Lead Generation: Then and Now

At least once a month I get a call from a printer wanting help with lead generation and qualification. It wasn't that long ago that the methods for acquiring and qualifying prospects were rather straightforward. Acquire a list, hire a telemarketer to qualify and then parcel out the leads to deserving sales reps.

Times have changed, though. Today, there are many factors in play that have significantly impacted the way we find and cultivate leads.

Relational databases, email and, now, the Internet have quickly changed the very premise of conventional lead generation and qualification methodologies. Beginning with the advent about a decade ago of relational databases that can "talk" to each other, the stage was set for a paradigm shift in customer acquisition and retention. Email facilitated faster, easier communications with customers and prospects. And now the Internet has brought prospecting and customer relations online.

We all know that acquiring a new customer costs six to 10 times more than retaining an existing account. We're also aware of the fact that the cost of this new customer acquisition doesn't necessarily equal the lifetime value of that customer . . . one job doesn¼t always equal a valuable customer. The prospect qualification process must determine the long-term viability of a prospect, not just the fact that he or she purchases printing.

Finding leads

A good list is at the core of lead generation. However, obtaining a good list is easier said than done. For years, we used and recommended Dun & Bradstreet's Marketplace to get leads for clients. Like other list services, D&B can be filtered using different criteria, like company sales volume, number of employees, and of course geographic considerations. Perhaps due to the transient nature of today's hot market, we have found this resource to be increasingly unreliable, particularly in the contact name category.

Depending on the targeted prospects, we've also used trade publication subscriber lists with some success. For instance, Advertising Age's subscriber list would be a strong possibility for a campaign to ad agencies. Not all publications will sell their lists, and those that do often stipulate conditions, such as one-time use. Also, not all publications' lists are routinely cleaned to eliminate deadwood. Also, most national publications can break out subscribers by region, which is essential if you are not launching a national sales effort.

Many publications may provide lists only on labels, which may protect them from one-time use abuse, but which can also significantly increase handling costs. Since most mailing houses are increasingly all-digital, your mailer may be forced to hand-apply the labels . . . an expensive proposition.

Finally, regardless of the number or quality of the leads you distribute to your sales reps, timely follow-up is essential. There have been many instances where companies have spent thousands of dollars to provide reps with leads, only to discover the rep waited weeks, even months to call. Not surprisingly, the original contact often was no longer with the company or couldn't remember the interview.

In pursuit of a lead, use the Internet to find out as much as possible about the prospect. Review the company's website in detail. Learn as much as you can about the company and the industry it's in. Familiarize yourself with executives' names and backgrounds. Check out the sites to which they've linked for a broader perspective.

Qualifying

Email and the Internet are effective qualifying tools, enabling real-time one-on-one communication with prospects. Your website can be the focal point of lead generation mail and email campaigns, instructing recipients to visit the site for special offers of special value to them personally.

Develop quick and easy promotions on your website to encourage visitors to sign up. We've used drawings for prizes with good success. For example, we've offered industry-specific tools, such as Pantone books and design magazine subscriptions for designers. Promotions to marketing communications pros can be a little trickier, since some companies disallow employees from accepting gifts from vendors. In these cases, you may consider offering to contribute to a prospect's favorite charity as an incentive.

Make sure to keep the incentive specific to the prospect. Offering an iMac, for example, has such broad appeal, you'll find yourself inundated with responses that likely are not real prospects. Also, make sure your entire staff is aware of the promotion, especially your sales and customer service teams. And follow through! Hold the drawings, distribute the prizes, make the donations! Nothing can do more damage than not living up to your promises.

As I mentioned in an earlier column, databases are a critical component to prospecting via the Net.

Email is perhaps the hottest new marketing medium. Industry research firm Jupiter Communications predicts commercial email will "skyrocket from $14 million to more than $7 billion over the next five years. The promise of rich media email has companies falling all over themselves to fill this new marketing space. In fact, two such companies, cursormate.com and Comet, are vying for control of our cursors. Calling the cursor "prime real estate," these companies have developed software that attaches flashing messages, logos and ads to MS Outlook email users¼ cursors!

We've developed monthly opt-in email campaigns that drive prospects to an offer on the client's website. The visitor is asked to fill out a simple questionnaire and in exchange receives the offer. Getting prospects to opt-in is absolutely essential. We all know how much we love those uninvited spammed ads.

Selling

While one-to-one marketing may be today's catch phrase, its premise is founded on solid principles. With industry heavyweights like Microsoft, Oracle and Siebel entering the customer relationship management (CRM) software arena, we can be sure the validity of tailoring messages to prospects is alive and well.

Again, databases come into play here. If you're not using a contact management program, you should. For mid-sized companies, ACT! and Goldmine are probably adequate. I believe some dot-coms are offering front-end sales functionality along with their ordering systems. Regardless of what you select, select something and make sure it will integrate with other existing databases, such as accounting. The goal, like all-digital production workflow, is to have a single-entry, all-digital system that tracks and collects information on all customer and prospect activity.

Finally, have a compelling reason why the prospect should do business with you and not your competitor. Understand your prospect's business and offer solutions. Prove you've made a difference for others with whom the prospect will identify. And, by all means, stay involved and communicate regularly.


Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.

© 2000 Charlotte Mills Seligman

June 27,2000
Print & Graphics
Col#15 6/00
Printing Journal
Col #15 6/00
Lead Generation
By Charlotte Mills Seligman

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