It’s the classic sales and marketing paradox: The tighter the economy, the tighter the marketing budget – even as sales’s demand for more and better leads increases exponentially. In an economic downturn, demonstrating a quantifiable return on each marketing dollar spent is more important than ever.
But successful prospecting is about more than simply getting as many leads for as little money as possible. As Aaron Ross of Salesmachine.com states, “The truth is that sales people care very little about the cost of the leads we generate. What they really care about is how many of those leads will actually become viable sales opportunities.”
For this reason, the most effective lead generation programs adhere to four key principles:
1. Focus on opportunity building, not brand building. According to Mac McIntosh of the B2B marketing blog Sales Lead Insights, successful online and database-driven marketing campaigns that have an immediate impact on sales make it easier to cost-justify continued marketing investment. “Yes, brand image is important to your company’s success,” he says. “But unless you can spend a half-million dollars or so on brand advertising, such efforts probably won’t move the sales needle much.”
McIntosh recommends allocating one third of your marketing budget toward building a high quality database of viable leads leveraging what has worked in the past. “Review your existing database and identify the most profitable clients or customers. Create models for the best types to target with one-to-many marketing programs. Then acquire a database containing information on these kinds of companies through database marketing services.”
And this doesn’t mean trolling through the same old list providers either. Several new services and applications are changing the database market for the better by providing accurate, detailed information that enables you to more precisely target the appropriate decision makers for your offer – enabling you to maximize not only the dollar value of each lead, but the productivity of each team member. As NetProspex customer Rachel Bair of Lore Systems explains, “Inaccurate or incomplete data is a tremendous waste of time and dollars. And it’s hard to keep your team motivated if every lead turns out to be a dead end.”
2. Use lists strategically as well as tactically. Every seasoned salesperson knows that pre-call research can mean the difference between a call that is returned and a voicemail that is deleted. Mining key data elements from your list – title, geography, industry – as part of that pre-call research effort can help craft an approach more likely to resonate with your prospect. As Jill Konrath writes on her blog Selling to Big Companies, “To get into big companies, you can’t make a 100 cold calls saying the same thing to everyone. Several years ago corporate decision makers stopped answering their phones and rolled all calls to voicemail. The only way to capture the attention of these corporate decision makers was to create a very personalized message based on in-depth research in their firm.”
At NetProspex customer Quintiq, the Director of Marketing agrees, adding that leveraging multiple touch points across a single company can also increase the likelihood of success. “For us, it’s all about the value proposition – and that’s something that is very specific to a prospect’s title and functional area. Many times, we’ll roll out parallel campaigns targeting both the business and the IT side of the same company. Understanding who we are talking to – and presenting a value proposition that appeals specifically to that individual – gives us an extra edge.”
3. Make sure your CRM system can keep up – and vice versa. As prospecting and marketing automation tools grow more sophisticated, compatibility with CRM and SFA systems becomes even more critical. Integrating a current, accurate prospect list into an existing SFA application makes it easier to develop a seamless, easily trackable campaign that can be analyzed, adjusted, and duplicated within minutes. Inside CRM’s Chris Bucholtz explains: “Knowledge of customer preferences, behaviors and needs empowers you to plan marketing campaigns faster and execute them more quickly. It also displays results faster, which allows a campaign to be tweaked once under way on the basis of customer feedback.”
In addition, CRM systems that offer advanced segmentation and other analytical capabilities can help make the case for increased marketing investment. “Explaining a marketing campaign’s rate of return can be difficult,” writes Bucholtz. “Although no system can deliver a perfect analysis, integrated CRM/SFA solutions let marketers examine the efforts made from first contact to the close of an opportunity and attach a price to the process.”
4. Keep opportunities fresh through continuous review and refinement. Maintaining a constant, constructive feedback loop between sales and marketing helps ensure the right information is being sought and captured. Lisa Cramer of FirstWave Technologies recommends developing a simple scoring system that assigns point values to sales leads based on specific behaviors or responses to previous offers. For example, a prospect who registers for – and attends – a webinar might score higher than one who downloads a free white paper. Analyzing the relationship between prospect behavior and actual close rates will help you reduce unproductive activities – and replicate successful ones.
Cramer cautions, “No one devises a perfect system from the start. Your system will never be perfect, but it will improve with each marketing effort. Get started with a plan to review results and tweak as you go.”
Unlike in previous economic downturns, today’s e-marketing tools and techniques make it much easier to not only maximize the value of our marketing investment, but to measure what is working in hours, rather than weeks, and adjust efforts accordingly. This mix of measurement, rapid analysis of returns, lowered campaign costs and scalability should have a very real – and positive – impact on how sales and marketing react to current conditions.