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Three Proven Tips for Successful Lead Generation Campaigns

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´We´re about to enter our slow season,´ a client recently told me. ´We´d like for you to help us build a good lead generation campaign to generate some activity.´

´What do you have in mind?´ I asked. ´We were thinking about launching a sweepstakes where we give away an all-expenses-paid trip to any ballgame in the U.S.´

´The challenge with this approach,´ I told him, ´is that it will very likely generate yield a huge list of sports fans -- and not necessarily a list of qualified leads interested in your software solution.´

Here´s the point:
Before you plan a lead generation campaign, it´s imperative you take the time to clearly define your goal. Besides defining what kind of results you need -- in terms of qualified leads and ultimate sales generated -- you should also define the following:

´ The stage in the buying cycle you want to target
´ The audience you want to target

That´s because the type of offer (or ´call to action´) you use in a lead generation campaign -- and the audience you make that offer to -- will determine the quantity and quality of your responses.

In the sweepstakes example above, response rates would have shattered records. In fact, at first we would have all looked like heroes. Yet the quality of respondents would have been low, and his inside sales team would have wasted valuable time calling that list, sifting for good quality leads.

So, here are three tips to keep in mind next time you´re planning a campaign:

(1) The softer the offer, the higher the response rate -- but the earlier the stage in the buying process your inquirers will be.

A ´soft offer´ is one that carries a low perceived risk in the eyes of the inquirer, and a relatively high perceived value. Therefore, they tend to generate a higher response rate. But since these offers require very little commitment on the inquirer´s part, response quality is usually lower than when you make a ´hard´ offer. Examples of soft offers:

- White papers
- Reports
- ROI calculator or toolkit
- e-newsletter subscription
- Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Kit
- Solutions guide
- Sweepstakes (ideally with a prize that´s somehow tied to your product)

When to use: This is an ideal approach when you need to generate activity, but also don\'t mind the fact that most of the inquiries will be at an early stage in their buying cycle. It will require some work on the part of your marketing, telesales, or inside sales group, since they´ll be tasked with calling inquiries to find qualified leads. However, in the long run this is a proven approach, since at any given point approximately 70% of potential prospects are either in the very early stages of their buying cycle, or haven´t yet started one.

(2) The harder the offer, the lower the response rate -- but the later the stage in the buying process your inquirers will be.

A ´hard´ offer is one that carries with it a higher level of risk from the inquirer´s point of view. It usually requires a higher level of commitment, and will likely involve some kind of contact with Sales. These offers tend to generate a lower response rate, but the response quality is usually higher in terms of where respondents are in their buying clycles. Hard offer examples typically include:

- Webinar
- Appointment
- Online demo
- Consultation
- Situation audit
- Demo CD or access to a demo site

When to use: Hard offers are best used when you primarily want inquiries that are further along their buying cycle. They´ll be easier to manage, since you´ll have fewer of them to contact. The key for success, as with any lead generation campaign, is to handle these leads with great care, follow up with them as quickly as possible, and send highly qualified leads to the Sales team immediately.

(3) Make sure to consider your target audience.

I recently saw a vendor of data center hardware launch an interesting national marketing campaign. They mailed postcards and sent emails to opt-in lists inviting IT professionals to a private screening of the movie War of the Worlds in select U.S. cities.

The approach: Before the movie, they were going to have a cocktail reception and a short presentation on one of their new products. Clever. But while this may work well for the staff in an IT shop (even mid-level IT management) or their VARs, this would clearly be the wrong offer for a CIO.

Takeaway: Before planning a lead generation campaign, make sure to clearly define the stage in the buying cycle you want to target, as well as the appropriate audience. Then, pick offers that correspond to that buying stage and are also attractive and ideal for that specific audience.

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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