Diagnosis: Ailing Lead Gen
You may have a sense your lead generation efforts are anemic, ailing even. You’ve tried the (mostly) reasonable tactics, but results are mixed. You’ve done LinkedIn and Facebook, created paid digital ads, engaged “cold-calling” partners, attended trade shows; the list goes on and on. Yet, your unhealthy symptoms persist and may include:
- Too few at-bats with prospects
- Your close ratio of leads is lower than required; you hear, “we’ll think about it” too often
- Many leads are unqualified and most are concerned with price
- Sales reps don’t make ‘cold calls’ and if they do, they are ineffective
- A Sales and Marketing disconnect – Sales feels communication assets don’t speak to customer needs but struggle to convey the true value of your organization’s offer
- Marketing assets that emphasize benefits and features, but provide little insight about improved outcomes for your customers
In “Simplifying the Complex Sale,” Bob Apollo writes, “Every marketing and sales action and interaction needs to serve the purpose of facilitating the buying process.”
With Apollo’s wisdom in mind, we summarize the antidote to your ailing lead gen with the following best practices:
- Gather Voice of the Customer data to inform both Sales and Marketing; not customer satisfaction interviews. It’s the one version of the truth around which everyone can rally.
- Focus & Segment your efforts. Narrow your focus to a subset of prospects based on voice of the customer Find out what and who influences them, where they learn new ideas and how they communicate.
- Develop Messaging that emphasizes outcomes for your customers; not features or tasks. Highlight outcomes, blind spots in their industry, best practices, case studies and business case data.
- Go to Market with balanced tactics informed by steps 1 and 2.
- Apply Metrics to measure ROI and understand what tactics are contributing to qualified leads, and ultimately to the sales pipeline.
We want to hear about your lead generation challenges. And we also want to help solve them. Send us a note – we’ll be happy to discuss how, by working together, we can find a solution that fits your needs.
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BOLD Consultants Go Further
Recently, I read a client-recommended book by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler called “BOLD”. The title is the plot: go bold; go big; take moonshots. “BOLD” is simple, straightforward, yet easily forgotten-about business advice.
“BOLD” reminds us to give ourselves permission and hold ourselves accountable. To be bold is to break things, innovate, fail smartly and disrupt. As the authors point out, there is a cost to NOT being bold.
Kodak, the company known for camera film, is a classic case of the tragedy of complacency. Kodak became a victim of its own invention when it “hid” the digital camera because digital threatened its legacy film business. It passed on innovating and being bold.
Diamandis and Kotler got me thinking. Basic principles of economics tell us that without innovation, the gravity of time and competition destines each service and product to become a commodity. And for B2B service firms, maintaining a competitive advantage means to thrive with innovation and live at the intersection of unknowns.
A company can determine its market position based on a combination of knowns and unknowns: the literal product or service and the problem its product or service solves. Understanding a company’s market position is critical to identifying opportunities for growth and making smart, market-directed decisions. The chart below describes the market position for all unknown/known combinations.
Market Position Based on a Company’s Offering
In the Commodity quadrant, the buyer knows the problem and knows the solution, and all solutions are created equal except for price and convenience. Office supplies is a good commodities example. There is no value-add.
In the Solution quadrant, the buyer already knows what they need; they are not yet sure of the best solution based on such criteria as performance, price and special features. CRM software falls in the Solution quadrant where there is a degree of value-add, sometimes, in the form of unique engineering.
In the Consultative quadrant, the buyer is not realizing desired outcomes, but is unsure about the reasons for, or source of, the constraint: unknown problem, unknown solution. The indicators all point to a system that should have favorable outcomes, yet results are unsatisfactory. And they’ve likely tried and failed many times. They seek understanding, insight and a collaborative solution.
The Market Development quadrant is for those products or services developed to address niche markets. Often, they are funded by venture capital and establish a new product or service category.
If your desired market position is Consultative, innovation is necessary to defy gravity and maintain a unique market position. But let me help you know where to start. Your innovation process should look a little something like this:
- Through the voice of the customer interview process, uncover the answers that elude your customers.
- As BOLD recommends, you may consider developing a ‘lab’ as a separate functional area to build the model.
- The new model will have a discovery process for prospects and customers to gain deeper, collective understanding
- With the results from steps 1 through 3, develop your value proposition, emphasizing both the destination and the journey of the experience with your company
- Focus your value statements using Outcome Marketing
- Take the idea to a client, prospect, and test the hypothesis in a pilot setting
Your discovery process with customers and prospects will uncover the “unknowns” you need to solve. The winners will be, well, bold and disruptive.
The Evolution of Lead Gen
For years, generating leads to engage prospects was simple and straightforward. One person called another on a land line after finding their phone number in a phone book or directory. The goal was to catch the prospect in the office. After all, where else would they be between 9 and 5? The balance of power was fair, so it worked. The salesperson needed to deliver the message of their superior value, and the prospect needed to gather that information to weigh their options.
Voicemail and caller ID added a layer of insulation between the prospect and salesperson, but their effect paled in comparison to the development of email. One’s email address was not public as was one’s office phone number. Then, the cellular phone arrived – just try to find that number in the public domain. Hence, prospects became even more insulated and the Internet quickly became the source of information necessary to make decisions.
- According to Forrester Research, Nearly 2/3 of B2B marketers identified engaging key decision makers as their top challenge.
3 Content Types to Drive More Sales Leads
In social media, email marketing, and content marketing, there are three types of content that most effectively engage your target audience and help lead prospects into and through the sales pipeline.
1) Independent perspectives on target’s issues
Position your organization as a helpful and trusted partner by informing your audience of possible impending issues and related consequences.
2) Relevant case studies that focus on outcomes
Establish your position as a valuable resource by emphasizing demonstrable, favorable outcomes other clients have experienced with your organization.
3) Tools to help build a business case
Provide financial models to advance the conversation and enable your contact to become your advocate within the larger group of decision makers.
Using the above content types will help you figure out more ways to drive sales leads.
Fine Tune Your Sales Lead Engine
76% of CMOs identify finding high quality leads as their most challenging goal. (Fathom)
We are all trying to efficiently and effectively get more opportunities into and through the sales funnel, grow revenue, and strengthen our companies.
However, decision makers are overloaded, employ strong gatekeepers, have increasing time constraints, and are seldom making decisions without a committee. Together, these factors slow the decision processes.
How do you ensure your lead-generation engine is fine-tuned tuned to drive more sales in this new environment?
The 8-Cylinder High-Performance Lead-Gen Engine
Start with a strategic focus on those accounts you can serve best, where you know you have an unfair advantage.
2) Refined Value Proposition
Define and validate what is uniquely valuable about your offer by uncovering the voice of the customer.
3) Value Communications
Describe your value proposition in terms of problems solved, processes improved, and/or bottom or top line return.
4) Communication Channel Mix
Define optimal mix of channels to reach your markets.
5) Synchronization of Marketing and Sales
Bring marketing and sales together to generate leads, influence the decision process, and engage sales with prospects at optimal times.
6) Call to Action
Carefully consider and consistently communicate how you want prospects to interact with your marketing and sales tactics.
Not everyone is ready to buy, but these people can’t be ignored. With purposeful cadence and timely information, you can stay top-of-mind and help move prospects into and through the process when they’re ready, at their pace.
- Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads. (Forrester Research)
8) Monitor and Adjust.
The continuous and systematic monitoring, refinement, and testing of your pipeline engine will help you more efficiently drive more top line revenue, improving the bottom line.
You’ll need all 8 cylinders to increase the performance and output of your pipeline engine.
Why We Call It Lead Gen
For the last several months, we’ve been discussing (dare I say “arguing”) about what exactly to call our lead generation service. Some of the options we considered, but rejected, were:
- demand generation
- pipeline development
- revenue generation
- appointment setting
- …and about a half-dozen other similar variations.
Let’s start at the bottom, and work our way up.
While a large part of lead generation involves setting appointments, these campaigns also help identify warm leads who might not be ready to raise their hands for an appointment.
These sort of sales and marketing efforts do – often more directly than other forms of marketing – lead to increased revenue. However, they do not, on their own, generate revenue. The sales team still needs to do their job.
Cold calling, blind email campaigns, social media efforts, and other similar services definitely help fill the pipeline, but they don’t develop the entire pipeline. Our focus is at the top, identifying warm and hot leads for your salesforce.
The goal of nearly every marketing tactic is to create demand. In fact, many mass marketing tactics that are considered “awareness” tactics (TV, print, billboards, radio, etc.) are quite effective at generating demand. Our targeted outbound calling, email, social media, direct mail, content marketing, and remarketing are actually more about identifying need than generating demand.
Which brings us back to Lead Generation
While this term has been tarnished by hucksters running phone farms filled with untrained and unmotivated people reading from scripts to one barely qualified prospect after another, the term is still the most accurate description of what we do – reach out to highly targeted lists of prospects to identify potential customers.
So, what makes our lead generation (or lead gen) services better than others? The list is actually pretty long, but here are a few of them.
- Integrated, Multi-Channel Approach
- outbound calling
- direct mail
- social media
- content marketing
- Emphasis on Defining and Continually Refining the Value Proposition
- Targeted Lists
- Trained and Motivated Callers
- Careful Metrics Tracking to Refine Marketing Mix and Message
- 30 Years of Experience Helping Clients Sell Stuff