The eroded U.S. economy doesn't have to mean eroding sales numbers, but it often does for companies that continue inefficiencies that went unnoticed in better times. Case in point: A recent study found that on average, an astonishing 94% of generated leads are not being followed up by internal sales organizations.
So, should companies demand that sales representatives increase their follow-up on those leads? Not really. In most cases, that would simply mean translating marketing inefficiencies into sales inefficiencies. What's usually needed instead is an approach that generates the best quality of leads and sets the stage for a higher likelihood of sales success.
Lead Quality vs. Quantity
One of the main reasons for the low rate of lead follow up is that sales representatives identify the leads they're given as being not well-qualified, and therefore not worth pursuing. This is typically the result of a disconnect between marketing strategy and sales strategy, with marketing campaigns too often measured by the total quantity of leads produced and/or the cost per lead.
For example, marketing may mistakenly assume that a trade show exhibit was successful because it generated hundreds of leads, though the vast majority of those leads may have been card-swipes obtained by passers-by who merely wanted a featured give-away. In this and many other cases, the vast majority of leads aren’t actually prospects at all.
Sales needs lead-generation campaigns judged not by quantity, but by the quality of leads generated. Sales representatives who are provided with a smaller number of higher quality leads have a much greater chance of sales success, as they can focus 100% of their time on likely buyers. This approach makes for greater efficiency in any economic climate. It's absolutely imperative in a market downturn, when companies must improve efficiency and accomplish more with fewer resources.
How can you generate higher-quality leads that translate to sales? There are really three key ingredients—knowing your market, connecting with it through multiple touches, media and cycles and refining offers by size of company, vertical and/or decision making level that prove attractive. It's a process that we call M2O—media, market and offer—and it's a proven methodology for optimizing marketing ROI by pinpointing your best prospects, building familiarity with them and communicating messages that resonate.
1. Know Your Market. Companies often market too broadly, perceiving the need for messages to resonate with the broadest base possible of potential customers. In doing so, they often miss a large percentage of their most likely buyers.
For example, many companies believe their target market to be the Fortune 500, when it is actually a much smaller audience within that group (along with others who aren't in the Fortune 500). The key is to understand the characteristics of truly likely buyers and then group them accordingly and market to them specifically. Interestingly, by applying market intelligence to identify and target only the highest-return segments, it is possible to increase sales performance while actually reducing marketing and sales costs.
2. Multiple Media, Multiple Touches. Companies often touch prospects with a single media and infrequently, think of a telemarketing lead generation campaign directed at a purchased prospect list. Making only a single call to each prospect will invariably produce a very limited number of responses. Increasing the number of calls to each prospect typically increases the response percentage, as some prospects aren't ready to buy or are simply focused on something else when they receive the earlier calls. Adding carefully written voicemails and strategically crafted e-mails can substantially increase results, often by as much as 50%.
The most successful campaigns use a combination of quality outbound calls, voicemail messages, e-mail and direct mail to touch prospects repeatedly over time. Properly managed, this approach can represent a more effective use of marketing dollars than single-media campaigns, and certainly more so than one-and-done campaigns that touch prospects only a single time. A key advantage of multi-touch, multi-media campaigns is that they build familiarity with busy decision-makers and increase the potential of impacting them at a time of highest need for the solution being offered.
Unfortunately, lead generation campaigns typically abandon a large percentage of prospects simply because they don’t respond to one, two or even three contact attempts. In reality, it can take from eight to 30 touches before a prospect is sales-ready. And it can take as many as 12 attempts by sales to effectively engage even high-quality opportunities.
3. Refine the Offer.
In a stressed economy, prospects typically have less purchasing power, and the value of your offer may need to be redefined in light of the current times. Price reductions, extended financing and guarantees can all help to motivate buyers during a downturn. What is true in any market, however, is the need for clear and concise messaging that speaks to the buyer's pain points. Testing your offers and messages within a market sub-section is a powerful and inexpensive way to fine-tune performance and can increase individual campaign results by as much as 50%.
You CAN Accelerate Sales
Even during a severe economic downturn, selling does happen, and buyers do buy. It's just a bit more challenging to connect with buyers. Those connections inevitably go to sellers who are better than their competitors at knowing their market, spreading their marketing across multiple media with multiple touches and refining their offers to fit the times.
Dan McDade is founder and president of PointClear, the prospect development company. Before McDade founded PointClear, he served as vice president of marketing for the direct mail firm, Jackson & Perkins, and as President of UST: The Business Marketing Group. To learn more about PointClear, go to www.pointclear.com. Dan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.