After finding out who your customers are and what benefits they see in your solution, you need an action plan on how to actually contact them and generate a pipeline of potential customers. For an overview, it is recommended to list the companies and associated persons in a central table, to categorize and track them. Only persons who report back are transferred to the CRM system in order not to overload the system and to carry out quality management in advance. The following channels and steps can be taken to identify and contact these persons.
The term “lead generation” describes the process of attracting prospective customers as well as the measures that lead potential customers to show interest in your product or service. A lead is a prospective customer who voluntarily provide their data to your company. The lead generation can be located in the B2C and B2B area. It is not limited to individual methods or strategies.
How lead generation works is based on the leads. In this context, the leads are persons who are interested in certain products or services and leave their personal data, for example, to find out more about the corresponding assets. The entirety of these activities, which cause the user to leave his contact data is then summarized under the term Lead Generation. Lead generation is, therefore, becoming increasingly popular. The probability is rather high, that the interested party can actually be obtained as a new customer. The leads collected help companies grow their customer base and engage in dialogue with the customer to potentially learn more about the customer’s needs and to continually improve the product or service.
There are three steps to generate a lead. The first one is letting a potential customer discover your business through your Website, social media or other marketing channels. Then, the potential customer is supposed to click on a call-to-action (CTA) button. This can be, for example, an image or a link. This CTA brings to the second step: a landing page. A landing page is a Web page designed to capture lead information in transfer for an ebook or PDF, a webinar or other offers with enough profit to a visitor to benefit providing their personal information in exchange for accessing it. This exchange is the final step of generating a lead.
So far for the theory, but how can this look like in operation?
For the lead generation in business networks like Xing or LinkedIn you can follow these steps:
Ongoing research: create a search query for key topics. This can also be set up as an ongoing search query, alerting you when a new contact matching your criteria is found in the network.
Directly: Contact request with an individual message
If no feedback: cold call via company headquarters (cycle: 6 weeks from the first contact. Follow up first 2x weekly, then 2x bi-weekly)
If feedback: telephone/web session appointment with a demo:
Before: clarify agenda
Which competencies are in demand?
First acquaintance or technical?
Are there already project specifications?
Goal: define a project, offer an on-site appointment or consultation/workshop
If necessary support by a technical contact person from your startup
But let us get into the details.
Based on the product features, a list of descriptive keywords is defined and searched using the search mask of the respective professional network. If, for example, a contact on Xing has entered a keyword under Search that matches your products (e.g. Chatbot) and also matches the ideal customer profile, then he/she is an important contact person. Before initiating a contact inquiry or message, the interest must be validated. Did you get the request because the person himself is looking for customers? Is there a research interest because the person is a student or a researcher? Answering these questions may lead to the exclusion of the contact. In general, a top-down approach is recommended, i.e. managing directors are the most important persons (set the topic strategically for the company). Other management positions, such as product manager, innovation manager, chief digital officer, CIO, marketing manager, etc., should also be considered. If necessary, specialist departments such as Sales, Purchasing or specialised areas such as Procurement, Legal, Compliance may also be considered based on your product or campaign.
When making contact, it is essential not to make an argument for the product, but to describe a concrete added value for the contacted person (as defined above), preferably with a concrete use case or a comparable reference story. Get to the point and be transparent with your sales request! You can strategically follow the marketing content plan in campaigns. This also applies to cold calling.
After being accepted as a contact, you may have caught the interest and might also get their contact details. You now have a lead, to be validated in your Sales Cycle. Now, this contact needs to be converted through the phases of your sales funnel with relevant information. The information exchange is the actual sales process.
Before cold-calling your prospects (potential customers) you should also take the above-mentioned steps of intense research about the company, the person, the market and the competitors. You need to have your strategy and value proposition in place. When cold-calling, it is important to already have the direct telephone number via a business network or a pre-call with the headquarters. Otherwise, you just have to ask your way through which is most likely the situation you will face. Keep in mind that a No only means Not now. Try different campaigns (sales stories and approaches), times and even people in the company you are targeting. Also, keep track of your attempts and successful calls. You will definitely improve your ratio of total calls / successful calls after a short time of practice.
Keeping an eye on the number of attempts to reach a prospect, as the hard facts (real numbers) will help you improve your strategy. And there should be no call without preparation.
A great way for startups to gain visibility and attract attention is to participate in events. As there are various kinds of events (trade fairs, meetups, parties, exhibitions, talks, etc.), we will focus on the strategic approach of directly addressing people at events and not from a marketing perspective of getting inbound contacts (e.g. via talks, pitches, etc.).
Like cold calling, it is all about preparation. To make it short, you can follow these steps:
Research interesting events through Marketing & Sales:
In advance, screen the list of participants (and speakers if it is also a conference) and make appointments before the event. Events will only be attended if there are enough appointments made.
If there are not enough appointments: cancel on-site appointments and make a new arrangement by telephone or Web session (procedure as for Business Networks)
If you could not make contact on site: cold-Call with reference to missed event participation and query of their interest (procedure as for Business Networks)
Even if the topic of the event is of high interest to you, please keep the focus on getting new potential clients. You have to be honest to yourself: is the event worth attending? Are the people going to the event part of my target audience?
To sum it up, contacting and generating new customers is all about execution following your previous planning. Always focus on your goals – or KPIs – to streamline your customer acquisition processes.