A couple of weeks back, we began a 3-part series where we took a detailed look at the top three obstacles to lead generation success as named by an eMarketer/Ascend2 study of 400 marketing leaders (results pictured below). In that post, we covered the most common challenge, lack of quality data/list resources. Today, we’re tackling the next most prevalent obstacle, a lack of an effective strategy.
An astonishingly high number of companies lack an effective lead generation strategy. A large part of these companies lack a strategy altogether, while others have unrefined or underdeveloped strategies that routinely fail to meet expectations. Lead generation efforts that operate without the guidance of a sound strategy will end up costing more and producing less than their more coordinated counterparts.
Think of it this way: Everybody knows those famous beer commercials with the Clydesdales pulling the red wagon. Well, those Clydesdales are kind of like your lead gen efforts and your company is the wagon. Strategy is the harness that keeps all those Clydesdales pointed in the right direction. Without it, you have a bunch of big, strong horses pulling in every direction and the wagon ends up somewhere other than its intended destination.
So, what can marketers do to craft an effective strategy?
Develop a Rough Strategy
Too often, lead generation is reduced to a tally or quota that has to be achieved as part of a marketing strategy, rather than a unique set of activities that require coordination. Marketers have to consider how activities can work in concert to create a smooth and consistent flow of leads, not a pile of records at the end of the quarter. This shift in thinking is the first step to an effective strategy.
Based on the needs of their teams, marketers can craft a preliminary strategy, selecting an appropriate number of primary and supporting tactics. Any data from past lead gen efforts is incredibly helpful here, as it enables more accurate predictions for the related channels. In any case, the important thing here is to set forth a plan, not to get it right on the first try.
With the preliminary strategy in place, we need to determine the criteria for success and how to track them. No lead generation strategy would be complete without goals; however, goals are only useful in this context if they’re SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. In other words the kind of goals that are valuable for a lead generation strategy are those that don’t leave much room for debate – they are very clearly met or not met.
Obviously, lead counts should be a part of goals, but measurement certainly shouldn’t stop there. Tracking leads after generation is the only way to reinforce that you’re generating the right leads. You should monitor the number of leads that move on to calls, prospects, and closed deals. Derived metrics like revenue per lead, revenue per call, and time to close are also important indicators of quality. More advanced users should also make use of metrics from their marketing automation systems, like number of subsequent interactions and average lead score.
Once you have the metrics to match your SMART goals, the final step is to organize things. Though there’s plenty of software out there, a simple spreadsheet is as good of a solution as any, especially considering the data will more than likely come from a variety of sources. A “scorecard” format is an effective way to organize such a sheet. Simply lay out your goals and metrics in the rows of your sheet and time intervals (typically months) across the columns.
Congratulations, you now have a lead generation strategy and a concrete plan to keep track of it. You’re well on your way to an effective strategy. The final step is to confirm your strategy is working as intended. If you’ve constructed your scorecard appropriately, this should be relatively simple.
At each time interval (after the initial baseline), the conversation has to begin with the question: Did we achieve our goals in this period? If the answer is yes, dialog shifts to continuing success or setting new goals. If the answer is no, it becomes a matter of making corrections in order to achieve goals in the future.
In either case, there is one crucial follow-up question: Why or why not? Met goals are a good sign, but not a guarantee of ongoing success. Likewise, missed goals aren’t ideal, but they’re also not damning. What’s more important is to understand why a goal was or wasn’t met and how this insight can be utilized in the future. It’s this knowledge that builds a sound and consistent lead generation strategy.
Let us know what you think:
- Do you currently have a lead generation strategy?
- If so, do you consider it effective?
- If not, do you have plans to develop one?