Getting people to do anything they don’t want to do has always been hard. These days, customers and prospects seem to be made of Teflon, nothing you send out seems to stick very much. Direct response is running out of juice in its current incarnation. If we step back for a moment and think about lead generation more broadly, we may see why.
Start a conversation
This is probably one of tactics that has not been drastically reduced within your marketing mix, I venture to guess it’s also because it’s tied directly into sales – at least in intent. Lead generation is one of the mechanisms that was used to start a conversation with people who might be interested in your product or service. B2B, B2C same difference, they are all made of people.
Solve a problem
How we talk with one another and with customers needs to take into account what they are interested in and are receptive to. Solve a problem and you have the customer’s attention. I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new here. However, where people go to solve their problem has changed a lot.
See what people look for
That is why listening is so important. Where people go for answers today has changed. Communities of practice, online groups and discussions are the new peer conversations and recommendations. We trust more a peer stranger than a company – that’s because we perceive no agenda from the peer.
How do distinguish yourself in this environment? By being distinguishable. If we are indeed to think about lead generation as a conversation starter, the first step is to share information that is educational and useful because it solves a problem. For example, if you are calling me, don’t push your product du jour before learning what I might need. How do you know?
Be in the conversation
Do you ever listen in on telemarketing calls? If you have a robust lead generation program, you should. More often than not, when there is a connection, it’s not based upon a script. The connection happens when the two parties get off the script and just talk. You listen and the customer or prospects tells you more than they planned to in the beginning.
That is what makes us all identify with each other. Those who call me could start by asking “would you be interested in X service/product?” Do it politely, after you determined I have a moment to be on the phone with you. Maybe I do not have time right now, but if I am interested, I will ask you for a link to your content. Make it count!
Gen-Next is a thread
Not a cycle. As an example, I received an inquiry from someone at a company that is involved in social media listening and analysis. When they reached out by email, I was juggling multiple projects and could not pay attention. The email however was well crafted so I responded briefly asking the rep to check me out at my blog, Conversation Agent, so he could know more about me quickly (aren’t we all in a hurry?).
Not a threat
To his credit he did so and came back with a fleshed out suggestion. I may not need his services right away, but I have made a note of him, his company and what they provide to share with colleagues and peers who might need the services. His initial willingness to be part of a conversation made him available to the thread within my network.
What can you do?
- Find opportunities to allow your prospects to tell you what they need/want. Build those into your process, no matter the media you are using. A note about telemarketing – people are getting tired of unsolicited calls. Are you building alternative ways to listen to what your customers want?
- Be where customers are. If you shed that “closing the sale” mindset in favor of building a trusted relationship, you will probably make more headway. Do you have user groups? Do you engage in discussions and learning sessions with them? How often do you do that? This is just an example of thinking participation even in the one-to-one or physical world.
- Empower your users so they can tell their friends. One on one is well and good, but you might be concerned with scale. Building a trusted network deals with scale. How do you build trust? Behave like a person who can be trusted – do not spam, do not scream/yell at customers, share knowledge freely.
These are just some ideas, I’m sure you have more. It amounts to putting skin in the game, being real, being interested, using the tools and processes to serve the people, not the other way around.
Let’s stop hiding behind excuses and best practices and start practicing what is best for our customers and companies. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know that the way things were is not working so well today – it probably never did beyond the novelty of it.