From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

Lead Generation Strategies

You should now have an understanding of measuring client behavior that contributes to customer acquisition. Lessons to this point are important to improving your lead generation strategy.

Often lead generation is lost to customer retention, but proper lead generation as you will learn today is necessary to sustain growth. Learn how to improve lead generation with what you already know about customers.

Stay tuned for the next lesson, where we'll look at customer relationship management's role in measuring new relationships.


Justin Hitt
Consultant, Author & Speaker

How To Dramatically Improve Lead Generation With What You Already Know About Customers

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

Haven't you invested enough time, money, and resources into the customers you already have. If your company is like most, pushing forward with customer retention strategies seems like a good way to make a return on your investment. However, without an effective lead generation strategy you could be working your company to death.

To improve your lead generation efforts, you must (a) develop a lead generation system that takes into consideration long-term customer value, (b) look for new customers where your existing customers are highly concentrated, and (c) use known buying behaviors to pre-qualify leads before handing them to your sales force.

A Lead Generation System That Considers Long-Term Customer Value

A system is a series of actions and measures that when executed properly creates repeatable results towards a single objective. Lead generation is the start of a buying sequence and measured by its ability to create customer value. When you can repeat successful lead generation efforts, you insure a steady flow of prospective new buyers.

Your "system" must:

  1. Cultivate leads from a known universe of customer profile matches,
  2. Include directions to inject leads into a buying sequence,
  3. Define how lead generation success is measured,
  4. Identify how unconverted leads from your sales pipeline will be handled,

Your system should measure what matters most, that is, the creation of repeat buyers and long-term relationships. If your lead generation efforts can't produce repeat buyers then you do not fully understand the behavior of your best customers.

Since many business to business companies have longer sales cycles (from 3 to 7 months), setup tracking tools that allow you to uniquely identify any interaction of a specific lead. This includes documenting any interaction that initiates any web, phone, or literature requests.

The more you know about a specific lead, the better your ability to identify their needs to qualify them for specific solutions. A longer sales cycle will make it difficult to see immediate results. Don't be discouraged, with the proper tracking tools; you'll know exactly which efforts produced what repeat buyers. Hold lead generation efforts accountable to these results even if they are lag indicators.

Make it a specific person's job to generate and assist generation of leads. This individual should support the customization of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to make lead tracking easy. This individual is also responsible for how marketing further qualifies unconverted leads that may drop out of the sales pipeline before becoming a customer.

In larger organizations, you may wish to have a Lead Generation Manager who acts as a liaison between marketing and sales to identify profitable leads who are most qualified to become customers. Measure this senior level positions success on marketing's ability to find leads and the sales team's ability to convert them.

No matter how you structure your lead generation efforts, remember, create a system to apply, test, and measure lead generation efforts to create the highest long-term customer value.

Generate Leads Where Your Customers Already Are

Instead of pursuing the seemingly greener pastures, how about returning to those markets where you are finding customers already. It's not as exciting, but you'll always find new prospects just like your existing customers since it's not likely any market is completely saturated. (If a market is saturated then you should be looking to make existing customers more profitable, while testing new segments within your existing customer base.)

Haven't you already proven your value to your existing customers? You'll have greater success with leads who look like your existing customers, interact with existing customers, and are located in close proximity (physically or mentally) to existing customers.

Use a lead generation strategy that models efforts on profitable existing customers to find more of the same. This type of lead generation supports customer retention, reinforces your message, and effectively attracts new prospects in the same medium.

Seek the largest universe of prospects that contain at least a 20 to 30 percent concentration of customers. Topic and audience relevance are key to blending in select mass media options to reach more likely qualified buyers.

Some marketing channels that reach a high concentration of existing customers and new prospects include:

Be seen at any point your customers or prospects experiences the problem you solve, position your organization as an expert solution provider as early as possible in your interactions. When possible, provide educational materials that support the prospects decision-making process or help customers get more from the solution you offer.

Performing lead generation where your customers already are will generate responses from existing customers, but a larger percentage of inquiries will be new demand for what you offer. Use lead generation to keep customers returning while identifying new prospects is an effective use of your marketing dollars.

If you do decide to share educational materials or providing white papers in response to inquires, then improve lead follow on and literature fulfillment to 24 hours. This means respond to all leads within 24 hours of receiving them. Some companies will wait up to 60 days to respond to a lead, by then most serious prospects have bought from someone else.

Simplify fulfillment by prepackaging common materials, automating delivery through electronic means, integrating fulfillment in your CRM system, or use an on-demand solution. After literature is send, activate a follow on program that moves an inquiry closer to a purchase.

Generating leads is only the first step in building profitable customer relationships; if you stop at this point without further qualifying prospects then you are wasting valuable resources that could have increased your market share.

Now that you know where customers are, start testing copy and offers on these marketing channels based on what you know about customer behavior. Lead generation efforts should extract other possible buyers from a known audience, rather than fishing in untested waters.

Use Buying Behaviors To Pre-Qualify Leads Early In Sales Process

Everything you know about existing customers should guide your efforts to find new ones. Pre-qualify leads before they even contact your organization, this allows you to inject these leads right into your sales pipeline while measuring your success by the results per lead source.

Most companies can automate the fulfillment side of lead generation, this minimizes human interactions with individuals who aren't highly qualified to purchase. Don't waste the time of your sales team by calling on prospects that by all other measures aren't going to buy.

Use response based written materials, group events, and media interactions to cultivate leads until they display buying behaviors that indicate readiness to become a customer.

Use what you know already works. Ask your existing customers specifically why they bought a particular solution. Feature your customers own words as reasons why others should purchase too.

Make an effort to promote your best customers by featuring what they say about you in your marketing materials. If others in your universe of prospects feel the same way, they are likely to raise their hands and become a lead that is ready to buy.

Design your sales pipeline to improve lead quality through a series of tests that identify a prospects current situation, what they like about it, what they would improve, and which specific factors will influence their purchase decision. Effective lead generation goes beyond getting a prospect to give you their name, but for that prospect to identify themselves as buyers.

You should be looking for clusters of individuals who model desired customer behavior, and then extracting those leads to help them buy from you.

Use sales pipeline metrics generated from known buying behavior and a prospects level of interest to perform triage to focus live sales professionals on highly likely buyers. Let marketing setup sales for conversions, a greater long-term customer value, and work together in finding the ideal customers available.

With a sales pipeline that is processing leads more efficiently, establish an understanding of your marketing return on investment (ROI) as it contributes to sales efforts. Track the source and campaign of each lead across mediums by building in tracking codes to trace interactions through inquiries.

A successful lead generation system will have enough accountability to track customers from inquiry, to lead, to customer and repeat buyer. Over time source, time between stages and frequency of interaction will provide predictable measures that identify buying influences.

Learning to measure interaction points is a foundation of lead generation because it defines reasons why a qualified buyer might respond. These measures reinforce those behavior assumptions that lead to higher quality leads that will spend less time in your sales pipeline.

From a lead generation system that emphasizes long-term customer value, to focusing your marketing efforts to where customers gather, and finally using buying behaviors to qualify prospects -- you can dramatically improve lead generation efforts with what you already know about customers.

Start today by documenting what you are already doing, by next week you'll be ready to test new lead generation efforts against that baseline. With this greater efficiency, you'll close more business in less time while gaining a greater ROI on your marketing investment.

© 2004 JWH Consolidated LLC dba Center for Strategic Relations, All rights reserved.
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Justin Hitt, consultant and author of "Cultivating Your Best Customers, Part I of II: How to Get more Profits by Cultivating Your Best Customers" available online at

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