When the level of information on a prospect can mean losing a six-figure sales opportunity to a competitor by a week or two, it's critical to continually refine your data collection processes for optimal performance.
Susan Fantle, proprietor of freelance copywriting service The Copy Works and a specialist in B-to-B marketing, shares a few pointers on how to approach information-gathering during both the lead-generation and lead-nurturing phases:
1. The maximum amount of information collected on the first contact with a B-to-B prospect is the lead's name, company name and e-mail address. Fantle cautions that some prospects input their personal e-mail addresses in lead forms to cloak their company affiliations; that's why you want to also make company name a requirement.
2. When generating leads via e-mail or direct mail prospecting, give each recipient a priority code to enter on the campaign landing page, she says. The recipient doesn't have to fill in a lot of information, but the marketer can still get a small, upgraded set of data for further qualification.
3. The copywriter involved with creating B-to-B lead nurturing campaigns needs to know the lead's job function, company size and biggest pain points in order to develop ongoing messaging that fits the lead's situation and helps to nurture a relationship.
4. Each additional set of data collection questions built into lead nurturing contacts should include a couple queries that help pinpoint where the lead is in the buying stage. Hint: The hand-off to the sales team is close when the lead tells you his contact channel preference, says Fantle.
5. If contact quantities are large enough on the prospecting side, marketers should be testing the number of questions used in the initial contact to see what the audience's tolerance level really is; sometimes, you can ask more upfront than you might expect.
6. Once you have the leads in the pipeline, Fantle notes, you can do a survey with a reward for those who fill it out. The survey should be 12 questions at the most, and can include questions around data points the sales team wants to know, such as:
- Are you decision maker?
- Are you looking for a particular solution?
- What's your timeline for buying?
- What challenges are you experiencing?
In Fantle's experience, these surveys get better response when they're offered both offline and online—even if the former option drives recipients online to respond.