To add discipline to lead generation, successful marketers are increasingly eliminating the “white space” in their marketing programs—underserved markets, coverage gaps and the inefficient timing and placement of media—to produce quality sales leads at lower cost.

In Part 1, I outlined six strategies that successful marketers are using to revitalize lead generation in their organizations. Here, in Part 2, I examine the way marketers are improving the efficiency of their lead generation processes through better placement, better timing and better coverage.

1. Better Placement

In a world of limited resources and increasingly fragmented and saturated media, being in the right place has become much more important than being everywhere. There is significant marketing leverage in picking your spots. Best-in-class marketers are improving marketing performance by investing in new media that improve relevance and response:

  • Interactive media allow for marketers to identify and dialogue with prospects. For example, a large car manufacturer figured out that their marketing “white space” was the independent research Web sites such as and the Kelly Blue Book, where the vast majority of car shoppers researched cars. They already knew that over 70% of their target shopped for cars online. But they recently learned that over 80% of the serious shopping activity happened off their own Web site, at the sites of these independent research providers. They used technology from CentrPort that allowed them to “see” these off-site leads and make them relevant offers on the spot.

  • Place-based media allows marketers to have a presence at the specific places where customers seriously consider or buy their products. For example, several over-the-counter pharmaceutical marketers spend dollars on a new network of interactive signs placed right next to the product on the store shelves.

  • Partner channels are third-party distribution outlets that provide credible access to more prospects and customers. For example, a national chain of photo studios looking to reach families with young children formed a partnership with a target marketing company—Growing Family—that builds relationships with new mothers. It fields thousands of inbound telephone calls from new mothers every day. By bringing up the topic of family portraits in these conversations, Growing Family agents are able to “cross-market” to over 90% of the new mothers in the United States, and directly schedule appointments.

2. Better Timing

Time is the targeting dimension with the largest untapped revenue potential. Best-in-class marketers are investing in event-triggered, real time and dialog-based marketing programs that improve the timing and relevance of marketing campaigns.

  • Right time: Many organizations are generating leads at a lower cost by finding ways to reach customers when they are ready to buy.

    For example, a pharmaceutical company with over-the-counter infant-gas medicine knew that the key to growing sales was effectively reaching new mothers in the first three months of a baby's life. It partnered with Growing Family, the target marketing company mentioned above, to direct marketing offers to over 90% of all the new mothers in the United States in the first month after birth.

    This timing advantage, coupled with the strong brand relationship Growing Family had built with these new mothers, made these direct mail promotions 10 times as effective as other direct marketing efforts they had tried.

    Similarly, Fidelity Investments worked to identify over 100 event triggers that signaled when customers would need (or want) to make trades, shift to different investments or move their assets outside of the Fidelity family. It used advanced technology to sort though millions of daily customer transactions to identify when life and market events were happening, and target situations where customers would need advice or new products or be receptive to a particular offer.

    These event triggers fed a wide range of email, Web site, agent, and call center programs that reacted quickly to put the right offer in front of the right person at the right time. The “event triggers” generated by this system created twice as many qualified leads, doubled the chance that a particular offer was relevant to a customer's need, and improved campaign response rate 200%.

  • Real time: Many organizations have found they can grow revenues more efficiently by responding faster to customer buying signals.

    For example, most car companies are pretty good at identifying whom to sell to—particularly on-site inquiries and existing lease renewals. However, this car company found that it was wasting millions of marketing dollars because it did not know when to sell to them.

    To solve the problem, it analyzed the way prospects behaved online; it then created a model that could predict who would likely become a buyer based on patterns of online behavior. When it applied this analysis to prospects in its pipeline, it learned that of the traditional 60-day shopping period, most shoppers were really serious about buying for only two of them. This meant that they were far more receptive to offers and messages that fell on those two days.

    The ability to zero in on the exact time a prospect is ready to buy and concentrate drive-to-dealer promotional dollars and dealer attention on them gave the company a huge edge against competitors that were spreading their marketing dollars and attention across all prospects equally.

  • Dialog: Many organizations are finding the most cost-effective way to generate quality leads is to find ways for salespeople, agents and customer service representatives to have longer and better conversations with their best customers. When customers pay attention, it is usually because they are complaining about a problem or inquiring about an urgent, but tactical, fulfillment issue. Few marketers are able to turn these limited conversations into selling opportunities.

    American Century, a consumer financial services company, handled thousands of inbound calls in its customer service call centers, but most of this valuable dialog was spent on solving tactical service problems. It then invested in a new dialog and interaction strategy. The bulk of this investment was spent on teaching call center representatives to cross-market to inbound callers and segment callers based on the needs these customers expressed in their conversations.

3. Better Coverage

New marketing media and multi-channel marketing approaches make it cost-effective to access the “geographically disadvantaged” or “in-between” markets that traditionally fall between their field sales territories and mass media spend.

  • New low cost channels and media systems. Marketers are expanding the number of customers they can economically reach by adding call centers, direct mail and interactive channels into the selling mix. New technology-enabled programs and multi-channel marketing approaches are making it economical to access these smaller or “geographically disadvantaged” accounts.

    For example, Saks Fifth Avenue realized that it relied too heavily on printed circulars to drive traffic to its retail stores. It worked with Cross Media Services to beef up its market coverage by adding online circulars. These promotions were delivered to customers over all of the Saks Web sites and through email alerts to the mix. Customers who received online circulars in tandem with printed circulars were almost three times as likely to go to the store as a result of these promotions and spent over 20% more once they visited the store.

  • Allocating resources to underserved markets. Through ongoing experimentation, many marketers confidently deploy dollars in underserved markets and new territories. For example, marketers such as Gillette and Pepsi that rely heavily on television advertising have learned that tech-savvy 12-24-year-olds do not respond to television as well as older “baby boomers.” Recent product launches of Code Red Soda (Pepsi) and Venus Razors (Gillette) broke the mold by having at least half of the marketing dollars spent outside of television—most of these dollars were “reallocated” to interactive games, viral marketing programs and media that this younger generation enjoyed.

    While it used TV to reach older women, Gillette placed Web applets on teen sites to get hundreds of thousands of hard-to-reach (and soon to be shaving) teenage girls to learn about and interact with this new brand. Pepsi used interactive game contests to get cutting-edge teenagers and programmers to compete for cases of the soda. Code Red jumped to the number-six-ranked soda (2.2% share) in convenience stores with little television advertising relative to other Pepsi product launches.

  • Aligning direct channels with field and retail sales. Smart marketers are redirecting their direct marketing resources into integrated marketing campaigns that deliver better leads and low-cost support to field sales, retail and agent networks.

    For example, a high-end clothing retailer found its “white space” was lead quality. While it typically delivered offers through traditional newspaper circulars or the mail, it found that the type of people who read or responded to these offers were generally discount shoppers or others looking for something free. These people could not afford the premium prices in the store. This retailer needed to find media and channels that reached higher-end buyers who would pay more for quality if they were going to generate better leads for its large retail network.

    By placing value cards in an innovative dry cleaner promotional network named Madison's Bag, it was able to target its promotional dollars to reach well-heeled people (those with over $70,000 in annual income) when they were thinking about their clothes. New leads who responded to this promotion spent twice as much as the average customer ($150 versus. $75) when they visited the store.

  • Marketing process innovation. Marketers are finding that better coordination between business units and brands can improve sales performance or market coverage.

    For example, a large car manufacturer realized that the “white space” in its marketing approach was the cracks between business unit marketing efforts. It learned that when each of five brands individually pursued lease renewals—selling the same car brand to the same person—they only succeeded some of the time. By working with Digitas to create a coordinated enterprise-wide “resell and upsell” process, it was able to offer different models to customers who wanted to switch and would normally move to another car company.

    By coordinating cross-sell and retention programs on a company wide-basis, the car company was able to improve leaseholder retention within the individual brands by 8% and kept more (over 25% more) of these customers in the car family by offering a choice.

Editor's Note: To learn more about the lead-generation best practices referenced in this article and how you can improve lead generation now in your own company, attend the Marketing Profs Know-How seminar online, “Revitalizing Lead Generation: What Works,” with Stephen Diorio on June 15, 2004. You will learn why lead generation is the highest-leverage marketing investment; the reasons most organizations fall short in lead generation; effective strategies to generate more demand today; new technologies you can use to grow more for less; and how your lead-generation performance stacks up versus the best, with a free benchmark of your organization's performance. Learn more about how to sign up.

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Steve Diorio is author of Beyond E: 12 Ways Technology is Transforming Sales and Marketing Strategy (McGraw Hill, 2002) and President of Profitable Channels, a marketing strategy firm (