Posts Tagged ‘sales lead generation’

Here’s a situation that’s not uncommon when selling enterprise storage or data management products: a firm generates an increasing number of marketing-qualified leads, but the percentage, or even the volume, of sales-qualified leads drops. Obviously, the quality of the leads should be questioned. But what if the lead sources are the same? Why are the new leads not as good as the old leads?

Before you kill your marketing programs you should look at your December data (or any other short month for business). You’ll likely find a very a strong correlation between the time the salespeople spend actually talking with prospects and the number of sales-qualified leads. In other words, if the salespeople are not connecting with prospects, leads will not convert from marketing-qualified to sales-qualified. The number of man-hours dedicated to talking with prospects, and the quality of the initial sales pitch, are far more likely to determine the number of sales-qualified leads than the source of the lead. The holiday season can highlight this often overlooked fact, especially if you don’t track the actual number of sales conversations.

Unfortunately, the sales bottleneck is not always recognized, especially when many marketing programs are running and evolving at the same time. It’s easier to conclude that a marketing campaign is failing, or worse, that marketing as a discipline does not work.

It’s natural to assume that if you increase the number of marketing-qualified leads, the number of sales-qualified leads will increase at the same rate. However, that is only be true if the sales team also increases its bandwidth to process them.

Think about the logistics (optimistic for complex/expensive IT products): A salesperson with time for qualifying leads makes an average of 60 calls per day. With an average of 3 attempts required to reach a prospect, they can talk to 20 prospects per day. With an average of 17 dialing days per month, one dedicated salesperson can talk to 340 prospects. If 5% have an open project, budget and authority the salesperson would convert 17 marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads per month. Put another way, that’s 17 sales-qualified leads per 1020 dials assuming you have a large team of salespeople and can average the data. Obviously, a single salesperson talking to 20 prospects for 15 minutes each would require over 5 hours of talk time and would not be making as many dials.

If the overall bandwidth does not increase, individual salespeople are put under pressure to quickly “work through” the backlog of leads before they go “stale”. Nobody wants to have a large number of “Open”, “New” or “Unopened” leads next to their name in the CRM system. However, the salespeople can only make a limited number of calls in a day so they only try to reach each prospect once or twice before they move on. Best practices call for 5 to 8 call attempts, so while they make many calls, they have fewer timely conversations. As such, they don’t identify as many sales opportunities. Additionally, pressure to clear a backlog may result in less thought going into a customized sales pitch – again depressing the number of sales opportunities.

Even successful sales calls can result in fewer sales-qualified leads when there are more leads than sales bandwidth. Typical enterprise sales are complex. They require research, demos, evaluations, team selling, etc. so once an opportunity becomes “hot” the salesperson has less time to work on new opportunities. Because they have an opportunity in-hand and less time, their criteria to qualify new leads gets more stringent, again reducing the number of sales-qualified leads.

In conclusion, bandwidth is not just an issue for engineers to consider in their storage and data management products, it’s also an issue for the CEO, CMO and VP of Sales to consider when selling those products.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management, and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

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IT Business Edge is a web-based publication whose target audience is top-level IT decision makers who want to keep track of technical advances and new solutions. It has sections on Business Alignment and Management, Business Integration, Governance, Infrastructure, Mobile Technology, Security, Sourcing, and Vendors and Markets.

Storage, enterprise software, virtualization and most of the other topics we care about are covered under the Infrastructure section. From a CIO’s point of view that makes sense. From my point of view as an advertiser the topics I care about are somewhat buried. I suspect that’s why IT Business Edge is relatively unknown among my fellow marketers. It’s not a top-of-mind publication for these topics. In comparison, eWeek, which targets a similar audience, has tabs on the home page that are dedicated to Storage and Security. There is a special link for Virtualization.

What do I like about IT Business Edge? I like its coverage of storage, enterprise software, virtualization and the other topics we care about. It has good editors who follow the trends (at a high level), write about these topics regularly, have a critical mass of articles and they mention products. I can see why this publication is read regularly by executives (not just IT executives) and why it would be a good place to introduce a new technology or to build brand recognition among people who will ultimately approve big-ticket purchases. I also like the wide range of advertising options that include a reasonably priced pay-per-lead program. The IT Business Edge salesperson with whom I spoke was professional, creative and effective.

What don’t I like about IT Business Edge? In general, high-level editorial is insufficient for people who are actively shopping for a product. When it’s time to choose between vendors, readers often turn to the more in-depth coverage found in vertical publications. Additionally, in larger firms the product champion or the person who creates the short list of vendors may not be the top-level IT decision maker at all.

IT Business Edge does not publish an editorial calendar and they may go overboard separating “church and state.” This means advertisers don’t have much of an opportunity to time adverts with relevant editorial.

Are the sales leads any good? I expect you’d like a yes or no answer, but in this case the answer has to be client specific.  What works well for one client may not work as well for another. The variable is usually the client.

At Marketingsage we optimize lead generation programs for individual clients, their products, their target prospects, their resources, and their budget. We factor in the price a client currently pay for leads and the current opportunities available with each publisher. We strive to lower the cost of quality leads and we will take advantage of client-relevant editorials and special advertising deals when they present themselves. More information about our methods is available at marketingsage.com.

I did however have the opportunity examine an IT Business Edge pay-per-lead program. They over-delivered on the volume promised. The unfiltered sample skewed towards smaller organizations (i.e. not Fortune 1000 and federal government).

More than a few leads came in with the contact name in all lowercase or all upper case lettering. That’s an issue because incorrect punctuation can hurt email response rates and data correction can be a time-consuming chore. That said, the punctuation issue does not impact Marketingsage clients because we automatically fix it during our lead grading process.

Overall, I think storage marketers should pitch their stories to IT Business Edge editors and they should consider advertising. Their reasonably priced pay-per-lead program mitigates the risk of a trial.

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).

Madison Logic is an advertising network that allows marketers to promote white papers and other resources across 150+ IT-centric web sites including PC Mag and Security Focus, but excluding TechTarget. The bigger publishers use Madison logic on select sites, typically for white paper portals.  Madison logic also promotes using email to their subscriber list and through their own web site, Findwhitepapers.com.

Web site visitors self-select the categories and topics for white papers they wish to view. There categories dedicated to Storage, Enterprise Applications, Data Management to name a small few.  Each category has multiple topics. When in a topic area the web visitor is presented with a dynamic list of white papers that’s hundreds of items long. Although the list is searchable, a list that size is not practical for browsing so top-of-list placement is critical to exposing your resources.

To get the advertised resource, the visitor completes the (Madison Logic generated) form. Subscribing in that way identifies them as a sales lead. They are now on the Madison Logic email list and if the subscriber meets the advertiser’s predetermined criteria, their contact details are delivered by spreadsheet to the advertiser on a weekly basis.

Advertisers pay per lead, not for clicks. General leads start at $30 each with additional charges for filters. Filters include company size, country and job function. Leads that fit your criteria are delivered weekly. Subscribers that don’t fit your criteria still get your resource and are added to the Madison Logic email list, but you don’t get their contact details.

Advertisers place an insertion order and either get approved credit or pay by credit card. If you have available budget, Madison Logic will want to use it to generate leads. That determines when and where your resources are promoted. The advertiser provides input about the categories under which their resources will be placed. Madison Logic also reports the sources of the leads.

What do I like about networks? In general, networks allow Marketingsage to run adverts for clients in places that are unlikely to make the cut for a dedicated campaign. For example, the publication may be a marginal fit for our client and/or the price of entry may make a dedicated campaign too risky relative to our other options. A network mitigates the risk because the adverts are funded from one central budget that’s easily reallocated to other publishers within the network.

I am however, very wary of some networks because of bad experience with Marchex AdHere (Industrybrains). We have stopped doing business with them.  Pay-per-click networks are too open to manipulation and fraud.

What do I like about Madison Logic’s program? I generally prefer pay-per-lead programs because they mitigate clients’ risk when they don’t have a record of results with a particular publication. I also like the filter options and the CPL is reasonable, at least compared to TechTarget. The Madison Logic salesperson with whom I spoke was professional. He dealt with my barrage of questions in a very factual way and skipped the BS so common among advertising salespeople. These are all important factors because we and our clients want sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships.

What don’t I like about Madison Logic’s program? I don’t like the idea of my (clients’) resources being used to generate leads for someone else. It’s not that the leads are shared (as far as I know), but someone who is attracted to my resource also ends up on the mail list for other advertisers’ promotions. Clients don’t have that sharing issue when a prospect fills in a Marketingsage form.

Are the sales leads any good? I expect you’d like a yes or no answer, but in this case the answer has to be client specific.  The fact that an advertising program delivers leads with valid contact information does not necessarily make these leads good sales prospects. What works well for one client may not work as well for another. The variable is usually the client.

At Marketingsage we optimize lead generation programs for individual clients, their products, their target prospects, their resources, and their budget. We factor in the price a client currently pay for leads and the current opportunities available with each publisher. We strive to lower the cost of quality leads and we will take advantage of client-relevant editorials and special advertising deals when they present themselves. More information about our methods is available at marketingsage.com

About the Author

David X. Lamont is an accomplished marketer of IT products and a partner at Marketingsage, a PR and lead generation firm that specializes in marketing data storage, data management and enterprise software products. He can be reached by email at blog [at] marketingsage.net. Fellow marketers and IT professionals are invited to join his network on LinkedIn and to subscribe to this blog (see sidebar).