Customers do not become customers by chance.

Every act of purchase, even the most insignificant, is the result of an elaborate process which takes place over a period of time ranging from a few minutes (“It’s raining, I’ll just pop in and buy an umbrella”) to several years (“All old-generation nuclear power plants need to be replaced”).

Save for a few exceptions, this process is always the same.

A brand needs to build awareness among potential customers and, in turn, ensure it has the means to get to know (and recognise) them in order to be able to reach them. That is where leads come into play. Much like gold prospectors, the marketing teams must sift through all this information to extract the gold nuggets (lead generation), which the sales teams must then work on to convert leads into customers (customer generation).

We are stating the obvious by affirming that lead generation is an essential component of CRM in general, yet less than a quarter of CRM projects actually address this issue and integrate the tools, data and indicators required to formalise and automate it. What assets are available and what does this entail from a CRM perspective?

Increasing the power of prospecting

Often, the first instinct is for a business or a company to throw everything they have at prospecting.

However, this is costly, and each new resource assigned to this task is, by corollary, less productive than the previous one.

The production cost of each individual lead therefore gets more and more expensive.

Buying or renting lead generation databases?

Sales prospecting often starts out by buying or renting lead generation databases. In terms of a CRM solution, this requires the following features:

  • an advanced external file import tool to process a wide variety of file formats. In particular, the following points should be checked:
  • the solution has to be able to manage the source or origin of each item of data so that later on, you can track its source and calculate: the real cost of each individual lead; your conversion rate; and the actual productivity of the purchased or rented database.

Get the script right

Once you have your lead generation database, you then have to use it efficiently. In order to achieve this, the lead generation team should design follow-up scripts. Dynamic scripts which, for each given answer, enable you to evaluate what you know about the contact so as to determine what might be the best follow up question; these are to be preferred to conditional scripts, where answer A leads to question 5 and answer B to question 6.

Remember, the script should always be seen as a conversation guide, as opposed to a text which the operator should recite monotonously to the point of boring the interlocutor.

Buying leads

The lead generation market also offers a number of lead buying platforms. However, the quality of these leads often leaves much to be desired and the hefty price along with the demanding commitments set out by service providers end up being exorbitant.

It should also be noted that once the leads have been purchased, you generally have very little time to validate their relevance. With this type of lead source, it is not unusual to have a conversion rate of only 30%, i.e. only three in ten leads are actually usable. Moreover, you then still have to win them over …

Mass email campaigns and newsletters for long-term leads

This is a strategy to be used in moderation, or else you run the risk of it having the opposite effect. Such a strategy requires you pay particular attention to how you design your messages, It is better to target your recipients more accurately, rather than multiplying the number of emails you send, which often pushes people to unsubscribe. It is much better to launch two targeted mass email campaigns each covering 50% of the database than two, general mass email campaigns covering the entire database.

Network of customers

As is said so often, customers are the best ambassadors for your brand. They have a stronger power of persuasion than sales representatives, because they are seen as objective. What they say and do will have more weight and credibility, and therefore will have greater lead generation power.

These customers always know other potential decision-makers. This relational asset is often under-exploited by companies.

Two major CRM features can help you manage and leverage this: the management of interpersonal relationships (who knows who?); and the ability to link a lead to an existing customer.

A customer’s ability to bring in leads  (presuming, of course, your system can link leads to their origin), should be reflected in his/her scoring.

Build a network of influencers

Each domain has its own influencers, gurus, opinion leaders, etc. Among these, of course, are journalists.

From blogs to bookshops, from forums to interviews in the press, they have the advantage of being easy to identify. Therefore, it is important to consider them in your lead generation strategy. They will become influencers, or even ambassadors of your brand and will undoubtedly generate leads.

There are two basic rules to follow:

  • influencers should be managed the same way as you manage customers.
  • Influencers should be identified in your database with their specific characteristics (key information about a customer is not the same as for a press title).

SEO

Many companies are not visible enough on the Internet. Appearing high up on the main general and specialised search engines (yes, there is life beyond Google) is critical. Rely on professionals who, at the cost of a few thousand euros, can boost your company’s visibility.

First ask yourself these important questions: which engines are the most efficient? Which keywords are most searched for? Is a banner on a partner site more effective than buying Google keywords? Is the profile of the Internet users redirected by a given website more relevant than another?

Streamline processes

Don’t forget that in this business equation (generating a lead and converting it into a customer) there are three parameters:

  • the number of leads generated, of course, but also
  • the conversion rate (out of 100 leads, how many will become customers?)
  • the conversion time, i.e. duration of the sales cycle (how long will it take for the lead to become a customer?)

When well designed, a lead generation strategy can enable you to streamline your lead processingand, consequently, reduce the sales cycle and increase your transformation rate.

Increasing the number of leads is certainly important, but don’t forget that it is not the only parameter which comes into play. The optimisation potential of industrialising your lead generation processes and the very beneficial consequences it can have on the lead transformation capacity are often neglected. However, these are determining factors in the ROI of a CRM project.

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