Do you have too many leads? Are you beset on all sides by eager buyers ready to pay top dollar for the services you provide? Congrats: you can stop reading right here.
For most of us, having too many good leads is a pipe dream.
The problem is worse if you are a niche business. Most of our clients fit in a ‘niche’ service provider category, offering a specialised service which appeals to a defined market. The total number of leads in their market at any given point in time is relatively small. Finding quality leads for a niche B2B service provider requires good knowledge of the niche, plus high degrees of precision.
Trust also comes into the equation. Most B2B professional services firms operate on a stable customer base, most of whom remain loyal because of high degrees of trust. This kind of trust can take a while to build, and a lot of lead generation techniques are not conducive to building trusted relationships.
We believe there is a successful formula for finding leads. That formula looks different for each business. If you’re still trying to arrive at this formula for your business, read on…
Know what you’re looking for
Every time a customer uses the six fatal words ‘That is not a good lead’, I like to dig one level deeper. How do they determine whether the lead is or isn’t good? What do they mean by this statement?
Many of us know instinctively whether a lead seems right for our business, but we haven’t taken the time to document why.
We call a lead ‘good’ if it scores highly on two important criteria: relevance and intent.
Intent is the default measure of a good lead. Are they ready to buy? Yes. Ok, good. This lead can be classed as ‘high intent’. They are ready for a demonstration, or a proposal, or even just a quote. The lead might become a customer within 30 days, or even a week, or sooner.
But even if a high-intent lead converts, you still have a problem: you must ask whether they are the ‘right’ sort of person or company to build your business on.
Relevance is actually the most important dimension when evaluating lead quality. We recommend all our clients document their Ideal Client Profile, or ICP: this is the foundation of establishing Relevance. Every business should know at least half a dozen factors that make for their ideal client. For example, your ideal client might be “an Australian business, of 80-500 staff, in the Legal or Accounting space, with at least $20M in annual revenue and an IT budget of $1M or more”.
Keeping our relevance-intent continuum in mind, we now have roughly four categories of lead:
In our bottom left quadrant, the low relevance, low intent leads are hardly worth a mention. If you are seeing a high number of these leads come into your CRM, seek professional help.
Bottom right presents a real challenge for anyone spending on mass advertising, large scale events, or any other tactic designed to drive a high volume of leads. You will likely get what you paid for (volume) and very little else. These buyers might be ready to transact, but at the wrong price point – or for something specific that doesn’t fit well with your bill of materials. This category of lead represents a big opportunity to waste time. You should ensure your salespeople qualify these leads out quickly.
Top left is an oft-neglected category. High-relevance, low intent leads are your long-term targets. They are not ready to buy, possibly because they are happy with a competitive solution, or have other priorities which prevent them from giving you time. You should build a large list of these companies and decision makers, and bear in mind that your best leads will eventually emerge from this category as their intent to purchase increases.
Top right is the holy grail, the whole reason you are still reading. You want leads that are highly relevant and ready to purchase. In my experience, most small and medium sized companies get these leads in one way: via referral, from partners, customers, or others in your network. Our challenge is to create an inbound funnel that delivers these top quality leads.
Build your inbound funnel
This isn’t the time to educate ourselves on all the competing inbound funnel models, buyer journeys, and all those Marketing terms we love. Let’s keep things practical. You want prospects to find you when they have a problem you can solve, or an opportunity that you can assist with. Stages, funnels, journeys be damned: what you want is simple. More to the point, your prospects want the same thing as you – from their perspective. Your buyers want to find solutions to their problems, without having to make an exhausting number of inquiries and suffer endless sales pitches.
It’s time to revisit the formula we hinted at earlier.
Your Lead Generation Formula
We’ve boiled out all the fluff and arrived at the definitive B2B inbound lead generation formula:
SQT x VAC x COW = LEADS
Silly acronym aside, it is literally a three-variable formula that works 99% of the time, every time – our apologies to Anchorman.
Let’s break it down.
SQT… Sufficient Quality Traffic
You don’t need to have the number-one ranked site on Google, or hundreds of dollars per day going toward paid ads. You do need to ensure that there is an appropriate number of eyeballs seeing your message. A helpful guide is the 3% rule: at any given point in time, three percent of your target market are able to act on whatever call-to-action you give them. So – for example – if you want ten decent leads per month, you need in the vicinity of 330 qualified visitors per month seeing your content. Even more importantly, these visits must be quality. Your traffic can come from ads, where you know the lead has used a certain term that qualifies them in. Visits may also come from a target list you’ve sent emails to, or another pre-qualified audience.
VAC… Value-Adding Content
Your content must be VAC: Value-Adding Content. This is where the vast majority of lead gen campaigns go wrong: there is content, but it doesn’t add enough value. You can shoot videos, complete case studies, write Services pages, and put blogs online: unfortunately, none of this content qualifies. VAC has got to be deep, meaningful, original content that offers to solve a problem for your prospect or help them seize an opportunity. It must be compelling. It takes time, knowledge, and proper thinking to arrive at the right VAC.
COW… Conversion Optimised Webpage
Note that I’ve not specified “website”. All you need is one page that leads to conversions. By conversions, I mean winning your prospect’s professional contact details in exchange for giving away value added content. Regrettably, I have seen too many cases of complete COW failure: people who have spent weeks, even months creating top-end content, fail to present it in such a way that leads to conversions. Your COW is the easiest part of the 3-part formula. Don’t fail at this point.
Lies, damned lies, and statistics
If you have a marketing team already, but no inbound lead flow, you might have made a few excuses to yourself as to why the leads are not coming in:
“We need a new website.”
I am on board with investing in beautiful, high-performing, content-rich sites. Creating new or updated websites is a big part of what my team does. Unfortunately, it’s downright wrong to delay a lead-gen campaign for six months while a new website is planned and built. All you need (as per the formula) is a COW, which is a conversion optimised web page, singular. Start there. Even if you agree to pay for a new website, get your first lead gen page up and running. Strictly speaking, you don’t even need to host it on your own domain. You could use lead gen forms on LinkedIn, or Facebook, or a third party platform – if push comes to shove. If you keep putting off lead gen until other, bigger projects are sorted, you will never prioritise it.
“I don’t have the capability to build deep content”.
We live in a day and age where we have instant access to all kinds of external firms and individuals, in other cities, states and even other countries, who can get this work done. You need quality content for an inbound lead gen play, and if you have enough money to support your existing, ineffectual marketing play, you have enough money to spend on a good marketing tactic that leads to leads.
“We are doing our best already – see the report!”
Unless your inbound lead flow is building your sales funnel and supporting the future of your business, all other statistics and numbers are probably meaningless. Maybe your SEO is doing really well, and maybe those blogs are great, and it is nice to hear you have 15,000 newsletter subscribers. It is all a smokescreen if it is not turning into leads, opportunities, and revenue.
Tell us what you think!
Hopefully, this has really resonated with you – you’re on board with our thinking and our formula. In that case, awesome. We hope your lead gen play is going well. Drop us a line if you want help with any part of the formula. Our marketing solutions include driving the right amount of traffic; building great, differentiated content; and building pages and sites that convert.
Maybe you disagree with something we’ve said: brilliant! Please tell us: we love opportunities to learn and refine our thinking.
You can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org … or contact me on LinkedIn, any time.