Every book on sales management will teach you what is called the ‘sales funnel’. This is basically the list of stages a prospect is made to go through before they trust your business and show interest in your product or service. A typical sales funnel would broadly involve Lead generation → Introducing your business to the prospect → Make your prospect interested in your product → Convert the prospect into a customer. Of course, this is pretty simplified, but you should get the drift.
The problem a number of marketing managers grapple with is not the sales cycle – which is handled by the sales team – but in getting started on lead generation. How does one go about finding new leads for your business? Here is a step-by-step process to finding leads for your business.
Step 1 : Decide What Pain Your Business Solves
A lot of sales managers make the mistake of confusing pain point with product utility. If your business sells office furniture, the pain point you are trying to solve is not providing a good sitting equipment for office goers. Instead, you need to go deeper into the reasons why your past customers have purchased from you instead of the other shop at the other end of the street.
Do you offer customized cushioning for customers in the central business district? Are your prices lower? Do you offer free maintenance? You might in fact be offering all these points above – but what was the point that sealed the deal for your past customers? Identify these points – these are the real pain-points that your previous customers were facing. It is this that you must solve.
Step 2 : Figure Out Where Prospects Who Face The Pain Seek Solution
So an IT company in the CBD is looking to purchase new desks for their workers. Who in the company is given the responsibility for making the purchase? What is the first thing they do to get started? Do they search on Google? Is there a trade magazine they look to for contacts? Do they outsource the job to a third party agency? The answer to these questions will tell you who to target – the purchasing manager, their boss, or the agency. If it is an agency, go through the above steps again to identify who in the agency you should be reaching out to.
Step 3 : Prepare A List Of Marketing Channels
Just because the target prospect uses a trade magazine to find furniture suppliers does not mean that it is the only channel to reach out to them. Popular marketing channels are often expensive to get through as well. So, if a particular trade magazine is the most popular advertising platform among furniture suppliers in your area, that is also the most expensive. It is, then, a good idea to prepare a list of other marketing channels. To do this, study the target prospect and map out their behavior.
A purchasing manager at an IT firm is also likely to be talking to computer suppliers in your neighborhood. Would a cross-promotion deal with the popular computer suppliers work? Such purchasing managers are also likely to attend local industry meetups, so would attending such meetups yourself help? Understanding the behavioral patterns of your prospect is likely to give you a number of marketing channels to target.
Step 4 : Calculate Cost Benefit Analysis
Now that you have a list of marketing channels, you will need to know the return on investment in each of them. Do not forget to put a cost to the time spent as well. For instance, attending an industry meetup would cost you two hours – that’s two hours that could have been spent on any other marketing activity. Also, remember to take into account the recurrent income, if any.
In the case of a partnership with a local computer supplier, you may often be required to share a percent of your income with the supplier as commission. That’s potentially lost income, but you can well make up for this through repeat business that such a supplier would provide. Keeping all these different factors in mind, determine the cost of customer acquisition from these different marketing channels.
Step 5 : Prioritize The Channels
Now that you have the marketing channels sorted by customer acquisition cost, do not get started immediately. Like your Economics professor always said, money in hand today is more valuable than money you may get tomorrow. Some channels are capable of bringing immediate business – a Google Adwords campaign for instance. Others, while seemingly profitable, may not yield immediate returns.
Industry meetups are a good example for such a marketing channel. So how do you tackle this? Pick the top 20% of your marketing channels sorted in increasing order of acquisition cost. Once you have them, sort them in descending order of immediacy of prospect acquisition.
There you have it – a list of strategies to acquire prospects along with the order in which you should deploy these strategies.