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Virtual Velocity Recap: Latest Trends & Best Practices in Lead Generation

May 11, 2011
at 4:51 pm PST

Yesterday, my fellow channels blogger Alexandra Krasne hosted our latest Partner Velocity Virtual Broadcast. This time around the topic was trends and best practices in lead generation, and her guest was sales lead expert Brian Carroll. Brian is the executive director of Applied Research at MECLABS and also the author of the popular book, “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.”

During the broadcast, Brian explained the latest lead generation trends, and he provided some incredibly useful marketing tactics that can be helpful in uncovering leads. Brian also answered audience questions submitted via Twitter.

Missed the broadcast? Here’s a replay.

In addition to the video replay above, we have a text summary of the broadcast below, along with time stamps to identify sections in which Brian addressed specific topics, such as creating buyer personas, social media tactics, optimizing and choosing your B2B marketing mix, and principles for effective telemarketing.

2:47 – Latest research on what’s working in lead generation
In Brian’s opinion, lead generation is all about relationships, and requires conversation and communication. He encourages you to stop thinking of leads as “just leads” and start thinking of them as “future customers.” He says that you will notice that when you start treating customers differently, they will react positively.

Brian shared three key points to keep in mind: Identify the right people and companies, initiate a memorable conversation, and nurture the contact, regardless of his or her timing to buy.

9:10 – How to create buyer personas
The key to creating buyer personas—in other words, potential leads— is to identify the right person to talk to and then understand their key business issues. Start by identifying the key drivers in the companies you are working with. Those individuals could be Project Leaders, Executive Sponsors, CIOs, Contact Centers, Field Service Centers, or Stakeholders. Once you’ve identified the key drivers, make an effort to understand your customer’s key business issues. Then you can determine how you can provide solutions for those issues.

Brian shared additional tips on researching buyer personas: First, you should ask your salespeople about prospect motivators, barriers, objections, and who their best and worst prospects and customers are and why. Next, you should ask your customers about their motivations, challenges, and barriers. Then, you should ask sales prospects those same questions. Finally, mine your in-house database and using all of the information you uncover both from your interviews and your database, you should look for common traits for ideal customers (i.e. large deal sizes, short timeframes to purchase, most repeat purchases, etc.), common traits for undesirable customers (i.e. Returns or refunds, smallest deal sizes, longest timeframes to purchase.), and analyze the differences.

17:30 – Social media as a lead gen tactic
Brian notes that the most effective tactics in social media are not necessarily the most expensive, but they do require time. He also says that of all of the social media vehicles available, blogging appears to be the most effective social media tactic but it also requires the biggest time commitment. Cisco partners tend to prefer other social media networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook, although the effectiveness of these tactics isn’t nearly as strong as blogging.

Before you get started, you’ll need a blogging strategy. Brian provided questions you should ask when developing your blogging strategy: Who is going to be the advocate within your company, and can you secure executive air cover?

Next, Brian shared a case study of how one company deployed their social media strategy to win over a skeptical audience and ultimately impacted their sales pipelines. First, they developed a blog in which the content came from third parties. They monitored key phrases and wrote a short blog with their own point of view on the topic. Next, they created a Twitter account to supplement their blog. They used it to announce upcoming events, new blogs, and social media news releases. They also created groups on LinkedIn and created a Facebook fan page. Finally, they modified their PR strategy by focusing on promoting blogger coverage.

And the results of this social media experiment? The site saw a 155% increase in unique web visitors, 55% increase of leads generated from inbound Web, and a 75% increase of marketing-influenced pipeline.

25:35 – Steps to selecting your B2B marketing mix
Brian then shared some tactics on how to choose your B2B marketing mix and optimize your sales strategy. There are two ways to review your sales funnel. In the first method, evaluate the funnel from bottom to top – Who did you sell to? Analyze the deals that have closed, record the number of deals won, total revenue, average deal size, buyer persona traits, and so on, for each channel and specific campaign.

In the second method, review the funnel from top down and determine where the lead started from and where it ultimately ended up. You should also consider asking your sales teams about effective lead generating campaigns and identifying new opportunities.

30:35 – Guiding principles for effective telemarketing
Telemarketing can deliver a huge return when you consider that 80% of leads are lost, ignored, or discarded when they are handed from marketing to sales. Here are six ways to optimize your teleprospecting process to assure that your leads don’t fall into that range:

  1. Sustain the calling: It can take between 8-19 phone calls to reach a decision maker when you’re calling them. Be consistent and stay in it for the long haul.
  2. Make every call count: Be “in the moment” when making calls and focus on building a relationship.
  3. Throw out the scripts: Remember you are having a dialogue and developing a relationship. Create a call guide which is not a script but has a few scripted elements.
  4. Always be relevant: Have a valid business reason for calling and always strive to be helping.
  5. Gain opt-in: Coach your sales team to request permission to email customers and leads on a monthly basis.
  6. Always follow up (with nurturing): Have a relevant and consistent dialogue with viable potential customers regardless of their timing to buy.

Brian then moved on to answer lead generation questions from our audience.

50:00 – What is the best way to make people from our database opt-in?
Brian says to give them a valid business reason to opt-in with the promise that they will be receiving relevant content. Good examples to explore would be opting in through an event or opting in to receive a special report.

50:40 – Evaluating customers takes time – how much time should I devote to be effective?
Brian suggests that you should always be thinking about effectiveness. Close the loop with the sales team to ensure that what you’re doing is helping to move the sales needle.

51:35 – What tools do you recommend to measure social media tactics?
Brian mentioned Hubspot as a fairly inexpensive tool for social media monitoring. At minimum, use Twitter, Google Analytics, and a tool to manage email programs to send campaigns that are social media enabled. Other social media monitoring tools that are a little bit more expensive and geared towards the needs of bigger companies are Radian6 and Ant’s Eye View.

52:50 – Can you give us a sample call guide?
Brian pretends to call Alex who attended an event about Collaboration

Brian: Alex, this is Brian Carroll calling and I’m with Cisco. The reason for my call is that you attended a recent event on Collaboration using Cisco WebEx. We put together an executive overview of the event that I wanted to share with you. Would it be okay if I emailed that to you?

Alex: Um…Okay!

Brian: Great, well a lot of people attend our events to get questions answered. I wanted to see what were the questions you were trying to get answered and were you trying to answer these questions for yourself or someone else at your company?

Alex: Well, I actually wanted to answer the questions for myself.

Alex’s answer tells Brian that she may be the decision maker. When customers say that they are getting answers for someone else, it may mean that that person may be an influencer rather than a decision maker.

54:36 – You talked a lot about blogging being so effective. What if your executives are not on board with blogging, how do you fix that?
You should start by asking your executive team, “Do you believe that we have expertise?” Follow it with, “Do you believe our customers believe that we have expertise?” If the answer is yes to both questions, ask, “Well how is it that someone who isn’t a customer yet going to understand your expertise unless you start demonstrating it?”

56:37 – Where in the process do you interview customers and how do you broach the subject of interviewing them?
Brian says to start with the sales team, get information from them, and get their suggestions on who would be the best customers to interview. It’s also good to start with referenceable customers who you already have relationships with. Also, make sure your sales team understands that you are interviewing their customers to get more customers just like them.

57:36 – What are some tips in starting relevant conversations and keeping those conversations going?
There are four great ways to start relevant conversations: Meet someone through a personal introduction, an event, by calling them (remember to be relevant), and by inbound marketing.

58:40 – How do you approach a new customer via phone?
Do your research! What do you know about this company? What is the role of the person that you are communicating with? Then lead with content – find out what content would be useful to the customer, offer it, and then start the conversation from there.

1:00:05 – How do you use Facebook to reach customers?
You can set up a Facebook fan page or a Facebook group (each have their advantages and disadvantages). Start with a focus and a base of relevant content to share with your customers.

That was it – the hour just flew by with lots of really useful tips and advice. If you have any additional questions for Brian, be sure to share them in the comments below.

We’d love to hear your feedback!
Love the tips Brian shared during the broadcast? Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the May 10 – Virtual Engagement Survey. Your feedback will help us shape future Virtual Velocity Broadcasts.

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