Social media is all the rage right now, and it should be. It is shaping how people communicate, how companies and people brand themselves, how we educate ourselves and how we grow our network. Lead generation in the world of b2b can be enhanced by social media, especially with early adopters, techies, and the net-gen crowd. However, many of us are trying to sell to the highest level decision makers, C and VP level executives. Some are using twitter and LinkedIn, and some have great staff members who are passing the value up the chain. The question is to reach that senior executive, especially in non-technology fields (where you get less of the geeks and trend setters), how do you reach a C/VP level target?
Call it Lead Gen 2.0, but in my opinion it is just traditional lead generation, demand creation and marketing with some new twists. Add social media to the mix, but don't get over-hyped about it and forget some of the proven lead gen techniques that work. What would be some priorities for the end result of putting your sales rep in front of a C/VP level target?
- Good Lists - There are lots of sources for lists out there, and the best solution is to pay for the better product. The best lists we've seen for the money are from Jigsaw hands down. Frankly, I wouldn't waste a nickel on those other companies that have been around for a decade or longer (D&B, Hoovers, even OneSource). The data is outdated, inaccurate and incomplete. You can go the next step too, even with a good Jigsaw list, by doing list validation and cleaning. These services are available or your own inside team can do it.
- Bring Value - More executives have stated that they tend to buy from vendors that bring value to them in the marketing and sales process. Don't just throw your logo out and send a promotion, use Whitepapers, use Webinars, publish an informative blog, bring value. Great place to use twitter to share valuable information or LinkedIn Answers. Have someone dedicated to providing value to the market. Call it nurturing, call it education, the point is if they don't see that you are bringing value, they may not be interested in bringing value to you.
- Collect Them - Yes, definitely, use SEM and SEO to gather the hand raisers, make it part of the mix, but be cautious not to rely too heavily on it. I have a client that is in the inbound marketing industry, and they still rely heavily on appointment setting to build their pipeline. Look for more focused lead broker solutions, whitepaper sites, vertical market education sites. Most are backed up by some form of lead collection/screening process and the leads are for sale.
- Target Them - We can't just wait for the inbound leads to show up. If you find a great opportunity in a certain industry or build a valid use-case for a certain type of buyer, then target them. Research those markets and aggregate the information so you can target them. Plan targeted campaigns.
- Encircle Them - Find their communities. See if you can find out where they hang out. Some will list these organizations in their LinkedIn profile. The communities may be live, may be online. But when you find them, get your executives involved, add value to the organization. Most have social media presence, get piped in there as well.
- Reach Them - Don't wait for them to learn about twitter or find you with a google search, find them. You've invested in a good list, get your inside team, your reps, or an outsourced vendor to work it. Don't just call and sell though. Do what you can to get face to face with them. Engage in a conversation. I've managed hundreds of sales reps in my day, and from my experience they do their best work sitting across from a prospect.
- Use Experts - Don't assume that you, your marketing team, your inside sales team, and your sales reps can implement everything. Give me a marketing or sales technique or discipline and I can give you a third party expert that offers the service. Ask your colleagues for recommendations. Use LinkedIn and twitter to get recommendations. But don't be afraid to hire specialists.
- Don't Settle - Working the influencers at the lower levels is still worth doing, but don't settle for an influencer. If you are going to invest in a lead, a truly valuable lead worth dedicating real budget to acquiring, then go for the C or VP level prospect. You will work your way down and around all the directors and managers anyway, if you can start at the highest levels, then the staff come willingly.
- Get Results - Whether it is an internal service provider such as inside sales, or an external provider such as a consultant or other marketing services firm, try to pay for results or at least incent them for results. The day of the monthly retainer fee is gone. This is marketing budget 2.0. (ok, last over-use of 2.0 in this article).
Did I totally trash Social Media, Search Engine Marketing and other new methods of lead gen? No, I've added them to the mix. Just be cautious not to over-estimate your C and VP level targets. They don't have the time it takes to work the web the way some of us do, so augment your traditional, proven methods with the newer ones, use technology to your advantage, and use service providers that have honed their expertise.