Online Lead Generation using Social Media

The focus of online lead generation and sales leads from social media networks in marketing is growing apace. Still too many small and medium sized business’s can struggle to not only generate leads from the social networks but also struggle to generate enough leads for a sustainable sales pipeline.

Online lead generation and social selling is the next evolution in the sales and marketing environment. The sales profession and sales activity is undergoing a dramatic change. The exponential growth of social media and its impact on communications has created a new set of rules for sales lead generation and prospect targeting.

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Today lead generation on the social networks is about making connections, it involves providing value to prospects by answering their questions and solving their problems with thoughtful and targeted content. Social media channels are ready-made databases of connected users with intrinsically similar behaviour and values.

By tapping into a prospects social media interests and what motivates their social media interaction, we can establish mutually rewarding relationships. Sales and marketing must offer solutions to build emotional connections and increase engagement and trust to be effectively positioned when buyers are ready to enter the buying process.

The benefits sales and marketing people derive from social media are similar to those of traditional marketing techniques. Selling is still about great sales people establishing a connection with an audience. Social selling is an evolution of lead generation, not a revolution because regardless of the medium, the biggest challenge is still generating leads and the time it takes.

Now lead generation or social networking has to be non-interruptive to work effectively, in the sense that people are not on-line to be directly sold to. The balance of power has shifted in favour of the buyer, bombarding them with sales messages is ineffective and potential damaging. Sales and marketing must appreciate that the social selling efforts should educate, inform and influence an audience. When it’s apparent to the buyer, over a period of time in which to establish credibility and a degree of trust, that the product or service being promoted is desirable, sales will have established a sales funnel upon which to build a solid base of sales prospects.

Social selling is about creating effective techniques to maximise the potential of social media. Without a strategic understanding of the techniques that drive meaningful engagement, the process of social lead generation can be frustrating, unpredictable and a waste of valuable time.By taking a consistent & effective approach to social media activities, the opportunities and potential rewards are huge. Getting it right creates benefits which are unique to social media but which also present unique challenges for sales and marketing people. There are new innovative ways to engage with prospects early in the buying cycle.

Sales professionals should be in no doubt, social selling is a ‘long game’ that aims to add value  to  networks by educating them about relevant and insightful industry trends.The one thing that unites both consumers and brands on social media is passion. That might sound a bit strange but social conversations reflect users preferences and interests, the topics that define them.After all, our social media persona’s are tailored, to some extent, to reflect our hopes and aspirations. At the very least, our social persona’s are about presenting a version of ourselves which is inherently aspirational.We seek out others on social media who share our values. Partly to seek reassurance about our own choices but also to be linked to those with whom we benefit from being associated.

It might seem obvious but social media is precisely that, social. You need to put time and effort into nurturing connections. Dialogue gives us a voice by increase connections and establishing our identity.

Buyers are well informed and can easily access to large volumes of sophisticated product and service data. Its important we move to the front of the buying cycle and engage with buyers early. In order to achieve this we must offer unique or advanced expertise.   We must be seen as industry experts, as the source of most relevant and useful information. Social sellers must incorporate marketing style tactics and streamline efficiency and effectiveness in social selling wherever possible.

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Market researchers and brand owners can aggregate social data in real-time including influencers, trends, topics and conversations. It enables companies to monitor brand mentions translating social media conversations into real-time actionable visibility. Social data can reduce the marketing resources and time spent gathering social media intelligence. social intelligence platforms allow marketing, customer service and sales teams to focus in on what matters across the social networks.

As a means of generating sales leads by connecting buyers with relevant and valuable content that informs and educates over a period of time, influence is key. Multi-dimensional, cross platform social media insights, cut through the social media clutter, filter tweets, posts, news, conversations, competitor activity, mentions and keywords with precision.

The use of social data makes online lead generation more effective, making it easier to build a larger social network to drive awareness of a brand or service.

Social data create efficiencies in the sales process by;

  • Identifying social leads & prospects
  • Speeding up customer acquisition
  • Reducing the sales cycles
  • Nurturing leads and driving traffic by profiling and social conversations.
  • Using hash-tags and keywords to source, filter and engage with buyers
  • Finding the social conversations, people and social influencers you want to target.
  • Minimising resources and time spent gathering social media intelligence.
  • Enabling companies to monitor brand mentions
  • Aggregating real-time social data including influencers, trends, topics and conversations.
  • Allowing us to focus in on what matters across social networks.

LinkedIn for Lead Generation

LinkedIn can be a powerful sales tool when used as part of lead generation and networking activities. As social selling and reaching social influencers becomes ever more important in raising awareness of a company, brand, product or service it is important to use LinkedIn effectively.

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However, before any lead generation can happen, it is important to build up your network and influence across the social groups on LinkedIn.  Every business, marketing and sales person should focus on 3 key actions.

  1. Give to receive: Share quality, relevant content and news from multiple sources.
  2. Behaviour: Buyers are well informed and knowledgeable so be genuine and insightful.
  3. Connecting: Invest time connecting to people you know plus customers, influencers etc.

Here is some pointers to maximize LinkedIn for lead generation:

Tip 1. Profile: Yes, it seems obvious that you need a profile but the point is you need a full profile (photo, career, articles, social pitch) that will support the lead generation activities, not just any profile mashed together.

Tip 2. Think of your profile as a commercial that clearly spells out “what you do”. So make sure you complete the entire profile (also state that you are open to connecting with people), you could also import your resume or CV.

Tip 3. Make sure maximize the section below your name by using keywords. Select keywords that promote your products or services. If a potential buyer is searching for someone to do “sales and marketing” they are more likely to find you than if you list your company name.

Tip 4. Spend time completing your work history, summary and employment sections (again using active keywords), highlight any accomplishments or achievements. This builds trust within the LinkedIn community.

Tip 5. On-line users can be very visual, so try to include Slideshare content, presentations or videos on your profile and not forgetting any articles you published on LinkedIn pulse. This builds authority.

Tip 6. Unless you are a major social influencer, it is best to keep your LinkedIn profile pretty open as you are using LinkedIn for lead generation, so the easier it is for “social ties” to connect with you, the better. This builds connections to business people and weaker social ties.

Build Relationships Steadily

The whole premises of using LinkedIn is to build  relationships with business colleagues, potential buyers, existing customers, business people you know and to build connections with weak ties via group participation

LinkedIn suggest this 5 step process for building effective relationships based on social media best practices:

  1. Establish presence (Give to receive)
  2. Attract followers (Give to receive)
  3. Engage followers (Behaviour)
  4. Share your message (content, news, articles) through your network (Connecting)
  5. Analyse results and refine your strategy

As I keep stating, you will attract more followers and connections if you post fresh, valuable content on a regular basis.

Use Content Marketing

I have written elsewhere on The Bitter Business site about the power of content marketing. On LinkedIn stories that have a social twist, that educate, that gives insights or have a human element will attract the highest readership.

Posting articles with a variety of content, on a regular basis on LinkedIn or indeed any social network is best practise. The content should consist of sharing blog (links) updates, as well as unique written content for LinkedIn to share with your connections.

Remember content marketing creates awareness of your company and puts you on the road as an authority within a group or subject. Also, as with all content marketing, make sure your content is SEO optimized. Without being overly promotional try to include a subtle call to action (CTA) in your LinkedIn posts. Including a link back to your company website is a great way to increase your lead generation performance.

Content marketing is not just about self-promotion, it also includes content curation and is a good way to encourage connections by sharing updates from social influencers and industry experts in your own updates. It is all about, giving to receive as you cannot expect sharing of your own content unless you are willing to share quality content written by others.

Try to give LinkedIn updates daily, maybe once or twice a day (with no more than a couple per day). Some social media gurus believe sharing posts in the morning works best, my own view is either late afternoon or just after lunch. Experiment to see what times work best for you.

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Match the Buyers Journey

Content marketing is aimed at matching the needs of potential customers as they travel the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration and decision. We now know from studies that in today’s on-line world, B2B buyers do most of their information and awareness gathering on-line, not waiting for some salesperson to ring them up. In fact, many B2B customers prefer to purchase on-line — that’s how Dell created a global business selling computers online.

It is critical that you DO NOT view your content shared on LinkedIn as some sort of teaser or preamble in B2B lead generation — it is the main tool in creating buyer awareness!! Always give readers all the information they need to work with you, not just a few selected sound bites or customer success stories. Your tactics is to carry potential customers on the buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration, on to decision and through post-purchase. So the content shared should include information on using the product or service, answers about installation or how to use, any industry recommendations or awards plus encourage feedback on the articles are all important factors in providing for the entire buyers journey.

 Analyse and Tweak

No lead generation or marketing campaign is complete without capturing data to assess performance and provide information to tweak the campaign. LinkedIn provides some good analytic tools to track performance of your LinkedIn company pages including clicks and other interactions. Make the most of these analytic insights by doing conscious testing — article headlines, post types, post times — not just monitoring passively. With patience and work, LinkedIn social selling can not only generate leads but also influence buyers considerations.

Sales Lead Generation

Sales lead generation is the fuel that powers the sales engine; it is the single biggest sales activity to ignite the selling process. Sales lead generation includes three core principles: First is having the correct product to market fit strategy including compelling offers. Second is putting the product and offers in front of the right audience in large enough numbers and third is giving the audience a reason to act or interact with the business now.

If a business can make the above three things happen and then use some of the tips listed below to gain sales momentum, it should put the sales engine on a path for increasing sales while refining a sales strategy that will work in the future.

Every sales manager or sales leaders knows that the sales growth is a given together with other sales goals the business demands. It could be to boost sales by twenty percent or acquire new customers in a new market. Maybe the sales plan includes launching a new product line. To move sales planning and goals into sales success, sales leadership calls for carefully planned out selling tactics; clear eyed understanding on the current state of the business and the maturity to know when and what to change.

To achieve bigger sales and better sales leads generation results; here are some ideas and insights a sales manager may consider:

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Step 1.Develop a Sales Lead Generation Portfolio

View all lead generation activities as a financial investors would view an “investment portfolio” of assets — such as shares, bonds, stocks and real-estate investments. Financial investors have a diversified investment portfolio because it reduces the risk and maximizes the chances of success, so if one investment strand is not performing, the other investments will pick up the slack.

Sales and business development operate in much the same way; every business should have a “sales lead generation portfolio” of all the different types of lead generation sources and different activities to gather sales leads. Plan for the future because even if a business is getting sales leads from one source (say, inbound marketing), if the sales leadership within the business implements a diverse portfolio of lead generation sources with targets, the business has multiple opportunities to get new sales leads from other channels (such as content marketing, social selling, networking, cold calling or email marketing).

So cast a fresh eye on the entire lead generation portfolio:

  • Where did the business get most of the new sales leads last year?
  • Where did the business get the biggest or highest close rate leads?
  • Which marketing activities worked well, and which ones did not deliver?
  • What was the cost per sales lead per activity and lead to revenue costs?
  • How can the sales strategy be fine-tuned and how can the sales activates be adjusted to do more of the “effective” lead generation tactics, and less of the activities that did not deliver the results?

Every sales leader must keep evaluating the sales lead generation performance against targets along the way, and take the corrective actions to ensure the sales pipeline keeps flowing.

Step 2.Get in Touch With Old Customers and Prospects

Customer referrals and checking back in with old prospects or dormant customers is often an overlooked sales activity. Get the sales teams to contact old customers, dormant customers, lost business leads, buyers (if they have moved on) and people who have bought before but the business has not interacted with for a while. Things move on, people change roles, business needs are different, business lost to competitors may be in play again, so get the sales team to spend some time on this lead generation activity. Formulate a plan to check in with them and see what’s happening with their businesses. Ask questions, listen to them, and try to kick start the relationship that led them to consider or buy from the company in the first place.

It has been proven that it is easier to generate more revenue and referrals from the existing customer base (or former customers) than it is to find, qualify and convince a new customer to buy from a business for the first time.

Step 3.Have a Process for Handling Incoming Sales Leads

As the sales lead generation portfolio gathers momentum and the business starts getting more inquiries from prospective customers (calls, contact forms, emails, request for information, whitepaper downloads), it is important the sales teams understand the value in a sales lead. The sales leadership must ensure there is a process and system to handle every single sales lead.

Also ensure that weak suspects do not make it on to the sales pipeline, so the business should have a process in place for inbound lead qualification along the following lines:

  • Talk (not email) to al new prospective customers.
  • Listen, profile and ask questions.
  • Identify their needs, budgets, authority.
  • Correctly align to either lead nurturing, sales nurturing or discard.

Best sales management practise suggests that upfront qualification of inbound sales leads saves a lot of time later during the sales process. Ensuring sales leads are identified by the best, most promising, highest priority sales leads and then lead nurturing the ones that are not ready to buy now leads to a clean and transparent sales pipeline.

These three steps to sales lead generation should help a business to focus or redefine the sales lead generation process for improved lead to revenue performance. For more on this subject read related articles below.

Sales Outsourcing

In Ireland, sales outsourcing or Sales-As-A-Service should be considered as it can offer multiple benefits to a start-up or growing business. Companies can boost its sales functions, accelerate sales and build the business faster by contracting in an interim sales manager or director for outsourced selling, business development or lead generation.

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Outsourcing is nothing new as many Irish small businesses already outsource their PR, advertising, marketing or finance functions. In fact a number of recent studies have shown that mid-market companies that are using sales outsourcing can have a competitive advantage over companies that have all these sales functions in house. Lean, agile, high growth companies are now taking a different approach; they are finding sales partners with the experience to cost effectively and efficiently drive their sales strategy.

Building a sales team is not easy or cheap

Recruitment costs and time makes building a sales team no easy task. An outsourced sales partner fit in to take the same company approach to selling while also investing time in getting to know the business. An experienced sales outsourcing company can then provide the sales and marketing skills necessary to go out and win customers. The benefits to a business are instant access to an experienced sale professional who will short circuit the time to find the right markets, customers, messages, and media for exposure. An outsourced sales partner hits the ground running faster, cutting down on the ramp up time to target prospects and new customers.

The sales outsource partner should have the ability to refine or quickly implement the company’s sales strategy. When a company needs revenue, to test or define a target marketing, outsourcing some sales functions is a way to get sales resources fast without any long term commitment.

A major benefit to a budget constrained or small business is that sales outsourcing cuts out a lot of the risk. The investment of time and money into hiring a full time sales person can lead to a company holding on to a person even when they are not delivering on the sales, whereas the agreement with an outsourced sales partner can usually be terminated within 30 days’ notice.

The Bitter Business is owned by a seasoned executive who has the proven experience and skills necessary to oversee a company’s sales efforts and help the founders and management to put it on a path to success. The sales and marketing service on a risk-reward model can utilise existing business relationships, contacts and networking which is put at the disposal of the company. Also outsourcing sales is a great way to kick start demand generation for a smaller business and sales outsourcing means the business is free from having to generate leads from customers in order for the sales partner to start working.

Some advantages of sales outsourcing include

  • Implement fast and efficient sales strategy
  • To reduce the cost of sales (no salaries, fixed cost)
  • Grow the sales resources without adding fixed overheads
  • Access to sales experience and contacts
  • Short circuit the sales cycle
  • Test the best sales process to acquire customers
  • Find the right channels, customer sweet spots and market segments
  • Leveraging the skills and knowledge without incurring expense
  • Direct accountability to the business. Full transparency on sales pipeline
  • A faster return on investment in the sales efforts
  • Results driven as both sides are making an investment!

 

Outsourced sales services are focused on sales acceleration to a business (B2B, sales partners, channel or business partners). Areas where a business could deploy an outsource sales partner could be inside sales to generate and close leads, channel development to speed up the sales coverage, lead nurturing to work the sales pipeline or as an experience sales manager to refine and implement the sales strategy.

About The Bitter Business

The Bitter Business is focused as a sales accelerator. Working with a broad range of client companies, (mostly start-ups and smaller growth orientated business owners) to help them achieve sales and growth targets. We are based in Ireland but extensive experience in US, UK and EMEA markets. Using a combination of networking, social selling, prospecting, telemarketing and good old fashioned selling, the sales services are supported by deep insights into marketing and customer acquisition strategies.

Lead Generation

Lead generation efforts whether online,social selling or via sales team can be one of the most underestimated activities in a business in terms of cost,time and the resources needed. The reality is that before a sale transaction happens (even if your B2C business is on-line), there is a process of generating leads (web traffic, inbound,outbound,on-line, events,shows, etc) and in many cases nurturing these leads over a period of time to turn suspects into prospects into sales. So before any sales happens, a business especially in the B2B environment needs a healthy and continuous pipeline of new prospects to sell to.

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Generating leads is challenge for most companies 

Generating sales leads is a daily challenge for most companies and according to Forbes Magazine, more than 60% of the marketers polled in a recent marketing survey said their greatest marketing challenge for the year ahead was generating more sales leads to fuel the sales engine, and nearly two-thirds (63%) reported that their marketing mix either doesn’t meet sales demand or they’re unsure of whether their mix is effective. Nearly 40% of those polled cited accurate measurement and attribution of on-line marketing as their biggest challenge.

Remarkably, a quarter (26%) of respondents said they do not track leads to any marketing program at all or they only attribute leads to one program. The old saying about “They know half their marketing spend works but not which half” seems to still ring true more than ever.

Lead generation can be costly (clicks, CPL, sales hunters) so the business needs to educate everyone that without lead generation there is no customer acquisition and probably no sales. It must be the role of every sales and marketing leader in a company to boost sales leads and reduce the cost of filling the pipeline funnel. This needs to be attacked on two fronts, on-line marketing (push,pull,inbound, lead nurturing) and good old fashioned sales work as lead generation cannot be the function of marketing alone. There is now B2B automated lead generation solutions on the marketplace which radically reduces the time sales agents have to spend identifying prospects.

However, lead generation is more than just implementing passive activities like social media, inbound marketing or on-line marketing tactics, the lead generation effort must work hand-in-glove with the sales teams work including social selling, hunting activities around customer acquisition and channel development. Successful companies know how to build a lead generation machine using multiple networks and sources and then fill the sales funnel with qualified prospects on a continuous basis. Most small companies fail not because of product or they can’t sell but because they can’t build a big enough sales funnel of quality prospects in a timely,cost effective way to work the sales process to drive revenue.

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There are multiple lead generation tools and resources, for social selling there is LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Owler and other business forums. For on-line inbound lead generation, communities like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr can deliver leads. B2B lead generation solutions which cut down on sales peoples time trying to get lists of prospects are provided from companies like Connectors Marketplace, Insideview, Sales Loft and Lead Genius.

Cost per Lead Generated

Regardless of where or how a business sources its sales leads, the cost per lead in customer acquisition needs to be measured across all the channels. The goal is to try and work back which channels delivered not quantity of leads or lowest cost per lead but the channel which delivers the best lead to conversion cost. An example of this is while the good old fashioned trade show might be considered very effective in generating high-quality leads, they are also expensive (maybe as much as €10,000 per lead) and what is the lead to conversation cost?.

So build a lead generation process, score or segment every lead, cost every lead and educate all the sales team that when they get handed a lead it has cost the business money to get to the point of just talking.

Sales Strategy – Marketing Services – Sales Consultant – Social Selling – Inbound Marketing – Lead Generation

I'm always available to have a chat on your business plans and any challenges in lead generation, social selling, marketing or sales.