Lead generation is hard. Why make it harder by doing it without a strategy?

The first step to building a pipeline of new business is to document your strategy. It shouldn't take longer than a half-day to create a solid lead-generation strategy.

1. Develop your strategy

When developing your strategy, you should take the following five steps:

  1. Start by defining exactly who your target customers are, and understand what's important to them. In short, define your prospect universe.
  2. Then, look at how your organization compares with competitors in delivering what's important to your customers. That's the essence of your value proposition.
  3. That value proposition should be aligned with prospects' needs (see the first step); accordingly, it should remain consistent throughout your lead-generation efforts.
  4. Next, shift your focus back to your prospects, and understand how they buy the stuff you sell. Who's involved? How long does it take? What are their concerns at each stage? When you answer those questions, you will have mapped your customer buy cycle.
  5. The final step of the strategy phase is to create a qualified lead definition. That definition should be explicit; most important, it should be agreed upon by Sales and Marketing.

2. Choose your tactics

You have your pick of great online and offline lead-generation tactics. Try them. Identify which work best for you. Vary the sequence, test, and learn.

Here's a combination that's been tested and proven to deliver great results in many B2B markets.

1. Phone

Whether you are following up on an initial marketing activity (e.g., webinar or tradeshow attendance, whitepaper download), or you're calling first, you should keep a few things in mind when using the phone in business.

Understand that you are interrupting the person on the other end of the line. Any phone call does that, unless it's a scheduled teleconference. Accordingly, you can determine reasonably quickly whether to continue the conversation.

"Hello, John. I know you weren't expecting my call today, but if you do this you might be interested in some information about that." If he is interested, great; you've earned the right to continue the conversation. If he isn't, you have invested less than a minute to figure that out.

2. Email

If the person you're talking with is interested in what you're talking about, one way to continue the dialogue is to send additional information via email. Be sure the prospect is really interested and agreeable to a follow-up conversation once he's checked the information.

Assure him you will use his email address only for this conversation. Keep your message short and direct, share your own contact information, and (ideally) reference something you talked about on the phone. Send a link to a single landing page that contains valuable content. Don't send files that will get hung up in spam filters.

Track your open rates and click-through rates, and prioritize phone follow-up accordingly. Earning open rates greater than 50% and click-through rates higher than 85% are not uncommon with this approach.

3. Phone

When you make your scheduled follow-up call, prepare a couple of talking points by doing the following:

  1. Check out the prospect's website. Take 10 minutes to learn something about the company or information from a recent news release that you can reference in your conversation.
  2. Make a second offer. Your first offer was the information you promised in the email. If the prospect thought that was interesting, he may want to try your company's products or services. So make that easy to do.

4. Contact Management

After the second round of conversations, you'll have a group of well-qualified opportunities to pass along to Sales. You'll also have a database of people who are interested but not ready to talk to a sales rep. And you'll have a list of people who weren't interested but who use your company's products and services.

You can stay in touch with those prospects—until they are ready to resume the conversation—by scheduling phone calls and email messages. Use your laptop contact manager or a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. It doesn't matter as long as it gets done.

Whether you call it lead nurturing, lead recycling, or whatever... it just makes sense to do.

3. Build your list

Lead generation success starts with the list, and the list starts with inbound inquiries, such as those made via emails, phone calls, Web registrations, event attendance.

If you need to supplement the list, you can build, borrow, or buy a list. Building a list is the most effective, but it takes the most time. You should use social media, the Internet, and the phone to build your list.

Borrowing a list refers to list rentals. A couple of well-conceived Google searches should uncover a host of data providers. Prices range depending on how specific your requests are and how much information you need (address, phone number, email, etc.).

Buying a list is probably the least advisable—unless you are dealing with a respected data provider. Remember, there's a difference between a list and a lead. You don't buy a list of leads; you buy a list of names. You start with a list of names, and a name becomes a lead when two human beings think it makes sense to continue a conversation.

4. Create offers

Second only to the list in driving lead generation success, an offer is the tool for continuing the conversations with your prospects. You'll want to have an offer aligned with each interaction that is appropriate for that stage of the conversation.

In the first phone call, your offer is information: If you're doing this, you might be interested in that. "That" is a link to valuable content on a landing page, information that helps the prospect; it's not a sales pitch. Consider aligning how-to guides, whitepapers, etc., with your value proposition and strategy.

The next time you talk, have your second offer on hand. Depending on your product/service and the customer's needs, you might offer a discounted or free trial. Or you may need an additional step—a no-obligation diagnostic, perhaps.

Come up with as many ideas as you can, and test them. See what works best for your company and your prospects.

5. Create good content

As you build a pipeline of new business, content is the quiet constant. I'm talking about the information you share with your prospects from the first conversation to the last: the information they find on your website when they do research, receive in your emails, access in social media circles, etc.

Developing and managing content can be pretty complex. But you can also start very simply when doing so for lead generation. Look at your website, and find a paper, case study, or article. Think about that information from your prospect's perspective. What problem would that information help prospects solve? Companies often find content that can be repurposed to support their lead-generation campaigns.

Aligning your content and offers with the stage of the prospect's buy cycle is another best-practice. Provide general information early on (e.g., whitepapers), get more specific after that (e.g., calculators, tools), and culminate in action (e.g., free trials, consultations). Keep your content current and fresh. Always be on the lookout for ways to repurpose. A blog post could become a video, several tweets, etc.

* * *

By following the steps outlined in this article consistently, many companies have successfully grown their business. Many great approaches are available for building a pipeline of new business, but not every approach works for every company. A model like the one in this article provides a framework; executing consistently is what delivers the results.

Enter your email address to continue reading

How to Find Better Leads in Five Steps

Don't worry...it's free!

Already a member? Sign in now.

Sign in with your preferred account, below.

Did you like this article?
Know someone who would enjoy it too? Share with your friends, free of charge, no sign up required! Simply share this link, and they will get instant access…
  • Copy Link

  • Email

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Pinterest

  • Linkedin


Cliff Langston is managing principal of Leads To Sales, where he helps companies find new customers by creating a pipeline of qualified opportunities. Cliff has helped B2B marketers integrate Marketing and Sales for 23 years.