Set yourself up for success and ask the right questions upfront to build an effective lead generation plan.
Effective Lead Generation Plan – Hurry-up Offense
Companies spend so much time, money and energy building an offering that by the time the product is to be released, it requires the organization to move to a “hurry up offense” to build a pipeline—ideally this process starts when a development project is first funded. In short, fast food approaches to creating a lead generation plan to build a qualified pipeline will result in wasting dollars and time, increasing turnover rates in staff, lowering morale and sacrificing market share.
Effective Lead Generation Plan – Anyone Can Spend Money
The lead generation plan is where the rubber meets the road. Lead generation can be done by anyone, anywhere. In more cases than not, lead generation “activities” are assembled that are poorly designed and generate lackluster results. However, the perception is that there was a plan and money was spent so marketing failed. However, efficient and effective lead generation plans can only be designed, developed and executed by a small percentage of marketers who can balance strategic thinking with tactical execution. If focus is placed on the five fundamentals (served market, target account profiles, buying process, message and offer) described below you will avoid many lead generation pitfalls.
The lead generation planning model below is a high level diagram of what to be thinking about when crafting a customer acquisition initiative. In general, it is best to start with an objective that is highly correlated to your reverse engineered demand creation plan—this should be a plan that is mutually developed with Sales and Marketing. From here, the center of the model emphasizes the strategy development—how will you achieve your objective. Typically, messaging or offers are the next component to be developed. With these critical elements of the initiative in place, the appropriate demand creation vehicles become obvious. Of course, there are many more pieces and parts to the puzzle, but if you focus on the core components below and the interrelatedness of each, you will find that your initiatives will be more efficient and effective.
Served Market vs. Spaghetti Against the Wall
One of the most common mistakes companies make is to take a spray and pray approach to their marketing efforts. The argument for such a strategy usually centers on a belief that the offering is equally suitable for all users, all companies, all industries and all geographies or that it’s too difficult to identify the served market. While there may be some truth to the former and the later does take some doing, it will serve a company well to have a tightly defined served market and a compelling value proposition. This is not to say that organizations that are not targeted will never buy or that you should not go after these organizations at some point in time, but it is trying to communicate that your best ROI will come from following the rule as opposed to chasing exceptions. The constraint that should be forefront is that you have a finite set of resources (people, money and time) and all the wood for the Marketing arrow should be laser focused for optimized returns.
Effective Lead Generation Plan – Targets – Roles in the Buying Process
Simply deciding on what size organization (revenues, employees, industry, etc.) is a good start but it is not enough information to build a successful customer acquisition plan from. The real questions are: Who are you going to target in your campaigns? What are the names of the organizations? Who inside of these organizations should be targeted? What is their contact information (social footprint, physical address, telephone number, email address). What is their motivation and behavioral patterns? This is the critical step that cannot be properly managed with a call to a list broker, setting up a Twitter account or creating a Facebook or LinkedIn page. This can be accomplished via an integrated plan that embraces social media, classical marketing or a combination of both. The basic question that should be the driving force needs to be answered by Sales—what is the profile (TAP: Target Account Profile) of a qualified prospect that you would like to be placed in-front of (physical or virtual) and feel confident that you would close two times out of three, or more.
Developing the TAP is a give and take process that must include Sales and Marketing and must be centered around a documented set of assumptions that are mutually agreed upon. Why? This is your customer acquisition blueprint–this will help answer the questions of what is the market, who is being targeted, what is the value proposition, what are the offers, what are the right sales conversations and what is the follow-up process. When Sales and Marketing nail these questions it will have a huge impact on the qualified pipeline and on the effectiveness and ROI of campaigns.
The smaller and tighter you can make the target database of prospects the better as the amount of time and attention increases inversely with the size of the database. The bonus is that if you have a tight database, your budget goes further. For example, if you have $100,000 and chase 10,000 companies you have $10 per organization, however, if you tighten the list to the 500 best prospects you now have $2,000 per organization.
Effective Lead Generation Plan – Messaging – Sales Conversations
There are too many companies chasing the same set of buyers—usually 100 to 1,000 with a message that a buyer will lump together (what’s already in there mind, the way they view your offering, the way they view competitors and substitutes). Unfortunately, the words and images offered by each company creates a slur and blur in the prospects mind. If a prospect can remember a message there is still a challenge to correlate that message with your company, as other companies are in contact with that prospect as much, or more often, than your company–even major consumer brands have this problem
It is critical to have a message that is compelling and resonates with your target audience. The first step in offering a compelling message is to understand the business problem that you solve, the economic cost and benefits, the roles in the buying process, the competitive environment and the business drivers. This means it is imperative to develop an understanding of who these people are, what they are held accountable for, where they go for information, who do they trust, what are they trying to accomplish, how they have made purchases in the past, etc. (persona, journey board and behavioral model). From here, a set of strategic and tactical messages can be crafted that will be meaningful for the different roles in the buying process and will cut through the clutter.
All communications need to be consistent and reinforce one another with a similar, tone, look and feel. That means the website, presentations, offers, social outreach, email communication, voicemail scripts, call guides, etc., need to be developed from the same communication/messaging platform.
Effective Lead Generation Plan – Offers – Not After Thoughts
The offer should not be an afterthought or a quick peruse of what happens to be available at that point in time. The basic premise of a customer acquisition initiative is to initiate, develop, advance or cultivate a relationship with a prospect or customer. Assuming new customers are the focus, the real question is what could be provided to the prospect at a point in time that would encourage them to provide their contact information, create a positive impression, influence their knowledge/agenda, indicate that they are interested or ready/willing/able to purchase. Once you have identified these motivational elements you are well on your way to establishing compelling offers for your initiative.
Effective Lead Generation Plan – Follow-up – Don’t Let the Fruit Rot
Last but certainly not least, is follow-up for each initiative. The best customer acquisition initiative in the world will be significantly hindered with poor follow-up and/or weak or nonexistent hand-offs between Marketing and Sales. On average, an inquiry will need to be touched at least 10 times before it becomes warm, cold or a referral. This is why it is imperative for Sales and Marketing to work collaboratively so that there are clear expectations, consistent terminology, clean processes, auditable systems and specific roles and responsibilities. At a minimum, terminology around the sales forecast, target account profiles, call guides, voicemail scripts, email follow-ups, SFA tracking requirements, qualification matrices, weekly quotas and reporting should have been disseminated and communicated to all.
Marketing is part art and part science. Many times a stake has to be placed in the ground because of time, money, resources, etc. Even in those situations, take at last 10% of the timeline of the project and use that time upfront to think and plan. Socialize data, thoughts, assumptions and document as much as possible. When the organization acts as one is will be more powerful and successful.
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