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How To Improve the Quality and Cost of B2B Leads - Optimizing the Responses
By Jeff Kostermans, CEO, LeadGenesys

If you've read Part One of this tutorial or already have the foundation in place for a carefully sequenced, multi-touch campaign, you're ready to start capturing leads. But before those elusive prospects come running to beat down your door, be sure you have a plan in place to accelerate the sales cycle. Here are five ways to optimize the capture, management and conversion of those new leads.

Tutorial for SalesVantage.com (Part 2)

If you've read Part One of this tutorial or already have the foundation in place for a carefully sequenced, multi-touch campaign, you're ready to start capturing leads. But before those elusive prospects come running to beat down your door, be sure you have a plan in place to accelerate the sales cycle. Here are five ways to optimize the capture, management and conversion of those new leads.

1. Optimize profile capture landing pages and score leads

Imagine driving high numbers of interested prospects to your landing page only to see the majority of them drop off once they see a long form. Careful attention to the design of your landing pages and profile capture forms helps mitigate the drop off of responders that for any number of reasons may choose not to fill out your form. Consider testing a few different forms and offering an extra bonus for filling out the form like additional, relevant information.

There are many design details that will increase your profile capture rate, so work with a vendor that has extensive experience in this area. Just a few best practices in the design of landing pages include:

  • Keep introductory copy as short as possible
  • When appropriate, add the form onto the same page as the landing page.
  • Pre-fill form fields with prospect data that the prospect can update
  • Limit the qualifying attribute fields on initial prospecting forms to encourage form completion - you can always get more information later.
  • Identify mandatory fields and point them out when not filled in by the prospect
  • Score the profile capture attributes that are important to you.

Scoring captured profiles has a number of advantages that enable you to:

  • Prioritize cultivation efforts
  • Measure the effectiveness of marketing campaign components
  • Gain early insight to make quicker adjustments to future marketing campaigns
  • See the quality of leads by sales region

2. Track and measure everything

The bottom line is if you're not tracking, you're not learning how to increase the ROI of your next campaign. Unless your direct marketing vendor provides it, setting up tracking and conducting the response analysis for an integrated campaign can take some effort. You could invest in expensive software or marketing automation solutions to help you with this, but all the license and related maintenance costs factor into a much higher cost per lead.

Tracking should be real-time so you can instantly see response results and make any needed campaign adjustments on the fly. To keep costs down, look for an integrated tracking solution that is either inherent to the supporting services or relatively easy to set up. Reporting should be inexpensive and enable you to focus your energy on program refinement - not on gathering and analyzing data from disparate sources.

When it comes to direct marketing campaign reporting, make sure you can track:

  • The quality of each captured lead
  • The breakdown of leads attributable to each component of the campaign
  • Effectiveness of the list, offer, creative and other test cell elements within each campaign component
  • The breakdown of lead quality by sale region and individual sales rep.
  • Total contact history
  • The productivity of sales reps cultivating the leads

When all the components of your multi-touch, integrated campaign are tracked and instantly available, you can focus more on the strategy of follow-up campaigns and on the inter-department collaboration that is so vital to success.

3. Share marketing and sales data - real time.

Collaborating with the sales department and getting their support is definitely important. But actually sharing real-time data is often easier said than done. Revenue is at stake and finger pointing is a common side-affect of a disjointed campaign that fails to meet its objectives. But when both sales and marketing have jointly assumed responsibility for a campaign's success, it's easier to share data during rather than upon completion of a campaign.

When a reporting solution reports on both the quality of marketing-driven leads and the effectiveness of cultivation efforts - everybody wins. Sales management can better manage cultivation efforts, and can more accurately project sales forecasts based on early insight on campaigns. Marketing management can tweak campaigns and lead flow earlier and also see the effectiveness of cultivation efforts.

Peer pressure is amazingly powerful. Making the cultivation efforts of individual reps viewable has strong effects on productivity and overall campaign results. Your reporting solution should enable you to see campaign and cultivation effectiveness whether the lead cultivation is outsourced or kept in house.

4. Convert more leads with a carefully sequenced follow-up plan

Prior to executing your integrated campaign, have a cultivation plan in place that leads prospects down the path to customer conversion. Reciprocal information sharing helps to quickly qualify prospects and foster more intuitive dialogue.

Track all cultivation efforts, like the sending of information via email and direct mail and the corresponding responses. When your sales team uses an email-based prospecting tool that tracks which content is most effective, you can continuously improve your follow-up process.

Review the contact history of each new customer to discover contact trends that may reveal how close other prospects are to becoming new customers. When this data is instantly shared with marketing and sales departments, the cultivation cycle accelerates and produces better results.

5. Leverage the Sales team to build your opt-in base

Lead cultivation via email is definitely more cost effective compared to off-line methods. It's important to diligently collect opt-ins with every point of contact possible. Unfortunately, many inside sales reps don't have an incentive to do this or the contact management systems they use don't adequately support the capture of opt-ins. Whether calls are handled in-house or by an outsourced telemarketing solution, make sure that capturing opt-in is a priority action item.

All too often, sales departments complain that opt-in lists are filled with the wrong types of prospects. Then why not offer the sales team an email-based follow-up and prospecting tool that enables them to quickly send out marketing messages that drive prospects back to landing pages that capture and score opt-ins? This collaborative approach fills the opt-in database with better quality prospects, saves valuable prospecting time and enables the marketing department to share the responsibility of building the opt-in base with the sales team.

Captured opt-ins with high scores can be automatically followed up on by the sales team and those with lower scores can be cost-effectively cultivated by the marketing department's mass email campaigns.

Consider appending email addresses to your off line customer list.

Once you have opt-in permission, you can announce new product offerings, promotions, and send surveys to discover new needs that your products or services can solve. There are many ways to effectively cultivate leads via email. There are even more ways to make mistakes resulting in increased opt-out rates. Make sure you consistently follow best practices or work with an experienced vendor that can help you prospect via email and mitigate opt-outs.

Summary:

Continuously improving the quality and cost of leads can be a full-time job, especially when you coordinate the efforts in-house -- and outsourcing to agencies can be very expensive. However you decide to orchestrate your lead generation program, evaluate your supporting vendors with a sharp focus on ROI and their ability to lower you cost per lead with each successive campaign.

To keep costs down and optimize an integrated lead generation campaign, work with a specialized partner that can:

  • customize a solution that meets your specific objectives
  • dramatically increase response rates though personalization technology
  • manage and report real-time on all aspects of your integrated campaigns and most importantly...deploy proven tactics based on best practices.


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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