Monday, October 09, 2006

What works on lead generation

One of my biggest anxiety and fear generator in what regards to the success of my company is the fear that I won't have any new projects in the next six months. Don't get me wrong, I'm not paralised by this fear, it actually motivates me to get moving and searching for new business, but I would say that it most be on of the biggest concerns of any responsible manager or company owner.

I started my company 6 months ago, things are starting to pick-up. I'm leveraging all commercial work on clients that used to work with my former employer, we're signing some interesting contracts and projects and clients are starting to come in. However, since we basically run a services company (we implement projects based on a base sales force automation solution that we developed) it's difficult to estimate how things are going to be 6 months - 1 year from now, thus the anxiety and the feelling that I need to constantly do a commercial push on the lead generation side (The problem with services companies is that they can't easily escalate in terms of sales as product companies, there are some tricks on how to sell services as as product but I'll leave that to some other time).

Over the last 6 years (before I started my company) I used to run a commercial department at an IT Company. There, I tried everything to generate new sales: having a very detailed sales and marketing plan, having a very structured approach to market, having an offer to vertical sectors, cold-calling, etc. The reality is that trying to generate B2B leads, specially with complex sales like IT projects is not easy.

This week I'm trying to focus on getting all my usual lead generation mechanisms behind and try something different. I usually do a mix of cold-calling prospects and sending out emailings with product information targeted to some key business people inside organizations. However I find that I get an average of 1%-5% sucess rate on getting meetings or presentations. This is not only time consuming but also not effective at all if you account the associated communication costs, time not spent doing other producting tasks,etc.

As I'm trying to "forget" my older work patterns I've obviously turned to the internet to find some information on lead generation mechanisms that work, specially for IT companies. I found a bunch of interesting articles on about lead generation ideas. Here's a quick summary and my experience with each of the ideas:

  • Network with other business owners - this one , along with the last one on this list may be a "killer".
  • Purchase a list of qualified leads - for me this has been the least effective way of lead generation to the point that I'm going to drop it completely. It's almost better to be on the lookout for new company names while you're driving or while you're at the supermarket (if your targets are companies that sell on those types of channels, for instance) than buying a contact list that may be innacurate and old.
  • Be the face of your company everywhere you go - well, obviously ...
  • Ask existing customers for referrals - One of my favorites, altough you got to have a very good relationship with whom you're asking the referral to. Also,don't forget that you're collecting a favor and that you may have to pay that favor later. Consider pro's and con's when asking.
  • Join associations and organizations that will introduce customers to your product - almost ashamed of admiting it but I never tried this one, so Im going to start immediately, my gut tells me that this might be a big plus for lead generation.
I'm going to start looking for trade associations and sector associations immediately to look for new leads. Cold-calling for the sort of business I run is not only very frustrating but also innefective.

What are your experiences with lead generation ? I'd like to know about them and share experiences.

Questions, fears, findings of a small business owner

This is the first post on this blog. I'm starting the blog because I want to document my progress as a small business owner. Also, I'll also use this channel as a way to write down my fears, hopes, findings, etc. on all subjects related to the day-to-day life of a business owner.

I co-own a small business IT company that develops and implements mobile solutions for enterprise clients. The company started 5 months ago, after I decided to leave the "corporate" world and start on my own with a team of trusted people that I've worked with over the last 6 years. We're currently bootstrapping the company trying to keep costs as low as possible I work from home, we have no office, and I have a team of 4 people that I meet on a regular basis and talk to on a daily basis either through phone of Instant Messenger (IM).

Hopefuly what I write here will be of help to others that are on the same path.