This post is the continuation from 8 Key Elements for SMB Marketing (Part 1). In this entry, I would like to focus on effective lead generation and nurturing practices, sales tools, as well as an integrated sales and marketing approach.
Lead Generation. With small deal sizes and large number of customers, enterprise-style 1:1 marketing is usually ineffective. Instead, I have seen great results with marketing into communities, such as Spiceworks. Many IT professionals from SMBs use such communities to exchange ideas, to learn about new offerings and ask questions to peers. It is important to identify and establish presence in these communities - engaging participants, answering questions, working with customers and prospects, as well as running cost-effective marketing campaigns.
Another very effective way for generating high quality leads is creating unique and relevant content. You can use it for blogs, IT community posts, social media, and PR. In my experience, this has been one of the most cost-effective and sustainable sources of strong leads with very high conversion rates.
A lot has been said about the importance of PPC and SEO. I usually like to experiment with PPC for SEO messaging before putting lots of effort into SEO. This way I can get good results from a small PPC effort short-term, while SEO is gaining strength. Once SEO is strong, I still keep a small budget for PPC for experimenting with new keywords, ideas and marketing messages.
Call center lead generation campaigns can work well for certain offerings. However, to make these campaigns successful, there is typically a sizable upfront time and money investment - finding the right vendor, creating training materials and scripts, training agents, listening to calls and having an ongoing QA process.
One huge benefit of listening to lead generation and sales calls is the ability to witness your marketing and sales messages in action, see what works and what not, change as necessary and try again in real time.
Lead sorting and nurturing. With thousands leads from different sources and at different stages of buying cycle, it is virtually impossible to keep up with all of them manually. I have had success with designing a "funneling logic" for lead nurturing, where the leads get identified and categorized based on various factors and how far down are they in the sales funnel. Some types of leads get matured and closed using online tools (landing pages, content, emails, online store, chat, etc.) with minimal human interaction, saving sales lots of time. Other types get passed to the sales team for closing.
I have been using Marketo for lead nurturing. However, we quickly ran into the need to customize landing pages for further lead nurturing and "heating" to drive prospects closer to the purchase decision before handing them to the sales team.
Marketing and Sales Tools. I try to have a minimal set of marketing collateral with an emphasis on online tools, especially for cloud-based services. Many SMB IT folks don't have time to read through complicated materials. They prefer seeing and experiencing the actual product. Tools like screenshots and sandbox environments have been extremely useful for me, providing very high conversion rates. I also use podcasts, brief videos, blogs, datasheets, customer testimonials, and industry press articles as necessary.
It also may take some time to get the messaging and programs right, people trained, see what works and what not in your environment, before you can start seeing results. However, the results can be great in terms of a strong revenue stream, high customer satisfaction rates and lower marketing costs.