Thursday, December 3, 2009

Leveraging Social Media for Sales Lead Generation


By Dan McDade, President, PointClear

In our era of communications overload, it can often take up to a dozen “touches” to effectively reach prospects and qualify them as sales-ready.

Marketers have learned that the most effective way to cut through the clutter and develop leads is to touch each prospect over time with a combination of media, including quality outbound calls, voicemail messages, email and direct mail.

This process can now be greatly enhanced by adding social media to the mix. While most people think of social media as a non-business arena, many savvy marketers are making strides in leveraging social media to gather intelligence about prospects and to establish a rapport online, long before a meeting takes place.

This article takes a look at social media and how to use it, including how to integrate it into marketing programs as a way to touch prospects online.

Social Media as a Source of Intelligence

With the rise of the Internet, we gained access to a tremendous amount of instant information about the companies with which we want to do business – through Web sites, online press releases and online articles. While of tremendous value, that information is highly orchestrated, generated primarily by companies telling us what they want us to know. Social media can provide another layer of useful information that adds depth and dimension.

For example, one way to identify prospects is to look for trigger events, such as the hiring of a new CEO. Such movement at the top can mean that a company is ready to accelerate in a way that creates opportunity for you. To leverage social media in uncovering trigger events, visit Twitter and search for “new CEO” (include the quotation marks so you get the exact phrase, not just tweets that include both words). Some of the returns you’ll get may include tweets from insiders with clues as to where the new CEO is taking things.

Then, to find out more about the new CEO, hop over to LinkedIn. Search for the CEO by name; if he or she is a LinkedIn member, you can uncover information to better inform your initial contact – such as where the CEO was educated, previous positions, hobbies and interests, etc. Next, and you should do this even if the prospect isn’t using the service, search LinkedIn for the company name, which will produce a list of that company’s employees that have LinkedIn accounts. Any of those employees who are in your network will be flagged, giving you the opportunity to contact them for additional information about the new CEO and even to request an introduction. If you see any familiar names who are not in your network, by all means add them to it – the larger your personal LinkedIn network, the greater the possibility that you’ll be two or three degrees from a prized prospect.

Social Media as a Pathway for Communication with Prospects

While social media can be useful for gathering information about a prospect, you’ll get maximum advantage by using it to “touch” prospects and establish two-way dialogs. For example:

  • Rather than simply trolling Twitter for trigger events, open an account and begin micro-blogging interesting points about your product or service. Others who are searching for keywords you’ve included will gravitate to your tweets, and highly interested parties may also tweet you back, creating a lead. When appropriate, be sure to include links to your company’s Web site in your tweets, to drive traffic to your site and to improve its ranking in search engines.
  • Join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your product or service. Many of the largest, most well established LinkedIn groups include both buyers and sellers with an interest in that group’s focus. Once you’ve joined a group, don’t simply lurk; post useful category information, such as white papers. As with Twitter, remember to include links to your company’s Web site when appropriate. If you discover a need for a new LinkedIn group, start it yourself, and invite others with interest in the category to join.
  • Start your own blog, which can be the most powerful social medium of all for lead generation. The primary purpose of your blog should be to expand your reach. Choose a title and issue posts that are topical and search-heavy, and include liberal links back to your Web site. It can take time to garner followers, but if it’s done right those followers will come, and will often post comments that can reveal interest in your product or service. To take it a step further, visit other relevant blogs and post comments on them.

Social media is so new that we’re all learning how to best leverage it for our business purposes, and the examples here are just a few ways in which social media can be beneficial in lead generation. There are additional social media techniques that may be even more appropriate to your particular company and its product or service. The important thing is to get started – just as those companies that embraced the Internet early got a head start on their competitors, so it will be with those who get a head start on leveraging social media to generate leads, engage prospects and strengthen customer bonds.

Dan McDade is Founder and President of PointClear, the prospect development company. Before McDade founded PointClear, he served as Vice President of Marketing for the direct mail firm, Jackson & Perkins, and as President of UST: The Business Marketing Group. To learn more about PointClear, go to www.pointclear.com, or to read and post comments on the PointClear blog, visit http://blog.pointclear.com/.