So, you want to generate sales leads for your business?
Salesforce.com software might be an option but be aware that demand and lead generation today bear little resemblance to the approaches of just a few years ago, thanks to the Internet, social media and analytics. Today it's possible to develop a one-on-one experience between vendors and customers, and, as a result, many customers have come to expect greater intimacy in that relationship. As you step into this new marketing paradigm, planning will provide great benefits.
Yesterday's marketing approach can be described as broadcasting -- attempting to reach as many people as possible with a single message -- but today's approach is about understanding and empathy. This method has these key points: listen, engage and recommend. You'll need to incorporate these tactics in your lead-dev process, because if customers don't believe your approach is tailored to their needs, they will reject your message.
There are other vendors with credible marketing and lead generation capabilities, some of which also work with the Salesforce.com platform. For example, Eloqua, which was purchased by Oracle Corp. last year, still integrates with Salesforce. Microsoft also features two recent acquisitions: MarketingPilot and Netbreeze.
Salesforce lead generation, however, enables independent software vendors to integrate their products into end-to-end business processes through the Force.com platform. So, if you are not a Salesforce customer or want to keep your options open, rest assured that you have choices and know that you will be successful if you keep in mind those three key points -- listen, engage and recommend.
There are specific apps for every stage of the lead generation process. Defining business process to take advantage of these applications is key to success. Just be mindful that your customers will notice if your approach lacks intelligence or in any way resembles "spamming."
Listening involves capturing customer data from the social stream, mobile applications, customer databases and company websites, then analyzing it in the first leg of segmentation. Such analysis may generate sales, but it will also create opportunities to solve customer problems or provide information that generates customer trust and confidence. Then, next time a customer is in the market, he may consider your brand.
Salesforce lead generation offers Radian6 for social listening. It filters the social stream looking for keywords such as your company or brand name and a particular issue or mention of a job well done. Social listening tools can be set to alert a company when words like help or problem are mentioned in line with a product or brand. When a company contacts a customer who has expressed the need for help in social networks, it can solidify the relationship with that customer -- and others.
ExactTarget's Audience Builder, for example, helps marketers segment a customer base. House lists grow and contract over time, but the list represents a random assortment of customer types with different needs and demographics. Audience Builder lets marketers segment their lists by criteria that are relevant to marketing efforts. Thus, it becomes easier to target programs at the right demographic with messages that resonate.
The most important aspect of social listening is that you can learn in real time what your customers -- and the market in general -- are saying about your organization and what's important to them. Social listening also helps gauge market reactions to existing programs and offers already in the market.
The end product of social listening should be insight into customers and prospects, and finding situations you can insert your ideas and products into with confidence.
Listening is the easy part. The concept is similar across different business types and industries. But when it comes to engaging, things get more involved. Develop campaigns that are consistent with your brand's image, the customer's expectation, the channel you use and economic realities. An offer on Twitter must have fewer than 140 characters including links, but an offer also has to meet customers where they congregate. There's no use running a campaign on Twitter if your customers are more interested in Facebook -- unless, of course, you have a way to connect the two accounts, which is technologically possible, but takes forethought and effort.
There are many ways to initiate customer engagement. An email campaign generated and delivered through ExactTarget or an ad developed with drag-and-drop functionality in the ExactTarget SocialPages and placed on social media or your website is just one example. You can also use ExactTarget SocialEngage to proactively connect with customers on social channels like Facebook and Twitter. SocialEngage's real-time notification, workflow management, conversation history and analytics-based dynamic reporting helps manage social interactions with customers across teams and locations.
There's also the issue of mobile marketing. Salesforce lead generation has that base covered as well. With ExactTarget MobileConnect, marketers can construct mobile marketing campaigns using seven different text message templates to create campaigns as varied as mobile tickers and alerts about coupons or transactional messages and surveys. Even if you aren't familiar with building and managing mobile campaigns, you can take advantage of ExactTarget Playbooks, which show step-by-step instructions for building mobile marketing campaigns.
Once a customer is engaged (and depending on your organization's sales process), you may be able to minimize the recommend phase and just give the lead to telesales for follow-up. Alternatively, the recommend stage can be more substantial if your process is resource-intensive and you want to further qualify leads before giving them to the sales team.
The longer customers are involved with your company and brand, the more information they'll need to stay engaged, which means more communication and more campaigns, each tailored to the needs of the customer you're dealing with at a particular time in their evaluation process. This means using engagement tools like ExactTarget SocialPages and ExactTarget MobileConnect to provide more targeted messages, perhaps developed with Buddy Media's drag-and-drop facility, based on customer feedback captured with SocialEngage.
It's still all about driving sales
Old marketing techniques required a great deal of investment and time to build programs that digital programs do with ease today. With digital marketing tools, you can build and deploy customized marketing campaigns in any channel very quickly, enabling the marketer to maintain greater control of the conversation and deliver more highly qualified leads. Then you can close the loop by getting sales to provide feedback on lead quality, which is critical to making this approach work.
According to recent research from Beagle Research Group LLC , feedback is getting better, but it can still be improved. Ironically, the success of all of this powerful digital marketing technology still depends on a relatively simple feedback channel and human interaction.
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