Most every direct marketing strategy becomes more sophisticated and effective with the advent of the Internet channel. And lead generation follows that same path.
With the Internet, generating leads takes on the characteristics of Customer Relationship Management. But since the Internet contacts are not yet customers, perhaps we should call this Prospect Relationship Management.
Before the Internet, the primary lead generation processes included direct mail combined with telemarketing. The ability to manage leads from lukewarm interest to qualified leads was brief. The prospects accepted the appointment, or they disappeared into oblivion due to the high cost of maintaining relationships.
With the Internet, it is now possible to gradually evolve low quality to higher quality prospects by introducing them to the advertiser’s products and services. Once they click on the web site, the advertiser can follow any prospects’ visit activities and assess their interests.
For those prospects willing to complete surveys or other forms of feedback, the clues are clear that now is the best time for the advertiser’s sales person to call them.
But here’s the rub. How does the advertiser drive these business prospects to the company’s web site in the first place?
Some of this is done internally within the web channel itself with Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or paid search. But this is usually insufficient to keep the leads flowing in sufficient volumes to achieve the required sales goals.
Direct mail remains a core strategy for leading interested prospects to your web site. If done correctly, the direct mail package will increase web traffic AND immediate prospect calls to the advertiser’s company.
There is another challenge that advertisers must master to make their lead generation programs perform at peak performance. Just as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) requires powerful software to support to proper follow up of all customers over the long term to increase sales, Prospect Relationship Management also requires this same software to cultivate prospects into becoming customers.
As always, the media channels selected to generate leads are not nearly as important as the close working relationships between the sales people and the software required to cultivate leads.
In the end, a new business generation machine relies more than ever on the sales force’s ability to integrate their activities to leverage the lead database.
What do you see as today’s biggest challenge in lead generation?