The key things you need to consider before starting a lead generation campaign
1. Define your strategy and aims.
Before you start, the most important item to think about is what exactly you want to achieve from your lead generation campaign. This might seem a simple or obvious question but you’d be amazed by how often it is not fully considered.
For example, is the aim to generate Sales Qualified Leads, Marketing Qualified Leads, or both? Will you be contacting existing customers to focus on upselling? Will you be calling brand new prospects or leads that are already in your CRM?
Then you can start to define the outcomes you are looking for, the level of performance and the sales results you are expecting the campaign to bring. This gives you a starting point for the campaign as well as a way to measure its success. Whether you smash the original targets or fall short, you can always adjust your targets if you need to, once you discover more about your market and your campaign.
2. Decide what a ‘good’ lead looks like?
If you are generating Sales Qualified Leads, you need to define what qualifies as a good lead and equally, what would constitute an unsuitable or poor lead. The size of company or the likely sales value is certainly part of this, but there will be other things to consider too, such as who the appointment should be with – who is the correct decision maker? And also what might stop a qualified prospect actually buying from you? For example, if you simply define a qualified lead as someone who is dissatisfied with their current solution, you could find yourself talking to prospects who have only recently purchased a competitor’s product, or who are still under contract with their current supplier for another 3 years and are therefore unlikely to buy from you for a few years, regardless of how dissatisfied they are. So, you might want to consider making the time they have had their current solution or the time left on their contract as qualification criteria.
3. Will it be profitable? Forecasting your ROI.
This is very important – but is almost always overlooked. Before you go any further, put together a budget for the campaign. At Forrest Marketing Group, we put together a 2-year ROI Cashflow Forecast that shows our clients the likely ROI, what it will cost to operate and what it will earn (in sales revenue). It also forecasts the cash flow and time required to sustain the campaign until sales revenue is being earned.
To understand this fully, you need to consider the costs of running the campaign, as well as the likely campaign metrics, such as calls/hour, hours to generate a Sales Qualified Lead, the likely conversion of these leads into sales, your average sales value and, crucially, how long your sales cycle is likely to be (from first meeting to sale).
4. How long will you need to run the campaign?
This is driven primarily by how long your sales cycle is, from first meeting to closed sale. Once you have put together your numbers in a Cashflow or Budget Forecast, it will become evident that you will not be running a short-term strategy – at least not unless your sales cycle is measured in hours or days. Whilst your campaign should start generating qualified sales leads in week 1, it will probably take months to deliver actual sales, because of your normal sales cycle.
For example, if you typically have a 6-month sales cycle for your product, you need to allow at least 6 months before you can judge the actual success of your approach. Effective lead generation should run for at least 12 months and preferably longer to maximise its impact. However, by having realistic activity metrics and pipeline milestones for your lead generation team, you will be able to judge their success and the progress of the campaign from Week 1. You can compare call activity and leads generated on a week-by-week and month-by-month basis with your “budgeted” expectations to make sure that everything is on track.
5. Who will set up and manage the campaign?
If internal staff will manage your campaign, they will need to have time to be able to interview, hire and train the people making the calls for you. Then they need to have time to manage, motivate and be on hand to answer questions every day. They will also need to own the reporting process and feedback results to you.
If you are using an external provider, you still need to assign someone to own the project and ensure it is a success – you can’t simply expect success without some involvement from your side. But you won’t have to spend a lot of time managing the campaign yourselves. Your involvement, time and workload relating to the campaign will be minimal compared to managing your own internal team.
6. Who will make the calls?
On the surface, it may seem much more cost-effective to use internal staff for your lead generation, but remember the campaign will require dedicated and perhaps time-consuming management from yourself or someone in your team. If there’s nobody to do this, then you’ll be recruiting someone to look after this for you, which in itself is an extra cost. Hiring and retaining good telemarketers is difficult too. Hire the wrong person and you’ll see the downfall of an otherwise promising campaign.
If you decide to use your existing staff, who are you going to select? Resist the temptation to choose someone just because they have some “spare” time in their day. You need someone who has the right skills to get past gatekeepers and engage decision-makers effectively. Also, make sure you choose someone who will have the time and the inclination to do this work consistently every day. One of the reasons that in-house lead generation doesn’t succeed is that the person/people tasked with making the calls “forget” to make their calls each day and slowly the campaign peters out.
External providers may seem like a costlier option but they are the experts so you should consider them as an option. They have experienced telemarketers, proven systems and they will be up and running faster, delivering success faster too. Also once the campaign is set-up, there is far less management required from you or your team.
If you are worried about the costs of using an external provider when you include all the hidden costs of running your own lead generation campaign, using an external provider is actually not that much more expensive than running it in-house. This article on the REAL costs of each option provides more insight.
7. Can your CRM handle it?
You may need to set-up new call outcomes, sales steps, email templates and workflows within your CRM to ensure your campaign metrics are easy to report on. Then you need to make sure that your CRM can easily track lead generation activity such as number of phone calls made, number of contacts spoken to and to give you a breakdown of the call outcomes achieved. These numbers are very important because they help you understand the activity that your telemarketers are generating, especially if they are not getting the expected volume of leads for you.
And remember that if you have more than one person making calls, there has to be a system in place to make sure they don’t both call the same companies. If one of your telemarketers leaves or is taken off the campaign and replaced by someone else, you need to be able to assign their calls, call-backs and other sales tasks to someone else. It’s important to get these workflows right on day one to ensure you prevent needless workarounds and duplication later on.
8. What metrics should be used to measure success?
However you choose to define and measure success, it’s important to be realistic. The key campaign metrics to measure are:
- Calls per hour: expect 15-20 calls/hour in a B2B context, in most cases.
- The number of presentations made to decision makers per hour: you can expect 3-6 decision-maker conversations per hour, typically.
- The number of hours spent calling each week: in most cases we recommend at least 20 hours be spent on lead generation/week.
We define a “call” as just that: a call – the number of “dials” that a lead generator makes, regardless of the outcome. A “conversation”, on the other hand, is a conversation with the correct decision-maker in the company – not with the receptionist, EA or PA or someone else who is not the decision-maker.
Other key metrics are the number of hours of calling to generate a lead and the conversion of leads into sales. The number of hours to generate one lead is much harder to predict in advance. A lot will depend on how well qualified a prospect needs to be considered a lead. If you simply want prospects that would be happy to meet for coffee, your leads will be generated quickly and you will get lots of them. But the quality will probably be very low which will impact on conversion. If, on the other hand, you only want prospects who have only 1 month to go on an existing contract, are unhappy with their current solution and are looking to make a change now, you’ll get very few. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is likely to be right. In most cases, expect between 3% and 8% conversion from conversation (not call) to lead, though numbers can be outside this range too.
In terms of the conversion of leads into sales, it is important to remember that cold call leads are much earlier in the sales cycle than referral leads or online-generated leads. Selling to them is different too. Your conversion from lead to sale will take time and will depend on the skill of the salesperson and the level of qualification of the sales lead. Typically, sales conversion from cold call leads ranges from 5% to 22% and you must allow for AT LEAST your normal sales cycle for leads to turn into sales. You also need to factor in time between when the lead was generated to when the first meeting takes place – there may be a 2-3 week delay before the prospect is available to meet your salesperson, for example.
9. Tracking and reporting performance
What gets measured, gets done. By tracking, monitoring and reporting on the numbers above, you will be able to assess campaign performance quickly. Initially, we suggest you review the numbers hourly and daily, then weekly as the gremlins are worked out of the system. If you choose an external provider, they should be able to track and report daily and weekly activity and outcomes metrics.
Making it work in practice. Do you know how to run the campaign to achieve success?
Successful lead generation is not easy. Often it’s simple, but it’s rarely easy and if you’re not careful, you can waste a lot of time and money figuring out how to get it right. However, don’t be too hard on the team if it doesn’t go 100% according to plan initially. Good lead generation campaigns adjust and adapt, using the results achieved to improve performance across the sales cycle. It’s likely that getting your lead generation right will require some adjusting in the early months, but this is normal. Don’t be put off if it’s not working quite right to start with, but tweak and adjust the approach until you do get it right.
Some practical points to consider:
- Do you have your call lists in order? You want your telemarketer to be calling the right companies and not wasting time calling companies who could never use or buy your products/services. You also need to be clear on who the decision-maker is likely to be (by job title) in each business.
- Do you know how to write an effective lead generation “script”? Knowing what to say to get past the gatekeeper, or what to say when you get through to the right decision-maker in each organization is vital for success. Your script doesn’t have to cover all scenarios and shouldn’t be designed to be read verbatim to the prospect. An outline script that allows for an engaging, enquiring and ongoing conversation is far better.
- Do you know how much time should be spent each day or week on calling? As mentioned earlier, consistency is the key. For most products/services, we’d recommend starting with at least 20 hours of calling per week, ideally in 4-hour blocks. You can always reduce or increase this once you start to see tangible results. Your telemarketer may only speak to 2 or 3 decision-makers each hour, so if 1 in 20 of these decision-makers becomes a qualified prospect, it will take them 7-10 hours of calling to generate each qualified lead.
For more information about anything covered in this blog, please download my book: The Ultimate Guide to B2B Sales Prospecting.