Laying the Foundation for Long-Term Growth

Sometimes the most common sense observations are the most powerful.

Take this one, by William T. Brooks in the intro to Perfect Phrases for Lead Generation, for example. “The secret to selling is to be in front of a qualified prospective customer when he or she is ready to buy, not when you need to make a sale.”

So true, so seemingly obvious, yet so often overlooked.

No matter how powerful your product or service, there’s just no getting around the fact that at any given time, there are more people who are NOT ready to buy than that ARE ready to buy. If you are not a believer in lead generation and lead nurturing, that statement alone should convince you. You need a strategy to stay top of mind so that when your prospects are ready to buy, your solution is the first one that comes to mind. And you need a methodology that lets you track the effectiveness of your efforts. Digital lead gen does both.

As Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, wrote in his “Start With a Lead” eBook, “Lead Generation isn’t about instant gratification, but rather requires sustained effort to succeed, often over a relatively long period of time. Key words are consistency and time.”

While anyone can “one-off” a marketing email, the proper pieces must be in place in order to really make an impact over the long-term. Think about it like raising a skyscraper. The elements you see aren’t the elements that are holding it together. Without the proper foundation and structural framework, it will crumble—as will your lead gen program if it’s not built on a solid base.

In last month’s article Lead Gen: Marketing that SELLS we talked about some of the essential “bricks” of a lead gen campaign: understanding your buyer, targeting your lists and creating a good content strategy. Before you can get to that point, however, you have to have the right infrastructure in place—the tools, the team, the culture and the territory management system.

The Tools

  • CRM
    A contact relationship management system is a sales tool right? So what does it have to do with lead gen marketing? Everything really. The relationship between the two could even be called symbiotic. Each one feeds the other. Lead generation needs the data within the CRM to be really effective. The CRM (or rather the sales team that is using it) needs the market intelligence and leads generated from the outbound campaigns in order to increase productivity and keep their pipeline full. But just getting a salesforce.com account set up won’t do a whole lot for you. Your entire team needs to work it, feed it, nurture it and grow it so that it is a centralized repository of up-to-date, actionable data.
  • Marketing Automation
    A good marketing automation tool will track all of your prospects’ online activity, score leads based on a defined set of criteria and integrate with your CRM. As such, it is another “must have.” Not only will the lead scores help to put hot prospects in front of the sales team immediately, the high level of visibility it offers into prospect’s online behavior will let you know which of your services prospects are interested in so that you can segment your lists and send the most relevant messaging. Behavior based drip campaigns can be set-up to run automatically in the background to nurture leads who aren’t quite ready yet, so your sales team can focus on the prospects who are.

The Team

Necessary as they are, the aforementioned tools are veritably useless without human intelligence pulling the strings. Because of that, having the right team on board, working in concert to reach common goals and objectives, is just as important, if not more so, than having the right tools.

Not only should your lead generation marketing team have a strong sales mentality and a good grasp of the sales cycle, they should be willing to work closely with the business development and sales teams and recognize that with “feet on the street” their insight is invaluable. On the flip side, your business development and sales teams must recognize the value of the lead gen efforts, follow up on the prospect intelligence they are given, actively participate in strategy sessions and continually work to bolster the database by entering all relevant information into the CRM.

The Culture

Culture is important for all the reasons mentioned above. For a CRM to do what it is supposed to do information needs to be captured and shared. For a marketing automation tool to do what it is supposed to do that information needs to be robust enough that it can be used to formulate relevant messaging and segment lists. And for a group of sales and marketing professionals to do what they are supposed to do and maximize the potential of the tools they are given, the traditional “us versus them” sales and marketing mentality needs to go by the wayside.

The necessary culture then, must be one of discovery, knowledge sharing, cooperation and real teamwork. It should also embrace the hunt.

The Territory Management Strategy

In keeping with the skyscraper analogy, if the above elements are the foundation of a good lead gen strategy, a territory management plan is the framework.

Metaphorically speaking, a territory management plan is a roadmap of where your sales and marketing teams should spend their time and why. It’s a strategic methodology, unique to your organization, built into the CRM that divides the market into logical segments, and defines targets by key organizational identifiers that make them a good fit for your solution. (A Target, B Target, C Target, etc.). It also serves as a framework for tracking progress – both the micro metrics (i.e. number of incoming new leads, touches, new contacts made, key decision makers, new target accounts added, meetings held, new customers, etc.) and the macro metrics (comparing numbers by week, month and quarter).

Buy VS Build

Obviously it takes a lot to get a good lead generation engine pumping. But when done, it is well worth the effort. For those interested in starting a lead generation program it comes down to the classic quandary of “Do I build or Do I buy.”

It is a valid question and one that should not be considered lightly. Your decision should be based on a thorough understanding of your true strengths and core skill sets, an honest assessment of current infrastructure capabilities and resource availability and an analysis of how long it would take you to build the infrastructure necessary to truly be effective.