Monday, July 16, 2012

Offer, capture, respond, repeat = profitable lead generation

The core idea with a lead generation campaign is to offer something your target audience wants as a way to start a dialog with them so you can complete a sale online.  But it doesn't really start with the offer. 

It starts with the profile.

Before you post a white paper and buy Google Ads, you need to know what your perfect lead looks like:
  • what they read
  • how savvy of an online buyer are they
  • how much they earn for you in profit on each sale
  • what you really need to know about them to pre-qualify the sale
  • what their pain points are.  
Write these down. Then compare then against your current client base. As your database gets more sophisticated, you can identify multiple profiles and establish a profitability rating for each of them. 
This exercise will help you recognize a good lead when it shows up, as well, so it's good work for today and for tomorrow.

Consider also who your target customers' influencers are. At The Governance Institute, we were banging our heads against a wall trying to reach physicians and hospital CEOs, doing all we could to get around their assistants and office managers. When we finally figured out to talk to the office managers and assistants about the issues we wanted to address with the CEO, we got much further with those conversations. We ultimately developed materials for the CEO's support team and started generating demand from that group because they were often sent to find our information. Landing pages and specialized content on our site helped them find us, and helped us close the sale.

Off to the offer.

Armed with your profile(s), you can determine what your promotional offering should be: white paper, or coupon or discount, or exclusive content or a free transaction with your company.

Back in the day when lead gen was a new idea, it was exclusively in the form of a single page with a form on the right and the user downloaded a white paper. SugarCRM has a nice version of this standard. That isn't a compelling offer for everyone, and it doesn't always match the ultimate form of the sale. For example: do you have a steady stream of high-level white papers to offer in this format? Does your client want information (ie., a white paper), or do they want to see something nobody else has, or do they want their life to be made easier: would a trial version be compelling?

Taylor Guitars in San Diego offers exclusive content of fabulous musicians like Dave Matthews and Jewel and Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz playing their Taylor Guitars when users sign up to their Facebook account or register their guitars. That plays into the users' desire to be part of an exclusive community and experience the guitar. It also showcases the guitars brilliantly. Watch my Jan 2012 interview with Taylor Guitars.

As always, think in terms of your most profitable clients' most pressing need. You'll want to bring a few ideas to the table and then test your tests out over the next 30 days--keep tests short or you'll start to bump into seasonal and wear-out factors.

Choosing promotional outlets.

You know who you are targeting (because they are the most profitable) and you know what you will offer them (because you understand them). Then you want to evaluate your promotional channels, how you will advertise this lead opportunity. 

Choose based on research you would have done as part of your profile building work. You should know where they go online and what they read. Assuming that painted a clear picture for you, a few sites to advertise on will emerge. Based on your budget, you'll determine if you want to do display or use ad consolidators like Google's Ad Sense or Ad Choices. 

If you're trying to promote your app on the Apple App Store or Android Store, you'll have to go through avenues like LinkShare and funnel through their specific channels. If you have partner organizations like channel partners or distribution partners, then look at how they might be able to make some advertising space for you or share space in some of their existing advertising contracts. I'm a big fan of frugality so I'd rather find a creative solution that might be smallish, but doesn't over-commit me than spend money first and ask questions later. You could also go in cold to a big media schedule: good luck with that.

Once you have 2-5 promotional channels in your plan (and any costs associated with your specific offer), you'll know the total cost of your promotion. Now divide the number of leads you plan to earn from this buy, and you'll have your cost per lead. You then have to compare that cost to your current profitability per client. If the cost to get those new clients is higher than your profitability, you know you can't do the campaign the way you intended. Like Hippocrates said: "do no harm." Don't let your advertising cost you money--it's there to make you money. There is always a way to spend less money online, you just have to ask around.

Respond to leads.

Not all leads are created equally. You will need to respond to these leads and analyze them for the following:
  • Did you get the types of people you'd hoped to get? Do they answer the qualifying questions the same way your high-profit, high-value targets would answer them?
  • Did they convert in the same amount of time (or close) as your other sales methods? If they take less time, count a win. If they take more time, re-evaluate your questions, your offer and your channels.
  • Did they buy? Not all will buy, but some have to, if you want to count this a success. What is an acceptable wastage rate? Compare your conversion rate to the cost and conversion rates of other sales methods and decide if this channel is still profitable for you.
  • When you did your A/B testing, did one kind of ad or offering generate better response in a given channel, and an even response among the audience from another channel? Great! Split the buy and deliver the offer that audience A responds to into that channel, and the other offers into other channels. Provide the message your audience wants, not what you or your CEO likes the best.


Now that you have tested and know your likely outcomes, revise your buy for another 30 or 60 days, set your targets and do it again. 

Thanks to Perform Insider for a good reminder on the basics, and to Point Clear for a helpful discussion on lead definition.