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10 Proven Steps to Creating Your Own High-Impact ´Software Lead Generation Machine´


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Nothing happens until a sale is made.

And whether you market high-end enterprise solutions ´ or off-the-shelf software products ´ if your sales process involves lead generation, you first need to attract a significant number of leads just to close one sale.

But quality leads are getting harder and harder to come by. And just as frustrating are the dangerous ´peaks and valleys´ in sales pipelines ´ a direct result of sporadic or ineffective lead generation efforts.

This should come as no surprise when you consider the challenges software marketers face today:

- Budget-constrained prospects. With l
ower IT budgets, prospects are now much more careful about how they allocate their limited funds.

- Stiffer competition. Even with all the recent consolidation in the industry, there are still more players fighting for fewer IT dollars.

- Prospect confusion. Prospects are being bombarded with more sales messages every day. And to make it worse, many software companies lack messaging that clearly communicates what makes their solutions different and unique´and what problems they can help solve.

The 10-step system outlined in this article can help you overcome these challenges. It is a proven methodology that can help you optimize every facet of your campaigns ´ including copy, offers, mailing lists, response rates, and conversion rates.

Step #1: Begin With Your Ultimate Goal in Mind

Before you set out to create or optimize your lead generation program, you first need to map your entire lead generation and selling process, starting with your revenue target. By starting with your end-result in mind, you´ll be able to work backwards and design a lead generation program that will help you achieve your ultimate revenue goals.

Some of the critical questions to ask at this stage:

- What is the ultimate goal of the lead generation program (how much revenue does your program need to ultimately help produce)?

- How long is your typical sales cycle?

- On average, how many demos or appointments are needed to close one sale (your demo-to-sale ratio)?

- On average, how many leads do you need to generate one appointment or demo (your demo conversion ratio)?

- How many pieces do you need to send out in order to generate one qualified lead (your response rate)?

- How many leads can your sales force handle at once (in terms of qualifying and follow up)?

Of course, not too many sales processes are this ´neat´ and clear cut, but try to get as many metrics as you can. You may not know how many leads it takes to eventually generate one sale, but you may know how many demos your team conducted last year. Dividing the number of deals closed by the number of demos will give you a rough demo-to-sale conversion rate.

Step #2: Define Your USP

Few companies ever take the time to really define what makes them and their solutions unique. They also fail to explain why the prospect should care (technology companies can be especially guilty of this).

Your USP, or unique selling proposition, co mmunicates why you´re different from ´ and better than ´ your competition. Without a clear and relevant USP you simply can´t expect to get the kind of lead generation results that will help you reach your objectives.

The truth is, your prospects are being bombarded with an incredible number of sales and marketing messages every day. If you can´t quickly tell them why you´re different, and why they should care, you will never engage them. It´s that simple.

To be effective, your USP must meet the following criteria:

1. It must quickly tell prospects why your software tool is different or unique. You don´t necessarily need to focus on the technology alone, although that may be the best route in many cases. Also consider your track record, size, customer list, awards, strategic partners, etc.

2. It must be benefit-oriented. More specifically, your USP must focus on benefits your prospect cares about´not just those you think should be important. What´s in it for them in terms of revenue enhancements, costs reductions, profitability, productivity improvements, etc.?

3. It must be clear and concise. In an effort to come across as cutting-edge and sophisticated, many software companies fail to clearly communicate their uniqueness and value. Of course, this doesn´t mean you should oversimplify your message. It simply means you need to craft a message that resonates with your audience.

Step #3: Define Your Prospect & Walk in His Shoes

Whomever you´re mailing to, it´s critical that you truly understand ´ at a deep level ´ what your prospect really cares about. Prospects are immune to canned corporate messaging that doesn´t clearly and quickly communicate a relevant benefit. Again, if you don´t quickly touch on what´s important to them´if you don´t clearly show how you can solve their problems´your campaign is bound to fail.

Spend some time thinking about the folks you´ll be targeting. Are they high-level executives? IT managers? Put yourself in their shoes and write your message in a way that quickly and clearly explains the problem you solve, why you do it better than anyone else, and what they should do to find out more.

Step #4 ´ Pick High Probability Lists

Whom will you be mailing to? Is it a list you sourced from a list broker? A list from a recent trade show you participated in? Prospects who have contacted you in the past? Past customers?

List selection is the most important aspect of a lead generation campaign. You could have the best copy in the world, and you could have the best white paper your industry has ever produced. But if you´re sending it to the wrong group, you´ve just wasted a lot of time, money and effort.

One good way to pick the right list: profile your best customers and see what important patterns emerge. What makes companies or individuals like these ideal customers for you? How can you find more like them?

Step #5 ´ Develop Your Call To Action: Your ´ ;Offer´

In a B2B multi-step selling process your objective is to continue to move the prospect to the next step in the sales cycle. And in the lead generation phase, that ´next step´ is for your prospect to accept your offer ´ to ´raise his hand´ and indicate possible interest.

Offers that have proven successful in B2B software lead generation include:

- Product information kit
- White paper
- Free report
- ROI calculator or analysis
- Case study
- Article reprint
- Free 15-day trial
- Demo CD
- In-person or online product demonstration
- Free consultation
- Free analysis
- Call from a product specialist

Want to increase response to your campaigns? Then give your prospects two or three options when responding to your mailer. For example, instead of just offering a free online demonstration (a ´hard´ offer only prospects that are very interested will respond to), you may also want to present a ´soft´ offer, such as a white paper, report, information kit, etc.

Doing this will allow you to capture prospects that are still interested, but probably don´t have an immediate need for your solution (and therefore would not want a demonstration or appointment at this time). By giving them another option ´ such as a free information packet, white paper, or other soft offer ´ you´re giving them an opportunity to at least identify themselves as ´possibly interested.´

Whatever offers you make, remember that in B2B multi-step lead generation you´re simply trying to promote the offer (a white paper, report, ROI calculator, etc.), NOT the product.

Step #6 ´Use a ´Creative Brief´ to Write Powerful Materials

Before you start writing copy there are a few more crucial factors to consider. Not only do you need to incorporate your USP, benefits, concept, and offers, but you also need to think about the ´tone´ and ´style´ of your piece.

This is where a ´creative brief´ can come in handy. A creative brief is an organizational tool to help you think through all the important aspects of your campaign (there are dozens of critical items to consider). It contains some of the key elements we have already covered in this report, but it goes much further than that.

A good creative brief should address questions like:

- How interested is the target audience in your product/solution?

- What are the key pains of your target audience, as related to the problems your product can solve?

- What are the key features of the product?

- What are the key benefits of the product?

- What are the objections that need to be overcome for success?

- How will the results and success of this program be measured?

Your copywriter can guide you through a creative brief that will address these kinds of questions ´ questions that can save you a tremendous amount of time and avoid numerous headaches.

Step #7 ´ Use Telemarketing to Increase Results by 100 - 500%

Here´s a strategy that´s not u sed often enough, but could easily double or triple your lead generation results: Follow up your mailings with phone calls.

In any campaign there will undoubtedly be prospects that found your piece interesting and meant to respond´but because of other pressing issues, simply didn´t. A quick phone call is an excellent opportunity to get these folks to take the next appropriate step.

Of course, how you´ll do this will depend on your telemarketing resources and the number of pieces mailed. Call to a selected sample, if you don´t have the time or resources to try everyone.

Just don´t overlook this powerful strategy. I´ve tried it many times and have been able to increase responses by 100 ´ 500%, taking campaigns from successful to ultra-profitable.

Step #8 ´ Test Your Results

The beauty of direct-response lead generation is the ease with which you can measure results ´ profitability is the ultimate litmus test. Here are some suggestions to consider:

1. Take a look at your results after a reasonable amount of time has passed. Measure the sales created as a result of the campaign to see if it was profitable. Also consider pipeline dollars generated, and their probability to close in the mid-term.

2. If the campaign was profitable, you may want to consider mailing the same piece again to the same group 4 to 12 weeks after the initial mailing (after removing prospects who responded the first time). Studies show (and my experience confirms) that you can many times generate up to half the response rate of the original mailing with this second mailing.

3. Once that campaign is no longer profitable, create a second campaign with a different angle, idea, or offer(s), and mail it in a sequence. Test those results and act accordingly.

4. Another option is to mail the first piece again, but to a new list (other companies, or different influencers within the same companies you´ve already mailed to).

Step #9 ´ Recycle Your Leads

Want to know how to easily increase the ROI of your campaigns by 20% ´ 50%? Take your unresponsive leads and lost sales opportunities and funnel them back through your lead generation system.

The reason is simple ´ timing is everything. The prospects that responded ´ but don´t need you today ´ may need you tomorrow. By moving these folks out of your main lead generation mailing lists and placing them in a ´follow up´ category that involves direct mail and telemarketing, you´ll gain top-of-mind awareness´and will likely be a top contender when the timing is right.

This same approach could also be used with lost sales opportunities. In many cases (depending on the type of solutions you sell, of course) you can attract old prospects that initially decided to put off their investment, or maybe even bought a competing application that is no longer a good fit. Staying in touch via mail and email will increase the chances you´re the first one they call.

Step #10 ´ The Magic of the Sequence´Succe ss Through Repetition

Regardless of what lead generation strategy you follow, the key to successful campaigns is consistency.

Put the right message´with the right offer´in front of the right prospect´at the right time´and you´ll generate a respectable number of leads. Do this consistently, month after month, and you will have a steady stream of gold flowing your way.

Whatever you do, never stop testing. Test different strategies, offers and formats. Test the effectiveness of contacting prospects through as many channels as possible. Add some email marketing to your mix. Try some targeted, direct-response advertising and see what works best.

Conclusion

The key to steady revenue growth is to always have a steady stream of qualified leads flowing your way. To accomplish this, you must put in place a proactive, consistent, and effective lead generation system that´s directly tied to revenue goals ´ a system that consistently puts the right message in front of the right audience at the right time.

Put these ideas to the test. Try a few, or try them all. Measure your results and keep doing more of what´s working´

´And success will surely be yours.
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Ed GandiaAuthor: Ed Gandia, Freelance Copywriter

Ed Gandia is a freelance copywriter specializing in the software industry. A 10-year sales veteran, Ed has had great success turning around struggling sales territories through his hard-hitting copy and focused lead generation methodology. Check out his website at www.edgandia.com