In two recent posts, we discussed why having a lead qualifying process is so important, and why social media is a particularly useful resource for qualifying leads; the same channels you use to generate leads become the ideal setting for qualifying them.
Lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing are all closely related, even overlapping at times. So the data you gather when generating leads will often give you insights that help you determine your prospects’ level of interest, motivation, and ability to purchase. In turn, what you learn during this lead qualifying process can also help you to develop your future blog, web site and email marketing content. Your target market will likely have similar needs, questions and objections.
So how can you put this knowledge into action and incorporate social media into your lead qualifying process? In this post, we'll go over some activities that can be adapted to practically any social media platform. For our purposes, we'll use LinkedIn as an example. Since LinkedIn was created specifically with businesses in mind, it is a natural choice for qualifying business leads.
Most B2B marketers recognize the value of LinkedIn as a networking tool, but it can also be a very effective part of your lead qualifying process. Plus, it's a great way to keep in touch throughout the sales cycle.
First do your homework and find out what you can by looking at the LinkedIn profiles of your individual contacts as well as the company profile. This can give you a great deal of information and insights about the company. Are you talking to the right person? If not, you might eventually ask to be introduced to someone involved in the buying decision.
Then, do what your prospects are doing; get involved in group discussions, pose questions, create a poll. Learn all you can about the pain points that are driving their quest for a solution.
Pay attention to what your target audience is saying. Follow them and learn about their concerns, even taking note of what key phrases tend to come up a lot. This will provide excellent fodder for discussion in your own blog posts, group discussions, emails and networking activities. Use what you observe to create engaging content that addresses the needs you’ve uncovered. But remember: don’t be salesy, just be helpful.
Delve Deeper with Questions
Before reaching out to a prospect, ask yourself:
Why does this prospect need my product or service?
What might their objections be, based on what they have said about previous experiences?
How can I communicate the benefits of our solution and how our company differs from the competition?
Connect with your current followers by getting involved in the conversation; pose open-ended questions that may spark an interesting discussion. Such as:
What prompted your interest in this service?
Are you using a similar product/service?
What are you currently doing with this service?
What problems do you encounter with your current provider?
Have you thought about getting a competitive quote on this service to compare to what you are currently paying?
What features are you looking for in this service that you don’t currently have?
When would be a good time to talk?
Finding out where your prospects are and what type of online media they are using involves constant, diligent research followed by continual fine-tuning of your social media strategy based on your research results.
Be alert to clues that will take you further along in the lead qualifying process. Keep in mind the questions you need answered about your prospect, such as:
Are you talking to someone directly involved in making the purchase decision? If not, is this someone who can influence the decision and/or introduce you to or otherwise help you connect with the decision makers?
What is the prospect’s greatest challenge?
What objections or roadblocks to purchase might they have?
What solutions have they tried in the past that worked or didn’t work and why?
What vendors have they worked with or considered, and what did they like or not like about those companies?
As you learn more about your social media contacts, their position in the company, their buying process and their company’s specific needs and pain points, you will be able to tailor your messages and social media content their needs to keep them engaged and further the relationship.
Always approach such leads with a helpful attitude as they research their options. Taking a consultative role will build trust and increase the likelihood that they will choose your services when they are ready to make a final choice.
Of course, you want to be sure you’re following any companies you believe might be interested in your services. This is always a good way to show interest and connect with your target market.
Make sure your company email template includes an invitation to connect on social media sites. Some of your leads may need a friendly reminder, so you might also want to send a direct message through the platforms you use.
Be sure to personalize your messages to avoid coming off as spammy. If you’re connecting with a lead that attended your LinkedIn event, for example, you might mention the event you shared in common. Have you already had a phone conversation? Add a message to your connection invite saying that you enjoyed talking to them and are available to help if they have any questions.
Regularly offer value to all your leads. You might even create special deals, free webinars, etc., especially for your LinkedIn connections. Then send out an email to your lead database, inviting all to take advantage of your offer or attend your event. Those prospects who are not yet in your network may decide to connect when given the added incentive.
Let all of your prospects know that you’re available to offer expert advice in your discussion groups, and encourage them to join your group for no-pressure answers to questions about your industry. Each conversation gives you the opportunity to gather additional detail such as company size, purchasing budget and details about the company’s needs and interests.
Analyze and Adapt
Tracking a few key factors and comparing your social media activity over a period of time against your sales for that period can give you a good idea of what is working and what is not. Where are your most highly qualified leads coming from?
What specific tools are you using and how often? Continue to document all such activity during this period. Track your results using the corresponding monitoring tool for each activity. Google Analytics, for example, will provide reports on how well your web site is converting, visitor contribution, and search engine traffic, to name just a few.
What is the best way to get our sales messages to the decision makers?
What can we offer to keep them engaged through the research phase and into the buying process?
How can we addresses our prospects' concerns and reduce the perceived risk of purchasing from us?
What can we offer to help our prospects move forward into the buying process?
Since LinkedIn was designed as a platform to help business people connect, you will find it offers a number of tools created specifically for that purpose. Here are some more ways you can use LinkedIn to create awareness about your services and set the stage for qualifying your leads.
First, be sure to fully flesh out your profile with information about your company. You can embed your videos and company blog on the profile page, and add a “share” button so your content can be spread to social sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Be sure your company is listed in the company directory, with details about the services you provide.
One of the best ways to establish yourself as an authority in your field is to answer questions on the LinkedIn Answers page. You can find this section under the drop-down menu labeled “More” at the top of the home page. Browse the categories in the column on the right-hand side of the page for topics in which you have expertise to share. Maintain credibility by refraining from making promotional statements and focus on supplying helpful information.
Join the same LinkedIn groups as your prospects and join in the discussions. Read posts and provide answers when you can, without promoting.
Create and manage your own group and invite your prospects to join. By actively participating in group discussions, offering valuable tips and insights, you can expand your circle of influence and continue building those relationships.
Take advantage of LinkedIn applications to create surveys and slide presentations, display your portfolio, embed your blogs and tweets, and connect with prospects via professional events and conferences.
Enter all new data you find on your prospect and use it to guide your discussions, provide answers to questions, establish your thought leadership and build relationships.
Take care not to be invasive. Comment on their posts, show interest, be as helpful as possible, but resist the urge to sell at this point. Comment on their posts, show interest, be as helpful as possible, but resist the urge to sell at this point. After an event or business presentation with decision makers, connect with them on LinkedIn send a brief InMail message. Something like, “ I enjoyed meeting with you and look forward to talking to you again.”
A prospect’s permission to contact them is one of your most valuable marketing assets, especially since most people do not give out their information freely to just anyone who asks for it. It indicates that they are already interested in what you have to offer, so you don’t need to expend any effort convincing them on that count. The only thing that remains is to demonstrate that yours is the ideal company for their needs.
Speak to your social media contacts out of a genuine desire, not just to sell them on your solution, but to truly help their business succeed. Keep this motivation at the core of every interaction with your prospects.
Building a genuine rapport does take an investment of time, but the results will be solid and lasting. These are the same principles used by the best lead generation companies to generate warm leads who've demonstrated an interest in your services, supplied information about their specific needs, and are not only willing, but eager to hear about your solutions.
Be the company who provides value before your lead has committed to using your service. Answer their questions and build their trust. Make sure your company’s message is aligned with your prospective customers’ needs. You will be building a loyal customer base while you strengthen your reputation and your brand.
According to SiriusDecisions, by 2015 as much as 75 percent of B2B demand will come from the Internet. Business service buyers have an ever-expanding array of choices when researching online. This presents business service providers with the challenge of casting their virtual net farther and wider than ever before just to capture the interest of these potential customers.
Taking the Lead Qualifying Process to the Next Level
As a business service provider, you have a wide range of tools like blogs, interactive wiki articles, search-optimized white papers and active participation in discussion forums that enable you to actively communicate with your prospects.
But studies have found that a surprising number of businesses do not fully utilize all channels at their disposal to generate leads, or in the lead qualifying process. Many companies cite the labor-intensive nature of these activities as well as the length of time it can take to see results.
That is why increasing numbers of business service providers are using online lead generation platforms to educate their prospects, engage in regular communication and build trust. Automated lead generation systems provide a virtual one-stop shop for online marketing, social networking and high-quality lead generation.
Buyers provide information directly related to their category as well as information about their particular needs. This information is then scored and matched in real time with service providers that are uniquely qualified to deliver the solution.
This approach allows close matches between the needs of the prospect and capabilities of the business service provider. These new strategies have taken customer acquisition to an entirely new level, enabling businesses to connect with key decision makers much more readily. InsideUp provides an integrated online marketing platforms that utilizes these methods and more to connect business software and service providers with decision makers who are ready to buy.