Lead generation is a key component of every small business marketing system. It can also be one of your most expensive marketing activities. Re-engaging your cold leads can be an effective way to stretch your lead generation budget.
We’ve all had contacts who we thought were “hot leads” or at least interested in our products and services who, for one reason or another, just faded away. We never received a “No”, they just seemed to disappear.
Sometimes they disappear early in the process, i.e. someone who requests additional information from your website but then never replies to any of the follow up messages you send.
More frustrating is the situation where you get to the point where you make a sales presentation, only then to have your contact seemingly fall off the face of the earth.
Or we may have leads that come in from our website. When this happens, most companies will:
- Do nothing. They will wait for the prospect to call them
- Contact the prospect the same day, or shortly thereafter, and try to engage in a phone conversation
- Add the prospect to an email follow up sequence or drip marketing campaign
If nothing happens after the initial follow up activities, businesses will often dump the contacts into their newsletter list, add them to a future call list, or just decide to “close the file” on that particular contact.
That means that most businesses, particularly those who sell more complex and/or expensive products and services, tend to have a good sized group of these “stale contacts” in their database. So the question becomes, “What should we do with these cold leads?”.
Restarting the Conversation
A better question may be, “What can we do to get the conversation started again?”. Most B2B and service businesses won’t benefit from just blasting new offers or discounts to their inactive leads. Chances are the potential customer didn’t feel comfortable enough to risks abandoning the status quo, so we need to start a two way conversation so we can learn what they need to see and/or hear to help them move to the next step of their buying process.
From a systems point of view, the first thing we need to be able to identify these contacts. This is usually done by applying a tag (or label or category) to the contact record, allowing you to identify and create a list of these contacts.
If you are using marketing automation software like Infusionsoft, you can set up your follow up sequence to apply this tag automatically when a contact completes your follow up sequence without satisfying any of the goals you have defined (i.e. scheduled an appointment). The action of applying the tag can then automatically fire off your “cold contacts” follow up sequence.
If you keep your contacts in Outlook, Google Contacts, or a CRM, you should still be able to identify your stale contacts by using categories, labels, or groups. The key here is to have well defined procedures in place that everyone follows so that none of your contacts fall through the cracks.
Once you have your contacts properly categorized, you can either fire off a follow up sequence automatically (as mentioned above) or periodically generate a list of people to follow up with based on your categories.
Once you have solved the technical issue of identifying your stale contacts, the next step is figuring out how to restart the conversation. This step seems to stump small business marketers more than the technical issues mentioned above. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
Change the Channel
While email may be the most convenient way for use to send a message, it may not be your prospect’s preferred method of communication. Sending everything via email doesn’t do much to help you stand out either. If your previous communications have all been via email and you’re not getting any response, try sending a hand written note or a piece of lumpy mail, or picking up the phone.
Send An Invite
Chances are you are attending a social or educational event that your prospects would benefit from attending as well – why not invite them to attend the event with you. So many of these events today take place online, so it is easier to invite your out of town prospects than ever before.
Make An Introduction
You can also add value to your relationships by making introductions to other people your prospects would benefit from meeting. During your early sales conversations, you probably learned about several challenges your prospect is facing that fall outside of the solutions you offer. You can begin to solidify your position as the person they turn to when they have a need by connecting them to members of your network who can help them address those challenges.
Send More Personalized Messages
The more interaction you have with your prospects, the more information you have to personalize and tailor the messages that you send to them. You are more likely to restart a conversation by sharing or referencing things they care about, rather than just blasting more self promoting content to them.
Are They Interested in Something Else?
From the buyers point of view, a big part of the sales and marketing process is defining their needs. While they may have discovered they don’t need the product that initially drew them to you, they may have other challenges that you can help them with – make sure they know how else you may be able to help.
Those are just a few ways you can try to restart conversations with your stale leads. If you have other examples you’d like to share, drop me a note in the comment section below.
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Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant