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How To Improve the Quality and Cost of B2B Leads - Before the Campaign Launches
By Jeff Kostermans, CEO, LeadGenesys

"I don't care how stretched the marketing budget is or how tough the market is, we need more and better quality leads ASAP!"   Ask any marketer responsible for lead generation whether she or he has heard this from someone in senior management or sales lately and you'll most likely hear an exasperated "Yes, of course".

Tutorial for SalesVantage.com (Part 1)

"I don't care how stretched the marketing budget is or how tough the market is we need more and better quality leads ASAP ! "

Ask any marketer responsible for lead generation whether she or he has heard this from someone in senior management or sales lately and you'll most likely hear an exasperated "Yes, of course".

What's a marketer to do when budgets and staff are stretched extremely thin, qualified prospects have become even more elusive and resource-constrained sales teams simply need a better mousetrap to accelerate the sales cycle?

Progressive B2B marketers are adopting a new, more cost-effective approach to lead generation. An approach that:

  • focuses on targeted, multi-channel and carefully sequenced touches
  • boosts direct marketing campaign ROI
  • leverages and optimizes sales team productivity.

Managing an ongoing direct marketing lead generation program that constantly improves lead quality and the cost per customer conversion requires as much preparation as follow-through. That's why the first portion of this two-part tutorial focuses on five key steps that should be taken long before your first responders fill out a profile capture form. Follow these guidelines and you will lay the foundation for a sustained and constantly-improving lead generation program.

1. Constantly focus on lead quality and the cost per conversion.

This starts with targeting - and never ends. When targeting continuously improves, so should your campaign ROI. Whether you work with an agency or manage point-solution vendors in-house, have a solution in place that measures the effectiveness of campaign elements like your lists, creative, offer, and timing of multiple marketing vehicles.

Your lead generation solution should take the guesswork out of testing and targeting, and should also help accelerate the conversion-to-customer process. Ultimately, a campaign's must be measured by the cost per conversion and ROI, not just the cost per response. When the focus is on cost per conversion-to-customer, the quality of leads gets more emphasis that just the quantity.

Why cast out a wider net to reach more prospects or spend any money at all on leads that miss the mark?

Creative and printing costs and purchase minimums for rented lists all factor into the cost per lead. Rented email blasts are also impacted by minimums and these email lists often have a limited amount of profile data. Some marketers may be tempted to inflate campaign quantities in order to keep the cost per piece and cost per response down. Unfortunately, this also decreases targeting.

There are only a limited number of people that will buy your product or service. Refined targeting, with concentrated, multi-touch marketing efforts is the best way to get a response from a limited pool of decision makers.

2. Get executive level support and work very closely with Sales

Without executive level support, getting superior results from a comprehensive lead generation program becomes very difficult. Once the CEO understands the highlights and importance of your program, you'll have much more success collaborating with Sales, Customer Service and other groups that help with customer conversion.

Working closely with the sales department is critical. Sales should have input into all stages of the campaign. As contributors, sales team members will assume ownership and ensure that cultivation of the leads is a priority. Nothing will kill lead cultivation efforts faster than a sales force that feels a campaign has been thrust upon them. When the CMO and head of Sales jointly agree on and present the objectives of a campaign, accountability is shared and campaign ROI stand a good chance of being optimized.

3. Control lead-flow and optimize your budget with more targeted efforts.

Imagine the prospect experience of responding to a campaign only to be ignored because the inside sales force is too busy handling other responders or a sales rep assumes the prospect is less qualified because the company name is not recognized.

Unfortunately the allure of a low cost per response all too often results in a large influx of leads that miss the mark only to frustrate the sales force - and interested prospects. When over half of marketing-driven leads get labeled as a "poor fit", it doesn't take long for Sales to assume all the leads associated with that campaign are not worth following up on.

A better approach is to control the flow of leads with multiple, highly targeted efforts. This has several advantages. Keeping direct mail and email drops small, with focused phone follow-ups enables you to test and refine many campaign elements over successive campaign waves.

With a steady lead-flow rather than a mass influx, leads that on the surface may not look as appealing as others stand a better chance of being cultivated.

4. Reach elusive prospects through an integrated approach

Integrated, multi-touch marketing helps boost response rates in a number of ways. It significantly increases the odds that your message will reach your prospect, overcomes the timing issue, and after multiple impressions, dramatically increases recall rates to also serve as a means of highly targeted branding.

When your list is tightly targeted, it's safe to assume many non-responders may actually be your best prospects. The timing of your message may have simply been off or the marketing piece just didn't reach the prospect. High-level decision makers each have their own preference on what they respond to, which is why it takes an integrated multi-touch effort to get their response.

When your multi-channel approach aims to drive prospects to a profile capture page on your website, the campaign should identify and re-target responders that for any reason did not submit their profile. These responders have expressed interest, so they are far more likely to respond again and submit a profile in subsequent contacts.

Your integrated solution should also be able to keep track of complete contact history so you'll know when to suspend efforts on prospects that have had over X number of contacts without a response. Contact history trend analysis will also help reveal the optimal contact strategy and which channels are most effective.

5. Boost response rates with enhanced personalization and relevancy.

To more than double typical direct mail response rates, personalize each mail piece as much as possible. New printing technology enables you to print small lots of direct mail tailored to each recipient. With variable images and content, you can dramatically enhance the personalization and relevancy of each individual mail piece - to drive much higher response rates.

Display a personalized URL on each mail piece when the objective of your mail piece is to capture a profile on your website. Personalized landing pages with pre-filled forms make it much easier for the responder to submit a profile resulting in significantly higher profile capture rates. Although personalization of direct mail does increase the cost per piece, the increased response rates almost always justifies the added expense.

The same level of personalization should be applied to email. Because email is electronic, it's much easier and cost effective to dynamically assemble relevant content.

Getting a prospect's opt-in (or permission to communicate via email) on the website landing page enables you to cultivate the prospect much more cost effectively. But be careful to always send timely, personalized and relevant information


Jeff Kostermans is CEO of LeadGenesys ( www.leadgenesys.com ) a B2B direct marketing and lead generation firm, he can be reached directly at jeffk@LeadGenesys.com. He is a direct marketing veteran with over 12 years of experience managing lead generation and relationship marketing programs for companies ranging from technology and service start-ups to Fortune 100 firms. He is author of the Email Marketing Imperatives and has written numerous other best practices papers. A UC Berkeley graduate, Mr. Kostermans also serves as an Army Reserve Psychological Operations Major, consulting allied governments and militaries in target audience analysis and influence methods.

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