This isn't ingratitude talking, just reality. Lead-generating programs are too much of a good thing. Or, more specifically, they're too much of a good thing wrapped in a lot of mediocre and useless things. The mountains of sales leads that vendor marketing programs generate include old leads, dead leads and leads that weren't really leads to begin with. More likely it was someone at a trade show who registered to win an iPod and ended up on a mailing list, than someone who was serious about buying.
However, even if that person is highly unlikely to need or want my services, how do I know that until I ask? I can't ignore any prospects until I qualify them with e-mails and phone calls, but we simply don't have the staff to cull through these leads to find the real prospects. We appreciate the money our vendors spend to help us, but we'd both get better return on the investment if their marketing programs aligned better with our resources.
A better way to find real prospects
With all of this in mind, we were eager to be a guinea pig when our largest vendor partner, SAP, asked us to pilot a new marketing program. It was based on e-mailed newsletters with embedded analytics that essentially enabled prospects to qualify themselves according to what content they clicked on. Using IMN's TCC (Total Channel Communications) program, SAP provides us with templates that are prepopulated with articles, white papers, tips and tutorials. The system allows us to add our own content and brand the newsletter with Netsirk's graphical identity. We send our contact list to IMN, which e-mails the newsletter to our customers and prospects.
The e-newsletters' embedded analytics reveal whether or not readers opened the e-newsletter and, if they did, which articles they read. If readers click on the "request a demo" key near the product content, the IMN system notifies us by e-mail. IMN feeds this information back to us in a report that we use to pinpoint prospects for sales meetings. We can have the system automatically follow up with prospects via e-mail until we feel that they're close enough to merit personal phone calls.
Weeding out the bad, focusing on the good
We've dramatically reduced the amount of time we spent weeding out bad leads. Focusing more of our attention on booking sales meetings, and less on qualifying leads, led to $100,000 in new business and $500,000 more in the pipeline after just six months in the program. We recently closed two more of the deals that originated with the e-newsletter.
In two other cases, the e-newsletter program turned lost leads into prospects. In the first instance, we had called on the company two years earlier. It didn't have the budget to work with us at the time, and in the ensuing weeks and months, we lost track of its contact information. We still had an e-mail address in the system though, so when we turned our mailing list over to IMN, it sent a newsletter to the contact person at the company. After receiving two newsletters, the company contacted us and we're finalizing a $100,000 deal. In the second case, a lead that we wrote off as dead contacted us through the newsletter, and we are negotiating an opportunity that could be worth as much as $400,000.
Scoring sales meetings with solid prospects
There's no comparison between this program and the other vendor programs in which we've participated. Other programs have piqued interest, but they've all lacked follow-through. The SAP/IMN program meets that need with its self-qualifying functions. The best thing vendors can do for their VARs is to help them score sales meetings. Through this program, we've learned that combining the right information and analytics is a resource-effective tool for developing prospects. Non-promotional information about products, technology developments and market trends is a solid foundation for electronic information campaigns that VARs can use to land sales meetings with solid prospects-without vetting dozens of useless leads to get to the real ones.
Prior to founding Netsirk Technologies, Faison spent his career with IBM. Mr. Faison sits on the board of LSC Distributors and Florida Marine Products. He is an active member of several local charities including the "Deliver the Dream" Foundation. He graduated from Bucknell University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.