SALES CLINIC: How to generate sales leads

SALES CLINIC: How to generate sales leads

Nowadays, instead of just taking orders, VARs must actively get out there and generate new business. So what is the best way to generate new leads? And what is the most cost-effective vehicle to use?

Putting a plan down on paper is the most important step - and adhering to it is the second. The whole process is not brain surgery. It just takes a little time in planning, a good brainstorming session and determination to follow the plan through to the end. There are some key elements to consider when drawing up your blueprint:n Set your objectives. In developing a lead-generation campaign you should set goals at the beginning and quantify the results so that you can learn from these for the next time.n Determine your differentiators. What is your point of difference? This could be either the market segment you have particular expertise in or a particular technical focus.n Determine your target audience, target industries and geographical focus.n Source a good database. There are plenty around. Use a list broker (Inform, Prime Prospects, Mailing List Centre, List Bank) and look for the ones that offer guaranteed deliverability. In addition to names, titles and addresses, you can now source databases that offer you e-mail details and telephone numbers of potential targets.n Determine what you will offer the prospective customer. The offer must be compelling; make it time based, offer extra value or dollar savings, bundles or possibly a breakfast session. Whatever it is, make it relevant.n Investigate how you will communicate with the target audience. Often this comes down to budget, but do not ignore the mileage that can be earned by using several media together. In addition to advertising, you also have public relations, direct marketing, e-marketing and telemarketing.

Advertising is good for reaching a broad audience and should be coupled with public relations to ensure your brand awareness throughout the year. You can use television effectively without a massive budget, for example you might use Channel 9's Business Sunday program to reach executives at a very modest cost for a 15-second TV commercial, but it really depends who the specific audience is for the campaign. TV can be a good way to create brand awareness but targeting is perhaps too loose for channel-based campaigns unless they are trying to list on the stock exchange. PR belongs in a year-long budget. Costs can be based on work done rather than on a fee-based compensation. The best thing to do is to establish what budget you have in mind and then see what that buys you.

Direct marketing is best used if you can actually identify the individual to whom you wish to sell to. It should make an offer and illicit a reply or an action from the recipient - "limited time offer", "hurry, offer closes June 30". Costs depend on many variables but you would need to look at a minimum investment of $5,000. Do not imagine that a one-time direct mailer will achieve all your goals. It should be part of a strategic plan to ensure rewards.

With e-marketing you can use targeted HTML e-mails which are similar to hard-copy direct mailouts with the added benefit that if the recipient is interested, they can click through to a microsite to find out more, register for a seminar or book an appointment. You can also take out banner ads on Web sites frequented by your target audience to draw people to your own site. Allow approximately $2,500 for the creation and distribution of an HTML and about $4,500 for creation of a microsite. For banner advertising you should brace yourself for around $5,000 per month.

Telemarketing is invaluable as a follow-up vehicle. It is not cheap, though, and to get the best value you should look for a telemarketer who has expertise in the IT field. Tread carefully! There are many less-than-reputable ones. Still, good telemarketing can increase response quite dramatically. The beauty of this medium following a direct mailer (especially if it is memorable) is that the customer will be instantly aware of what the telemarketer is referring to and therefore more amenable to discussing the offer.n Develop your creative. It must be relevant to the target audience and break through the clutter. It should be offer-based so it motivates the customer into moving on it now.

Mike Selby, director of Selby On Strategy, has orchestrated lead-generation campaigns for Sun, Toshiba and BEA Systems.

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