Category Archives: Lead nurturing

B2B – Back to Basics But Better

In its heyday outbound marketing even in B2B embraced a huge list of media options. In addition to email we had:

  • Direct mail – in regular letter, postcard and dimensional versions
  • Voicemail
  • Online Advertising
  • Newspaper, Business Magazine and even Outdoor Advertising
  • Telemarketing
  • Radio
  • TV

While not everyone could afford all the arrows in the outbound quiver, there was a widely used mix of options.

But, there were some big issues with B2B outbound marketing . Personally, I don’t consider that those issues were either that they were interruptive a.k.a. intrusive ( which used to be considered a good thing) or that they attempted to force the dreaded sales presence on not quite ready to buy prospects.  Rather, the issues were that Outbound was not well targeted and most of the options cost too much. Looking back, its easy to see that in many cases the issue of cost would have been easily addressed if we had done a better job targeting the messages.

But, that was the Heyday.

Right now, B2B Outbound is in a sorry state. In an effort to correct the problems of the past, and because the shiny new automation tools pushed us that way, we’ve thrown too many  eggs into one basket – email.

Let’s face it, email is (relatively speaking) cheap, fast and easy. It’s the darling child of the automation platforms and hence the darling child of social media, which in many areas is manipulated by the staff and content farms selling us inbound marketing and marketing automation software and services.

Oh yes……and it is brutally over used.

Check out this report. “The State of B2B Lead Nurturing” produced by Bizo (about to be aquired by LinkedIn) in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Two conclusions drawn in this report are:

1. “Email marketing is widely used, but does not reach a significant proportion of known contacts. On average, 79 percent of marketers say their email open rates don’t exceed 20 percent.”

So, in other words 79% of marketers who are actually measuring their opens know perfectly well that 80% of the people they need to message – aren’t reading their messages. Now, I ask you, “Does this sound like effective, affordable outbound?” Nope – I don’t think so either. So it’s pretty hard to disagree with the second conclusion.

“In order to help fill the sales pipeline, marketing must embrace a truly multi-channel lead nurturing strategy that goes beyond traditional email marketing strategies.”

It would seem like a good time to re-invent B2B outbound marketing and take advantage of the lessons we have learned.

Lesson # 1 – No more blasting out one size fits all messaging. Not only is it wasting your money, even worse, it’s wasting your influence. Even though many of you have databases that are in (kindly) a semi-sorry state, you can at least segment company and contact information to the extent that you can produce messaging that fits the priorities of the people you can talk to.

Lesson # 2 – Embrace a multi-media outbound lead nurturing strategy. You’re missing too many opportunities with email. For lead nurturing opt first for choices where you can target your messages.  Voicemail, live voice, text messaging, direct mail are choices that offer control, cost efficiency, speed of deployment, timeliness of messaging and a degree of automated delivery.

 

 

 

Stop Throwing Leads Away

Generating quality leads is – according to some very sensible sources- the #1 priority for marketing and with priorities come expenses!  So just how much of your lead generation expense is being tossed out the window when your painfully generated leads don’t get timely follow up?

When research shows that 35-50% of the sales go to the vendor who responds first it makes sense that 61% of B2B marketers will send leads directly to sales.  But,  is your sales team following up on every lead in a timely fashion?  Sadly, probably not and one of the major contributing factors is the difficultly experienced by B2B callers when it comes to reaching leads, responders and even current customers live on the phone.

But, when it comes to:

  • qualifying new leads,
  • staying in touch with current customers  and
  • intelligently deciding which contacts stay with sales and which go to automated nurturing

 

There is no substitute for a live conversation.

  • Email might communicate some features
  • Voicemail can draw attention to your message
  • Downloads and web responses can hint at interest levels

But only a dialogue with someone in your company can INSTANTLY ask and answer the questions to identify which leads should demand your immediate attention.

If you are not talking with every person that your marketing programs are identifying as a lead, then why are you spending the money on lead generation?

There is a low cost, very simple way that Boxpilot can help your callers talk more and dial less. Click here to ask about it.

Stop the Summer Sales Slump

It a sure sign that summer’s here: Sun is shining, birds are chirping, kids are playing, sales are slumping (?!?!?).

What was that? you say.  Sales slumping?  That’s right, 68% of businesses report a drop in sales over the summer months.  Now, I can buy that some of those businesses may actually be seasonal, but 68%?  Surely not.

But if you think about it, summer is full of productivity killing (but certainly fun!) distractions: vacations, beaches, backyards, patios, etc.  And, if productivity is down, sales are sure to follow.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  As a manager, I’ve been faced with this obstacle myself, and have come up with a few ways to overcome this challenge.

1) Intelligently stream responsibility:

  • Forget about a vacation “out of office” message
  • Make sure people who reach out to you in your absence are handled appropriately, whether that’s with an autoresponder or a live call— delegate a human to make this assessment.

2) Set up a predictable lead nurture program ahead of time for your active pipeline.

  • Work with your marketing department (or services like Boxpilot 🙂 ) to make sure you have a preset contact stream going out.
  • Schedule emails and/or calls with targeted messages to go out on a preset schedule.

3) Keep your cold outreach going out—your funnel will thank you.

  • Work with marketing to have daily calls and emails scheduled so that it’s like you are not gone.
  • People worry about not being there to accept response, but the fact is, response rates are low, and lower still are the number of people who are ready to buy after that first response.
  • Have cold outreach responses fed to a auto responder campaign or a live call (see #1 above).

It may seem beastly to administer, but without it, sales slump.  The best place to start is by having Sales and Marketing sit down together to lay out responsibility.  Utilizing external support from a service provider, may be the best option to solving this problem without headaches—let the 3rd party enable coverage.

Putting effort into building a great system will not only make a difference this summer, but any slump period your business typically has.

 

Canada’s Anti-Spam Regulations -CASL- July 2014

If you are selling, doing lead or demand generation to any company or individual employee located in Canada – you need to pay attention to CASL coming into effect on July 1, 2014 because my friends, this could be very ugly.

1- Make no mistake that this legislation applies only to messages sent to consumers – It applies equally to B2B communications.

2- Unlike the US regulations that require (quite reasonably) that companies honor opt-out requests, this law ONLY permits you to send commercial emails – like lead generation, sales approaches, download and event invitations to organizations with whom you already have a relationship OR who have specifically opted IN to your messaging.

3- The legislation will not only impose very severe penalties for violators, it also opens up both companies and individuals to Private Right of Action – which- loosely interpreted means that you can be sued as well as fined.

Here is a link to a copy of the actual legislation:

CASL – The Act

While email will no longer be an option – and this act also applies to text messages sent to a phone – voicemail messages are specifically excluded from the act.

Marketing+Sales=Better Lead Prospecting

Marketing calls it lead generation, sales calls it prospecting.  If we call it “lead prospecting” and I promise that you can do a better job,can we agree to work together?

Because I have no doubt that combining the strengths of the two teams will:

  1. Drive more leads into the revenue funnel
  2. Improve the quality of those leads
  3. Shorten the sales cycle  ……and what more could you possibly want?

So with that in mind,  here are 5 ways for sales and marketing to work together to create a telephone prospecting system.  But first, why the phone?

  • Because it’s the best way to gain account specific answers
  • Because when sales reps need leads they don’t initiate SEO, PPC or advertising campaigns. They don’t design complex autoresponders or build landing pages and webforms. That’s what marketing does. Sales reps pick up the phone. That’s where marketing can lend a few strengths and help them get better results. Everybody wins.

How Can Marketing Help Sales Increase Teleprospecting Success

Build, Update and Clean Data  — What is your ideal customer profile?  What are the MINIMUM number of accurate and updated fields you need to build into your database to direct future lead prospecting.  If exact industry, revenue or number of employees is genuinely relevant commit to having that data accurately included. Just don’t ask the sales team to update that kind of information.  It is however to everyone’s benefit if sales is empowered and required to flag missing critical data.

Record, Measure and Learn from your Metrics –When you engage in any dialogue with a company it will either move a potential sale forward, push it to the future, disqualify it, or worst of all – tell you nothing. To avoid that terrible “tell nothing ” result,  arm your sales team (via the CRM or however you work)  with an “if all else fails” list.  They might just be simple closed end qualifying questions to round out your data when a conversation goes south.  Given that even with your best efforts, it’s likely that your database will have gaps, filling them will  build a clearer picture of who your best prospects really are and how they might be changing over time.  Track the results of every call, match it to you profiles and use that information to fine tune your future targeting.

Bury the Elevator Speech! –Too many sales people use the elevator speech “Who we are and what we do”  as the basis of their messaging and it is an utter waste of a precious opportunity.  This is where marketing can offer the most valuable help – give your reps value based messaging to leave.  Create a sequence of messages, voicemails with their email follow ups that talk about your value proposition and will gradually, by virtue of repetition, build some awareness of the problems you can solve and interest in talking with your company.  The hardest part of this step is to gain the support of the sales management, because many of the reps will resist accepting alternative messages.

Never Give Up  — I know of a company that literally makes millions of calls a year to engage and qualify prospects on behalf of many different B2B vendors.  Their average number of dials to make a live connection is 22 calls.  Most sales people still give up after 3 attempts.  What sales needs are calling campaigns not individual one-off attempts.  Without the structure of a planned, consistent campaign you will never make enough calls.  Marketing plans campaigns much better than sales teams can.  This is probably the single biggest reason that many companies have moved teleprospecting totally out of the sales group, but that hasn’t happened everywhere yet.

Open the Door to Your Nurtured Lists –Some companies have structured outbound sales calling but far more have sales teams who would rather not be making these dreaded calls, but have to because they simply don’t have enough qualified (or not)  leads to follow-up with.  When your sales team is doing their own prospecting calls, be sure that they have a view of the leads that are in your lead nurturing program and a free hand to call into that list at their discretion.

Some marketing teams will resist the idea of letting sales reps call leads being nurtured on the grounds that they are pulling them along a carefully designed path and a ham handed sales rep could make a mess of all their hard work.  It’s true. It can happen, but in the spirit of two teams genuinely working together to improve their results, it needs to happen.  If you need the sales team to trust you enough to take ownership of your messaging, the trust will have to move both ways.

 

 

 

Want Renewals? Step 2- Customer Nurturing – Think Negative Churn

It would be nice to believe that your customers are loyal; that their relationship with you is valued, and they will give you a chance to respond to any claims or promises made by your competitors. Yes, it would be nice to believe that but not too bright.  Even though you can assume that a certain percentage of your customers will renew their agreements with you, on a case by case basis, it risks the health of your business to look at any one account and assume their continued business.

Until that renewal agreement is closed and the next period is paid, your customers are really not much more than warm leads. Until it’s time to close that next payment, you might want to think about the advantages of keeping those leads warmed up with a customer nurturing program.

“But wait!” you say.  You have an account management and/or customer service/satisfaction team assigned to existing accounts and this is part of that job.  You’re totally correct, your account management/ customer satisfaction team has that objective firmly on their plate. But, this type of customer nurturing is NOT based on building satisfaction for the current state of affairs. This customer nurturing program is truly a sales initiative with three distinct goals.

  • Reinforce your competitive preference
  • Introduce and build interest in cross sell possibilities
  • Introduce and build interest in upsell possibilities.

In terms of a communications plan, what does this look like?

Look at a quarterly message that’s distinct from your newsletter or other easily ignored (sorry, but its true) email communications.  Woo them, just like you did before they became your customers, with invitations to events, demonstrations and webinars.  Feed them a generous diet of market and issue oriented content that’s genuinely useful to them.  Don’t bombard them with your specifically self-serving propaganda. Believe me, that gets boring very quickly and will damage your share of ear. Instead, stay within your market niche and offer content on issues, trends & problems relevant to their business.  That kind of information gets read…. and remembered…. and valued.

Naturally, you’ll want that content to also illuminate the opportunities and dazzling benefits presented by your cross and upsell products and services. Afterall, this is a business you’re running, not a library. When it comes time for your renewal sales team to close the business, set them up with a reasonable chance to actually grow your YOY revenue. Without upsells and cross sells, your business has nowhere to go but down. Think negative churn.

Create a Relationship to Nurture a Lead

Anyone who has ever been in B2B sales has been here many times.  Your marketing team just handed over a new lead. You called, connected and conversed, but for now – you are not able to move this lead forward in the sales process.

Used to be that leads like this would have either been dropped or filed for another kick at the can in a few months. By this time, hopefully, the person you talked with will be dealing with different circumstances,  will have been replaced or maybe will have forgotten that they ever talked with you.  But lacking any other support system, the sales rep would not have the ability to do a whole lot more.

That has changed with the adoption of lead nurturing programs, but not for everyone. According to the BtoB magazine: Lead Generation Research, November 2012- 51% of organizations they talked to still do not nurture their leads.  For many companies its an issue of resource (now THERE’S and understatement) time, staff and money.

For companies who are still struggling to get a nurturing program off the ground, there are two key mindset objectives that will help.

1- You are nurturing a relationship – not just a lead. When you’re trying to figure out communication objectives, messaging choices, timing, list management and stay on top of the necessary next steps to actually get your lead generation program off the ground, it’s really easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re not just “nurturing a lead” your actually trying to create and nurture a relationship with a real person.

2 – What is the first concept that person must “buy into” before they will buy from you?   It’s all a matter of baby steps and if you or your sales rep only had a long enough conversation to get the brush off, then you’re probably better off not assuming that any of those baby steps should be skipped.  So ask yourself the question- what is the first thing this person needs to buy into and then create a 3 step mini nurturing series to “sell” that point.

I can give you an example that would be relevant for Boxpilot.  In order for someone to purchase our guided voicemail service, the first thing they must have bought into, is that the phone is an effective way to reach their contacts.  So a relatively straightforward nurturing series should leverage content that includes some creative examples of what to say on the phone for better messages,  a small case study that demonstrates positive results another company achieved using the phone, maybe a testimonial or even a FAQ summary about phone effectiveness…etc.

So, here’s a start. Pick your content to “sell” the first building block and craft your messaging with a person and a future relationship in mind versus simply a nameless, faceless “lead”to be moved through the funnel.

An Overview of Guided Voicemail

What is Guided Voicemail?

Guided voicemail is a fast and effective way to reach your contacts with a perfectly delivered voicemail message. By having a trained call center agent guide the voicemail through receptionists, directories, and other typical roadblocks, you can be sure that your message will always reach your customer.

Below is a quick video showing what guided voicemail is and how it is used.

Benefits of Guided Voicemail

– Boosts responses and ROI to campaigns with hassle-free automated methodology
– Faster, more cost-effective and easier to set up than telemarketing or in-house
– Uses power of human voice to your advantage to build relationships one person at a time
– High quality pre-planned content always gets done on-time, on-budget

Learn more about guided voicemail by visiting our site at www.boxpilot.com/guided-voicemail.html

Why You MUST Nurture Your Leads

If you’re one of those marketing or sales managers in despair because your company has been left so far behind the pack of lead generating and nurturing dynamos that you’ll never be able to join this century, stop worrying and look around you. You are not alone.

If you’re reading the big marketing sites and following the webinars offered on lead generation, marketing automation and nurturing technologies or even if you’re just following discussions on Linked In on these topics, its easy to feel that yours is the only company still living in the stone age, but that’s a long way from the truth.

65% of B2B companies don’t have a nurturing program in place (MarketingSherpa)

61% of all B2B Marketers (according to MarketingSherpa) send every lead, qualified or not, directly to sales. (Are you feeling better yet?)

And as far as the latest and greatest automation software is concerned only about 5% of marketers are actually using those multi-bell-and-whistle programs (Forrester Research).  As is usually the case, it’s a very small number of companies who deploy the full featured programs than can automate the nurturing process and naturally enough, mostly the vendors of those programs who are making it seem like yours is the only organization that hasn’t found a place on the bandwagon.  It would be terrific to have, but just not in the cards at the moment.

What that means for most of us who do our best to nurture leads is that anything beyond an ongoing series of semi segmented emails is still largely a manual process. It takes a lot of time and attention and while we might not be able to fully automate it, we are still always on the lookout for simple ideas that will allow us to do it more easily.  I could talk about nurturing leads more effectively, but I’m of the opinion that for a majority of companies, just getting the monthly or quarterly program out the door is just about everything they can manage.

But it’s worth the effort.  Allow me to repeat that – Lead Nurturing is worth every bit of effort that it takes.  Companies that do a great job at nurturing their leads convert half again as many raw leads into sales ready opportunities and do it for only two thirds of the cost of companies who don’t do it well. But the sale from the average nurtured lead is 47% higher than a sale from a lead that wasn’t nurtured.

I think the most telling stat in support of nurturing leads is that almost 80% of marketing leads never turn into sales yet on average, half of them are qualified and could buy, but they’re just not ready. So of the qualified leads that marketing departments generate – all with a potential to turn into sales and all having come at a cost, 60% are dropped and forgotten because there is no process in place to hang in, stay visible and start creating trust until they’re ready to buy.

The best reason to bite the bullet and commit to a lead nurturing programs is simply that your competitors will love you if you don’t.

Case Study – Reclaiming Names for the Sales Funnel

Background

The marketing group at a leading provider of collaborative business commerce solutions is constantly on the lookout for innovative and efficient ways to add new names to a typically voracious sales funnel.  Like every other business, this team knows that many of the names will fall out of the funnel before they turn into sales They also know that it was becoming increasing difficult and expensive to find new quality names.

The Challenge
A list of several thousand accumulated and previously qualified names offered an excellent opportunity to add contacts to the sales funnel, however the list presented some challenges:

  • The list was a mix of lapsed customers and qualified prospects from several different verticals
  • It was made up of contacts who had failed to respond to several different emails sent in the recent past
  • Given the failure to respond, the accuracy of the contact information was questionable

Further considerations needed to be met in order to create a successful program:

  1. With tens of thousands of names on this list and no assigned budget, final cost was a major consideration.
  2. The offer needed to have value to both lapsed customer and prospect contacts as well as appeal across a range of verticals.
  3. The messaging needed to be tailored to match the specific interests of each group.
  4. Careful message control to meet corporate image and branding requirements was necessary.
  5. Bad data needed to be separated from non-responsive contacts

Alternatives
A discount worth several hundred dollars for a high profile paid event offered the best opportunity to create a response.  The question was how to communicate the offer and meet the following conditions:

  • A unique message was needed for each vertical customer/prospect combination.
  • The creative required a “High Priority” tone.
  • The total program needed to generate enough paid registrations to cover the cost.
  • The maximum timeline for project completion was 30 days

So, what was considered?

  • Email could be customized and was affordable, but had already failed to generate responses from this list.
  • Direct mail offered customized messages, could create an impact and allow for image/branding control, but the cost was prohibitive and the timelines impossible
  • Telemarketing, using in-house resources met cost and message control requirements, but could not be delivered within the necessary timelines.
  • On shore, high quality telemarketing was time and cost prohibitive.
  • Off shore high volume, budget telemarketing would sacrifice control of the quality/consistency of the message delivery and was not judged as likely to deliver revenue neutrality.

Guided Voicemail was selected as it met every necessary requirement

  • A unique voicemail, for each vertical prospect/customer combination was recorded by a high profile company executive to communicate the High Priority of the offer AND allow 100% control of the message content delivery.
  • The short set timelines and relatively high volume capabilities of guided voicemail versus traditional telemarketing/telesales allowed for the delivery of messages to 25K+ contents within two weeks.
  • The complete post campaign reporting offered by Boxpilot, allowed the marketing group to clearly identify and separate bad contact data from unresponsive contacts.
  • The total cost to execute the program could easily be funded with only a minimal response rate.

Outcome

  1. Paid event registration created a revenue neutral program.
  2. Other responses provided several hundred responses for the sales funnel.
  3. Forty percent of the contact data was demonstrated to be accurate, providing 10,000 contact names for the marketing database for further follow up.  Marketing was also able to avoid any investment against the data that was shown to be incorrect.