In my conversations with startup leaders the past few weeks, lead generation emerged as a universal pain point. While most had embarked upon some form of it, few found the results that were up to par with their expectations. Their efforts yielded more noise than value: leads that were too low level, prospects that were nowhere near ‘sales-ready’, or contacts with no real interest in engaging.
Upon further discussion, I realized the issue wasn’t poor execution, but rather merely that they hadn’t explicitly defined their objectives upfront.
Here are the steps that leaders at early stage ventures should think through before embarking upon lead generation efforts:
1. Define your goals. Be as precise as you can about what you hope to accomplish and what resources you have at your disposal, so you can focus on the most suitable activities. Are you launching your first commercial release and looking for high volumes of leads to grow your prospect database and kick off mass marketing campaigns? Do you have a single sales rep that needs to go on the road and work with a handful of high quality prospects?
By being clear about what your business needs right now, you can focus your efforts on the right types of lead generation activities given your current goals.
2. Consider your target customer and sales cycles. Before you build an execution plan, consider your target audience and sales process. Who are your target customers? What are their pain points? What will make them care about what you’re offering? What does a typical procurement processes look like for a product like yours? What proof points will prospects need to gain confidence in your solution?
Allow the profile of your target customer and the particulars of your business ecosystem to guide you towards the right channels and tactics for engaging your target market.
3. Build your plan. Once you’re clear on your needs, you can more confidently back into the right mix of lead generation activities and the needed skill sets to execute. Do you ask your reps to work with beta customers on a referral incentives program? Should you hire an inbound marketing specialist to turn your website into a lead generation engine? Should you find a direct marketer to build out an automated email marketing program?
A high level framework of your goals combined with a basic understanding of the marketing and biz dev tools available will help you pinpoint the skill sets and resources required to get the leads you need.