Hopefully your company has well-defined processes to develop and collect qualified contacts, leads, customers, and anyone in your target market with whom you want to communicate. If not, now’s the time.
Prospect and customer list development and management goes right up among the most important business development projects you can undertake. Just as with social media, your outbound communications will be wasted if the network you’ve built isn’t relevant and qualified.
I’ve heard “but we get all our lists from outside providers” as a rationale for weak or non-existent contact lists. Outside providers will give you lists of cold leads. That’s a great place to start.
It’s a 1,000 mile journey from cold lead to customer.
It’s frequently a long and costly journey to convert a cold lead to a customer. Seems like common sense, but the warmer the lead going in, the easier that conversion becomes.
Here are the definitions I’m using. A cold lead is contacted by you without knowledge of their level of interest. They are part of the demographic that should theoretically want your widget, but they haven’t shown any sign. A warm lead has established a level of interaction with your company – requested information from you, downloaded some e-material, asked to be put on your mailing list. A hot lead is raring to go, already in the sales funnel, and the likelihood of a transaction happening is good.
Conferences are notorious for producing cold leads. That’s not the fault of the conference or its attendees, but rather of the lead-collection practices of the participating companies. If your lead generation consists of collecting business cards for a raffle, then don’t be surprised when you don’t get customers from the lead pile. Those folks are hunters of free stuff and not qualified to be your customers. A better way to work conferences? Ask for someone’s time. Have them sit for a product demonstration. If they’re willing to devote 15-20 minutes to you, then they have demonstrated interest. Interest = warm lead.
Break some rules.
Without question, you should be creating outbound marketing initiatives and communicating with your prospects on a routine basis. Define routine as best suits your business. And don’t follow conventional wisdom. That results in conventional results, not the stellar performance we seek. For sake of example, mobile food trucks might be tweeting their whereabouts every hour and that might not be frequent enough. For some businesses, contacting your list every two or three weeks might be too much. Use your judgment, and closely monitor your unsubscribes to see if you’re seeing spikes.
Ask questions of your data, then segment accordingly.
This may seem obvious, but if a description of your ideal customer is principals of elementary schools in underperforming, highly-funded surburban fringe areas in the Southwest, then your contact list better be segmented to allow you to get to that specific criteria. Particularly in education, there are many roles and levels of influence, and each state has different purchasing practices. So if you can’t currently segment, figure out how to make that happen. It’s essential for a successful marketing program.
Good lists are a tremendous benefit for companies. So the list of last month’s newsletter sign-ups that reside on Mary’s laptop – and only on Mary’s laptop — doesn’t do anyone else any good. So create a process for list storage and make sure those who will benefit – that’s you sales and marketing – have proper access.
Only qualified leads need apply.
Remember, prospect lists are a garbage-in, garbage out proposition. So you’re in a much better position if you add warm leads only. Otherwise, your hard working sales and marketing team will be doing nothing but cold-calling, which is difficult, thankless, and costly in both time and money.
Jettison the deadbeats.
Warm leads that are contacted over time without advancement define themselves as cold leads. Make sure you’re pulling out non-responders from your list so you’re not wasting both time and money.
Home-grown prospect lists married with a strong outbound marketing program is a great way to outpace your competition and sell to your potential. Remember, if you’re not actively creating and deploying outbound marketing then the assumption is your product sells itself. And you know that the real world just doesn’t work that way.
Download the PDF The K-12 Marketing Toolkit: 11 Essential Components for more on having your business reach it’s potential in the K-12 marketplace.