How to Cut Clutter and Produce Better Leads

When Mark Twain joked that he would have written a friend a shorter note “but he didn’t have the time,” he was making a point about the difficulty of cutting out the clutter. As it turns out, Twain’s insight from yesteryear says a lot about 21st-century lead generation too — and probably not in the way that you’re thinking.

Today we hear so much about advertising clutter but not about the jumbled flood of leads that can be the result. Marketing programs can generate thousands of leads for a company’s sales force to pursue, but how many of them are real and how many are dead ends — or clutter? The answer is too many.

Unfortunately, in most marketing and sales environments it’s impossible to know which leads are promising and which are a waste of time and money.

Conversion rates suffer when experienced salespeople chase bad leads, yet it happens every day because many companies cannot rank their leads according to how likely they are to convert to sales, place high-value orders or become loyal customers.

Most companies are unable to answer even the four fundamental questions for identifying good prospects:

· Who exactly is calling me or providing their contact information online?
· Can the company actually reach the people who provide their contact info online?
· Which incoming leads should be the company’s top priority?
· Which of the company’s products or services is most relevant to each incoming lead?

Without asking some qualifying questions to get at that information, you can’t send your best salespeople your most valuable leads. But what if you could automatically know the answers to the questions above, at the instant that leads contacted you, without asking a single qualifying question?

All it takes is the right knowledge at the right moment through an approach called on-demand lead scoring.

By combining your customer and campaign history with consumer data and predictive analytics, lead scoring can instantly tell you how to prioritize and treat each incoming lead to increase your sales conversions, purchase amount and customer value. The approach works equally well for leads who reach you by phone, over the Web or at the point of sale.

So where do you start? The predictive power of your lead scoring will depend upon how much it is tailored to your specific business, your objectives and your existing knowledge of your customers.

For razor-sharp insight, you can develop scores with your own data, including sales history, product and channel usage. Then incorporate detailed household information including demographics, lifestyle and behavioral information.

This blend of information will tell you which leads are most likely to convert, which are potentially most valuable and which will respond to different types of offers or messages.

Be careful: some lead scoring systems simply perpetuate lead clutter. They are one-size-fits-all applications offered to a broad swath of marketers whether they’re selling gold cards, tractors, health insurance or home improvements.

Other systems, typically delivered by pricey consultants, are too customized. They focus so narrowly on existing customers they have no applicability to fresh prospects.

Look for a service provider that can blend the coverage and actionability of off-the-shelf, one-size-fits all services with the precision of a custom engagement.

Paul McConville is director of consumer-facing services for TARGUSinfo.

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