With cold calling and mailing looking the things of the past, and smart lead generation techniques like customer profiling from ML, news, social media, and forums making a way, what should an aspiring entrepreneur consider as their lead generation strategy?
This is a good question, thank you for asking it. I'm sure there are many business owners and newbie entrepreneurs who constantly wake up with the sweats trying to make ends meet by increasing their lead generation, strengthen their pipeline, and increase conversions. At the end of the day, it's all about converting, right? I'll give you what I consider a basic guideline for building a pipeline of good reliable high-quality leads that are easier to convert. We use this methodology for our clients and for our own marketing agency.
www.Unthink.me is just a 4 people team with a few contractors helping us on certain projects but the structure that I have created for ourselves is what allows us to work with only certain clients we like and the ability to charge as low or high as we want. For context, we have clients that pay as low as $100 per month and some that several thousand and that is because we get a lot of client requests and proposals, etc. Let me start by saying that you are right and wrong at the same time. Many very large, publicly traded, tech companies rely heavily on cold-calling while mailing is still king for certain industries.
Here is a basic methodology guideline you should consider and keep top of mind with any effort you put out there for lead generation or customer facing effort.
Voted Best Personality
1. Don't forget that people, humans, work in these companies. If you are able to truly understand what you sell, the value, the critical pain points it solves (with no fluff or ego boosting mentality) you should be able to clearly identify who will get the most value out of what you offer in any company you plan to target, or industry for that matter. You should also be able to understand their needs and their goals. As you decide on campaigns, pitches, offers, products, pricing, and placement this insight will determine better decisions and better outcome. Present yourself in a way that they can relate to, in a context they appreciate and with a medium they enjoy.
Clarity On Them
2. Have a stupidly clear positioning statement if you want your prospect commercial clients to pay attention, remember what you have to offer and give you the benefit of the doubt to prove yourself first. At the end of the day, when you get a contract with another company - you are simply given the opportunity to prove yourself and continue the relationship. By starting with a clear and simple positioning statement you give yourself the opportunity for questions, curiosity, and most importantly branding consistency - imagine that everywhere your prospect sees or hears about you, they are exposed to the exact same pitch or statement about what you do for companies like theirs... It's powerful!
* Position is the actual value service of what you sell, while the positioning statement is the pitch you use in every medium. Start with a good, potentially viable and scalable position with a niche industry or market and particular use and try to own that before you want to expand your position on a broader market (this is off the Blue Ocean Strategy approach, I follow).
Hit'em Where They Ain't
3. Segwaying from the last statement, having a good position and statement will only work if you know where to go pitch right? Again, it's all about reducing those lead costs while increasing conversion rate off the pipeline. For that, you need to be where others are not. Your competitors may not be as sophisticated as you are, maybe they have grown some unorthodox way or maybe they are as clever as you and maybe more. So try to win a battle without having to fight directly with your competitors for clients through pricing, innovation for innovation sake and find both losing the fight through loss profits, lack of attention and clarity and your clients getting all the rewards while you slave yourself to a sinking ship. Instead, spend time doing your homework on what different industries use your service or product for, what other companies might need what you offer, where would this companies' leaders congregate (their watering holes)? Go present yourself there, in the lesser known niche markets, the lesser known watering holes.
You could try to fight and bleed your company's profit for 1% of a large generic market pie, or you can go after a smaller less understood pie elsewhere and with a lot less long term effort you could own 100% of that small pie.
4. At Unthink, we use Hubspot, a content led generation tool for marketers. We handle other Hubspot client accounts. When it comes to building a B2B pipeline you will heavily depend on content and education more so than advertising budget to constantly bombard and interrupt someone's feed on social media or Google Search. If you invest in creating education content that proves you are a market leader and product expert with the best interest of everyone at heart you will be more likely to be liked and trusted when someone needs your type of product or service. We Hubspot because it enables to produce great content and manage our pipeline, but don't be fooled - in itself it does not help generate the content nor drive leads simply provides tools to create and manage them... Whether you use a paid or free tool, create content and educate as much as you can. Once you know who your customer is, where they hang out and the pie you want to go after then you should know what type of content they want and you can create it for them.
* Think about it, me writing here gives me content ideas and allows me to position myself well through a non-invasive channel while providing actionable guides to others.
Strategy Is Not King
5. This pains me to admit, after all I am an MBA Strategist and have been helping many startups as a stealth partner or advisor exactly on strategy - how to compete more efficiently. But it's actually my years of experience that force me to admit that the most brilliant of strategies can be outperformed by someone who can execute passionately. While I have also seen great strategies fail due to lack of execution, testing, or any other marginally expected effort.
A lot of B2B marketers/owners rely heavily on the idea that if they belittle others or make themselves look like experts or promote their years in business or experience that it's enough. And it's not. Client's could care less about your experience or expertise - again people like doing business with people. Show your scars, leverage failed projects as ice breakers on email campaigns or on social media, stop pretending your company is perfect and show your bad reviews too!
Strategy Is Queen
6. It may not be king, but it is definitely Queen and at least in my house, Queen rules. A strategy will dictate where your efforts go and how much of them. After all, why would you invest all into something if you have no clue as to how much potential it has or how difficult it is to sustain? There are various strategies for conversion such as the lesser logic (www.BetaBulls.com for example, starting to promote that their code is good enough for fighter jets but amazing for corporate needs). Or the Recency Effect which might drive an accounting service like www.BluePearlTax.com to heavily look for startups who are being audited or need to pay back taxes so that they can help them reduce or eliminate their financial responsibility. Something that just happened and has a huge impact in our lives has an incredible potential for driving us towards buying or trying something we wouldn't otherwise. Leverage the recency effect if you can when you can and drive it with a no-brainer value proposition without assuming people will be smart enough to see the value - instead clearly state it for them. Also deciding whether maybe your business as is now or for ROI purposes if you would benefit from being the Good Enough option? If you take the good enough option, your prices should most typically be lower than the best alternate, wider known brand, but not as low as the one scraping and fighting on price - instead you position your company as a human, person led company that has its struggles, its potential and its dedication towards the end user and what you lack elsewhere you make up for in commitment and price driving up the value. Sometimes people look for good enough but many companies struggle to position themselves as the best or cheapest that they forget the middle grounds making the decision that much harder for these type of consumers which delays the pipeline build and the conversion into leads and then into customers. Maybe your pie (whatever niche in a market you chose) can be owned by being the good enough option?
I will give you an example using our team, Unthink is becoming widely known as the most helpful agency. Since we have clients worldwide we figured we would leverage this because being helpful translates into any language and culture. We also clearly state through our communications that we let our clients negotiate their monthly budget which allows us to bring big business tools and experts to small growing companies.
We break these branding statements because another thing to consider with anyone is that the more you say the less people hear. Especially when it's about yourself and not for them.
This messaging has allowed us to constantly get new client requests, the opportunity to prove our worth no matter the budget, and the transparency that companies (people) ask for when they are hoping to make a connection with a partner who is invested in their success as much as their own. This has an added perk of clients reaching out and talking to us when they aren't happy instead of publicly shaming or simply instantly cutting us off. Typically their unhappiness is a matter of a simply missed communication and our clients average at around 2 years with us until we have either built something sustainable or it's out of our scope of interest.
I hope this has been helpful if you would like I would really appreciate your follow in any of our platforms. Get in touch and stay engaged.
- Humberto Valle #Unthink
With more info about the business you're creating, I could provide a more specific answer, but in general the process might be something like this:
1. Identify the entire universe of potential customers
- Are they all in one type of business, or in several potential segments?
- Do you need to do some testing and have 1-on-1 conversations with people in those segments to understand which ones are the most realistic / lucrative / desirable potential B2B customers?
- Who are the specific humans within the segment(s) / companies you've identified, who would be responsible for buying the product or service you're offering?
- What is that person's title or position? What seniority levels (above or beneath them) could be important in influencing the decision to buy what your company does?
2. Decide on a multi-pronged plan of attack to bring your message to this specific audience
- Put together several versions of a short, compelling written pitch for why a B2B decision maker should care what your company is doing
- Warm introductions via email or social media are great if you have access to that
- If not, cold email outreach works really well, as long as the messaging is truly compelling and you don't land in spam folders (hire a consultant if you need to; this is critical)
- If you have a little bit of advertising budget, you can amplify your message to the people who read your emails via display remarketing (I recommend AdWords or another CPC network; don't pay CPMs for early-stage remarketing)
- You can reach your target audience in places like LinkedIn Groups, Quora.com, Twitter... wherever they hang out and talk shop
Drop me a note anytime with specific questions. This should get you started.
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... Still untapped by many players in the industry, but that are producing crazy good results!
People still get outraged when you tell them to use cold emails. They think they’re too spammy or they don’t get results, but let me tell you a story.
Nine months ago I was in a bar with my friends when I looked around and saw the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
I am not a cynical person. I just thought that “love at first sight” didn’t exist, and that was just a foolish thing for people that never grew up.
She looked bored, and the bar was about to close, so we were all a bit tired. I went to talk to her…
Nobody would expect what would have happened in the following nine months, our trips around Europe, cooking nights, and so on.
People think cold emails/outreach are spammy. They are when you are sending them to sell viagra. However, when you have a business and that this is right there because of giving out a service that creates value for your customers. YOU ARE GIVING VALUE. You are in fact improving the life of your clients. If they do not want to do business with you, and you know that your product/service can offer great value, don’t bother anymore, ain't everybody will love you, and we are all out there for the ones that have a good taste :-)
Cold emails and Linkedin automation are currently the main ways to generate leads. That is because when I started out, I did not have the money for running paid ads properly, and the time to setup complex sales funnel (I was running a business while being a college student in a top-university… All while working in a 9 to 5! Feel me)
People sometimes reply with messages like “Oh, nice spam email.” or they are skeptical about the results (ignoring that multiples Fortune 500 companies use these methods every day)
If done properly, this stuff works. Trust me. However, it is not as easy how people sell it to you. However, it is not as easy how people sell it to you. If you want to guidance on how to get started just call me a here on Clarity, I don't want you to waste several hours of trial and errors like a did.
It’s NOW the moment to leverage Linkedin’s full potential. In the future, this social network will start to get overcrowded (see Instagram and other ones that in the past were money-printers for the first ones who fully understood them.)
How to leverage Linkedin to generate leads?
1. Use your personal account to post relevant content. Don’t put external links (if you really have to write them in the first comment and tell people to look at it) as the post which includes them are penalized by the Linkedin algorithm that tends to make people remain in their platform. Use Grow a targeted social media following via hand-curated content suggestions at Quuu. If you want materials related to your niche posted every day on your account, but don't expect an engagement from those. The best posts come from your stories, what you'd learned, and they give the hell out of value to your audience.
2. Select target audience. Just hit the search button and look for the location, title/position, etc. where your leads are.
3. Optimize your profile. Treat like it’s your sales letter, but more related to your person. Firstly, write something eye-catching on your headline, for instance, “Contact me if you want to generate more leads for your B2B Business.” Then the first paragraph should be customer oriented (explaining the benefits of working with you/your company.) After you can tell more about yourself, and of your story if you’d like to.
4. Start with the automation. Download “Linkedhelper” or “GPZWeb” to automate the following actions:
- Profile Views. People will visit-back and see your “optimized profile” (see point 3.) And many times they’ll contact you.
- Connect with 1,000 People, including a 1 line message (less-salesy messages get a higher-acceptance rate.)
- Send a Direct message with an intro summary & calendly/ web/email link to everyone who accepts (better if one day after they accepted your connection request.)
- Reply to your messages, and watch the leads roll in!
I repeat! Linkedin (and his automation) will soon get less effective as more and more people are starting to do it. So, do it now (the same applies to Facebook groups, see the third paragraph) and you’ll be ahead of 99,9%.
Stick with the limits for Linkedin.
B2B Marketers/Founders/CEOs… Your audience is on Facebook. Trust me, or better, trust people that are seriously smashing it on this niche thanks to Facebook Groups. I’ve started my Facebook Group recently after Vin Clancy and Charlie Price from the famous “Traffic and Copy” group suggested me various time to do it.
In the word of Vin Clancy’s: “It’s the perfect place to build your 1000 real fans.” Other reasons why to start one are:
- You have a community! To test our your ideas, and to gain a sustainable momentum (people from your group will invite more in the future, and so on.)
- There are way too many blogs out there, and people are sick and tired of optins, they tend to give their emails much less (only when the content it’s remarkable, but with so many competition it’s hard to standout.)
- It’s the only public area of Facebook. For the rest, FB is pushing down all the organic to push you to buy FB Ads (on groups it’s still not possible.)
Just call me here on Clarity if you want to know more about these three methods.
Conferences - I've found attending industry specific conferences and networking there has lead to the most productive leads. This gives me a chance to identify potential business and then understand who in the organization is an important audience and decision maker to get in front of to make a pitch. The downside is the cost and travel of attending conferences. Even better, if you can figure out how to be invited to a conference as a thought leader, presenter or speaker to have the admission fee and possibly travel covered.
Some detailed and well structured answers are below.
I want to highlight the "education" side which has been mentioned a couple of times.
B2B sales is always a decision by committee and takes quite some time. If you are always focused on education you are always providing value. Think about consequences of businesses not using your product or service and build risk mitigation talks/white papers/etc around that, for example.
In terms of positioning, answer three questions:
1) What problem does your market have?
2) What is a good solution to that problem?
3) Why are you best positioned to provide that solution?
And build your education content around these points.
For Online and online strategy:
1.- Website with content. Ideally, a Blog with segmented themes targeted to your audience.
2.- Search Marketing Campaign: making sure you are visible at all times in the search engine.
3.- Once you have your blog with enough content, a paid content distribution strategy with B2C and B2B platforms.
- B2C platforms using native advertising like Outbrain
- B2B platforms using LinkedIn or Content Based Marketing Platforms (it would depend on your budget though)
I would continue with cold calling and mailing as well as conferences.
All would depend on you product/service and budget.
The premise of your question, that methods that have worked in the past suddenly and magically no longer work, is not correct.
No lead generation method should be used in isolation. But phone prospecting and direct mail still work...especially when combined with other methods.
Really look into things...and test. Don't just blindly believe what the marketing department of a marketing company tells you about the effectiveness of their service. Many "white papers" are actually sales documents in disguise, directed to devaluing one marketing method in favor of the one the seller is offering.
No magic bullet exists. I recommend picking two or three methods, committing to them, and working on integrating their activities.
For instance, you'll probably need one method to pull traffic out of a platform. Facebook ads is an example of this. But does the marketing funnel end there? If you're a newbie I suppose it does. But experienced marketers know you can't just throw an offer in front of someone who clicked on a FB ad: it almost never works.
The funnel has to have a next step, a next method, for the prospect to move to. So they are directed to sign up to the autoresponder series (email marketing). Or a trial of a site membership. Or to complete a quiz. Or fill out a request for a mailed CD.
Emails in the series may direct the prospect to a video sales letter (VSL). That's hosted on a web page and a third component of the funnel. We're at the conversion tool now.
Lead attraction >> Warm-up funnel >> Conversion tool.
Each component can require its own method and they all need to work together. You could try to run everything in an email series, I suppose--use an email in the series as the sales letter--but the traffic has to come from somewhere. And that will require an additional marketing method.
A factor that stands out to experienced marketers as a "newbie alarm" is someone trying to combine traffic generation and conversion into a single step. You have to get good at drawing the right traffic (pre-qualified leads) first...before you start trying to nail down conversion. Otherwise you can't test and you can't understand your effectiveness. Newbies want to make traffic and conversion one step, and that's a mistake.
So your lead generation strategy should be:
1 > Identify your customer avatar
2 > Traffic generation from a platform (FB, Google, Bing, direct mail, inbound phone leads from a postcard, getting the idea?)
3 > Lead capture into a remarketing funnel (FB pixel, autoresponder series, CRM with follow up calls scheduled in a sequence)
4 > Conversion via tested method to understand which is most effective and cost-effective (high ticket closing call, VSL, print sales letter by direct mail, webinar to application to closing call, etc.)
I hope I have opened your mind about the process and possibilities. There's no magic bullet. It's a system and you have to test it...develop it in consecutive steps, making sure one step functions correctly before moving onto the next. Otherwise you muddy the waters and can't tell what you're doing--even if you're "successful" you won't know why and won't be able to duplicate the results.