Qualified sales leads are the life blood of many businesses. It's the marketing department's job to keep the sales funnel topped up with qualified prospects, nurturing them until they're ready to buy. At this point they are handed over to the sales team.
Where does one find qualified sales leads? All the traditional outbound marketing methods come into play – radio, TV and press advertising; press releases, flyers, billboards and so on. Instead of using these techniques for 'branding,' though, you drive the traffic to a web page with a sexy offer in exchange for the visitor's contact details.
The great thing about doing this online is that you can track the number of visitors and the number of conversions – ie. the number of visitors who took up the offer. What's more, you can send visitors to a different landing page depending on where they saw your web address. That means you can see exactly how many visitors you are getting from each channel, and exactly how many of those visitors are converting.
These days, though, outbound marketing is becoming less cost-effective. The shift towards Internet and mobile advertising is pushing the cost of print media up, and the higher prices are reducing the number of advertisers.
Inbound Marketing Delivers Sales Leads
Inbound marketing is based on getting customers to seek you out, rather than you hunting them down, interrupting what they're doing and making them watch your ad or listen to your spiel. A few years ago, it meant writing articles to be published in newspapers and magazines, writing books, participating in radio and TV interviews. Nowadays, it's mostly about the Internet.
People use search engines to find things they're interested in; if you can get useful information in front of them when they're specifically looking for it, you've started a process which may very well end up with a sale. Google calls this the "Zero Moment of Truth" – the point at which your prospect is actively searching for your product or service. And in these days of smart phones, that moment could happen just about anywhere – when they're sitting at a coffee shop, when they're looking at your product in a store, when they're on their lunch break.
You need to make sure that you understand what your customer is looking for when they find you. The words they type into the search engine can help you to determine where they are in the buying cycle. Are they looking for ways to describe the problem they're having? Are they looking for forums or blogs which explain ways others have solved the problem? Are they looking for businesses which supply the solution? Are they looking for prices?
What you need to do is position yourself so that you and your business are seen as trusted advisors, the people who really understand what their problem is, who help them understand their options and ultimately supply the solution. You should strive to be present all the way through the sales cycle, so that your future customer is constantly reminded of your existence and your involvement. From the moment they start researching their problem, through the evaluation of possible solutions, to the reviews, testimonials and comments from other satisfied customers, your business should be engaging them.
Turning a buyer from an anonymous prospect into a qualified sales lead can be a slow process, but it's important to get it right.
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