How do you generate sales leads?
Most of us have to generate a regular flow of leads to win new business. But if you achieve results with one lead generation tactic you can get ‘tunnel vision’, ignoring other possibilities.
There are lots of ways to generate leads, but not all of them will suit your business or the product you sell. For example, some types of lead generation only make sense for high-value products.
Brian Carroll, author of ‘Lead Generation for the Complex Sale’ has drawn a mind map illustrating most of the major types of lead generation. He suggests you should have a ‘portfolio’ of lead generation tactics that you regularly review, the way investors manage a stock portfolio.
Seeds, Nets and Spears
Aaron Ross, author of the book “Predictable Revenue”, uses a simple categorization of “Seeds, Nets and Spears” to describe his view of the main categories of lead generation.
- “Seeds” are leads you generate through ‘word of mouth’. For example, customer referrals or a lead passed to you by a partner.
- “Nets” are leads you acquire online through you website, blog and social media.
- “Spears” are leads you generate through outbound prospecting and lead generation.
In ‘Predictable Revenue’ Aaron Ross suggests that business-to-business (B2B) companies should focus a lot of effort on this 3rd element – outbound lead generation using dedicated prospectors and a simplified process starting with email.
Our categorization is a little simpler than Brian Carroll’s and a little more complicated than Aaron Ross.
8 categories of lead generation
We think there are 8 main categories:
- Outbound – prospecting and contact via email and phone
- Online – driving traffic to your website and generating enquiries and leads.
- Paid 3rd Party – content distribution networks, lead brokers, lead generation agencies, list vendors
- Events – tradeshows, invitational meeting, business breakfasts etc.
- Branding & Advertising – sponsorship and advertising in mainstream media, analysts etc.
- Direct mail – hard copy mailers sent to prospects
- Referrals – generating leads through customers and partners
- PR – press releases, editorials, speaking opportunities etc.
You can sub-divide these categories:
|Branding and Advertising||
|Referrals / Word of Mouth||
|Paid 3rd Party||
How do you choose Lead Generation tactics?
How do you choose which tactics to use? There are a few rules of thumb.
First, you should “fish where the fish are” – that means you should find out where your customers typically look for information and concentrate your lead generation there. For example, if they spend a lot of time on particular websites or are members of a professional association then you should look at tactics that can target those areas.
Secondly, assess the cost per lead for a particular tactic. For example, if you have a sale value over $5000 per unit then online pay-per-click advertising may make financial sense i.e. you can afford to spend a few hundred dollars on advertising in order to acquire a customer. However, if you are a software vendor with an average sale price of $300 per year then online ads may not make financial sense and you will have to concentrate on low cost or free channels like social media.
Third, most lead generation tactics work better when they are used as part of a multi-channel approach. For example, leads will respond better when they hear about you across multiple touchpoints – through email, via web search, through their professional association and so on. Pick multiple tactics and synchronise them so that they reinforce each other. For example, combining email, PR and online ads in the periods before and after you exhibit at a tradeshow.
Fourth, consistent messaging is really important. Your promotional tactics should be reinforcing the same message across channels so that prospects are given a consistent description of what you offer and your competitive differentiators.
Finally, you should aim for a ‘hub and spoke’ model for your lead generation where most tactics are bringing prospects back to your website or phone.