Every lead is important, but in campaigns targeted at high-value leads, the importance is magnified because the risk associated with losing a sale is much greater. That's why marketers need to approach high-value leads differently than high-volume leads.
To illustrate, losing just one high-value lead could cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in lost opportunity. That number can multiply into the millions when considering customer lifetime value. Compare this to the loss of a high-volume lead, which may cost a few thousand dollars in lost opportunity, and it's easy to see why lead generation experts approach high-value leads with added diligence, different contact patterns and, yes, a willingness to invest more marketing budget per lead.
When planning campaigns, a few tips on the care and feeding of high-value leads will help you succeed:
- Spend time up-front to learn about each account. When dealing with high-volume leads, the key is to start calling right away in an effort to snag the low-hanging fruit. The idea behind this is that the contacts in this group are all similar, so a one-size-fits-most approach is cost efficient and delivers results. With high-value targets, however, it pays to first do a deep dive into the account to understand the nuances and dynamics that will influence your success. Meet with sales reps initially to ask questions"What is the history of the account? Does this account already use other products from your company? If so, what products and versions? Does the account use a competitor's product? What's the best way to contact this account?
- Develop unique methods to generate leads. Recognize that traditional methods of reaching contacts may not work with high-value leads. Instead, develop and test ways to nurture these leads over time. For example, someone who won't agree to a meeting may be open to attending a webinar. If an industry trade show is approaching, perhaps the contact will agree to a brief meeting at your booth or hospitality event. If you cannot reach a prospect, consider another avenue. We've done campaigns where we target the prospect's administrative assistant. To break through the clutter, we sent an Edible Arrangement to ensure the admin remembered us when we called.
- Adjust your expectations. High-value targets are more difficult to reach and they close at a slower pace than high-volume leads. Plan to nurture leads over months through drip campaigns designed to slowly build engagement. Also, use the information you gathered at the beginning of the engagement to personalize your message to prospects. For example, if you know the prospect uses a software solution that your company complements, mention that in your email, direct mail and phone conversations, and convey the benefit your company can deliver.
- Review your progress weekly. Look at all your contacts regularly to identify similarities and trends. Review every conversation for every account. Where is there success? Are you getting referrals? What reasons are given for "no interest" responses? Instead of taking an account off your list, strategize ways to adjust your approach or message.
- Stay involved after the appointment is set. Even when the sales representative is managing the prospect relationship, lead generation can still play a valuable role by helping to expand the footprint of the account. Work with sales reps to determine other opportunities in the account, what lines of business are ripe for a campaign, and who to target or avoid calling.
Finally, know what to measure. Generally, high-value target campaigns focus on fewer accounts and therefore require a higher response rate than traditional lead generation campaigns. In order to achieve a higher response rate (usually 8-12 percent or more), marketers need to reach out to a greater number of contacts per account. This requires significantly more call attempts per account. The metrics associated with high-volume lead generation efforts don't work with this paradigm.
For example, working with an international telecommunications company that sells expensive solutions to global companies, we targeted under 300 accounts but made 9,100 call attempts over the course of 10 months. This equates to more than 30 call attempts per account, a number rarely seen in high-volume lead generation efforts.
We targeted 2,225 leads in these accounts, about 7.5 leads per account. In a high-volume campaign, we normally target a one-to-one ratio between leads and accounts, picking the best contact, calling and moving on to the next. On average in high-volume campaigns, we'll make four call attempts, stopping somewhere between the 8th and 10th attempt.
For the high-value campaign for the telecommunications company, the 9,100 call attempts to 2,225 contacts translates to an average of 30 call attempts. Our threshold for ceasing a calling campaign was between 50 and 60 call attempts. The additional attempts were warranted because the potential payback was high.
Once your campaign is underway, it's important to look at the cost per lead, the traits of the accounts with the greatest return, the campaigns that are the most successful, and where is the opportunity. This requires companies to capture the right kind of information and to make the data available.
For example, by asking the right questions, we found an area prospects had a need for, but no set budget. While our goal was to find companies with active projects or an RFP, identifying this common need allowed our telecom client to get a foot in the door.
In the high-stakes game of high-value sales, lead generation plays a crucial role in ensuring that every possible opportunity is identified. While sales reps are busy working on deals, lead generation is like an insurance policy that ensures companies don't miss out on valuable business.
Jenny Vance is president of Indianapolis-based B-to-B lead generation company LeadJen. She has been recognized twice by the Sales Lead Management Association as one of the 50 Most Influential People in sales lead management. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jennyvanceindy.