Looking for a Lead Generation Company?
Lead generation has become a pillar of nearly every organization’s efforts to expand their customer base–53% of marketers say over half of their budget goes towards lead generation.
But lead generation is a broad term. And with that lack of specificity comes challenges, namely:
“What do I do? Where do I start? Someone... anyone? Help?”
And to make things more difficult, there are thousands of resources out there telling you that you need to post on social media 20 times a day, invest in PPC, run ads, start a podcast, direct a feature film, and brand your own ice cream just to generate leads. It can feel confusing and intimidating.
This isn’t to say none the tactics listed above aren’t advantageous, because some of them are (ice cream). But what a lot of these resources fail to do is relate tactics to the desired outcomes that are driving behavior. Example:
You don’t write blog posts to say “Well, we got 20% more site impressions this month, but the amount of leads and pipeline generated didn’t increase at all.”
The truth is that marketing and sales activities are a means to an end. And if you’re trying to grow your business, that “end” probably isn’t an award-winning podcast or a tear-jerking white paper.
You do this stuff to generate more traffic, more leads, and more revenue. And effective lead generation companies never lose sight of that.
The guide below details everything from common mistakes to questions you should ask when evaluating outsourced lead generation companies (lead gen outsourcing is 43% more effective than doing it in-house).
Read it from top to bottom or skip to the session that interests you most:
Are You Making These Lead Generation Mistakes?
You work hard to find new leads.
You promote, advertise, and network. But if you apply those efforts inappropriately, you might be shouting into a void. To find (and convert) new prospects, you have to be intentional.
So avoid these four common mistakes that sabotage your lead generation efforts.
1. Targeting Too Wide
How well do you know your audience?
Often, businesses try to cast a wide net, hoping to catch as many fish as possible. But you don't want a lot of fish. You want the right ones. Actually, you don't even want fish. You want clients or customers. And you need to attract them more so than "catch" them. Because unlike a fish, a potential client knows how to get out of a net.
The key to attracting the right audience is focus. Never stop questioning who your audience is. You have to understand who they are and where they hang out.
Know where your audience is. Find their "watering holes." Those are the places where your audience congregates, where they spend their time. Then you can put your marketing and lead generation efforts into the right channels.
Instagram is a great example. It's a beautiful platform full of engaged users. But there’s no reason to pour a bunch of time and money into Instagram ads if your audience isn’t on the platform. Instead, find out where your prospects live (figuratively) and meet them there.
Know what motivates your audience. If you don't focus on a narrow audience, you'll end up with a watered-down, one-size-fits-all message. While one size might technically fit everyone, it doesn't really fit anyone well. By focusing on a smaller audience instead, you can pinpoint their needs and values.
Let's say you provide bookkeeping for small businesses. A company with revenue between $100,000 and $200,000 will have different struggles than one generating more than $1 million per year.
They have different pain points, so you need to address them individually. Your solution might actually be the same for each case (with differences just in scale), but they probably talk about their problems differently.
If you know what motivates your audience, you can tailor your messaging to them.
This could by why your email blast to a 100,000 prospect list produces crickets. Instead of trying to reach everyone with the same generic email, you should segment your list. Try different messages for each segment.
The smaller your target, the more focused you can make your content. And the better your change at actually reaching someone.
2. Not Understanding Your Buyer Personas
If you're going to generate leads that actually have a chance of turning into future clients, you need to truly understand them. Knowing where they spend time is a good start, especially since it helps you get to know them better.
To really understand your potential clients, you should create a full buyer persona. This is a description of the people you serve. It allows you to get into their heads before you ever get them on the phone.
A buyer persona is more than demographic information. It includes a financial, emotional, and psychological understanding of your client.
Ultimately, you want to answer the question, "Who are my customers?" Here's a list of questions to help you get started:
What’s their name? (choose an ideal client or make one up)
What is their title?
What are their responsibilities at work?
What are the characteristics of their demographic? (age, profession, income, ...)
What motivates them? (prestige, money, freedom, family, ...)
What are their personal and professional goals?
What challenges are they currently facing?
How do they buy? (in-person, online, over the phone, ...)
What information do they need to know to buy?
What does a customer journey look like for them? (How do they find you? Where? How much do they know about you and your solution? ...)
Once you answer these questions, you'll start to form a clearer picture of who your potential buyer is and what they need you to address. You'll better understand what language to use in your outreach, what information they need and what they don't.
It might feel counter-intuitive to intentionally exclude potential customers. But start with one buyer persona. If you speak to them directly, others will listen as well. They'll see that you understand your clients and want to hear more.
3. Not Following Up Enough
You don't want to annoy potential clients. I get that.
We're all constantly bombarded with sales pitches, promotions, and products or services that we "CAN'T MISS."
But I'm not talking about nagging. After all, you have qualified leads (if you don't, you should). Your product or service will make their lives easier, less expensive, or more efficient.
Why wouldn't you share that with them?
Remember that prospects have many reasons for not getting back to you. They could simply be too busy the first time you reach out. Maybe they were out sick, and your email got lost in a sea of auto-responders. Or perhaps the business wasn't quite ready to make a decision about the service you provide.
Unfortunately, many salespeople give up too quickly without a follow-up strategy. First, know that most sales take at least five follow-ups. Then, develop a thoughtful strategy for following up with your leads.
These days, you have lots of options. You can keep in touch with social media, text messages, email, letters, or even a personalized post card.
By being a little creative, you can stay top of mind with prospects without tipping the annoy-o-meter in the wrong direction.
4. Not Documenting Successes and Failures
Even if you employ all of the steps above, you're really only halfway there if you don’t have a way to quantify your success.
Do postcards outperform emails? Do clients respond more quickly on the phone? Do they convert better after a series of emails? When you have an amazing outreach campaign, you need to be able to replicate it. When you have a total flop, you need to avoid it.
And you can't do either if you aren't documenting what works and what doesn't.
There are loads of strategies out there for measuring campaigns. Unfortunately, they can be quite advanced and intimidating. One thing I don’t see mentioned often is how to start. If you have don't have the data or experience in analytics, it can all be overwhelming. Let me offer you a piece of advice I wish someone had given me.
Take a little time (and I mean very little) and look at benchmarks. Find out what results other businesses are getting. This can be visitor numbers, costs per lead, email open rates, etc. These benchmarks may not fit your situation exactly. You could be outperforming them already. Or they might be out of reach for your lead generation strategy.
But they at least give you a number to float around. Even if you fall short of this goal, having a number is better than fumbling around in the dark without any direction.
The key to a dynamic and useful documentation strategy is to get started. You might quickly find that your goals are out of whack. But you can adjust them.
Once you start keeping track, you have baseline. And even if all that data doesn't get used immediately, you can take advantage of it at a later time, in a different campaign.
Really, starting is the key to outreach.
Start to be more intentional with your lead generation. Narrow your targets as precisely as possible. Commit to really understanding your buyer persona. Follow up. Then follow up some more. And start keeping track immediately.
Between Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition
While these two ideas are closely related, it is important to distinguish between them. Not doing so can cost you a lot of time and money and lead to frustration for you and your potential clients.
At its simplest, lead generation is the process by which you find and qualify potential customers and clients. It can start with inbound marketing, email blasts, cold calling, or any number of other techniques. The goal is to get you a list of leads who have indicated that they're interested in what you have to offer.
Think of a clothing boutique in the mall. Everyone in the mall is a lead because they have chosen to walk around a retail haven, a structure designed for shopping.
But not everyone is a qualified lead. Some people are just browsing. Others are taking advantage of the free air conditioning. Even those who are there to shop might not be interested in the specialized clothing the boutique offers. They might be looking for video games or books.
The people inside the boutique, however, are more qualified. They have chosen, even if just out of curiosity, to scope out the store and its selection. But if they leave the boutique without making a purchase, they are still just a lead.
Maybe they weren't in the mood to buy that day. Maybe they didn't like the clothes the boutique had to offer. Or maybe the sales team dropped the ball. No matter how close the lead came to buying, they did not make the transition to customer.
Rather than just compiling a list of potential leads to dump on the sales team, a customer acquisition strategy has the client's needs and interests in mind from the beginning. The goal is not only to qualify the leads but to nurture them.
In our boutique, this involves targeted advertising and messaging to get the right potential customers into the shop. Once inside, she should be engaged by friendly staff who are genuinely interested in the her needs. They should ask questions to determine how they can best help the customer. They should be informative and helpful even when it doesn't lead to an immediate sale. The goal is to form a bond with the customer so that when it comes time for the sale, the decision is already made.
With great customer acquisition, you get decision makers who are primed for your product or service. Their pain points have been identified. Their interest and budget have been qualified. All that’s left is closing the sale. And a solid acquisition strategy will provide you with all the information you need to make that close.
How to Get the Most From Your Customer Acquisition
Too often, businesses want to jump straight from leads to sales. They want to take a shortcut like buying a list of emails they can spam, hoping to get a few quick wins. Or maybe they might seek out a list of names that have gone through some steps of qualification. They then begin cold calling that list, praying that one or two connections will make it worthwhile.
Solid customer acquisition takes effort though. You have to get to know your buyer before you ever talk to her. You have to develop a level of trust before you give her the sales pitch. This isn't always necessary when you're dealing with inexpensive commodities.
But when you are providing a valuable service, when you're looking to build a lasting relationship, you must nurture your leads, not badger them. This is even more essential when working in a B2B space where a decision maker’s choice affects an entire company.
So what does the process of acquiring customers look like? It isn’t easy, but, fortunately, it's not complicated either.
Great prospecting: If you want high-quality customers, you have to start with high-quality prospects. An effective prospecting strategy will take advantage of big data to find you decision makers in need of your solution.
- Stellar outreach: Prospects will remain prospects unless they are contacted with an outreach strategy that shows them that you understand their struggles. At Sapper, email is still our #1 source for lead generation. We find it effective in reaching clients and opening the door to communication.
- Authentic engagement: For long term clients, you have to play the long game. Engaging with prospects over time builds trust and awareness, making the final step easier.
- Epic closing: The most promising prospects in the world are not valuable until they finally sign on as customers. Whoever is tasked with closing clients must have great closing skills, or the rest of the process is wasted.
- Promise fulfilling: Once a lead has become a client, you need to hold up your end of the bargain. Over-deliver to keep your current customers thrilled. Referrals and reviews are still one of the most effective ways to get new clients.
The Do's and Don't's of Engaging Your Leads
We’ve all been caught in a tricky text thread, the kind where you absentmindedly respond to a friend’s question with a simple “OK” and then suddenly find yourself getting the cold shoulder. If only you’d had that conversation face-to-face!
Perhaps that’s why so many people in sales — a full 65 percent, according to Chief Marketer’s 2018 B2B Lead Gen Trend Survey— prefer in-person meetings.
Anyone with face-to-face pitching experience knows it’s true that body language and tone shifts are much easier to lose over the phone or internet. You witness facial expressions, noticing smiles at light parts and (hopefully) shock at the impressive parts. You can also count clock checks or yawns and know it’s time to switch tactics.
When someone meets with you in person, he’ll be more engaged with your presentation. Emails can go unanswered for ages, but sharing a meal or a cup of coffee makes the meeting more human. Even if your pitch falls completely flat, you’ll understand that much more quickly and move on from what’s clearly a dead lead. That means less wasted time for both parties.
An in-person meeting doesn’t always mean your performance will be better, however. The same Chief Marketer study showed that 59 percent of sellers feel their biggest struggle lies in engaging targeted prospects, which often comes down to knowing how to make the most of your time in front of a potential client. It’s critical to know how to use an in-person pitching opportunity to your advantage so you can nurture every lead.
Avoiding Engagement Missteps
In my time in the lead generation industry, I’ve seen several approaches to meeting with leads in person — some good, some not-so-good. If you want to create a truly engaging and effective pitch meeting, avoid these common mistakes.
- Don’t start with a long stretch of rapport-building.
Ten minutes of “I think my sister’s husband’s brother’s nephew goes to private school with your kid” feels mostly stilted and fake. Spending a minute on icebreaker topics is fine, but after that, get straight to the point. Everyone knows what you’re in the room to discuss. Avoiding your pitch for too long can make the situation uncomfortable.
- Don’t ask questions that lead to answers you already know.
If you do, you’re just avoiding real questions for the sake of being right. Your questions should be challenging for your prospect — smugness is a selfish setting. Change your default setting to “genuinely helpful,” and your prospect will enjoy and engage in the conversation a lot more.
- Don’t be a passenger; be the driver.
The best salespeople can feel when the power dynamic has shifted. You start to spend most of the conversation playing catchup or answering questions that are “relevant” to the prospect, and those answers are likely less focused than you’d like. Instead, take the conversation where you want it to go. Make the points you need to make, and guide the conversation to poignant places.
- Don’t look for “gotcha” moments.
Don’t build your line of questioning to “catch” the prospect saying something you know to be untrue. This type of quest risks the prospect crossing the line from “We definitely have some opportunities” to “This person is making me feel stupid.” You never want to force the second option. They’ll close up quickly to protect themselves from saying anything else that will demonstrate their lack of knowledge. Once they’re closed off, you won’t be able to reach them.
Nailing a Stellar Pitch Meeting
Now that you know what not to do, take your pitch meeting to the next level with these tips for a successful pitch.
- Do share compelling data at the right time.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of telling a compelling story that visibly engages your prospect, then backing it up with hard metrics to support your claims. If your product or service is amazing, he or she might be thinking, “This is too good to be true.” The moment you sense that thought, reference a case study you have on hand or can send directly after the meeting. Show them your word is more than fluff.
- Do challenge at least one thing the prospect says.
Your lead wouldn’t be considering your product or service if he or she had all the answers. So if there’s a moment in your meeting when the prospect has made an assumption that comes into conflict with what you’re certain is true, don’t be afraid to push back. If you do so politely and confidently, you can establish your lead’s trust in you.
- Do ask at least one open-ended question.
Questions that start with “talk to me about” or “tell me more” significantly broaden your sales conversations. These open-ended questions allow you to receive a lot of information in a short time. They also have the potential to bring problems or concerns to light that you might not have uncovered with a typical on-the-tracks line of questioning.
- Do embrace enthusiasm.
If your prospect is excited, be excited. Whatever you’re offering will likely solve some real problems for your leads, so don’t be shocked if they get caught up thinking about that impact. Match their enthusiasm, because their business is good for you, too. That’s why you’re there.
Meeting face-to-face is the most valuable channel I’ve found for nurturing leads. The next time you have the opportunity to pitch a lead in person, keep these tips in mind as you’re preparing your conversation. You’ll be more likely to engage your prospects and spend less time chasing the ghosts of disinterested email leads.
Cold Calling 101
Old habits die hard; that’s as true for business as it is for any other aspect of life. And one of the oldest habits in the sales-and-marketing game is the cold call. Indeed, plenty of companies still utilize this technique that was developed decades ago, and while it continues to divide opinion within certain industries, it remains a big part of many business sales strategies. So to better understand cold calling, it’s time for an examination.
Consider this part of the article “Cold Calling 101” for beginners and veterans alike.
Why Do Businesses Still Cold Call?
The simple answer is that it works for them. (Or at least, they think it works for them. More on that in a moment.) There are certain advantages to the cold-call system, if you know how to implement it properly. Many times, companies don’t make an individual cold call with the express intent of landing a sale. Strange as that may sound, cold calls these days can be more accurately considered “probing calls” to gain pertinent information. Some businesses merely use cold calls to determine who the manager is at a potential client’s operation. Other times, businesses cold call to ask leads survey questions as a form of market research. And lastly, businesses will cold call simply to establish a person-to-person connection with a potential lead.
Cold Calling Drawbacks
What’s not to like? Lots, unfortunately. Not only do consumers hate receiving cold calls, most sales professionals don’t like making them either. They’re difficult, largely ineffective in terms of sales conversion, and take up an inordinate amount of a company’s time and resources. Plus, it’s not going to get any easier for cold callers. More and more businesses are abandoning landlines altogether, and fewer young professionals are willing to pick up the phone to have a conversation with a sales person––even if they could actually benefit from a given product or service.
Future Prospects and Alternatives
It’s likely that some sales professionals will want to go down with the cold-calling ship when the time comes to completely shelve this way of doing business. However, for the moment, some companies will still continue with a cold-calling strategy in some regard, even if it’s not the most efficient way to create leads and make sales. For those who insist in following this ideal, you can take steps to “warm up” your cold calls by utilizing marketing data, sales analytics tools, and by taking more time to study leads beforehand. Alternatively, companies looking to ditch cold calling completely have these methods at their disposal––along with a whole bevy of alternative lead-generation possibilities.
Evaluating Lead Generation Companies
TL;DR - Ask that company: “How many leads end up in closed deals?” and work backwards from there.
But if you want a little more to go on than that:
Lead generation takes a lot of time and energy. Time and energy that you should spend on servicing the clients you currently have. That’s what you do best, and that’s why you leave the lead gen up to someone else.
But you don’t want to hand over such an important task to just anyone. After all, leads are the lifeblood of any sales company. You want to ensure that you are getting your money’s worth, but you also want to work with a lead generation company that is invested in your success.
Here are a few questions you should ask to make sure your lead genartion company isn’t charging you too much for bad leads.
Are they providing too many leads? (Seriously)
We usually ask the opposite question: “Am I getting enough leads?” But solid prospecting calls for quality over quantity.
It’s easy to be distracted by large numbers. Thousands of names, numbers, and email addresses look promising when the lead gen company hands them over. But if you then have to make cold calls to a bunch of unqualified leads, you’ll just be buried in a pile of rejections.
Instead, you want highly targeted and segmented prospects. You want to know that you’re handing your sales team a gift, not a burden Another great question is:
Where are these leads coming from? (Phone, email, etc.)
For example, a lead generation company might serve you up 50 good leads at 1 company. At first, you’re pumped. What did your mom say about something that sounds too good to be true.
How many real decision makers do you think are in that list? How much time (yours and theirs) do you have to waste before you get to the right name? If your pitch is tailored to C-level executives, you don’t need to waste time on a meeting with the Junior Coordinator of Caffeine Transport (coffee runner).
So be sure that you are getting prospects, not just names.
Are they charging too much per lead?
When you start a campaign, you want to know how much you should be paying for leads. We all like specific, tangible amounts so we know if we’re getting a deal or getting ripped off. But there is only one honest answer to the question, “How much is too much to pay for a lead?”
That isn’t a weasel answer. It truly depends on a number of factors. Here are a few you should discuss with your lead gen company to determine how much you should pay for a lead:
- How qualified the leads are: Are you going to have to wade through a heap of duds before talking to truly qualified leads? If so, you might be paying a small amount per lead but a large amount per client. And that’s the real measure.
- The lifetime value of a new client: The only way to tell if you are paying too much for lead generation is to know how much a client is worth to you. Are you selling a one-time service or product? Or will a client stay with you for years, generating tens of thousands in revenue? The more you will make from a new client, the more you can pay to find and convert them.
- The campaign budget: The highest ROI in the world looks great on paper, but if obtaining it will take more than you can afford, you will need to adjust your strategy. You might need to scale back the initial campaign or look for a more targeted approach.
While there isn’t a universal dollar amount to tell you how much you should pay for leads, there are some general guidelines. One standard is that your ROI for a campaign should be at least 5X. Another is that you should pay around 5%-15% of a customer’s value per lead.
What are their targeting and outreach processes?
For example, do they split them up? (They should.) How?
Ask about their targeting strategy. Do they target by vertical, title, employee size, something else? There isn’t one right answer here, but if they stumble through their response, politely tell them you have to shampoo your hair and let them go.
What is their email strategy?
Most likely, the company is doing at least some generation via email. If they do, ask how big their targets are. This is another case where smaller is often better.
For example, are they reaching out to 10,000 prospects at once or 200? Your instinct might tell you that more is better, but think about what those emails look like. How much do those 10,000 people have in common? What are the chances that they all have the same interests? The same problems and desires?
Then why would they all want to be spoken to in the same way? Why would they all want to receive the same email?
If, on the other hand, the company is targeting 200 individuals, they have a much better chance of striking a chord with the recipient. It still won’t be as effective as a one-to-one conversation, but at least they won’t feel like they are just an anonymous face in a crowd.
Is the lead generation company a partner?
Lead generation shouldn’t be a commodity exchange. You want to work with a partner who can help you close more sales, not just hand over a list. Is your lead generation company providing advice on how to target? Do they know your space well enough to see if you are overlooking an important area?
They don’t need to be experts in your field (if they were, they would be your competition), but they should know enough to provide a useful outsider perspective. They should be willing to have these kinds of conversations with you at least.
A solid lead generation strategy can make all the difference in whether your company is growing or shrinking. Don’t settle for the cheapest or flashiest option, though. Look for a company who knows how to work with you to find and cultivate clients, not just generate a long list of shots in the dark.