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As a student of journalism, “don’t bury the lede” was one of the first lessons learned—the most compelling and important part of a story should be communicated clearly, early. In branding and marketing, the mantra also applies. One could also further extrapolate this thought to leads (you certainly wouldn’t want to bury those, either!), for whom the timely delivery of a clear and meaningful message is key.

While lead lists are often viewed first as a fount of opportunity, follow-up can be a daunting task for multitasking sales and marketing teams. Overwhelmed by the number of prospects, lacking the tools and resources to support follow-up, or just not having the time to reach out, leads grow cold—buried under hundreds of other emails and tasks.

So, what do you do with a list of leads? Here’s a start:

1. Know What You Want

What is your goal? More specifically, what action do you want the person with whom you’re communicating to take? Define your objective, be specific—the clearer your goal, the more strategic your plan can be. If your goal is sales-oriented, consider who your potential customer is and build a goal that’s measurable and achievable. For someone in B2B food ingredient sales, expecting to sell a truckload of an ingredient based on a single email communication isn’t realistic, but starting a dialogue with product developers at five mid-size foodservice companies is both meaningful and achievable.

2. Know Your Ideal Lead—and What They Need

Most can relate to receiving a cold call from someone who doesn’t know a thing about the person/business they’re calling, or the relevance of the product/service they’re selling. Don’t be the person who cold calls with an uninformed pitch. Better yet, don’t cold call with a sales pitch at all—start with a conversation. But, before you do that, curate your lead list with your objective and target audience in mind. Segment potential customers from current ones, consider breaking out your list further—perhaps by region, need, role, etc.

How to strategically approach a lead list using CRM and automation tools like Salesforce and Pardot.

Let’s go back to our hypothetical food ingredient salesperson, who’s made contacts at a trade show. On the most basic level, a sales-oriented message should not be sent to her suppliers, competitors, or others who wouldn’t have a need for the product or service. That’s not to say that these contacts aren’t meaningful; they just might not be right for this particular outreach.
More specifically, if this food ingredient salesperson’s objective is to start a dialogue with formulators at foodservice companies of a certain size, it’s important to build an outreach list accordingly. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can be useful in efficiently organizing your target audience and manage follow up—and making sure they stayed unburied.

3. Capture Information and Put it to Use

Collecting information—from contacts to clicks—is useful in gauging the effectiveness of your efforts. Perhaps your company already has a CRM system that allows you to track leads and manage follow up. Use it. If you don’t know how, we can help with that, too (we’re a Salesforce Consulting Partner).

As with lead gathering, data is only useful if put to use; a marketing automation tool (like Pardot) can contribute to tracking engagement and spur follow-up. From triggering drip campaigns to pinging sales people to following up personally with an active lead, gathering information and using it to inform a course of action makes for more meaningful engagement.

4. Build a Rapport, Nurture Leads

How to cultivate leads when time or resources are limited.

While CRM systems can be useful tools, they’re just that—tools. As a hammer alone doesn’t build a house, action is required to develop a relationship with a potential customer. While there’s some level of automation that can be incorporated to keep leads in the warming drawer, personal ownership and involvement requires, well, a person. And once that personal connection is made, having pitch materials personalized to your contact’s needs and opportunities will come into play (something we’ll cover in an upcoming post).

Finding the time and developing the tools to start a meaningful dialogue requires an upfront investment, and the return can be well worth it. Through strategic content marketing tactics and placements, we’ve garnered thousands of high-quality leads for our B2B food ingredient customers. With custom content and a tailored strategy, we’ve connected B2B ingredient companies with global CPG brands, regional and national foodservice chains, small- and mid-sized brands, and rising innovators.

If uncovering and connecting with leads is a component of your 2018 business goals, let’s talk. When it comes to helping businesses generate, nurture, and, ultimately, convert leads, we’re happy to lead the way.

Nicole Hill assists clients in growing their businesses and brands by identifying opportunities, then developing and implementing goal-driven strategies.