally, you'll want to automate your tactics to be executed from that. At some point, telephone follow-up is right tactic. But I caution you and your readers to INVEST heavily in training inside sales reps so that the messaging is relevant and appropriate to move the prospect through the buying cycle.

Brian does have a very good blog, and that's an appropriate read as well for your readers. Good luck with yours.

Tim Young

Chad said...

Tim - thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment. I definitely agree with you regarding having the correct messaging. For example, why should my business use yours over another one? What can you offer me? I also agree in terms of your points on automation as well as having different messaging depending where the person is in the buying cycle.

On another note, RainToday has contacted me and has provided me with their full report which I will read and provide an update on.

PS - no, I'm not mad. :) After a brief chat with the people from RainToday I realized that the marketers I deal with on a day to day basis are typically much more advnaced then RainToday's target audience. I needed to take this into consideration that not all of these "insights" are obvious.



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