Tag Archives: leads

Google Testing Full-Contact Lead Capture

Google AdWords is testing a type of full contact lead capture for Adwords; the below link has more details but looks like “PPC Hero” was the first to roll out details on this beta, named contact form extensions.

Contact form extensions provides a contact form directly in the search ad, which a searcher can fill out and the advertiser can then use in the future to contact that lead. It is very similar to a lead acquisition form, but this one is found directly in an expanded Google AdWords ad.

Link to article from Searchengineland; which contains links to th PPC Hero content as well.

http://searchengineland.com/google-adwords-testing-lead-capture-forms-contact-form-extensions-32971

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Top Five Reasons Lead Generating Initiatives Fail

Lead Generation is hot…you don’t need this blog post to tell you that – but if you still need evidence: 

  • A recent article from the Wall Street Journal in October stated “…marketers continue to put their ad dollars towards performance-based advertising, which includes search and lead generation inititives”
  • The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has identified the #1 objective of trade show exhibitors today to be lead generation
  • An August trend report from GlobalSpec on Industrial Marketing identified customer acquisition and lead generation as the top two priorities of industrial marketers

There are countless additional examples and 3rd party articles to support this as well but something tells me you likely already knew lead generation is a hot topic…

However did you know likewise that lead follow-up is the #1 concern of marketers?

Whoa…something is out of whack.

How can my #1 objective also be my #1 concern?

Why isn’t “Fixing Lead Follow-Up” the #1 priority over generating more leads that are going to continue to have follow-up issues?

Is it because lead follow-up is perceived as not being a marketing issue and therefore sales has the problem and therefore needs to find the solution?

Unfortunately for many organizations, that seems to be the common excuse to which I call bullsh*t – let’s just use common sense and see if that blame game make sense :

Who’s catching hell when leads don’t convert to sales?

When was the last time you heard sales budgets were being cut due to lack of ROI?

Compare that with what we are all dealing with  in regards to our marketing budgets – At best they are flat but more likely they are being reduced due to lack of ROI and we’re being tasked with accountability measures like never before.

Seems marketing is catching hell for lead follow-up issues vs. sales, but let’s revisit Lead Follow-Up responsibility. 

Aren’t we all on the same team with the same objective regardless if I’m in sales or if I’m in marketing?

Aren’t we both trying to help the company sell more stuff and do so efficiently and profitably?

I continue to be perplexed as to how companies end up in these sales vs. marketing silos with finger pointing as to where blame resides.

Ultimately it appears to be a sales/marketing culture issue; to which blame truly resides with executive management. At some point; a CEO needs to demand that their sales forces become more effective and that marketing departments help them get there and equally hold them accountable.

A guy can dream…right?

In the interim; reality continues to exist and millions upon millions of ad dollars are getting thrown against lead-generation initiatives and many of these initiatives will fail. By fail I simply mean not live up to the full potential they could have through a better integrated sales and marketing culture and process.

So why do they fail to live up to their promise? 

Here’s my perspective on the top 5 reasons lead generating initiatives fail:

1. No Follow-Up At All
All of us at some point have heard, read or experienced the statistics that continually tell us that less than 20% of sales leads ever get followed-up on. It’s a sad statement of business reality but most companies do not have a detailed, documented process that covers even the basics of how a lead will get nurtured or routed to sales. So when a marketing program takes place, the leads are never given the necessary attention. Test this yourself; do you have a documented process for “what happens” when an email comes into your website or a phone call comes into your office or a visitor pops by your booth?

Does it get logged and coded or does it just get forwarded as an “FYI” and left to an individual in sales or a marketing admin to ensure follow-up occurs?

Scary isn’t it?

Brian Carroll, a lead generation (and more) expert has a great quote on this – “To me it’s better to not be involved with a customer at all than to start a relationship and then drop the ball”

2. Slow Follow-Up
Like Bread or Beer – leads go stale. When people inquire, they’re interested right then and chances are they’re aren’t just looking at your solutions to satisfy their interests, especially in the B2B space. In addition to their interest in your offerings, you have to expect that your competition is also in the mix and maybe responding while you sit on the sidelines.

 As communication platforms like twitter, facebook and linkedin have pervasively grown; people are also going elsewhere beyond vendors for opinions on your products and competitive options while you twiddle your fingers ignoring the lead at its source. 

Who would you rather have following up on an inquiry that came directly to you? Someone from your marketing or sales group or an anonymous source on twitter?

Don’t just take my word for it; Knowledgestorm has years of research on purchase behavior in the IT and related space and they’ve repeatedly told their advertisers “Leads Get Cold Quickly”.

Almost as bad as ignoring them altogether – if leads aren’t nurtured quickly – it’s a waste, because you aren’t leveraging the original investment made to generate the inquiries.

3. Limited Follow-Up
I’m guessing some of you are thinking #1 and #2 don’t apply to you – because you have a system in place where 100% of your leads are followed up via an email or phone call within a reasonable time frame.

So why are your programs failing to reach their potential?

Maybe because that initial follow-up is all that is occurring and a process for continued follow-up and nurturing isn’t mapped out.

Let’s start with the basics – the majority of leads, even good leads, aren’t ready to buy right away. The buying process itself, depending on the complexity of the “product” or “service” being sourced, may not be a single person process and may be stretched over several months. Additionally, in the B2B space “Impulse Buying” does not exist  and potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time doing research and comparing options.

How the hell are you going to add value to that complex process with one-off emails or a single qualifying phone call?

According to Reed Business Information Systems statistics – the number of personal sales calls necessary to close an order is 5.2 and an average buyer sees nearly 2 sales people per week. Factor in the realities of the buyers also hiding behind automated switchboards, voice-mail, spam and junk e-mail filters and it seems that even legitimate leads are actually discouraging sales people from trying to connect. In my world – we call that “noise”; and you have to elevate and rise above all that noise for your message to be heard….and trust me; one phone call or one follow-up email isn’t going to do it.

True lead nurturing builds relationships with the right people at the right companies through relevant and consistent dialogue and touch points,  regardless of their timing to buy. This nurturing helps turn an initial lead into a sales-ready or transactional lead when the timing is right.

4.  Wrong Follow-Up
One of the challenges of following up on leads is agreeing what a lead is to begin with. Ask a sales rep and they’ll likely tell you a lead is a thoroughly qualified potential customer who is ready to buy today, credit card in hand. Ask a direct marketer and they’ll like tell you a lead is anyone from a targeted potential customer who gave up their contact information, whether it was to download a white paper or they checked a box on a Web site or dropped a card in the bowl at a trade show.

Common definitional issues wreak havoc on lead generation and follow-up programs; and all it takes is one sales person calling a marketing defined lead and getting blown off to summarize that all these marketing defined leads “stink”…or what we call “poisoning the well” and you are right back to Issue #1 – leads start to get ignored.

If you are resource constrained and can’t afford to extend incremental resources to qualify and nurture leads before handing them to sales; at a minimum sales should fully understand how the leads are being generated and the context of the inquiry; not just the content of who’s contacting. A well integrated sales and marketing group, even an understaffed one, can make huge gains in lead conversions simply by better understanding how to best follow-up and nurture an early stage lead.

In other words, if you are currently just dumping leads over the fence to the sales side of the house – STOP!

Take the time once a week, once a month or once a quarter to review how the leads are being generated and have an open / honest discussion on how to best follow-up to ensure maximum success.

5. Losing Sight of the Buy-Cycle (Not Qualifying Leads)
I mentioned it in #3 above and if you’ve read much of my blog posts; you’ve probably picked up that I frequently mention the “buy-cycle” when talking about marketing trends, research or studies. I do this because I happen to be a big believer in tying marketing strategies and tactics back to common sense buyer behavior.

At the risk of sounding “basic”, essentially the buy-cycle simply means that there are natural steps or stages we go through as consumers before we ultimately decide to purchase (or not); and I think this is true whether we are talking about software, cranes or even product certification services. Some other marketers refer to this as a purchase funnel – either way…

1. We become aware of, or INTERESTED-IN a particular product or service – whether by direct need or curiosity

2. We CHECK IT OUT, maybe do some research or talk to peers

3. And then we COMPARE & DECIDE which to buy; if any.

Depending on the complexity of the “product” or “service” being sourced, this may not be a single person process and may be stretched over several months; but in the B2B space one thing is certain and that’s “Impulse Buying” does not exist. Potential B2B buyers spend a lot of time doing research and comparing options; and numerous third party studies support that this research is increasingly being done online. While online, it’s just commons sense that these potential buyers see a lot of ads, messages and brands  – and those messages that are contextually related to the research they are pursuing are going to be noticed and retained; and who they ultimately do business with or purchase from is generally the outcome of these targeted multiple influences over time.

Targeted impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches done by a potential customer online create the baseline that the buyer uses to compare all options under consideration as final selection nears.

In short; if a buyer frequently sees ads, comments or references towards Brand A while they are researching Topic X…Brand A is going to stand out as a market leader or, at a minimum, a baseline to compare other options.

As a result, a marketer needs to build awareness, consideration and purchase intent before a purchase decision by the buyer is ever made.

What does all the above mean to your lead generation initiatives?

Without first qualifying a lead – you have no clue where in the buy-cycle an individual is; it’s like timing the stock market.

How can you add value to a complex buying process if you aren’t sure if they are just in preliminary research stages or narrowing down to a final few options for purchase in the next few days? Without qualifying; you can really flub your lead follow-up and waste your time and your potential clients time if you try pitching an early stage buyer just as bad as you can by trying to re-educate a late stage buyer.

All lead follow-up activities; regardless of who is handling it, should have minimum qualifying questions. 

BONUS (#6):
Whenever possible; use a phone – nothing can compete with a real, live phone dialog to qualify and nurture a genuine lead, regardless of where they are in the buying cycle. The phone is the #1 sales and marketing tool to maximize any lead generation program.

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What is a lead?

In my interactions with prospects and clients about online marketing; it is inevitable at some point that the word “lead” will be in the conversation, or likely the focus of the conversation. Typically it will be used in the context of “lead generation”; statements like – I’m in interested in generating leads or we’re looking for more leads or how many leads can we generate if we work with you etc…

In the 10+ years of conversations I’ve had on this topic, I’ve learned the hard way that the first thing I absolutely have to do is get on the same page as my client / prospect as to what their definition of lead is. Simple common definition issues can really create problems or expectation issues down the road; or even kill the sale altogether.

What I’ve found is most times when folks say lead in the context of online– what they really mean is sales lead, or transactional leads (RFPs, RFIs or RFQs). That might seem obvious – but in order to talk about marketing strategies and tactics and program recommendations, I need to know if someone either cares or places value on earlier stage leads (see my blog post on understanding the buying process online).

If someone is focused only on the tail end of the buying process online (either intentionally or ignorantly) – I need to understand why. It could be they are resource constrained; and therefore unable to follow-up appropriately and nurture early stage leads or they’ve just never thought the whole issue through, to no fault of their own. Hopefully, I’ll gain a chance educate them on the importance and opportunities missed and potentially help them work through resource issues or internal constraints.

Depending on the specifics of that discussion; the topics of “lead nurturing”, “lead qualification” and “lead scoring (what makes one lead better than another)” often come up as well; making the entire conversation so much more meaningful in the long run by engaging me in more aspects of their business and putting me in a stronger position to really integrate my recommendation into their current (or future) business practices.

 So back to the topic at hand – what are the common factors in my definition of a “lead” – regardless of the stage?

Well in my experience; early stage and late stage leads should all have the following information in common:

  • Contact Information: Enough so you can either nurture it further through “re-marketing” efforts (follow-up tactics) or so you can figure out who in your sales organization should get it for more immediate follow-up. E-mail address at a minimum; but add in full name and mailing address and perhaps even a phone number or fax and now you have the ultimate in contact information with multiple options and means for follow-up.
  • Demographic Information: At a minimum, you should know the company the individual is from and hopefully their industry focus and job role; which can help you determine their potential application and can set both the tone and manner of your follow-up.
  • Category of Interest: What is it that they are looking for or at? Are they downloading a white paper? Looking for more information on a specific product? Asking for Pricing? Or are they just curious about your company? Again; this will help set the tone and manner of your follow-up sales, re-marketing or drip-marketing efforts.

 That’s it….you get these three pieces of information; and you have yourself a lead.

 To determine the qualification of that lead; e.g. is this  a “transactional” lead or other sales lead vs. perhaps an earlier one – there is a slew of additional information you might need; some of that information can be gleamed through lead-qualification processes that will be a subject for future blog posts, but through these processes you can ask questions focused on:

  • Preferred Means of Contact
  • Timing
  • Budget Availability / Influence / Ability
  • Level of Interest
  • Competitor Options under Consideration etc.

If you are still struggling to get on the same page as either your vendors or even internally about what makes an online lead a lead and how important it is to place value on early stage vs. just focusing on late stage leads; take the discussion out of the context of online and take it offline, use a tradeshow analogy.

When someone registers to attend a tradeshow you are exhibiting at…are they a lead? In most people’s opinion; at best they are a suspect.

How about when that individual actually shows up at the exhibition hall? Probably not; perhaps still a suspect…maybe a prospect.

How about when they begin to flip through the directory that features your company or they start to walk down the aisle where you have a booth and signage?  Getting closer…but still not a lead?

How about when they stop and read your signage or view your booth and display…if even at a cautious distance? Warmer still…

How about when they drop a business card in the bowl or hand you their badge for scanning? For most folks…this is a lead now, everything that happened before then held little to no value.

Is this right the way to view lead generation? Am I fairly evaluating my trade show experience or even maximizing my trade show investment by only counting those cards I acquired or badges I’ve scanned?

The truth is – my prospect was a potential lead the moment they registered to attend the show itself. The person was an early stage lead for sure, but they were curious enough about my industry to register to attend a show that I felt appropriate to exhibit at. In a perfect world, if I could market and nurture that individual along from the beginning, I would have “bettered my chances” of them being among those who dropped their card or had their badge scanned vs. waiting for them to discover me on their own.

It all points back to the buy cycle (again, see my earlier posts). While evaluating marketing options and strategies, it’s important to remember that customer conversions (new sales) are the outcome of multiple influences over time.

From a sales & marketing perspective, being discovered as early in the process as possible is critical; as the impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches create the baseline criteria that the buyer will use to compare all options under consideration as final selection and purchase timeframes gets closer.

As always, I hope this post at least triggered some thought if not discussion.

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Understanding the Buying Process Online: Part I: Overview

While evaluating marketing options and strategies, it’s important to remember that client successes (new customer conversions) are generally the outcome of multiple influences over time. To maximize your online marketing effectiveness; consideration should be given to maximizing your visibility to your target customers during all aspects of the buy cycle.

 

From a sales & marketing perspective, being discovered as early in the buying process as possible is critical; as the impressions and results from the first few exposures and searches by a potential customer creates the baseline criteria that the buyer will use to compare all options under consideration as final selection and purchase gets closer.

 

The graphic below illustrates a typical buying process in the B2B space from initial awareness straight through to purchase. Although the buyer may not articulate the buying process in this specific way, even the most casual purchases are made with a similar process.  

 

Typical Buy Cycle

Typical Buy Cycle

 

 

 

 

 

In future posts; we’ll review the specific details and importance of each of these phases of the buy cycle and the marketing considerations for maximizing your visibility during them.

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