Lead generation: it can make you or break you

By Karl Boothroyd

As a B2B marketing consultancy, the most common thing we’re asked to look at is lead generation, which is how it should be because nothing happens without an enquiry for your product or service.

The correct treatment of leads generates more sales and maximizes the effectiveness of your marketing spend.

The first question we ask before we spend clients’ money is: “Do you have a sales problem or a marketing problem?” That is, are you in enough deals but have a poor conversion rate or do you have a satisfactory conversion rate but are not in enough deals?

It still amazes us how many companies can’t answer this question.

Without knowing this basic information we are working from a vague starting point and might be just throwing good money after bad. You might need sales training or a different sales manager rather than lead generation activities.

The next major stumbling block is not knowing where your current leads come from.

When a company understands exactly where it’s best sales leads come from, it can confidently make decisions about how and where to target it’s marketing spend.

It can also accurately measure the impact and effectiveness of its marketing lead generation activities.

Companies that get this right have a culture and discipline around lead generation and management, usually driven from the very top.

I know of a former CEO of one of Australia’s great capital equipment companies who was known to call his branches to test if the correct questions were asked when he made a hoax enquiry. If not, formal warnings were given, because he understood the value of knowing where his sales leads were coming from.

Many companies with unreliable lead management processes want to blame the marketing activity for lack of sales, but sadly they have no idea what works and what doesn’t.

Enquiries from websites can give the ultimate in lead generation intelligence. Through simple tools such as Google Analytics you know exactly which website the enquirer came from, words they used to start their search, where they went on your site and for how long. This information makes decisions around online expenditure simple.

All companies use terms like “leads are gold” but most don’t treat them like something of value. It often amazes us how long a company can take just to make that initial contact with an enquirer. We run a call centre for our clients for the main purpose of generating leads. Our policy is to send the lead to the client within minutes of receiving it. We encourage clients to treat leads with the same urgency. I can’t think of a bigger waste of money and brand killer than a lead not being followed-up by a salesperson.

The discipline required to ensure this never happens is another issue that needs to be driven from the very top. Every company should have a policy detailing expected sales lead follow-up times, follow-up actions and reporting requirements.

This information must be regularly fed back to marketing managers and, ideally, the advertising agency, so the source and quality of sales leads can be analysed and assessed for future marketing spend decisions.

It should be noted that when asking an enquirer about why they’ve called your company you need to be careful of misleading answers.

For example, a TV or radio campaign might generate great interest but the source of the lead might be recorded as Yellow Pages or Internet if the correct questions aren’t asked. This is because many people don’t jump on the phone as soon as they see or hear an ad, but will later go to their preferred information source to gather more information and get your contact details. So in the case of the enquirer answering “Yellow Pages” to the question “How did you find out about our company/product?” you should then ask: “What prompted you to find us in the Yellow Pages?” The answer will probably be “I heard your ad on the radio.”

Too much is also made of the percentage “response rate.”

If you usually generate two leads a week and a new marketing activity doubles that, does it matter if the response rate was below one per cent?

What’s more important is cost-per-lead, which has to be relative to your conversion rate and value of order.

We’ve known of many companies over the years that would rather have their highly paid selling staff driving around to hopefully find a customer because they don’t want to spend money on marketing activities. It’s easy maths to show how costly that lead generation method is versus a well targeted, and managed, lead generation program that provides selling staff with an ongoing stream of quality, qualified sales leads.

In summary:

  • The CEO needs to be passionate about sales leads
  • The company needs a culture of treating leads like gold
  • There needs to be a system and discipline in place to ensure accurate identification and reporting of lead sources
  • Cost-per-lead is more meaningful than response rates
  • Policies and management discipline are required to ensure the correct follow-up of leads
  • The company needs to ensure selling staff close the information loop by providing to marketing and then the agency, the resulting action from each and every lead.

Karl Boothroyd is the founder and CEO of IM Advertising, a specialist B2B marketing agency. IM Advertising is owned by Australia’s largest marketing communications company, The STW Group.

Karl can be contacted at karl@imadvertising.com.au or 02 4627 8011.