Unsurprisingly, many of the companies we work with – regardless of size or sector – are interested in finding ways to generate high quality sales leads through a strategic approach to their marketing activities. There are of course many ways to achieve this goal. Ultimately, the correct solution depends upon a whole host of factors that are bespoke to that particular company. However, whilst the challenges will be unique to individual enterprises, we believe that the basic framework that one needs to consider remains the same for pretty much all organisations.
Strategic marketing planning process
This premise is the central thinking behind our strategic marketing planning process, a document you can download from our SlideShare page. You would be well advised to take a consultative approach to devising a marketing strategy for your business if you don’t want to waste time, effort, energy and money. It’s a process that can take anything from a few hours to a few months to complete, depending upon the scope and scale of your organisation, how comprehensively you wish to complete the process, and how much of the framework you have already got in place.
The basic hypothesis is that you cannot create a marketing strategy unless you have a marketing plan in place. A marketing plan takes a holistic look at your entire sales and marketing world. It looks at macro-level considerations such as pricing models, product development, market size and so on. It does not have to be an onerous task to create a marketing plan for your business if that is something that scares you – it can be concise without being insubstantial. But you do need to have something in place if you don’t want guesswork to play too large a role in shaping your solution – unless you embrace a high risk ‘just do it’ approach (which can sometimes be remarkably effective too).
Logic dictates that you cannot have a marketing plan in place unless you have a business plan in place. A business plan can relate to either an entire organisation or to a vertical and/or horizontal part of that business. From a marketing perspective, it is often focused on one product group, especially for larger organisations and blue-chip clients. For start-up enterprises and smaller companies, it is more normal for the business plan to focus on the entire suite of products and services delivered by the organisation. Once again, a business plan should not be something to be feared – it is possible to create a meaningful proposition through a series of workshops if these are facilitated properly.
The planning process we advocate towards strategic marketing looks in depth at a number of factors, including your overall strategic brand proposition, your competitor strengths and weaknesses, the overall health and size of the marketplace in which you operate, the demographics and psychographics of all the different customer segments who make up your various target markets, the features and benefits of the products and services you sell, and the training support offered to employees, associates, partners etc. who are involved both directly and indirectly in the sales process.
During this process, you will be able to identify the sales collateral you need to have in place before you commence sales lead generation activities– this includes obvious items such as a website, brochure and presentation, but you would be well advised to look at all of your internal and external stakeholder needs when completing this task to ensure it is comprehensively completed.
Strategic brand proposition
It is worth backtracking slightly at this point to consider once again the essential role of investing time in creating an effective strategic brand proposition. This is after all the heartbeat of your organisation. It informs the personality and character that drives your principles and standards. It is central to establishing your values and views, to identifying your virtues and vision, to determining the vows you are willing to make both internally and externally that are used to create service charter pledges. This process drives the creation of messaging to enable your company to stand out from the crowd. It will identify the features and benefits which determine how your organisation does business in its marketplace. It ultimately impacts upon the messaging that you will use on your sales and marketing collateral when promoting your organisation, and it is likely to impact upon the messages relating to the products and services you are offering to the marketplace too.
That subsequently means that you need to review your current suite of marketing communications to determine if they are fit for purpose. What is the point in investing substantially in lead generation activities if you don’t have the assets in place to optimise conversion? Core communication pieces such as your website will need to give a favourable impression to prospective customers, informing them clearly about what you do, demonstrating your knowledge and experience, and implicitly showcasing your purpose and mission.
You also need to have a sales pipeline in place that is appropriate for the type of organisation you are before you commence lead generation activities. For some organisations, smaller ones, in particular, this might be a rudimentary set-up such as an Excel spreadsheet or a to do list in Microsoft Outlook, but the larger and/or more complex the company, the more sophisticated a solution will likely to be required. A sales pipeline has a CRM system at its heart. This is the means by which data is collated in a logical way about prospects and customers and the interactions you have with them (including sales). It may be that you also have a series of “evergreen” emails in place to encourage conversion, repurchase, recommendation and referral (to name but four of the most obvious aims of a sales funnel). In this way, you will achieve a healthy bowtie marketing effect that optimises the likelihood of prospects converting, and subsequently maximises customer lifetime value. These emails can be sent out manually or automatically via a marketing automation process built into the pipeline. A good CRM will capture all communications – not just manual and automatic emails, but also telephone calls, newsletters and any other form of contact.
Internal sales culture
Finally, one needs to make sure that the internal sales culture is sorted out before engaging in lead generation activities. That means that everyone is clear on what they are doing and why they are doing it. It’s about setting expectations and standards, and monitoring and rewarding performance on an ongoing basis. This is perhaps the most often overlooked part of the entire strategic marketing planning process (alongside investing in the strategic brand proposition) and can lead to an organisation grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory when it comes to the deployment of lead generation activities. It can lead to frustrations from owners and management at low conversion rates and high churn issues that can manifest itself in unhealthy and unhelpful communications that cause anxiety and confusion with the sales channel, especially in indirect functions.
Only now are we ready to look at lead generation. Marketing-led sales leads can come from a wide variety of media strategies. What’s right for your organisation depends upon your business proposition and its sales goals, the quality and price of the products and services you sell, your target market, your competitors, your sales channels, the length of the sales process, the size and maturity of your organisation, and so on. It might be that you wish to generate sales leads instantly, in which case a digital advertising strategy might be the way to go, or it could be that you prefer to grow leads slowly and steadily, in which case an SEO strategy might be an option. It could be that your best route to market is via attending conferences and exhibitions or by hosting corporate events to develop personal relationships with senior influencers. It may be that you are investor-funded and seek dramatic volume growth, in which case a more classic approach using advertising, direct marketing, point of sale, sales promotions and telemarketing is the right type of solution. Maybe you should be promoting your business via a social media marketing strategy, investing in a PR strategy to build brand awareness and corporate reputation, or a content strategy to substantiate your credentials as an authority on your field. Mass email marketing can work extremely well, even in these better regulated days of GDPR and improved privacy regulations, for some organisations.
The point is that it is inaccurate to say that one media is better than another at acquiring sales leads in the most cost effective way – that is, after all, the essence of what a strategy is (the most effective and efficient way to achieve a stated goal within the boundaries of scarce resource (time and money)). It is entirely dependent upon the individual circumstances pertaining to a unique business entity. But – as a leading London marketing agency – we are confident that the process we advocate is a robust one that will enable you to select the right media strategy for your business. We would recommend that you engage an independent expert to deliver this process for you. Marketing consultancy – like any form of consultancy – is best delivered at arm’s length, from a best practice point of view, as it is likely that key people in any organisation will be so involved on a day-to-day basis to be able to see the wood from the trees.
Aiming for perfection
At the end of the day, sales lead generation is all about turning suspects into prospects, and prospects into customers. The good news is that if you do it well – and that means by following a comprehensive planning process to create your overall marketing strategy – you will then be able to deploy media-specific strategies, campaigns and tactics as optimally as possible. Of course, optimally does not mean perfectly. It means that you are – with your first stab – likely to achieve an optimisation rate of 75% or better. Within a short period of time (say, three to six months) – because of the inherently inbuilt measurement analytics of such an approach – you should be hitting 90+% perfection. And if you continue to invest the necessary time, energy and effort in reviewing and improving what you do, you will slowly creep upwards towards (but never achieving) flawlessness.
It is our belief that most organisations (even large global giants) operate their marketing strategies at a much lower level of optimisation than what is possible for a wide variety of reasons. But that means that if you are willing to do things the right way, you are likely to achieve a significant competitive advantage in your marketplace. In fact, it is not inconceivable that you can find ways to make your marketing activities deliver lead generation results that are many times better than the rest for the same amount of money. We believe that we have the ability to help any organisation to achieve its objectives. You can find out more about how we do this for other clients by reviewing our portfolio of case studies. If you are looking for a top London marketing agency, why not get in touch?
Marketing company in London
If you’re interested in finding out more about how a marketing company in London like Abacus Marketing can help you to deliver a high quality lead generation strategy for your business, please take a look at our website to find out more at www.abacusmarketing.co.uk or contact Stephen Taylor-Brown, our head of strategy and planning by calling us on 020 3858 7836 or email him at [email protected] to discuss your goals, arrange a call, or set up a meeting. We offer a free, non-obligation two-hour marketing consultation to talk more about your challenges and advise on the best solutions we advise to overcome them. We will also tell you more about our overall brand promise to deliver a big agency experience without the big agency price tag by combining three factors that most marketing agencies would suggest are mutually exclusive of each other – great quality, great service and great value. Clearly, we disagree. Our business model allows us to deliver excellence in all three of these areas.