Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Using the internet to generate sales leads : how to fill your pipeline without cold calling

Let's face it. We all hate cold calling. 90% admit it and the other 10% are lying. Why? Fear of rejection. Fortunately there is a better way.

Solution marketing via the internet.

Solution marketing is designed to identify warm prospects, those that actually want to talk to you, before the call. Therefore, it eliminates the dreaded cold call and makes your time spent on the phone much more efficient. Instead of manually screening prospects, interested customers pre-identify themselves by taking a specific action that captures their information for you automatically. These 'warmed' leads then arrive in your inbox or call you. Sound too good to be true? Read on.


Solution marketing relies simply on finding the right solution teaser to share with potential customers online. Identifying the right solution teaser starts with finding the right problem. What is really irritating or perplexing your customers? In turn, how with your expertise, can you help to solve it? Once you have solved it, how do you let them know you solved it and share the answer?

Note: – A solution teaser is simply a piece of content designed to help address the problem without entirely giving away the solution. It is designed instead to provide a “starting point” answer and direct the potential customer to a product or service you provide. Typically solution teasers take the form of white papers, special reports and/or articles.

Beyond asking questions to identify what is “irritating or perplexing your customers” you can:

  • Use keyword / phrase research techniques to identify either common search phrases, questions and problems related to your products / services or the popularity of the various solutions you provide.

  • Use the analytics tool (the tool that measures the popularity of certain pages on your site and how people got there) to determine which service or solution you offer gets the most traffic.

  • Ask your current customers what you do for them that is most helpful and what problems they have that you might be able to solve.

Once you have the critical problem identified, you then need to create content around the solution. And this does not mean creating content advertising how your organization can sell them something that solves the problem. It means creating content that provides part of or an overview of the solution and helps them arrive at an answer which might result in a sale.

Note: Giving away too much is a risk, but not as big a risk as you may think. Once presented with the solution they may not be able or willing to implement it without help. One way to avoid giving too much away is to focus on the smaller part of a larger problem and acknowledging that it is, in fact, part of a broader issue. Solutions that require the purchase of a product or service are less of a risk.

Constructing the solution

As the end game is to get the potential customer to contact you, via phone or email, the content and the solution had better killer. Further, the solution must be packaged in the right form. Often, a longer piece of content such as a special report, white paper, presentation or the like should be used. Beyond actually containing value, it must appear valuable.

Using content to build your pipeline

Solution marketing, content creation, is a sales process. A process focused on pushing potential customers through a funnel, capturing their contact information and generating leads. Leads that are warm. Leads that you already know something about. A possible funnel is outlined below.

  1. Identify the problem. Construct the solution in the form of a white paper, special report, etc.

  2. Determine which internet content marketing channel(s) you will use to get the word out about your solution. For example, you could create a teaser article speaking briefly about the solution and referring them to a landing page for more information.

  3. Create a landing page focused on the solution.

  4. Post the solution on your site behind a lead capture (see below) registration form. The form should ask for the bare minimum, name, company, title, phone, email. After the potential customer completes the form, they can access the solution.

  5. Capture and log the leads.

  6. Make your warm follow ups to the qualified leads. Make sure in that call or email that you thank them for downloading the white paper, special report, etc. and ask if they have any follow up questions first. It will provide them a frame of reference and also seem non threatening. Your subject line, if you email, should also reference the download to increase the chance of opening.

What is lead capture form?

To conclude, the lead capture form is the most important part of solution marketing. It is where all your hard work pays off and potential customers share their contact information. If you have difficulty building it yourself, there are several online services which can host the form for you, or you can ask your web designer or hosting company. Just search for “online form builder.”

As you create the form, there is one point I would like to stress. Always be sure to ask for the information you need, beyond name and phone number, but don't go overboard. Typically, the more you ask for, the less forms you will see completed. The list I suggest is as follows:

  • First and last name

  • Phone number

  • Email address

  • Job Title

  • Company (if applicable)

  • A free form comment box allowing them to explain why they want to download this content. The question could be “Reason(s) for downloading this white paper today.” (just be sure to make this optional and note it as such).

To learn more about solution marketing and internet marketing, SBIMOnline is a great resource.