The Avenue

How to Generate More Leads With Less Effort, Right Now

Do you know where your business’ current leads are coming from, or how many you get on a daily, weekly or by-campaign basis?

If I asked you to tell me right now what your top lead-generation strategies are, what would you say?

We’re going to look at how to set up a lead tracking and lead management system that works with your business. But first, I’d like you to write down what you think your top three lead generation strategies are right now.

Every business needs a lead tracking and management system. It is the only way to know which marketing strategies are working and which ones aren’t. For one, the information your system gathers will allow you to make educated decisions about marketing campaigns and investments. Secondly, it organizes your sales and marketing efforts and manages contact information in a user-friendly way. It’s clear who you called, when you called, what you said and when you said you’d follow up. Thirdly, it enables you to manage your sales staff by tracking their progress on several leads at once. You’ll have access to an at-a-glance picture of their sales figures and productivity.

Your lead tracking system needs to:
Record the leads that arrive by phone, in-store visit, and website visit
Track the source of each lead over specific time periods
Record pertinent customer information
Be simple enough to be used by all staff members

Your lead management system needs to:
Track your leads through the sales plan or process
Increase customer communications or contact
Keep track of correspondences and follow-up requirements
Make it easier for you and your staff to close more sales

Once you have decided on a system, schedule enough time to train your staff thoroughly and be open to feedback. Keep in mind that your lead tracking and management systems need to be simple enough for everyone in your company to use.

Pick a lead tracking and management system that suits your budget, and offers the features your business needs. Each business will have different requirements when it comes to lead tracking and management. A retail store will have different needs than a realtor’s office, for example.

The retail store may only need to record leads based on lead-generation strategies, and keep lead information for their direct mail or newsletter databases. On the other hand, the realtor will need to make contact with leads on several occasions, and will need a system equipped to record and remind them of those correspondences.

Software for lead management ranges from simple to highly sophisticated, and can be a great investment depending on the needs of your business. Some CRM (customer relationship management) tools are available online as a web-based system you can subscribe to and have access to on the road.

I’ve listed the features and advantages to a number of different systems below, ranging from low-tech to high-tech.

Index Cards
Store basic contact information on one side, notes on the other side; these are easy to organize and sort. This is a basic system used to manage leads by those who may be less comfortable with computers. This system will be effective at tracking low volumes of leads.

Rolodex
The Rolodex system can include more contacts than index cards, but it is still only effective for low volumes of leads.

Excel Spreadsheets
An electronic system involving the use of Excel is highly customizable by date, name, source or other variables, is easily organized and analyzed, and is accessible for those with even basic computer skills. This slightly more sophisticated system will allow you to track higher volumes of leads.

Database Management Programs
A more sophisticated system that will interface with Excel and manage high volumes of leads and customer details—for example, Maximizer— allow for a high level of organization and offer unlimited space for notes and record-keeping. Those programs can also manage contact information and distribution lists for newsletters and direct mail campaigns.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
CRM software is web-based, and accessible from anywhere with Internet access, and offers the ability to attach documents (like proposals and contracts) to leads. A highly sophisticated system with advanced features—for example, SalesForce—gives the ability to write notes and log correspondence by date, tracks a high volume of relationship-based leads, and provides a detailed, feature-heavy system for lead management. These are not ideal, however, for retail businesses, or businesses that need to track a high volume of leads with minimal customer information attached.

Website Analytics
Web analytics programs monitor and analyze website traffic and online advertising, and track the number of people who visit your site, where they came from (search engines, online advertisement, website link etc.), how long they stayed, the pages they visited and which page they left the site from. Google Analytics is an easy-to-use example.

Bringing qualified leads into your business will save you and your sales team time, and result in higher revenues.

Qualified leads are simply the potential customers who are the most likely to buy your product or service. They’re not just in your store taking at look at the latest features in refrigerators, they’re in the market to purchase a refrigerator. They’re not wandering in to see what a $500 handbag looks like, they are the kind of person who can actually spend $500 on a handbag.

Some of the people who will call you or visit your business will never buy from you no matter how good your sales scripts are or how much time you spend overcoming their objectives. There are a variety of reasons for this—and you’ll never eliminate all of these people—but you will need to focus on bringing in more of the people who are ready to buy.

The good news is you have spent so much time and energy cultivating a comprehensive knowledge of your target market that you’re in a great position to increase the number of qualified leads you bring into your business.

The crux of qualified lead generation is making decisions based on the market research you completed on your target market. You basically need to know where to reach your prospects and how to speak to them.

When you are designing, executing and making choices about your lead-generation strategies, always consider these questions:

Who is my target market?
How does my target market like to receive information?
What motivates my target market to take action, and how can I tap into that motivation?
Where can I place my marketing message so my target market will see it?
What can I offer my target market to entice them to purchase from me?

Once you’re set up with a testing and measuring system (your lead tracking and management systems) to evaluate the success of your lead-generation strategies, you need to start by looking for opportunities to juice up the strategies you’re currently working with.

Use your new marketing message
Make sure that you have put your new marketing message on all of your marketing materials, where new and existing customers can see it. Revise your standard advertisements to feature the strengthened copy.

Strengthen your offer
Create an offer that’s too good to refuse—not for your entire target market, but for your ideal customer. How can you cater to their unique needs and wants? What will be irresistible for them?

Refocus your direct mail campaign
If you’re sending your direct mail to entire postal code areas, stop and refocus. If your distribution area is that broad, chances are the copy on your postcard or letter is too broad as well. Brainstorm ways to narrow your distribution and only hit your target audience. Purchase consumer lists based on demographics, not just location, or limit distribution to specific housing types. Of course, make sure you rework the direct mail piece to feature your marketing message.

Let your target market’s behaviors dictate your distribution plans
As I discussed above, the more you can tailor your strategy to the needs and habits of your target market, the stronger your results will be. Look for opportunities in your existing direct mail, advertising, flyer drop and other strategies to get specific. Narrow the demographics of your list or place an ad in a niche publication. Brainstorm new ways to target your market’s emotional reactions.

Tap into low-cost advertising
Advertising in places like directories and listings, Yellow Pages, classifieds sections, email newsletters and Google Adwords can be a great place to test your marketing message for minimal investment.

Look for some referral business
Referral business is desirable because it usually brings qualified leads into your business; someone has referred them to you based on a current need or desire.
> Provide your customers with an incentive to bring business to you. Reward successful referrals with discounts or gifts.
> Create a referral chain by giving each new customer three free coupons for products or services that they can give to their friends. When their friends come into your business, do the same.
> Create complementary alliances with non-competitor businesses with the same target market. Cross-promotion or cross-referral strategies will benefit both businesses.

Website sign-up
Add a feature on your website that encourages visitors to sign-up for newsletters or other communications. You can also set up your website so that potential customers need to fill out a simple form before they have access to “free” information.

Now that you have a comprehensive lead tracking system in place, you’ll be able to track the leads that each strategy is responsible for generating. When you complete your first few campaigns with the lead tracking system and analyze the numbers, compare the results to the initial predictions you made. Were you correct in your assumptions, or were you surprised by how things shook out?

Testing and measuring using a lead tracking system will save you money and time, and is incredibly useful information to have when developing marketing budgets and trying to drive sales.

Once established, your lead tracking and lead management system should require minimal time investment—if you keep it up to date. The biggest pain (and drain on time) is having to go back and enter heaps of data into your database or management system because someone has let it pile up. If you fall behind on your lead tracking system, you won’t be able to effectively evaluate your campaign or strategy, or you may miss a lead because you didn’t follow up soon enough. Be diligent, and set a strong example for your staff members.

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About the Author

Robert Ritch is a successful entrepreneur and business consultant, and has helped numerous small businesses increase their profits by assisting them in planning the steps they need to take and the order they need to take them, and in identifying and reaching their target market. Contact Robert at ceo@robertritch.com or at robertritch.com.

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