Today's guest post is by Dick Beedon, founder and CEO of Amplifinity.
There is a new strategy in the field of lead generation. The concept is simple and compelling, and it works. The idea: leverage people (customers, employees, and influencers) and/or companies who can influence your prospects’ buying decisions into a channel or community that drives leads on your behalf. You can call it crowdsourcing lead generation. You can call it a form of social selling. You can call it advocacy marketing – but the goal is the same: to build long-term lead generation channels that consistently drive leads on behalf of your brand.
Think of it as a new paradigm. Today, brands typically think of sales channels (inside sales, direct sales, third party) as channels that actually close business. This new channel sits somewhere between the current models, as it does not actually close business. It drives leads. I call it crowdsourcing lead generation.
Customers, employees, and influencers are the fastest growing lead generation channel today. Smart brands are starting to ask these constituencies to become part of a channel/community that drives leads on behalf of the brand. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize this community by creating and leveraging their social relationships to generate the highest quality leads and drive new business. In fact, so many brands are doing it now that there is a critical set of proven best practices:
1. Determine who influences your prospects’ buying decisions.
Always look to your customers first. They are great sources of leads, and you have good access to them. Real estate agents can be a good channel for banks, security companies, etc., because they have some influence with new people or families who move into market. If you are selling payroll services, CPAs might be a high-producing channel because they have influence over small businesses, and it is the same with banks. Organizations such as chambers of commerce have influence over a large number of small businesses and can be a great channel.
2. Promote, engage, and recruit these advocates into a community/program/channel by motivating and nurturing them.
Any place you “touch” them is also an optimal opportunity to recruit them, whether it is through an online banner ad after an e-commerce transaction, a sales rep in the field, or an email – but it is important to recruit them into the channel. Think of this as a professional channel/relationship. Ask them to read the overview of your program, sign the terms and conditions, and register to become a part of your team.
It is very important that you motivate your new advocates by sending regular communications reminding them of the opportunities and encouraging further engagement. Nurturing is a key factor in creating long-term relationships with your advocates and growing the program. Make sure the software you choose to run your advocacy programs can be configured to send nurturing communications, thanking your advocates for their leads and encouraging future participation.
3. Ask your advocates to give you leads.
This is a professional sales and marketing channel and deserves to be treated as such. You can drive advocates to the program, but you must ask them to provide leads for your brand, and there are many subtle and unobtrusive ways to do it. Once advocates begin adding value to your business, reward them with cash, points, donations to a charity, special offers, or other forms of recognition deemed most effective.
Don’t forget to continue asking for their help. There is an effective cadence of reminders and communications that have been proven most effective at generating the highest levels of engagement and the greatest numbers of leads. Have a strategy based on proven best practices.
4. Empower them with multiple sharing tools to make their job easy and convenient.
There’s nothing worse than watching a brand launch an advocacy marketing program designed to crowdsource leads and then realizing it has significantly limited the performance of that program by offering a limited choice of sharing tools. Make mobile, social, digital, and offline sharing available. These tools are vital to your program, and they are also key to tracking and managing your growth.
5. Track and manage the leads and channel.
Your advocacy marketing software must be capable of seamlessly dropping the leads into the buy flow and lead flow. In a B2B environment, this feature is a highly effective tool for sales teams. They are traditionally effective at knowing who could influence prospects and drive high-quality leads.
The major benefit is simple and powerful: you extend your sales team with additional overhead. This team knows when friends are in the market. Another benefit: sales-management teams can measure their progress and motivate their sales teams to both acquire members into the channel and determine how to motivate the channel to drive more leads.
Crowdsourcing lead generation is an important part of growing a big brand today, and once a system is in place to automate the process, it couldn’t be much easier. If you’ve got a product worth referring and customer service worth talking about, then it’s probably time to maximize those assets using your customers, employees, and third-party influencers as a sales and marketing channel.
Every brand has customers, employees, and other influencers who are willing and able to refer leads. Ask them for those leads – they will share them.