Emily Reeves

Referral Programs: Make Your Customers Work for You

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An effective referral program is worth the investment to help generate and close new business. B2B companies that have a referral program report a 70% higher conversion rate and a close time on sales that is 69% faster (Extole).

Choose an incentive structure

There are two main incentive structure options:

  1. Tiered Structure: The referrer gets increasing benefits for each additional referral in order to encourage and reward multiple successful contract referrals.
  2. Symbiotic Structure: Not only does the referrer get an incentive, but the referred party also receives an incentive.
    Bonus: Combination of both structures: The two structures above are not mutually-exclusive! Combine the two for maximum success.

Create a realistic referral process

A realistic referral process will depend on your sales team structure and sales process, but below are common tips to make any process smooth:

  1. Make a Webpage: Build a referral submission page on your website. It will give interested referrers a destination to learn more about the referral program and an easy way to submit names. It will also help you track referrals.
  2. Say “Thank You!”: Don’t forget to send the referrer a thank you email to confirm their submission.
  3. Reaching out to the referred party: A referral email should also be sent to the referred person. If a week goes by and the referred party still hasn’t scheduled an audit, the appropriate salesperson should send two follow-up emails and make a phone call to ensure that the referred party follows through.
  4. Define a “successful referral:” Ideally, you would only give referral rewards after a deal completely closes, but make sure your salespeople have a way to keep track of referred deals through the whole pipeline, and a way to note that a referral was successful. If that tracking is not available with your current CRM, consider choosing an earlier milestone like a one-off purchase or scheduling a consultation.
  5. Pick a gift card: You can give the referral rewards in a few different ways. There are many online companies that provide this service, and you can choose either a generic card design or branded design.
    • Credit toward a future purchase
    • Online eGift card or eVisa card
    • Physical gift card

Promote the new program

Your new referral program can be promoted through several communication channels.

  1. Email series to past customers
  2. Email series after a sale to a new customer
  3. Printed asset to hand out after a sale to a new customer
  4. Direct mail to past customers
  5. Dedicated website page
  6. Post on social media
  7. Display targeting to past customers

A successful referral program takes some planning and promotion, but your sales team will love having their past customers generate new business.

How to find & Fix the Bottlenecks in your Lead Management Process

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Do you ever have that sneaky feeling like there are leads that fall through the cracks? Almost every lead management process has its bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and it can be an uphill battle to fix it. It may be tricky to track of every lead from creation to conversion, but there are many benefits to ironing out the lead handling process for your organization 

When a lead workflow is established and roles are clearly defined, marketing, sales, and operations managers can easily report on how many leads have come in through the door. They can also know with near certainty that each had follow-up and what became of that lead. More importantly, they can use that information to assess the performance of each lead generation channel in order to craft a more optimized marketing channel mix.

Whether your organization needs to tweak or overhaul their lead management process, here are a few steps to take you in the right direction.

Step 1: Draw it out

Get the right people in a room—marketers, salespeople, managers—and start by defining the terms you’re going to use. What is the difference between a lead and an opportunity? Are there degrees of “qualified” when a contact is considered a qualified lead? The benefit of having various stakeholders in the room is that you can adapt definitions to how they are currently used among your workforce and get buy-in for any significant changes or distinctions. 

Then draw it out, literally! Use diagrams to demonstrate each place the lead gets handed off to the next rung. If you use multiple marketing channels, you may have to define this lead flowchart for each, knowing each generates leads of a different quality and level of purchase-intent. One of the most important tasks here is to make sure roles are clearly defined at each stage of the lead process. Leave plenty of time for discussion so that each stakeholder feels that these changes aren’t being imposed top-down.

Process Management Diagram

Step 2: Focus on confusion and conflict

When it’s all laid out, you may start to immediately notice points of confusion or conflict, which is often a sign of a gap or bottleneck in your lead handling process. Use the following questions to find the weak links in the chain:

  • Is everyone properly trained to perform their step of the process?
  • Is the time between follow-up steps consistent from one salesperson to another?
  • What estimated the percentage of leads fill out a form on your website, and then never respond, or stop responding?
  • Do salespeople or managers close the loop and provide feedback to the marketing or lead generation team?
  • What leads don’t make it into your CRM, and, again, is this consistent across the salesforce?
  • If a salesperson has to follow a hot lead, do other leads go cold?
  • Who keeps track of leads with future interest, or leads that need to be nurtured more, and how do they identify these leads?

You may identify that you need more information. Gather feedback from more people in all departments and levels of the organization. There are also various online tools that help drill down into and analyze your data. It may also be beneficial to invest time in refreshing your CRM or evaluating new project and lead management software.

Step 3: Embrace automation

The traditional way of fixing bottlenecks or filling in gaps in the lead handling process was to staff more people on the problem points. However, increasing your team isn’t always an option, and now there is an entire industry dedicated to tools that automate the lead workflow.

Identify where automated email series can replace manual follow-up with lower-priority leads. Marketing automation programs can also be used to supplement outreach from the salesforce, ensure leads don’t fall through the cracks, and establish consistency in the lead follow-up timeline.

Focus on those points of conflict and confusion. One common issue is deciding whose responsibility it is to nurture leads who have demonstrated some interest. If your organization will consider a marketing automation platform, many now come with a lead scoring functionality. Lead scoring rules can sort out the contacts who are both a good fit and engaged with the content.

Assess how website forms are handled, and work with a CRM or marketing automation program to automate the lead capture process for easy access.

Make sure everyone knows when it’s time to hand off a lead by creating automated alerts at each step. There can be an alert when a lead comes in from the website or gets added into the CRM, an alert when a lead passes a certain lead scoring threshold, and an alert if a lead goes cold for a certain amount of time.

Step 4: Communicate and close the loop

After communicating the new process throughout an organization, remember to follow-up. Gather feedback and data on the changes after a month to determine what steps still need to be tweaked and what roles need supplemental training.

4 Tips for Using Print Advertising Effectively in the Digital Age

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Many marketers are quick to write off print advertising channels in this day and age. With the powerful targeting and data options in digital advertising, it’s not surprising that businesses are often apprehensive to invest in print advertising. A print publication campaign, however, can be used for quality lead generation as well as brand promotion, if designed effectively.

Print advertising, like any channel, is not a perfect fit for every business. While evaluating the potential of this option for your business, first consider who your audience is and where they turn to for information or industry news. For example, if your audience is engineers, they will use the internet but are also likely to read and trust prominent trade publications for the latest research, news, and products. Once you identify potential publications, ask their sales rep about targeting options. Most publications can provide you with a significant amount of information about their readership: industries, companies, job titles, and more.

If you decide to move forward with a print advertising buy, consider these tips in order to use the ad to effectively generate leads for your business:

  1. Combine a print ad with at least two other channels of advertising to the same audience

Many publications have other services for their readership, like a website or e-newsletter, on which you can advertise as well. The key to print advertising is making it one component of an integrated campaign. If a print ad is combined with a banner on the website and sponsored content on an e-newsletter, you are able to reach the reader multiple times across multiple channels. The marketing concept alluded to here is “frequency,” which is the number of times on average that one person sees your ad. The rule of thumb in marketing is that the frequency should be three, meaning the average person should see your ad three times. Try combining the print ad with either (a) two other advertising options or (b) print buys in consecutive editions of the publication.

  1. Ask the publication about lead collection options

Most publications publish a digital version of their print newsletter or magazine. Through the digital version, or perhaps through the supplemental email or website advertising you choose to do, some advertisers will give you the contact information for people who click on your ad. For marketers that are skeptical of how to measure the performance of a print advertising campaign, this feature allows for directly attributable lead generation. Make sure to ask your sales rep if the publication offers this option.

  1. Rent an email list from the publication

Many publications also allow advertisers to rent their subscriber list, or a segment of their list. By renting, you don’t get their contact information permanently, but you do get the license to send an email to them through the publication. These types of offers usually include the ability to (a) choose your targeted segment, (b) create an email in your branded template that drives to one of your landing pages, and (c) send the email in your company’s name. You can use this opportunity to craft a targeted vertical message to a corresponding audience. The benefit of renting lists through print publications is that you can get your brand in front of a highly-qualified list of new prospects.

  1. Look into all of the advertising options they offer

Print publications have significantly expanded their advertising options. Trade publications in particular now offer a plethora of advertising and content marketing opportunities. Take a look at a potential trade publication’s media guide for more information, but some of the non-print advertising options that I have seen include:

  • Writing or editing white papers for your company
  • Scripting and hosting webinars for your company
  • Developing and administering surveys to your target audience
  • Hosting your contest or sweepstakes
  • Custom research about your target audience
  • Vertical-specific magazines or e-zines
  • Designing e-cards for your prospects
  • Producing and promoting product or company videos
  • Producing and promoting podcasts
  • Article collaboration or sponsorship

Print publications have been adapting their advertising options to compete with the new digital marketing channels. Many have made an effort to learn about their readership and incorporate digital opportunities into their advertising proposals. Print ads can be an effective contributor in a multi-channel integrated marketing plan. Talk to a potential publication’s sales rep and learn about all of the opportunities they have to connect you to your audience.