Lead-Generation Planning (Part 1)
This is the first half of a short seminar on a vital aspect of direct marketing: lead generation. As we start the 1990s, how can we generate more quality and qualified leads for our sales force, inside telemarketing or service/order desk, captive sales team, and distributors or dealers?
1. Establish early in your planning cycle what you need to know from your marketplace. Often, we think we must know everything before qualifying a lead and turning it into a sale. But digging for more information can be a way of putting off asking for the order.
2. Determine up front what would be nice to know. This is usually the frosting. It doesn't necessarily help you get that first sale but can help get the next-and the next. It becomes part of customer service. Ask your sales team what would help them generate leads and close sales. Then separate the lead-generation part from the sales-close part. Let your salespeople dig for the nice things.
3. Insure from the beginning that you have the support of your sales staff. The best marketing program, supported by management, will fall flat if your sales staff doesn't get on board immediately. Having sold since age 12, I've learned most "tricks" for not making a sale. One is just not following up.
4. What media tools should you use to generate leads? Direct mail, print, trade shows, public relations and the telephone are major sources for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer programs. In planning your program, answer these questions: How big is your potential market? What is the best way to reach it? What do your prospects read? Where are they geographically? Will psychographics help? How did you reach this audience last year?
What does your competition do?
In many cases, the information is readily available from an industry association. Your sales staff can also probably help, as can your records from past years.
When selecting media, consider the frequency of your message. Lead generation almost always requires a multi-media, multi-hit program-numerous tools aimed at your prime audience repeatedly. Just as image, awareness and information television and radio commercials run repeatedly, so must your lead-generation tools appear in the marketplace frequently.
There are many formulas. Mine is that a minimum of three hits at the same audience with the same offer is necessary to even begin measuring effectiveness, especially with business-to-business. But even more important is being available to the marketplace when it want to buy. That requires a multimedia, many-time program.
5. How will you coordinate lead generation with corporate advertising, public relations and sales promotion? Not every company has an ongoing advertising or PR program. But if you do, plan that all aspects work as a team. Sometimes, especially with new product introductions, you don't want to make a splash. You want highly specific direct mail to a select audience, maybe with a telephone follow up, to test offer, price, guarantee, even audience or creative approach. Even when your program is in a test phase, however, make certain it fits with everything else from your company.
6. Should your leads come to headquarters first for control, qualification and measurement of success by media? Or will you rely on your sales team to do this? The question is the same for a business or consumer sales force, a captive or distributor/dealer network, one or a dozen offices. Central control gives you a better handle on results. You'll still need a system to determine how many leads turn into sales. But with central control, you'll quickly get a feel for the success of your program.
On the other hand, your leads will undoubtedly be slowed in getting to your reps-from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how automated and efficient your firm is. I've used or recommended both methods. You must evaluate your options and decide which is best for your firm. I recall a program in which leads came to headquarters first every third year, as new creative, lists and ideas were introduced. The "bugs" were shaken out in that year, with sales assistance. In the two years between, leads went straight to the field.
7. Do you need a toll-free 800 number to accept and qualify leads? If you offer a consumer product or service, it is probably mandatory.
Thanks to AT&T, and now the other long-distance carriers, we have had almost three decades of toll-free education. We expect an 800 number, especially for mail order.
This is not always the case for lead generation. Many times, the information we seek is important enough to us that we don't need a toll-free number as an extra inducement. This is especially true for business-to-business lead generation. Think about it-have you ever not phoned for business information just because your company had to pay for the call?
The greatest advantage of an 800 number for lead generation is the opportunity to do some qualifying on the first call. At least you can ask a few application questions, determine if anyone else in that company might also benefit from your information-begin the sales process. And the caller almost has to stay with you because you're paying for the call.
by ROCKINGHAM*JUTKINS*marketing, all rights reserved.