Marketing is a pretty wide and deep subject, but when we look to Marketing for generating sales leads, it is not necessarily very complex. There are logical marketing channels that can be used very effectively to generate sales leads.
When I look at Marketing for Sales Leads generation, I have a totally different view of what we need to achieve. Every marketing activity must generate sales leads, or lead the visitor to another channel which helps generate the sales lead.
In order to generate Sales leads, every marketing communication must have a ‘Call to Action’. It can be: Give me a demo, call me, send me pricing, Meet me etc. Avoid generic calls to action that say: I want more information.
This blog post takes an aerial view of what’s available, and is not to be mistaken for a ‘How To’ article or an expert article. The objective is simple. If you are planning on a marketing campaign to generate sales leads, this blog post gives you a quick view of various channels that you can use.
While some of the marketing strategies may work for any business, this post is specifically for B2B businesses. I look at marketing channels as being broadly classified into two categories: Conventional Marketing Channels and Digital Marketing Channels.
Digital marketing channels
This is really the most powerful one if you use it judiciously and craft your messages well. Get or build a contact database of your prospects. Write personal emails to each one. State your business and ask for a meeting. You don’t even need to give them your website – since they can deduce that from your email id. This one really works wonders. Yes – you need to work out your message and ensure it dovetails with your overall marketing strategy. And yes, you will need to have defined sales stages, and how you will move each respondent through the different stages.
What not to do
Do not mass email them however tempting it may be with the customization available from email marketing platforms. Do not use pictures, do not attach brochures. Do not use html newsletter formats.
Generate Leads on your Website
On your website, ensure that you have a contact form. Depending on your business, you could have different CTA’s (Call to Action) – such as product demonstration, pricing information, call the client etc. You should have a lead management process in place for handling the leads generated by the website. I would also suggest avoiding subject options such as more information. You anyway have a lot of information on your website. So you may as well nudge them into a meeting or a call. That way you will get more qualified leads. If you are offering free brochure downloads etc. – I would suggest you have a different follow-up process for those kind of leads. Conversions will be very low on these.
Driving traffic to your website
Having set up your website to generate sales leads, you can now look at ways and means of business relevant traffic to your website. One of the strategies here is SEO.
Search Engine optimization throws up your website in search engine results pages in response to search queries by users. People who want to find your kind of business, will use certain words and phrases in the search engine. Different people use different word and phrases, but they tend to follow a pattern, and you will find thousands using the same keywords.
Objective of a SEO strategy would be to identify key words and phrases that mostly represent a search for your kind of business, and try to get your business thrown up high in the search engine results pages. The series of activities I suggest below will indeed help improve your search engine rankings, naturally and organically. But for various reasons, , for the time being I would like to look at these activities as activities independent of SEO objectives, and the sole purpose of those activities being to either generate a lead right there – or drive the user to your website for more information and lead generation.
You may have your blog on your own website, or hosting it on a blog hosting site such as blog post or WordPress. Ensure that your contact details are available on the blog. If your readers like what you write, they may want to get in touch with you to work with you or your company. Blogs are also a good medium to demonstrate your business’ knowledge, experience and expertise.
Where relevant in your blog posts redirect them to specific pages on your websites with a link. Do this only if your website has relevant information for that context. And please don’t do this from a SEO perspective. If you do it in the right context- then SEO value will kick in automatically.
Generating leads from Online Directories
Business and Trade Directories are a good place to list your business. Find business relevant directories and list your business there. There are thousands of directories out there. It is pointless to list your business in all of them. Go for directories that are relevant to your business. There are some directories which are paid, and charge you for leads. If relevant, go ahead and list your business in these too, as these directories will be working hard to generate leads. If it doesn’t work for you, you can always discontinue the subsequent year. The paid directories also work hard in ranking high on search engines, which is good for your listing.
Online Classifieds & Yellow pages
Apply the same criteria as for directories. Look for relevance. If you have a product, or a commonly required service, then go ahead and release ads. Try a few paid ones too, it doesn’t cost much, and you can always discontinue if it doesn’t yield results. But try at least three insertions in each classifieds site, before you drop it. Keep the number of sites limited, but persist on those.
Indirect Lead Generation
There are several article directories on the internet, and some of them are authority sites with very high quality content, and high page ranks. You can publish articles here on subjects relevant to your business. Depending on the site, and subscription plan, you may get links from the article to your website and definitely your signature can link to your website. If your article is authoritative, you will find some people clicking through to your website for more information. The links to your website will of course help increase the SEO value of your website.
Online PR (Press Release)
Online PR works similar to Article Marketing. With the one difference that print publications pick up material from some of the more well-known PR sites. You can also subscribe to a service where the PR site will email your content to hundreds of journalists
Social Media Marketing
Of all the Social Media, for a B2B business, I would look at only LinkedIn and Twitter. While there are SEO professionals who could also recommend a Facebook presence, I personally do not have much faith in a Facebook Presence for a B2B business.
LinkedIn – Create a company page with links to your website. Connect with potential customers. Share whatever is new with your business/company on Linked in. Also encourage your management team (if not the whole company) to be active on LinkedIn – and connect with customers.
Advertise on Linked in: Place ads on Linked in – with a link back to your website. For a B2B business this is one channel you must definitely experiment with.
Twitter – Well, this is a media that I am ambivalent towards. It is a great tool for some people to keep everyone abreast of what they are doing. But as a business, the employees could tweet about what’s new in their business. New on their website, awards, new products and so on. Earlier it was believed that links to your website would help SEO, but it is no longer so. It is also a challenge to build followers who actually read your tweets. I personally would put this media a little low in the list of priorities for new initiatives. Read up more on how to utilize Twitter for business at http://business.twitter.com
Advertise on Twitter: Well, this is an option if your target audience is here, and you have a business that is relevant for advertising on this media. Start with small budgets and see whether it yields any results before committing major budgets to this.
Google AdSense: Once you have a well-designed and strategic website, you should look at allocating a small budget for using Google AdSense. These are those small sponsored Ads you see whenever you search in Google. You pay for clicks on the ad, but be careful, and watch conversion rates carefully. Work with limited budgets till you have identified the right keywords for your business that eventually translates into leads. While you will know how many users have clicked your ad, you will not really be able to identify which leads converted from this source – unless you have a specific landing page designed on your website for these leads to be captured.
Conventional Marketing Channels
This is the oldest marketing channel most of us are aware of and still vibrant. There are several advertising options in Print Media
Print Classifieds – Newspapers: This may or may not work well for B2B businesses, but if in your geography, there are enough advertisers for your kind of business, then it is well worth a try. Classified are typically in Newspapers. If you have localized and regional newspapers – try them out too.
Print Display Ads – Newspapers: These advertisements are generally expensive. Whether to use it or not depends on whether all your potential buyers are known to you, or whether you have a very large potential customer base that you can’t identify individually. If you have a very large base of potential customers, and a corresponding budget, then it’s definitely the way to go.
But if you are planning a print campaign, plan on at least four to six insertions at regular intervals of say every week before you expect to see any results. And ensure that your lead generation advertisements have a clear Call to Action – call a number, send an email, visit a website and fill up a form etc.
Print Ads – Magazines: Every Industry has trade magazines. Study the readership to ensure they are read by your prospective customers and advertise in these magazines consistently. Ensure that you have a Call to Action. Many print Ads fail completely to generate any leads because they do not build a Call to Action – that calls for the customer to take an action immediately.
Again ensure that you have a campaign planned and budgeted for at least six insertions. A one-off is of absolutely no use. Better to spend the money elsewhere.
Direct Mail Marketing
Despite the rise of digital media, Direct Mail continues to be used by many organizations. This would not be my channel of first choice, but I would definitely look at this media after ensuring marketing in all logical digital channels. The trick here is to be relevant, and creating a logical call to action. Ideally the mailer should have some component that will force an interested customer to preserve you mailer – maybe a business discount, maybe a special offer, or a technical write-up, or a checklist to do something. But whatever element you have there, it must have a clear call to action.
Digital, Mobile and Stationary Billboard advertisements
Unlike for consumer products, you don’t look at just eyeballs. We need to find places where decision makers for our business is most likely to be present in high density. For example, if your business justifies it and you have the budgets – Airports and the roads leading to the airport are a good example. You will need to research and find appropriate locations.
Billboards are largely reminder media – and would be quite low on my list of channels for direct sales leads generation
Incidentally don’t miss out on having a Billboard (whatever size) on your office building, especially if you are in a street with plenty of passing traffic. This one’s hopefully free. And you can afford to keep changing the messaging to keep it interesting and engaging.
For several businesses this has been a ‘Must Do’ marketing activity. If your Industry has a trade exhibition that attracts your potential customers, I would rate this pretty high in the marketing channels I would use to generate sales leads.
Annual Complimentary & Gifts
This is a business practice that prevails even today, giving your customers New Year calendars, gifts etc. I would rate this extremely low on my list for sales lead generation. Useful to keep customers happy, but of no particular relevance in generating new leads.
Radio & Television
I don’t see much scope for either in B2B sales lead generation. But maybe it could work for your kind of business. If your competition’s there, maybe you need to look at it.
There are several other Marketing channels available – both conventional and digital, but I haven’t covered them either because they aren’t relevant in a B2B scenario – or maybe it just slipped my mind while writing this article.
Marketing is what we need to generate sales leads. Conventional methods of lead generation through cold calling, or cold telemarketing calls are not the best way to go. Telemarketers are never trained well enough to present the company in the best possible light, and sales reps are by nature trained to close opportunities created than creating new ones. This is especially true in today’s environment with high turnover of sales teams, no one really sticks around long enough to understand the company and its business or products well enough, and moreover the number of new contacts they can make is very limited.
A hit and run approach, or a skeptical one of – ‘let’s try it for three months’ are efforts that are destined to fail even before they start. Before you actually start using Marketing channels as your primary source of sales leads, one needs to take a fresh look at the business, customers and competitors as well as current sources of sales leads. A strategy needs to be drawn, and lead generation and management processes and teams need to be planned for in advance.
It is advisable that Marketing for lead generation be viewed independent of general marketing functions (if you have a marketing department), and budgets be drawn separately for lead generation activities. And you must measure marketing spends, leads generated and final conversions.