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Oct 20, 2004
Event Wrap-up

2004 East Coast Lead Generation Summit Wrap-Up: Why You Should Never Classify Leads as Hot

SUMMARY: We just flew back from our 2004 East Coast B-to-B Lead Generation Marketing Summit in Washington DC and have a bunch of notes to share with you from the show. In this quick wrap-up you'll discover:
The best way to categorize leads (never tell sales a lead is "Hot")
Why sales often neglect to follow up on your leads (the "black hole problem")
A link to a super-handy calculator for lead generation
Data on which DM package creative pulled better
Plus, how to tweak your site to get more Google traffic:
Wow -- We just got back into the office from the first of MarketingSherpa's two Business-to-Business Lead Generation Summits, and our heads are reeling with ideas and information for you...

Here's a wrap-up of some of the information presented during the 14 sessions at the East Coast Summit in DC this Monday and Tuesday:

The best way to classify leads (never tell sales a lead is merely "Hot")

Every single speaker agreed your number one goal as a b-to-b marketer has to be to classify all incoming leads and then track their success.

But don't make the all-too-common mistake of classifying leads simply as "hot," "warm," and "cold" (or "A, B, C" for that matter). That's because no one on the sales side will ever want to contact a lead that was tarred with the "warm" or "cold" brush. They have quotas to make, or they lose their jobs.

If they have a grain of sense they'll not waste time on anything that's not "hot." But, if you put any leads in the "hot" bucket that don't close easily, sales will begin to view the entire bucket with suspicion. Once they distrust your ability to discern lead quality, you're sunk.

Soon your CEO will hear only about the new accounts the sales department brought in "all by themselves" and never about how marketing helped out. You're one step from the door yourself. (And forget about getting your 2005 budget approved easily.)

Speaker Brian Carroll of suggested you partner *with* the sales team to create a numerical lead classification system that's on a 100-point scale.

Every element of data you can get on a lead should be scored with more points going toward elements proven to exist in current best-of customer accounts... such as:

- Number of staff in any department that would use your offering

- Business shifts (launches, new hires, strategies formally announced in quarterly reports, etc.) indicating a need for your offering

- Amount of time spent on your site, clicks on your emails, webinar attendance, white paper downloads

- SIC codes, association membership, industry vertical

- job function of named lead, number of leads in organization

Then you share your lead database with sales, letting them know precisely what the scoring is for every name. They can decide what specific level they define as "hot" (perhaps 60+ points scored), and how to juggle their calls to focus on the very highest scoring names.

Plus, you'll be able to fine-tune your marketing follow-up and nurturing campaigns to keep lower-scoring names simmering along until their scores improve.

Yes, this means a lot more work for marketing. You probably have to reallocate some of your lead gen budget to scoring and nurturing activities. But, it's worth it to wind up with leads that are usable, as opposed to leads that aren't ever called on.

With this system, general inquiries, badges zapped at trade shows, white paper registrations, etc., don't count as "hot leads" anymore. In fact the age of a lead alone doesn't mean it's hot. Only the carefully scored quality of a lead indicates worthiness of sales team follow-up.

You can't hand anything to sales until you've done more research, and perhaps some nurturing activities (further offers, education, warm fuzzies, etc.), to determine that lead is one of the perhaps 10% of your total inquiries that will really, truly, definitely be worth calling on.

Quantifiable lead quality, based on a scientific scoring system that sales helped you develop and have completely bought into, is everything.

You'll still need to generate a lot of inquiries to sift through to get those high-scoring leads. But, as you begin to classify incoming leads using the 100-point scale, you'll learn which sources are worth investing in. Then you can redirect your budget in that direction. (See below for a link to a free handy lead gen needs calculator.)

Why sales often neglect to follow up on your leads (the "black hole problem")

Mac McIntosh explained, "Salespeople cherry pick the leads they can close now with minimum hassle."

They're not lazy. They're pragmatic. Their job is on the line if they don't perform -- in some companies they only have 90-days to close a certain number of sales. If they suspect your leads won't close quickly, they'll move on quickly to another source. There's no time to waste.

Which is why on average speakers reported only 10% of leads generated by marketing are ever followed up on by sales.

Thankfully, marketing can take back some control by:

Step 1. Never ever handing over a lead unless it's ready to be closed. (Good old fashioned qualification telemarketing still works.)

Step 2. Sitting in on all regular sales meetings to get feedback on leads; or, have an admin assist call reps weekly to get lead-by-lead feedback. (Don't ask reps to spend more time filling out reports for you when they need to be out selling.)

Step 3. Putting all leads not worthy of immediate sales attention into a nurturing program (budget for this as a separate line and time item from initial generation activities.)

This is where email and print newsletters can come into play, along with comp invites to user conferences, get-togethers at trade shows, advanced webinars and white papers, etc.

Step 4. Proudly releasing program graduates as ready-to-be-sold, high-scoring leads.

Step 5. Tracking every step of the way as scientifically as possible and reporting on your progress relentlessly to upper management. (Forget details, they love big-picture overviews including graphs and pie charts.)

Don't have the resources or tech to track your leads all the way through? Speakers scoffed at this problem.

We've forgotten in this software age that folks used to track leads by hand. One company said they have a temp come in two days a month to track new accounts against the lead records by hand. Hey, it works. And it's cheap if you can't afford that new CRM system quite yet.

Data on which DM package creative pulled better

SecureWorks' CMO Chris Coleman bravely stepped forward to share results of five different postal direct mail campaigns she's tested over the past 19 months.

"I'm a recovering creative director," she noted (which made everyone laugh.)

Turns out her most creative ideas (die cuts, bold colors, cartoony drawings, photos of worms to represent security problems, unusual freebie offers) all got a lower ROI than the down-and-dirty letter campaign she first tested when there wasn't any time for cool creative.

Yup, a one-page letter in a classic #10 business envelope was the best bet. This ultra-cheap $.59 cent package consistently pulled an average 1.32% response rate when mailed to the exact same list of 19,000 key prospects half a dozen times over a year.

(One of the more creative packages came in at 1.58% response, but it was much more expensive, so the ROI wasn't as good in the end.)

Coleman also tested having her in-house telemarketing team call everyone who'd just been mailed a very colorful postcard - for a response rate of 12%. (Another speaker said, "Sometimes you can combine telemarketing and direct mail, and make one plus one add up to three.")

But the cost was so much higher per response that she's reserving the tactic to be used just with small, extremely targeted lists in niche markets she needs to dominate quickly before the competition gets their foot in the door.

How to tweak your b-to-b lead generation site to get more (qualified) Google traffic

73% of clicks on Google search results are on the organic (non-paid) listings. That doesn't mean your paid AdWords ads aren't worth running (unless your campaign metrics are tanking.)

It does mean if your site doesn't turn up in organic listings, you're missing a large chunk of traffic. Key tips from the Summit:

- Optimize your site for "problem terms" instead of just solutions. Business execs tend to search using their pain point or problem they need solved in the search terms. Marketers tend to optimize based on the solution they offer. The disconnect means they won't find each other.

- Never waste a text hotlink either on your site or on others linking to you by using generic copywriting such as "Read on," "Home", or "Click here." Search spiders read the words in links to decide how to rank your site. So those words should include the terms you want to be found under.

- If you have lots of sites linking to yours -- such as value-added resellers, independent sales reps, other divisions, etc -- don't just give them a graphical link such as your logo. Ask them to include a text-link including your top search keyword. It's far, far more valuable.

- If a page on your site has an URL that's longer than 60 characters, it's highly unlikely to ever show up in search engine results. Plus, use keywords in your page URLs instead of numbers or other gobbledegook that means a lot to your Web department but not to a search engine spider looking for search terms to rank the page under.

- Post a static HTML Web page for each of your area sales reps. This works especially well if you have loads of them. Your main site gets link back from the reps' pages, and the reps may get email from qualified prospects.

And be sure to include a happy headshot of that rep on the page. Research data presented at the Summit from print ads, email newsletters, and Web designers, all showed that a photo of a real (non-clip-arty) human being looking at the viewer works best as creative.

Lastly, when it comes to paid search, you'll need to consider two things to improve your landing page conversion rates beyond the standard 6%:

- Programming your landing page headlines to include the search term the visitor just came from is fairly quick and easy (one speaker said less than $500.) Headlines that include exact search terms convert far better than anything else -- so why aren't you doing this now?

- Consider creating different landing pages (and offers) for search terms at each stage of the sales cycle. Someone searching for cost data on financial software is at a very different stage than someone searching for "Sarbanes Oxley Info".

These are just a few of the best tips we garnered at the Summit. (Summing up two full days of intensive seminars is tough.) We'd like to leave you with this one quote, again from Mac McIntosh, "If your sales leads are truly good, sales will follow up."


Useful links related to this story:

Marketing Lead Calculator -- an interactive spreadsheet to help you to determine the realistic number of marketing touches, inquiries and qualified sales leads needed in order to meet your company's sales revenue objectives (super useful for budgeting)

See Also:

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