How To Build A Lead-Generating Machine

Buyers can be 90% of the way through the buying process before they reach out to a salesperson.

– VentureBeat
Build a Lead-Gen Machine Intro

The marketing process isn’t what it used to be. Times change. People change. Technologies change. Businesses face a variety of challenges in today’s ever-evolving sales and marketing arena. These are three of the biggest challenges:

  1. Connecting with Today’s Hard-to-Reach Buyer
  2. Adapting to the Modern Sales Model
  3. Tracking Sales & Marketing ROI
Build a Lead-Gen Machine Challenge 1

Challenge 1: Connecting with Today’s Hard-to-Reach Buyer

Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment

– Leap Job

Modern marketing is confusing. This is due in large part to the Digital Revolution, which created a huge increase in the number of marketing channels. Prior to the rise of the internet, there were only a handful. Today, there are hundreds. One of the difficulties with so many channels is that only businesses with enormous budgets can afford to utilize the bulk of them. In addition, becoming an expert in every channel is an unsurmountable feat that eatsc up time, budget and manpower. You simply can’t be everywhere, and you can’t be everything to everyone!

We live in an information age. Most people have a supercomputer (smartphone) in their pockets that allows them to find information about anything in seconds. This empowers them as buyers in a way never seen before, and the buyer’s journey has changed as a result. With endless knowledge at their fingertips, buyers are no longer reliant on salespeople to learn about products and services.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Challenge 2

Challenge 2: Adapting to the Modern Sales Model

Despite the changes in the buyer’s journey, the procedures of most sales organizations are based on pre-Digital Revolution methods and haven’t been updated. They’re still utilizing the old-fashioned process that consists of finding companies that may need products or services and pushing information out by cold calls, mailings and meetings to teach them about products and services. This method is broken because buyers now have the tools to bypass the outdated sales model and get all the information they need.

Today’s buyer is a researcher, and it’s easier than ever for them to discover what they need and why they need it, as well as determine benefits and find competitive alternatives. They don’t need company propaganda anymore and, in fact, are repelled by it. Buyers are so sophisticated that they can tell the difference between a sales pitch and unbiased data in a second.

Millennials are at the heart of the Digital Age. They grew up with the internet and embrace new technology quickly. Yes, Millennials are young, but if you don’t think they have a say in company purchases, think again! According to The Changing Face of B2B Marketing published by Think with Google in 2015, nearly half of all B2B researchers are Millennials. Even if they aren’t C-level executives, their input is considered and makes a difference in whether or not a purchase is made.

Companies operating under outdated sales models aren’t providing their salespeople with the best chance for success. It’s tough to meet quotas when prospects aren’t listening. According to Gartner, customers manage 85% of their interaction with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Challenge 3

Challenge 3: Tracking Sales & Marketing ROI

Father of modern advertising and marketing pioneer John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Wanamaker experienced frustration when print was the only marketing channel. It’s even more complicated today. How do you know where you’re failing, and how do you get better? The days of simply saying, “I spent X on marketing and got Y in sales” are over. Now, it’s a matter of analyzing A, Z and everything in between.

You’ve got to learn how to focus your marketing efforts and measure ROI in great detail. In an ideal situation, you’d be able to know which channel yields the most qualified leads and which subject lines, offers, headlines, etc. yield the best response rate. That’s hard to do when the channels are on different platforms and you have to compare information stored in different data silos. That’s not to say it can’t be done manually, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Modern Marketing

The Modern Approach to Marketing

It’s more difficult than ever to generate a consistent flow of quality leads, convert them into customers and measure marketing effectiveness in order to improve for the future. Buyers don’t respond to marketing tactics like they used to, companies have not adapted to changes in the buyer’s journey like they need to and, for most companies, marketing data collection and analysis is not as simple as it could be.

In the modern marketplace, it’s essential to have a mechanism in place that will attract the right prospects and then efficiently and effectively engage and nurture them until they’re buy-ready. You need a marketing and sales assembly line — a lead-generating machine!

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Target

Target Your Most Profitable Prospects

A lead-generating machine needs prospects to get the gears turning. Marketing to only your most profitable prospects is a realistic way to increase sales because it attracts only the targets with the greatest chance of converting. It’s expensive to market to all potential customers, many of whom will either provide minimal ROI or aren’t interested in purchasing at all. It’s better to be really great at providing a product or service to a smaller, highly qualified segment than to be average at providing that product or service to a larger group of prospects. Aim to be an expert, the go-to company for that select segment of top prospects.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Personas

Create Personas & Offer Solutions

Once you’ve identified your most profitable prospects, it’s necessary to do some research and development before you can crank up the machine and set it on auto-pilot. Humanize your marketing tactics by creating personas, which are hypothetical representations of your best prospective customers based on existing customer data and additional market research. In order for your business to grow, it’s essential that you relate to and effectively communicate with people — influencers and ultimately the purchase decision-maker.

Who are the individuals in the most appealing segments you identified in the targeting process, and how do they think and behave? The first step in getting the answer is to create hypothetical attributes of hypothetical prospects. What do they value? What are their goals? What motivates them? Answering questions like these will help you paint a picture of your potential customers.

Before proceeding, you must validate your personas to verify that you developed accurate representations of your target segments. You could test your assumptions with surveys (online, mail or phone). Another way to get validation is by consulting with your current customers. Share your hypotheses with your connections and let them provide their opinions on whether or not they think you are on the right track. Finally, you could put together an exploratory committee to test the waters in your potential growth markets. Reach out to individuals in those markets and try to set up meetings to gather information. This would likely have to be an incentivized approach where you take them out to lunch and reward them with something like a gift card for their time and insight.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Buyer's Journey

Map Out the Buyer’s Journey

After validating your personas, you can go to work strategizing when and how your machine will contact your leads as they make their way through the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is also known as the purchase decision process among other names. They all refer to the same thing: The decision-making process a potential buyer goes through when making a purchase. Every buyer’s journey is different because every buyer has different needs and different ways to reach a conclusion. However, there are stages that apply in every purchase decision:

Awareness – The prospect realizes that there is a problem that needs to be addressed or a potential opportunity to improve.

Consideration – The prospect fully understands the problem or opportunity at hand and commits to weighing all possible solutions.

Comparison – The prospect has done research and compiled a list of possible solutions, which are being compared against each other.

Intent – The prospect is close to committing to the purchase and just needs to finalize some details.

Decision – The prospect commits to the purchase, receives final approval from superiors if necessary and signs on the dotted line.

Every step in your marketing process should be calculated. In order to convert leads, it’s critical to market to them at the RIGHT time. By understanding the buyer’s journey and your prospects’ actions at each step, you’ll be able to more accurately pinpoint their maximum impact points. Maximum impact points are points on the buyer’s journey where you can make the biggest impression on a prospect’s purchase decision. Sure, you could guess, and maybe you’ll get lucky once in a while. But identifying maximum impact points will increase the efficiency of your marketing efforts and budget. Furthermore, understanding the buyer’s journey will help with the channel-selection process.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Messaging

Develop Messaging

Creating effective messaging for your machine to deploy is more challenging than ever. There’s much more work involved because you’ve got to create different messages for each persona. Not only that, you have to ensure consistency in every aspect of your messaging. Your machine needs a user manual. To remain consistent, it’s important to create a set of persona-specific messaging guidelines. This is a document or set of documents that clearly define how a message is to be crafted for each persona. The goal of these guidelines is to keep each of your experts (sales team, marketing team, graphic designers, video producers, web developers, copywriters, etc.) on the same page and focused on the same end result — engaging leads with a common experience. Think of these guidelines like brand standards.

Effective messaging requires a thorough understanding of three guiding principles: Value Propositions, Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) and Keywords.

A value proposition is a clearly defined promise of value a customer will receive from a product or service. A good value proposition can be read and understood in about five seconds, explains how the product or service is beneficial and resonates with customers. Value propositions are based on the question “Why?” For instance, why do your customers buy what you’re selling? It’s something you need to understand if you want to be able to have a conversation with them and get them to do business with your company. To get the answer, put yourself in the prospects’ shoes just like you did when creating personas.

Your company doesn’t have any control over your prospects’ value propositions; they are what they are. However, you do have control over the second principle of developing effective messaging: Unique Selling Propositions (USPs). USPs, sometimes referred to as differentiators, are the features of your company’s products and services that make them stand out from the competition. They’re what make your company unique and special.

When it comes to marketing for your company, this is the point in the process where you should really get excited. Businesses love to tell their leads and customers why they’re so great. As a matter of fact, most companies skip the value proposition stage and jump right to the USPs. That isn’t a good idea today, but after you have validated value propositions, you can have a heyday thinking of ways to put your company on a pedestal.

When you develop keywords, you are identifying terms to highlight that will make your content valuable to prospects. Keywords also allow you to speak to prospects in their language and come into play throughout the buyer’s journey, particularly in the Awareness and Consideration stages. During those stages, the prospect realizes a problem or opportunity and looks into possible solutions. If your company uses the right keywords, you can grab their attention, which in turn will increase your chances of making a sale. In addition, keywords play an important role in search engine optimization (SEO). Using the right keywords throughout your company website will help increase the site’s ranking in search results. According to InFront Webworks, 91.5% of web traffic goes no further than page 1 in the search results, so if you aren’t there, you likely won’t be found.

An important element of messaging is the hook — the thing that gets the audience to respond by providing value for them. When developing hooks, it’s important to consider your personas and ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” What can you provide them that will entice them to come to your website and potentially provide you with more information about themselves? It could be valuable content or a promotional product.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Response

Encourage Response

There are two basic goals in the modern era of marketing: get conversions from the initial touch and engage non-respondents. The best-case scenario is when a target receives your message, they see the value in one of your company’s products or services and contact you to purchase or learn more immediately. Regardless of which channel you use to deploy your message, your marketing success depends on the quality of your content. If it doesn’t resonate with your audience, you’re sunk. Don’t assume they will know what the next step is. Encourage response by utilizing strong calls to action, which are obvious directions that provide instruction on what to do next like, “Place an order or request additional information by calling (phone number) or visiting (website).” In addition, include a hook or offer — an incentive for acting.

One thing to keep in mind is that marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It typically takes time to see results. According to Vorsight, at any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, and 40% are poised to begin. Based on those statistics a 10% response rate would be outstanding, but that still means 9 out of 10 recipients will not respond. Which brings us to the second goal…

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Engage Non-Respondents

Engage Non-Respondents

Before the Digital Age, the marketing approach was simple. The message was deployed, some targets would respond, the sales team would follow up, nurture and close those respondents and the process was repeated. However, this approach had one big problem: it didn’t do anything to address non-respondents. They were just chalked up as misses on that particular campaign, and companies would hope to get them the next time around. Some companies still take that approach, and it’s not the most effective way to deal with prospects and existing customers.

For the targets that are not ready to purchase, it’s good to compile small victories like getting them to visit your website, landing page or blog and be willing to expose themselves to more of your messaging. A recent article by the Huffington Post reported that 90% of customers go to a company’s website first, before calling or emailing. So, regardless of your marketing channel, why not invite them to check you out on the web? You could simply put your website URL on all marketing channels, but the best marketers take it a step further to make additional engagement easier.

You can get a target’s attention with hooks and get them to act with calls to action. One example is, “Visit our microsite and submit a short form to get your white paper.” It’s critical to make the process easy for the user. It should not be time-consuming, and it should be obvious that you’re not asking for a big commitment. You don’t want it to feel like a sales pitch. You also need to find the right balance of cost-benefit. The information or promotional product being offered should be worth the time and effort of the recipient.

Once a target gets to your website, you must capitalize on the opportunity. In addition to exposing them to the information on your website, you can set the stage for additional engagement and nurturing by capturing their information. This not only opens more doors to be able to reach targets on additional channels but also provides you with knowledge about them that will enable you to create more relevant content, which provides deeper engagement as they progress through the buyer’s journey.

48 Proven Workflows to Plug a Leaky Sales Funnel

2 Goals in Modern Marketing

  • Get conversations from the initial touch
  • Engage non-respondents
Build a Lead-Gen Machine Marketing Automation

Integrate Marketing Automation

The previous steps are the parts and pieces that make up the lead-generating machine concept. If you put your engineer hat on and put them together, you can start to bring the concept to life. We’ve established that empowered buyers are less reliant on salespeople than ever, so your machine needs to make impressions on the leads that are avoiding human interaction. The modern sales model requires your marketing efforts to handle more of the pre-sale process. This can be accomplished with a marketing automation platform (MAP) — a software that allows companies to streamline, automate and measure marketing tasks and workflows to: generate leads, segment, nurture leads, assign lead scores, cross-sell & upsell, retain customers and measure ROI.

With Marketing Automation, Your Business Can:

  • Seamlessly integrate multiple marketing channels
  • Automatically feed relevant, personalized content to leads in order to stay top-of-mind as they progress through the buyer’s journey
  • Trigger real-time follow-ups and deeper engagement
  • Gain actionable insights
  • Generate quality leads and close more deals faste
Build a Lead-Gen Machine Attract

Common MAP Programs: Multi-Channel Attract

This program is designed to attract people and get them into the machine so that it can start to do its job. A combination of inbound and outbound channels that include a hook with an enticing offer are used to direct prospects to a unique landing page. The landing page captures prospect information and feeds the MAP with the information while also alerting salespeople of the activity.

The purpose of this type of program is to achieve the two marketing goals discussed previously: converting respondents today and continuing to engage with non-respondents until they become buy-ready. By utilizing a variety of channels, the machine will connect with leads and nurture them until they become customers. Because all of the channels are deployed from the same platform, it’s also much easier to manage than channels launched from a variety of sources.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine Nurturing

Common MAP Programs: Ongoing Nurturing

Companies that nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured leads.

– Forrester

Nurtured leads make 47% larger puchases than non-nurtured leads.

– The Annuitas Group

It takes, on average, 10 marketing-driven “touches” to progress a lead from the top of the funnel to the top line (i.e. revenue).

– Aberdeen Group

Lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate compared to standalone email blasts.

– SilverPop/DemandGen Report

Once the machine receives a prospect’s information, it develops relationships with them at every stage of the sales funnel and every step of the buyer’s journey. Leads receive relevant content and resources based on their needs, which are determined from their digital behaviors. It keeps your company on the top of their minds when needs arise and also accelerates the sales cycle by utilizing accelerated conversion programs that are based on their digital behaviors and lead scores. In addition, the MAP allows you to set up triggers, which signal engagement with a human being. Triggers can be utilized to direct a customer service rep or salesperson to perform a check-in or to get them on an alternative, deeper engagement path.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine ROI

Easy-To-Track ROI

Can you imagine the convenience marketing automation could bring to your company? The machine will deliver ROI by getting more qualified leads to become customers. In the modern marketing arena, you’re not going to hit a home run every time. It takes lots of small victories and fine-tuning your approach to increase sales. The MAP will nurture leads for however long it takes to get them buy-ready. Then, when they exit the machine and have interaction with your salespeople, they will already know you, trust you, have done their research and know what your products and services are all about. At that point, your salespeople can do what they do best — convert them, close the deal and build a relationship with them (which will already be partially established; they just need to put the face with the company). After they become a customer, you can continue to utilize the machine to build loyalty and get them to become an evangelist for your company.

That’s not it, though. Remember, you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it. How do you put everything together and put your marketing on the path to continuous improvement? By utilizing the technology that’s now available, you can discover the little differences between channels and messaging that have a big impact on ROI.

MAPs include a comprehensive dashboard that allows you to view the entire account activity across all programs. There’s a digital trail for everything, and all data exists in one place, no separate silos.

  • View the company-wide sales funnel
  • Get a snapshot of active programs
  • Analyze detailed channel and microsite statistics

MAP Implementation

Marketing automation provides a variety of benefits that will help your business achieve sustainable growth. However, it’s not as simple as downloading software, uploading creative and hitting “Start.” Upfront research and development and ongoing maintenance are necessary to get the best results. Like any product, each MAP has unique features and operating steps. Do your research to find the platform that offers the functionality you are looking for at the price you can afford.

In addition, you will need internal resources and manpower to design the overarching strategy, create content, manage the programs, analyze reports, etc. Necessary personnel includes but may not be limited to strategists, creative designers, content writers, web developers and IT experts. Allow time to work through the learning curve as you master the platform and expect to make adaptations until you find what works best. If necessary, utilize the assistance of a marketing company to implement and manage your MAP.

Build a Lead-Gen Machine MAP Implementation

Have additional questions about marketing automation or want to learn even more? Call us at 815.431.1000 or submit this form to contact us. You can also visit the Automation section of our blog.


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