Here’s an interesting post by Mike Damphousse of Green Leads that I found through Funnelholic (thanks Craig) on how lead nurturing impacts the effectiveness of calling campaigns designed to secure qualified sales appointments. The conclusion, not surprisingly: that prospects who have been nurtured over time are much more likely (by a factor of 15 percent, according to this case study) to be both a) qualified, and b) receptive to a sales meeting.
More broadly, these results underline a lead generation philosophy that we have preached for the better part of a decade: that going for the quick sale – i.e. focusing your demand generation campaigns on identifying only highly qualified, “ready to meet with us” prospects, is not only inefficient, but can be a colossal waste of marketing dollars.
It’s an unfortunate but inevitable fact that whenever the economy sours, pressure mounts on marketing teams to deliver more sales-qualified leads, more quickly. Such initiatives, however, are almost always destined to disappoint, especially at a time when – let’s face it – short-term prospects, i.e. people ready to buy, are at a premium.
What to do instead?
1. By all means create content – buyer guides, case studies, analyst reports, demos, etc. – designed to appeal to prospects who are further advanced in the sales cycle. But don’t make them the primary offer. Mix in more educational content – white papers, podcasts, etc. – that will draw in the broader subset of prospects who at minimum have the problem your product or service can solve. The low-hanging fruit – the people who are ready to buy – will respond anyway, and you’ll end up engaging with a much larger pool of potential customers.
2. Focus demand generation on building and expanding a database of in-profile suspects – contacts who meet the minimum demographic profile – at the lowest possible cost, and then nurture the heck out of them, through a systematic, automated program of personalized, relevant, rules-based email communication that will keep your company top of mind and trigger immediate response when a prospect is ready to take the next step.
3. Instead of looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack (the short-term buyer), cast as wide a net as possible through aggressive “pull” programs – campaigns designed to create and maintain a critical mass of online presence and capture those few prospects out there who are ready to talk. Examples of pull programs would include search (both organic and paid), content syndication, and social media.
[You’ll find a more comprehensive discussion of these issues, and the business case for a systematic, long-term approach to demand generation, in our free white paper: “Lead Recycling: A More Cost-Effective Approach to Lead Generation for High-Technology Companies.”]