Business leaders all want their lead generation to be successful. And they want lead generation to be successful now - or better yet, yesterday. In our experience, effective lead generation is a combination of short-term efforts and longer-term commitment and thinking. One of the keys to successful lead generation is knowing how the process actually works, and what stages your business will go through on its journey to building a productive and sustainable lead-generation engine.
There are almost always 4 stages that take place. Here are some tips on what to do during these stages to guarantee you’ll get to where you ultimately want to go:
1. Pre-Lead Generation: Think and Plan
This stage is NOT about navel-gazing and contemplating the philosophical underpinnings of your lead generation strategy. But it is about hitting the ground running. This is when it’s important to pause for a moment (say, 3 – 10 business days) to clarify and confirm that your lead generation strategy is solid and that you’ve identified:
- Who your buyers are.
- What your company’s position is – are you the leader, the price-competitor, the innovative one, something else? This will affect your messaging and channels.
- Your lead generation goals. Are you trying to reach 10,000 prospects or 10? This will have a big impact on your tactics and budget, so figure it out in advance.
- Your offers and campaign ideas. Come up with 5 – 7 campaign ideas.
2. Gearing Up: Foundation
Once you’ve thought about your lead generation plan, you’re ready to get rolling. You’ll be eager to launch a campaign and to generate traffic, but it’s still important to stay methodical and set the foundation. Here are a few things to get right in order to ensure the long-term success of lead generation:
- Create a visually engaging and functional website that provides the right content and incorporates solid SEO. If your website isn’t strong but you need to get started with lead generation efforts, build a landing page that you can drive traffic to, while you’re working on your website.
- Make certain that lead generation is integrated with your sales team’s activities. Are they armed with enough support to tackle an influx of credible leads? Do they have the right tools to track prospects and the sales cycles? Have they been engaged and bought into this new lead generation strategy?
- Set the stage for communicating with potential customers. Social media platforms, tradeshows and events, media and associations – these are ways to maximize lead generation within your existing base – which is where the highest ROI almost always lies.
The main guidance for this stage is that ‘perfect is the enemy of great’. Yes, you’re in B2B so you have to do things at a high level – you can’t be lackadaisical and expect to be successful. But if you get bogged down in perfecting every single detail, you’ll never get anything launched. Find your balance between ‘perfection’ and ‘solidly good’.
To learn some of the other common pitfalls of lead generation and how to avoid them, read 8 Common Pitfalls In Lead Generation.
3. Campaign to Fill Your Pipeline
It’s time to get out there! This is the stage where the action starts, and it realistically starts 3 to 8 weeks after you commit. This stage is about launching lead generation campaigns, monitoring performance, and making adaptations to improve performance over time.
There are up to 5 elements to consider in each of your lead generation campaigns:
PRODUCT + TARGET + MESSAGE + OFFER / CONTENT + CHANNEL
Some keys to success in this stage:
- Build campaigns that are focused on generating leads for specific services among target audiences. Campaigns should have a laser focus.
- While you have laser-focused lead generation campaigns, you can (and should) also keep your general marketing going. Stay present and active by blogging, hosting webinars, issuing whitepapers, attending conferences, and releasing articles and emails. Show potential customers that you’re open and ready for business. These activities help you build and maintain credibility, which you need to attract good B2B customers.
- Make sure that each campaign you run is targeted towards one or more of your ideal buyer personas and that it aligns with your overall business strategy.
4. A Well-Oiled Lead Generation Machine
After you’ve run lead generation campaigns for 9 or more months and been constantly perfecting your strategy, tactics and operations, you’ll reach a stage of having a well-oiled machine. You should be seeing lead generation results translating to actual sales. You’ve built a system and you know what works and what doesn’t – and are open to trying new things with a view to learning. As you build on your success, keep these practices in mind:
- Review your marketing KPIs to measure and refine your lead generation strategy based on your successes and failures.
- As you plan for the year ahead, go back to stage one and revisit your strategy and planning elements. Have your business goals changed? Do you have new buyer personas to target? New geographical areas or industries to go after? Are your competitors doing something new and different that you should be thinking about?
- Refine your strategy and optimize your tactical plan to keep the ball rolling for another more successful year. Consider what worked and what didn’t work this time.
- Stop any activities that are causing lead generation time wasters. Find out about lead generation time wasters by reading the post ‘How To Avoid Lead Generation Time Wasters’.
Lead generation, like most aspects of business, takes patience and perseverance. The benefits from strategic lead generation will be stronger in years 2 and 3 than at the beginning, if you’re doing it right.
If your company is just starting to think about lead generation, you may want to consider working with an outside provider who can get you through the learning curve more quickly and successfully. There are many lead generation providers and ways to go about your lead generation activities. To help you navigate options for who to work with, download the Lead Generation Buyers Guide.