LEAD GENERATION is Dead

END-STAGE MARKETING HAS ARRIVED

This blog is NOT for members. They already know what Concierge Marketing is all about. For outsiders (non-members) gather ’round and read my take on what this “new generation” of marketing means.  It’s totally unlike anything you ever seen.  But, if you’re not an Independent Professional (lawyer, CPA, or other service provider), you won’t get the opportunity to find out.


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Way Beyond Chasing Leads …

Time is Simply Too Valuable!

SEASONED PROS KNOW/LEARN BETTER

New Marketing Paradigm graphicTo Be Filed under: Leads-vs-Referrals.   Unless you’re content ‘following peers’ aka doing what everyone else does, you must be sensitive to how valuable the average business workday is to success. The reason why most network clubs, groups and associations are handicapped is because they invite (lure) you and all your colleagues to join them. In other words, your competition is invited to join in. Your chances of scoring/winning new business is proportionate to whatever everyone else does/doesn’t do.

And, if/when another colleague “steals” your perfect target client, you loseright?  Most will nod in agreement. Virtually all new-client opportunities go to the most nimble or the best-positioned service provider. This sounds quite logical outside our community. BUT, “inside” it’s never true. This is because our fulfillment staff is led by an assigned project manager who connects the referring member with the receiving member (yes, the SME matched to serve the need at hand). As a result, there is never any competition or conflict. The best-matched member always gets wins, i.e. get first chance—if available. If not, the next likely member would get the call … and so on!

Outside of our community (where non-members must compete with/against each other), it’s dog-eat-dog. Understandably, members referred to this as the “jungle.” However, once anyone is accepted into membership, he/she becomes a privileged insider. Every member (regardless of class) is treated like a client. Why? Because we have no clients, only members! And, it’s our members who virtually run the entire marketing community.

→ Out in the jungle, there are only LEADS, never real REFERRALS. Reason: none have ever been tamed (personally verified, qualified & converted). As members know all too well, LEADS are often dangerousOur Admin in on record as declaring that leads are dangerous to both your health as well as your wealth(Put the keyword “dangerous” in the search menu above.)

  • How can leads be dangerous to your health? The sheer hassle and aggravation of chasing down seemingly good leads THAT DON’T PAN OUT can lead to enormous frustration, internalized anger, and even rising blood pressure. Granted, some may claim otherwise—but that’s simply because they haven’t been in the (entrepreneurial) trenches long enough.
  • How can leads be dangerous to your wealth? This one’s easy. Two words: time management. Every minute spent out of the office chasing down suspects (okay, prospects too) is wasted without a positive result. When “no sale” results (despite best efforts), this must be filed in the “Lost Opportunity” bin. As most know, this is every seasoned professional’s worst nightmare.

HOW TO AVOID THE LEAD-CHASING TRAP

Why Do You AskFirst of all, only newbies and ‘the desperate’ accept raw unqualified leads. The longer one is in business, the fewer unqualified leads get accepted…except during extremely soft markets. 

The fallacy of CRM and many sourced leads is that they’re seldom properly qualified. Sure, initially they may look/sound good. But after the chase—when it’s too late—they always muster out. Why? Because buyers are liars. This is the considered opinion of all of us who’ve been in the SMB trenches for decades. Contrarians are welcomed to debate otherwise.

Concierge Marketing is the second generation of Local Channel Marketing™ developed by our Community in 2007. It suffered through a few painful iterations–largely because it’s a hybrid end-to-end marketing solution. It is transformative in nature, performed behind the scenes, and it is not transactional. Said differently, our Concierge Marketing program requires a niche members-only platform to be successful. This is because operations are far more offline (analog) than online (digital). In other words, our model is unique. It may be emulated by copycats but never copied, that is, with our “end-stage marketing” results … These are guaranteed to all participating members!

We do not deal in leads. We know the danger, firsthand!

As a lead is received by our Intake staff, it must be verified, researched, qualified, and ultimately approved, prior to dissemination to the selected registered member. This “referral” always goes to the best Subject Matter Expert available (per actual interview). She/he understands the client’s need and confirms her/his expertise would solve/satisfy the project/case/assignment. There is no guessing or any hoping that a lead could be converted into an engagement (sale). Folks, this is how we add are value. This is why our members generally consider us the most valuable (hidden) Marketing Resource in their marketing mix.

More details can be found at pmCommunity.org … but we caution visitors that our new website won’t be launched until October … and we have suspended new-member enrollment until mid-October. Why? Because every member-candidate must be personally screened & qualified; and presently, our staffs are committed to beefing up infrastructure and training new analysts & project managers. (No one said our newly-defined business model was going to be easy!)


THANKS FOR YOUR TIME & ATTENTION. HOPE TO SEE YOU INSIDE.


Disclaimer:  This blog is monitored by our Executive Committee and is intended exclusively for members or candidates for membership. Contents of all blogs and FAQ sessions are subject to change & correction and do not constitute community policy. The executed Community Marketing Agreements (CMA) determines prevailing policy & practices, as amended.  |  (C) Copyright 2004-2015 pmCommunity.org; all rights reserved. Depicted graphics are the exclusive property of PM Community and all others belong to their respective owners or record.



Killer: Business Leads

LEADS CAN BE WORTHLESS

When’s the last you chase down a HOT LEAD that was a dud?

Next-Best Thing in MarketingHopefully, the answer is a very long time ago. If you said “never,” stop reading−you haven’t been in your profession long enough … as a solo or independent contractor. Let’s admit it from the onset. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours preparing for a presentation only to find out that not only is the “Prospect” just another “Suspect” but one that never could never qualify to become a client! And then add in all the travel time and then the “lost opportunity” time (of not serving clients or spend it with real prospects). This is painful. When you’re new in business, you can chalk it up, and move onto (chasing) the next lead. When you’ve been in practice for awhile, this can be a killer; well, at least raise your blood pressure and frustration levels.

We respectfully submit this is when leads become worse than worthless!

There are very few Lead Houses that offer meaningful guarantees. Sure, some will replace any lead that doesn’t become an appointment and others will allow a certain (small) percentage to be replaced. But, by & large, they are in the business of selling volume. Quantity is the name of their game. 12 is good but 24 is better. At the other end of the spectrum, there are the serious (read: expensive) lead-gen sources. These paid attention to quality, somewhat, but their job doesn’t require quality-verification, i.e. that’s your job! They would consider this part of sales, not marketing.


MANY CLAIM ANY LEAD IS GOOD

Advisors--Speed Counts-2The above headline (at the left) is a whopper and I don’t mean hamburg. As every service professional knows leads come in varying shade of goodness, from less than worthless to amazingly fantastic. By now, readers are acutely aware the highest end of the lead rating scale is Referral. But, we’re focusing on leads here. You may have trouble understanding how some leads could be “less than worthless?” Actually, it’s easy. When you factor in the cost paid and factor in the time, money & effort WASTED trying to convert that which is unconvertible, a bad lead compounds its negative worth!

Those who’ve paid their dues, like the rest of our members, know the “absence of value.” E.G. Remember wining & dining a so-called hot prospect?

Have you ever flown into the prospect’s city, spent the night, and proceed to bomb at next morning’s presentation? Ah yes, you eventually rationalize that this is just “cost of doing business.” Chances are you well relate to this scenario if your success fees would have run into five-six figures. But, if your only chasing hundreds in fees, hopefully you’ve got many more chances and the initial contact-to-sale is a short distance. No matter what the prize, the issue is always getting to a sale as fast/often as possible. And, marketing is your vehicle. (Cue Homer Simpson again for a lusty D’oh.)


POOR BUSINESS LEAD GENERATION

Isn’t it amazing how few of us spend the obligatory time in order to formalize a Marketing Plan. On second thought, since we’re solos & independents and are forced to be their own marketing departments, it really isn’t so surprising, just disappointing. For the past several years, the emphasis has been on inbound traffic and lead generation (aka Lead Gen). There are signs that this has passed (is currently passing) as more marketers are focusing on lead conversion, i.e. the critical point where marketing becomes sales. But, this is in inner circles where marketing is as much science as art.

What replaced the analog world’s yellow pages, telemarketing, print ads and so on was software-as-a-service like CRM. As previously mentioned in this space, this was a super easy transition for the Millennials (those born after 1980); a bit less for Gen Y; somewhat difficult for Gen X; and quite painful for Boomers.) Of course, the frame of reference here is that PCs didn’t arrive until the early 1980s. Like most new endeavors, Lead Gen (software) became so popular, so fast, that everyone jumped on the bandwagon according to their age group. And, as history will report, with the overuse of analytics today,

Lead Gen has become relatively commonplace and nearing commodity status in busy SMB offices (again think: age group for usage). Like all good things that become too popular, CRM/Lead Gen has [is becoming] overplayed so much that it’s approaching what many would consider SPAM. Unsolicited emails, no matter how good, are still SPAM. Seriously!? Think of how many emails flood your inbox and don’t get read. Granted, this software fulfills a very valuable function, but the end result is/will continue to be an increasing marginal return to you, and a unwanted nuisance to your target.. / JM




LEADS can be DANGEROUS

LEADS Should be Your LAST RESORT

Alert 4-1-14There hasn’t been a time in New Client Development history when LEADS weren’t thought of fondly, the essence of a SMB service professional’s business/practice lifeblood. This might have been true in the old analog days of yesterday, but few seasoned practitioners with an established client base (aka “book of business”) would now agree. It seems this reverence for LEADS is just for newbies or marginal practices that haven’t attained critical mass.

The quest for new business LEADS is now digital of course. It is only fitting that the latest Customer Relationship Management software solution takes center stage. And, there are a number of solid choices, including world leader Salesforce and Clate Mask’s ingenuous Infusionsoft. In recent years, this has become the “name of the game,” that is, if LEAD GEN rocks your business/practice.

The beauty of CRM is that it was designed to be a serious (time-saving) marketing weapon for the busy businessperson. When installed and setup (correctly), it should attract new customers to the top of your sales funnel and through a series of well-timed emails can rate, score and nurture suspects-into-prospects as the slide down your funnel.


CRM IS SUPER FOR BEGINNERS, NOT SO MUCH LATER

In the past we’ve been accused of being a “CRM basher.” This is true—but must be understood within the context of Local Channel Marketingand now even more so because of the streamlined Concierge Marketing. No one denies that CRM can be a serious time-saver. Used wisely, i.e. letting someone else monitor [read:”babysit”] the program and having another person do the obligatory qualifying phone work prior to/during time apportioned to appointment setting, it’s a very good thing. But, over the years many of our members consider LEADS anathema.

Insiders know that we’ve boldly declared that LEADS can be very dangerous to your not only your WEALTH—often a waste of time & money) but just as much to your HEALTH—due to the extreme frustration attendant with chasing down unqualified sorts who simply weren’t [and never will be] qualified enough to be customers!

What’s that, you say? Leads chasing is just the cost of doing business? Perhaps … unless you’ve discovered a better, faster, easier way to acquire new clients REFERRALS!

Leads are commodities that, depending on the source, are almost always inflated to sound better than they are. Sometimes, leads are called referrals, mistakenly or otherwise. This is so wrong. As members know, our position is that referrals are highly probable (as in, most likely) new-client opportunities because they possess the Three Qualifying Criteria: 

  1. have been diligently qualified (in substance as well as readiness),
  2. are virtually sales-enabled [engagement-ready] without negotiation/hassle, and most importantly,
  3. are personally referred by a known “trusted” person (advisor) of the client needing services.

When all 3 are present, it’s a real referral; everything less is just a lead.


Like I've got time to spend doing spade work?!

Like I’ve got time to spend doing spade work to qualify & chase prospects?!

Once you’ve been in business for a time, you become seasoned enough to know/appreciate what types of marketing work best for you. High on the list is Referrals, Low on the same list are leads. Why? You know that time is money. And, it’s hardly ever well spent out of the office exception when you’re on a specific assignment (appointment) at clients or with potential clients. With few exceptions, everything else is just time/money lost as in sunk cost.

REFERRALS” & “RAINMAKING

Real referrals are the KEY to every successful service business. Regrettably, marketers often like to crow about REFERRALS in the same breath with RAINMAKING! They profess to have (and could be persuaded to sell) this magic to you (if you hurry). Supposedly, their hidden secrets are just now being revealed… Yada, Yada. Yada. It’s all marketing HYPE and plain bullshit.They make P.T. Barnum a prophet every day because their salesmanship is so tantalizing and hard to resist.

Let’s be honest, PM Community.org also professes to use the term RAINMAKING. But, ours is not hidden in a book to buy/read, not in a podcast to buy/listen to, or in a series of DVDs to buy/watch. These could make you better educated —but— you won’t be any better off. Why? Because then you still have to go out and do all the stuff they claim works! Good luck with that!

As a participating member of our Community, you cannot not [double negative for emphasis] experience rainmaking events. (E.G. Some High Net Worth clients [often via M&A] may be brought to you. Now, this is what our members call real rainmakingand it’s a key part of our end-stage marketing program. Insiders know this as Concierge Marketing—that always done for them on demand.




Total Wasted of Time & Effort

A Serious Value Judgment

Regular readers will attest that we’ve long maintained that marketing isn’t rocket science.  It’s more commonsense, aptly applied in a timely, purposeful manner where there is genuine interest and likelihood of intended success.  Without belaboring the point, marketing serves no purpose when it is only one-sided, i.e. being pushed directly by those selling services/products or being pulled by a buyer/client in need.

Indeed, if the two sides (buyer & seller) never meet or connect, think waste; yes, pure unadulterated loss of at least time & effort and money should there be no residual value. 

Endemic in the sales process, you say? Perhaps, but therein is the problem. Where does it say that the Sales Process has to start at the top of the funnel? Wouldn’t it make more sense to start at the “Prospect” level, depicted as Stage 2 to the above right? You say you can’t? DON’T BELIEVE IT.  Our community always starts at this level so we can deliver Stage 3 in a most expeditious & advantageous manner possible for our members.


Statistically, professionals are 7-8 times more likely to WASTE time, effort and money CHASING down LEADS than converting them into sales/clients.


This is sad!  Wonder why this is the case?  Are they stupid? uninformed? or just gluttons for punishment?  Inquiring minds demand to know the truth!  No, they are not stupid. Obviously however, they are un/misinformed (even conditioned?) and thus become victims of their ignorance.  (They’re hardly gluttons unless they refuse to hear the truth…and keep on doing what doesn’t work (anymore).


Contrary to what is being pushed, the older-form LEADS have become dangerous to your wealth … and even your sanity if you’re 45+ years old.

This is because newer-form leads are digital in nature.  Programmed online campaigns facilitate the suspects-into-prospects transformation via automatic Customer Relationship Management (CRM) notifications to buyers.  This is why Lead Gen is so hot.  

The trick is to isolate the right one for your particular business/practice.  Folks, this is harder, a lot harder, than you think!  There are many factors to consider before final selection can be made. These include true TCO (total cost of ownership), cost-benefit analysis that’s relative to your industry, installation, learning curve, ease of use, and so on.  

Speaking from firsthand experience, this is an arduous task.  Once again, trusty Capterra.com can be a very valuable starting point.  And, you can hardly go wrong if you’re already a Salesforce user.  For those using WordPress, what could be sweeter than the free trial plugin found at http://bit.ly/VmJGJ6.

But, there is a trap!  Never mistake any vendor’s CRM as a panacea for planned, timely, new-client cash flow.  It’s just not going happen.  The timeliness issue is most problematic since every prospect’s trek down the infamous “Sales Tunnel” varies greatly.  Not to mention that a great many never make it all the way [down] to sales conversion.  Sadly, as the statistic above indicates, too many may turn out to be unqualified and not suitable when they/you get together.

Let’ wrap up by saying that this blog wasn’t meant to praise Caeser [CRM’s) nor to bury him (them).  Rather, it was to point out that a lead is a lead no matter where it comes from, that is, until it reaches the criteria of a referral. Without whipping a dead horse, it’s crucial to understand the difference.  Except in rare cases or by freak accident, leads cannot ascend to a more lofty presence without both personal & NON-DIGITAL (read: human) interference. 

In our Community, new-client opportunities may come in as leads, but everyone (without exception) is required to be converted into a genuine REFERRAL.  And, here’s the real news, each & everyone has constant human contact throughout their marketing cycle. Not only this but there is always a sense of immediacy, i.e. no waiting for maturation (rating, scoring, nurturing)!  Accordingly, delivered REFERRALS easily convert into sales.


Sorry for the obvious redundancy, members.  This blog was actually penned for reading-candidates who need-to-know and haven’t yet received the good news.  Every time they act upon it and join, another Community Cluster becomes enhanced as its local talent pool gets exponentially stronger.  (Think of Clarence, bell ringing, and earning his wings!)

Everybody Has/Gives Referrals, NOT

Semantics muddles meaning of LEADS

Let’s get this straight from the onset. Leads are leads whether “qualified” or not. Referrals are not leads; they are always qualified and personally endorsed by a trusted acquaintance and/or adviser known to the business ownership with the virtual likelihood that positive dispositioning will occur. In other words, leads are seldom fully qualified. At best, they represent a 50-50 success proposition as received unless special arrangements were made (and the cost reflective of this).

With leads, as opposed to referrals, there is an element of uncertainty that is assumed whenever the lead is given/bought. Referrals connote a strong probability of sales conversion—insert Pareto’s Principle of 80-20 here. Often, especially if there is valid personal endorsement behind the referral, conversion jumps well up to the 90-98 range. (There is always a small % in case Murphy [of Murphy’s Law fame] shows up.) In the real world, as practitioners season, and get longer in the tooth, leads suck. 

The backlash our Community has experienced to date is largely from the lead houses who furnish leads as well as the networking venues who are seriously threatened by our exposing their almost-illogical fare. The latter enjoyed the rollercoaster ride (UP) during the 1980s before the internet & cell phone destroyed their business model. At first, they were pioneers and within a decade or so they crested as the rollercoaster plummeted (DOWNWARD). Another source of criticism seems to be subtly coming from the status-quo folks and others not conversant with the shifting marketing paradigm.

  • No matter how you slice it, a lead is a leaduntil & unless it becomes qualified enough to act upon without the jeopardy of wasting time chasing rainbows.
  • A referral may be a lead when starting out, but–unless & until it becomes qualified enough to not only act upon without jeopardy of wasting time, but also have the probability of immediate successful conversion in sales.

As it relates to our Community, leads are anathema until processed. This means that the potential [member’s] client’s needs must be properly elicited and then informally verified. This is the qualification stage which requires analysis combined with the ability to create a business/use case and project charter (although not memorialized until client’s ratification to start). When this happens, it is then that the label referral can be affixed. Of course, our marketing takes it one (huge) step further.

Once a referral-state has been established, our analysts turn the project over to an assigned BRM (business relation manager) who now has clear and identifiable substance upon which to burrow into the proper channel in a most expeditious & timely manner. It isn’t enough to know which Subject Matter Expert category to go to; but essential to penetrate into whatever specialty or sub-specialty is vital to satisfy the need at hand. And lastly, perhaps most importantly, to confidentially ascertain the state of availability [make-it-or-break-it] should there be assent/acceptance of the project.

To learn more about Local Channel Marketing,™ revisit the bottom of the home page. As members well know, it’s not rocket science; it project management applied to marketing.

Leads Suck, Referrals Rock

For Buying/Chasing Leads -use- Father’s Oldsmobile

In a recent survey, independent professionals were asked about leads with, no surprisingly, mixed opinions. A brief rundown as to their merits in today’s economic climate were quite revealing:

  • 87% still buy leads or attend meetings to secure leads
  • 62% admitted that leads were the bulk of marketing
  • 74% supplement leads with social meeting
  • 19% get all their leads/referrals offline (no internet)
  • 28% attend regular ‘meetups’ or trade shows
  • 12% work only on unpaid referrals and nothing else
  • 69% do weekly newsprint ads, Chamber, misc.
  • 37% maintain a website & rely on web traffic & email
  • 71% use social media, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc
  • 44% use mailings, display yellow pgs & cold calling
  • 03% claim ‘nothing’ but are still actively serve clients

 



Poisoning the proverbial well 

Respondents were told that the following definitions would apply to their answers (choices). Yes, this was a not a third-party, scientific survey … as evidenced by our definitions:

  • LEADS are unqualified prospects but often from a reliable unpaid, or, possibly a paid, resource with an expectation-of-sale less than 50% (initially; without any nurturing or follow-up).
  • REFERRALS are highly qualified prospects from a known source with a 95+% expectation of becoming a client on the first contact (based on the referral relationship).

No one would argue, expect the staunchest contrarian, that referrals are much better than leads. Sources that can “pipeline” referrals are truly rare. On the other hand, sources that “pipeline” leads are pedestrian and commonplace. The relative value of each and every lead is debatable since conditions & definitions are required.

Just one referral of a mega High Net Worth prospect is a lot more valuable than a ton of leads. In the real world, one HNW engagement-ready referral (est time to convert: 2-3 hrs) can be worth hundreds of leads (collective est. to convert same revenue: 400 hrs).

Our Community does not deal in unprocessed leads — which is what they are when first submitted into the Local Channel Marketing™ process. Within days, we can distribute fully qualified and ready-to-engage referrals.

To reiterate our processes, every member is diligently “positioned” to acquire new clients during the first 30 days. Thereafter, it’s a question of internal channel “netweaving” that leads to “rainmaking.” This is the essence of our licensed Local Channel Marketing.™ 

There can be no debate about the quality of our referrals. Since we do ALL the heavy lifting (pretty much what CRM software can do over many months/years); we collapse the marketing cycle down to a matter of days/weeks. With some CRM houses looking for $250/month and individual coaches looking for $2-3,000/month, we’re confident that our Value Proposition should be the best on the street today — and certainly has the best guarantee and potential upside of any resource without exception!

Do the math yourself.  Don’t be SOLD by a push-marketing campaign.  BUY on an pro-active pull-marketing basis.  (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it members?)  What’s one High Net Worth/substantial new client worth to your business/practice?  Now dare to multiply this if you want to see eye-popping ROI.

Value-added means that all associated costs are absorbed into the purchase price and the difference / remainder represents realized gain.  When all is said & done, more is usually said than done … except within a members-only Community.

 

Leads [usually] Suck

The Unvarnished Truth

Last year Dan McQuade wrote an interesting little book (barely 100 pages) entitled The TRUTH about LEADS.  While it goes quite a distance to unraveling the so-called mystery inherent in “Leads” definition, it falls short of our Community’s disdain for Leads. In fairness to the CEO of PointClear, he was unaware of PM Community.org and the conversion we do to leads.

Anyone who’s been in sales or has a product/service to sell knows that leads are vital to success. This was what CRM is all about today—getting customers to go from suspects-to-prospects as easily and quickly as possible. Happily, there’s no way of getting away from the Internet and its raw power, using the Googles of the world, to produce leads in excessive abundance. Harnessing and harvesting them is quite a different story.

For the record, now hear this: we appreciate LEADS for what they are; but we could never, ever allow them to be a product that is delivered to our members. There’s no way of accurately telling how much HARM has been wrought by leads in the past, but it is staggering! It takes a professional who’s been on the job long enough to understand the unmitigated danger of chasing leads—usually as a last resort to create cash flow. (Forget profits when you’re scrambling, cash flow is king—to pay the bills?) 

In any event, we proudly admit that we bad-mouth Leads every chance we get.  After all, we are a marketing org whose “competition” is (drum roll please) Leads! And, let’s face it, they are everywhere, in every form, shouting for your attention. Nowadays, it’s damn near impossible to discern one lead-purveyor from another. Leads houses (claiming to give “exclusive referrals”) use different names, themes and skins to disguise that they’re really not interested in results, only sales (their sales, not yours!).

Qualified leads are still leads.  They’re better, but they are not REFERRALS until/unless they become fully qualified with the expectation of pending-sales at hand. In addition to the source, the elements of timing & timeliness are essential to elevate leads into referrals. This, dear reader, is a true game changer. If a lead doesn’t have a looming expectation of creating an actual sale when followed, it is not (ready to be called) a referral. Use all the semantics that can be mustered and get your best debaters, orators and salespeople in-the-ready, they’ll still lose hands down.

A true REFERRAL is a converted lead from a highly trusted source that is or is about to be FULLY QUALIFIED, i.e has (can immediately have) the target’s requirements completely elicited…correctly & accurately so that the intended result becomes an immediate sale.

In other words, a REFERRAL is the overwhelming opportunity to result in a SALE because the prospect has been pre-disposed to anticipate making a buying decision, based upon confirmation of the facts that will fully satisfy or completely fill needs as articulated.

Okay, let the potshots commence! Frankly, now that we’ve laid bare why a Lead is not [but can become] a Referral, it’s tantamount to Dilbert®, after his Powerpoint show, asking the audience to let the soul-crushing negativity begin!