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For many companies, customer relationship management is at the heart of their operations. A system that contains all interactions with customers, allowing companies to maintain that relationship and continue to service customers, is their lifeblood.
At the other end of the business scale are potential customers: the prospects or leads. These prospects represent customers at an earlier point in the customer relationship management (CRM) lifecycle, and how you manage that customer lifecycle is essential to your ability to acquire new and retain existing customers. So you need tools to help nurture, convert and manage these prospects into full-fledged customers. Can CRM systems help this vital part of the business?
The answer is an emphatic yes, and in this article, I'll discuss these two keys to lead generation in CRM:
- Collect the data
- Use the data
The key here is the data. The ability to collect data from multiple sources and to use a CRM system to target marketing or sales campaigns based on that data is essential. By using the right data, companies can begin to move away from inefficient practices such as cold-calling and toward more sophisticated methods of acquiring new customers.
First, let's look at possible sources for lead data. Today, data can be bought, including leads. In the past, this often meant a scatter-gun approach, where companies bought tens of thousands of names and addresses, and either cold-called or email-blasted. This approach had a limited success rate: Many sources said that a success rate of less than 2% was achievable, with some sources saying even as low as 0.3%.
The problem is in the title: cold calling. Leads of this type have little success rate; they are just a list of names and contact details. Calling them leads, as though they are a real starting point for business, is misleading.
So where can we get our lead data from -- lead data that has some value?
Let's look at a few ways to build our data in CRM, then look at how it can be used, targeting our campaigns to get the best results.
Social media platforms are great lead sources. Your followers, friends and readers have shown an interest in your message, service or product, and potential customers may also demonstrate interest and engagement with your brand on social platforms. CRM applications like Dynamics CRM, Salesforce.com, Zoho and Sage CRM can connect with your social presence. Feeding that data back into a CRM system builds a list of potential customers that have already expressed an interest in you.
There are live, in-person events and virtual events.
Traditionally, live events were a fantastic source of leads. Anyone attending a conference or seminar could then be targeted for a follow-up, and this remains a viable source. Today, though, many businesses hold virtual events via webinars and video sessions. The same registration processes allow you to collect the data on virtual attendees, and as with social media, these potential customers have already shown an interest in you and your business.
In essence, a lead magnet is anything you can offer prospective customers in exchange for details about them: an email address or an area of interest, for example. The downloadable PDF report, the free widget can be offered in exchange for personal data about potential customers.
In a similar vein to social media and events, lead magnets allow you to attract potential clients that already have an interest in your products or services.
Web forms and websites
And, finally, the more traditional Web forms and websites allow your potential customer to request more information.
So from this previous set of options (and there are many more), we can build a list of leads that include more data than just names and contact details. More than cold leads, these individuals and businesses demonstrate active interest by following, liking and reaching out to us.
And the list goes on -- print ads, trade shows, Google Adwords, all of which fill our targeted-lead pot.
So what do we do now?
Lead scoring methods
In addition to considering the source of the data, we also need to have a way of weighing the importance of our leads. Lead scoring gives sales prospects a score and then bases sales actions on that score.
Scoring can be achieved using two methods: explicit and implicit.
Explicit scoring is based on actual data provided by a prospect or lead such as company size, geography, job role and so on.
Implicit scoring is derived from behavior, such as website visits, downloads, email messages that are opened and so on.
Using the data
This is where a CRM system comes into its own. CRM systems are designed to easily find and use data. Using an advanced find or a query to create a targeted marketing list leads us to the potential of more sales.
Imagine you're marketing your new widget. It's available in a particular set of markets geographically and is aimed at industries A,B and C. Creating a targeted marketing list for leads that have expressed an interest through one of the previously discussed methods, are geographically placed in the ideal locations is by far a better approach than the traditional scatter approach.
And from a potential customer point of view, being approached by a business you already have some relationship with, and discussing a product or service you've already shown potential interest in is much more likely to yield results.
And does it work?
According to HubSpot, companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate.
According to research firm Gartner Inc., companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in six to nine months.
Of course, I would be remiss to forget about specific lead generation services that can feed directly into your CRM system. Companies like Marketo offer a full lead marketing solution, offering email, social and events Web forms. CRM integration with Salesforce, Dynamics CRM and SAP among others, means that your data lives in one place still.
So, what if our leads are not ready to buy from us right now? Maybe they won't be ready for six, 12 or even 18 months, based on their buying cycles.
Lead nurturing can build relationships with potential clients over time. The method is based on raising the company's profile in the eyes of potential customers, so they are more likely to go to you when it is time to buy.
Lead nurturing is part of the wider marketing process, but with a longer lifecycle. It can be as simple as the occasional email, updating the prospect of new services or products, right through to a more targeted approach where products or services are pitched periodically.
So the days of cold-calling may be numbered. Using your CRM system as a lead generation engine, and targeting your marketing, will no doubt be a better use of your resources and provide tangible results in your sales.
Salesforce lead generation