Marketers love to exercise their creative muscles, their right brains, and think up wonderful new ideas for persuading prospects to buy.
However, as dull as this may sound, the secret to success in B-to-B is in the process. It’s not about marketing creativity. It’s not even about conducting more or better lead generation campaigns. The leverage lies in converting more inquiries into qualified leads and, then, more qualified leads into sales.
The company with the best inquiry management is the one that will win. Inquiry management is about setting up a solid, methodical process – and then executing daily.
Creating a great inquiry management process begins by optimizing each step in the chain:
Start response planning early in the campaign development process. Make sure you have a unique code that identifies responses from every outbound communication. Offer multiple response media, including phone, Web, BRC, fax and e-mail. And don’t be shy about including qualification questions on your reply form or your inbound-phone scripts.
Your response capture process will only work if it’s designed by the people who manage the inbound media. Put to together a cross-functional team and then consider the best strategy for each medium. For example, set up a dedicated fax number for inquiries so they don’t get mixed up with regular daily business communications.
Most B-to-B inquiries are asking for more information, so give it to them – fast.
Many of your inquiries will require additional qualification before they are ready for handoff to sales. The secret to qualification is involvement of the sales team in setting qualification criteria. Don’t let them tell you they want everything, but do listen to their views. Examples of good criteria to use to help qualify inquires may be to ask what are the most pressing needs prospects want to address, and when they may be ready to purchase. It may also be helpful to clarify what type of product or system they currently use to gain a better understanding of their current level of functionality.
Let’s not forget the process of closing the marketing loop to attribute a closed sale to a marketing campaign. It isn’t easy in B-to-B, but it’s worth some effort, if only to justify marketing budgets, not to mention giving you the tools to refine campaign tactics and improve results the next time. Supplement your closed-loop tracking system with end-user surveys or data match-back analysis.
Optimize your inquiry management process and you can triple, even quadruple, your revenue from lead generation campaigns.
Ruth P. Stevens consults with companies about customer acquisition and retention and teaches marketing to grad students at Columbia Business School and NYU. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org