13 Platinum B-2-B Lead Generation Ideas
direct marketing came "alive" in the '90s.
Yes, many of those on the inside already knew the power of direct for
business. After all, B-2-B has been extremely active and well since the
1950's. Yet, it took the World Wide Web to truly awaken the full marketplace
to direct marketing.
It all came about with stories about high tech companies appearing as
the lead for evening news, on business and finance shows, as a regular
feature in newspapers and magazines. It soon became obvious that B-2-B
was far ahead of their consumer brothers and sisters with success stories
from the E-marketing and commerce world.
My introduction to business DM was in the early 1970s. First with National
Semiconductor, then Hewlett-Packard. Following high-tech there have been
many more ... in publishing, medicine, various manufacturers, distributors,
financial and several others in services - many different companies and
This Baker's Dozen Collection is based on 3 decades of B-2-B experience.
Working "live" in the field with real companies. And their marketing
and sales teams. A hands-on approach. To generate leads for a sales staff,
to build traffic for a special event, exhibition or store, and to sell
the product direct - pure mail order.
This is what I've learned.
I. Establish what you need to know
There are 2 parts to need;
#1. What does your sales team really need to know?
Often sales people think they must know everything before they
make a sale. They use the excuse they don't have enough information.
Obviously, there is a set of facts that are necessary. What I'll call
the "cake". And then there is the frosting, the candles, the
decorations ... all that other "stuff". Not truly needed to
get to the next level.
Make certain you clearly establish what you need to know to make a customer.
#2. Need plays a strong role for the buyer, too.
In fact, I feel need is the key word. I am one of a few marketing and
sales guys who honestly believe people making buying decisions, in the
final analysis, on needs.Not wants. Not desires ... needs.So, as you build
your DM program, think the word "need" for the buyer.
Yes, feeling and emotion and heart pounding personalization does play
a part in the sales process. Wants and desires are important. Yet, in
the end, if you are not able to establish a real need for what you have
to sell, you will not make the sale. If you are successful in working
"need" into your equation, you will.
This fact may be even more important in B-2-B than consumer marketing.
As an impulse buy is much less likely with a business buyer.
Marketing must plan and sales must agree on what is truly needed
for successful communication
II. And then what would be "nice" to know
Now that I've pounded on "need", what about "nice"?
Well, it too can be important.
Most often nice to know is a long range philosophy. It helps in
building relationships. It is important in keeping doors open, in customer
service, in gaining referrals, in getting more business, in cementing
a partnership between buyer and seller.
Nice is all the little stuff. Personal things about your customer. They
like to play golf. They have 2 granddaughters. Their spouse is in an allied
business. They went to the University of Whatever - played baseball in
the minor leagues.
Nice is also personal business. The name of their assistant, maybe others
on the staff. Their fiscal year. News about quarterly sales meetings.
The conferences they attend.
Nice rarely helps with the first sale. It can be vital for the next.
And the next!
III. Gain support from your Sales staff
Nothing kills marketing faster than a sales staff that chooses not to
buy into the program.
What's the answer? Get a buy-in BEFORE going to market. Insure from the
get-go that you have the support - the total support! - of your sales
Ask them in for the development meetings. Ask them for ideas. Go on sales
calls with them. Read their sales reports. And listen to what they tell
you goes on in the field.
You don't have to believe it all. Nor understand everything. You do have
to lend an ear and an eye. Demonstrate you care and you'll developing
a winning sales team that will support your marketing efforts.
IV. Determine your media tools
There are no "best" ways to get leads, build traffic and make
sales. There are many different ways.
Today the foundation tools for successful business direct marketing are
being enhanced with electronic media. Still, the basics of direct mail,
print, trade shows, phone and fax and in selected cases broadcast - both
radio and television - have been, are and will continue to be major marketing
and sales tools. They are not going away. The only difference today is
E-marketing has been added to the mix.
You benefit by looking at all - and selecting those that do the job you
need to reach your objectives.Also, know it is a rare case when a single
media will do the job. Integrated DM always works better.
V. Coordinate with advertising, PR, sales promotion
Your marketing efforts should look like they've been planned.
Which is another way of saying you thought about them, and coordinated
Not every company has an ongoing advertising, public relations, merchandising
or sales promotion program. If you do, plan it so all aspects of your
direct marketing and sales mesh together. They fit as a unit.
Even when you're testing, if you are to enjoy maximum results, everything
must work together, hand in glove.
VI. Determine where you will receive leads
Should your sales leads come to headquarters first - for control and
qualification and measurement of success?
Or will you rely on your sales team in the field to count, qualify and
The question is the same for every sales force. Captive or distribution/dealer
network, a single office or dozens. Central control, without any doubt,
gives you a betterhandle on results. On the other hand, with central control
your leads will be slowed in getting to your reps ... anything
from a day or two to several weeks. Depending on how automated and efficient
There is no right or "best" answer - you need to evaluate your
total marketing and sales program and make a decision. And be willing
to change it - when you need to.
VII. Decide how will you accept leads
Do you need a toll-free telephone number?What about a fax number?
Will you offer E-mail response? And can your prospects reach you directly
from your Web Site? Will you includea response envelope in your mail,
a coupon in your ads?
The more ways you offer your audience to respond, the more response you
can expect. As each will select the way that works for them today. If
they're in a hurry they'll phone, fax, E-mail. If not they may mail.
You really don't care how your prospects express interest, do you? What
you do care about is that they DO express interest!
VIII. Define what is your best lead
All prospects are not created equal ... some are much more "equal"
There are many levels of qualification ... here is a 5 step process
that works for me. Adapt these thoughts to fit your B-2-B needs.
The very best leads are Passionate. These are the people who want to
talk with you NOW. They are super ready to make a buying decision. They
have a need and want it fulfilled today.
Next best are Hot. It is urgent you get to these folks quickly, as they
are most likely shopping ... talking to you and several others.
Warm is the next level. These are honest prospects, yet they do not see
an immediate need or urgency. They are looking to the future.
Fourth down the ladder are Cool leads. Yes, they raised their hand to
be counted - still, they are not ready to be counted - yet.
On the bottom rung are Icy leads. Usually they did not understand the
offer, the product, the deal, the timing. Or, they might be the wrong
person in the right company.
How you qualify is not important. That you DO qualify is very important
to your marketing and sales success.
IX. Decide the process to qualify leads
You are going to qualify your B-2-B leads ... see above and it quickly
becomes understandable why this is important.
Now, what is the process? Should you automatically follow-up all leads
equally, you will waste lots of time and lots of money. And make your
sales team very unhappy.
Still, there is not a formula. How you qualify depends on your products
and services, your marketplace, your competition. It depends on your ability
to have add-on products and upgrade sales. It depends on your audience
... are you talking to current customers seeking repeat business? Or brand
new prospects? And it depends on your offer and your price.
There is no right or wrong way - there must be a way.Decide what that
is, and do it.
X. Know, how will you service your best leads, your less than best
Since all leads, just like all customers, are not created equal, part
of your DM B-2-B marketing planning must be how you follow-up, follow-through
and service your best leads.
And then your not so best leads.
Whatever you decide, decide not to handle all leads the same way.
i.e., based on size or revenue or geography or industry group is fine.
Treating everyone the same is a mistake - and a waste of your time and
For Passionate and Hot leads a 1:1 sales call may be in order. For Warm
and Cool a telephone follow-up could be best.
This is another area where close coordination with your sales team is
vital. They will help you make the right decision
XI. Determine what your fulfillment packages will be
Even in today's electronic world most B-2-B buyers want paper.
Yes, your WWW site can be important in getting a lead - by offering an
introduction to your collection of products and services. And for a very
few that may be sufficient. For most it will not be.
Some have found "Fax-Back" an excellent way to quickly fulfill
a request, and to get paper into the hands of a prospect.
And direct mail - the "old-fashioned" direct mail fulfillment
package - is still needed today. Most likely sent the old-fashioned way,by
mail - maybe express if you sense an urgency. No matter, it is paper.
Oh, and different packages for different levels of prospects. Remember,
they are not all equal.
XII. Decide how you will analyze success
As in any program, if you can't measure it you can't improve it.
It is rather easytocount the number of leads you receive.And those received
by phone, mail, fax, E-mail. You can track where the leads came from -
which media; mail, television, from a trade show.
If you make direct sales or have a captive sales force, you can also
track leads to a sale. If you sell through an outside rep organization
of any type, it is not as easy to be exact.
Direct Marketing by definition is a medium that is measurable. Which
means you can trail from a sale back to a lead, put a cost against it
and financially measure your success.
Even when it is difficult, it is not impossible to have a strong, if
not exact, measure. Be certain to decide - before you go to market - how
you will analyze for success.
XIII. Now ... what else do you need to know?
Before you finalize your Business-to-Business Direct Marketing plan,
ask yourself these questions;
- What is happening in our industry?
- What is our competition doing?
- Are new players or products affecting what we do?
- Will our plans for the next 3 to 18 months change our message?
- Have you coordinated a program between marketing, sales & management
to insure a team effort?
- What about operations, manufacturing & accounting ...?Are they
- What factors outside our industry can change our plan?
- Will regional or world events influence how our audience responds,
and thus our results?
You will most likely add to this list.
Okay, that's it -- 13 Platinum B-2-B Lead Generation Ideas that
work. Try 'em.