Leads, leads, leads. Once the referrals and the circle of family and friends aren't enough to keep your firm growing, it's all about the leads. Yet, when it comes to generating leads, consulting firms get it all wrong in 10 very common ways.
Top 10 Lead Generation Mistakes
Avoid these common lead generation mistakes and you'll start to see your pipeline fill.
Lead Generation Mistake #1: Spending on marketing activities that don't produce ROI or are "vanity exercises" (e.g. excessive graphic design and image advertising).
Open up your local business journal, and without a doubt you will see an advertisement for a consulting firm trying to "generate awareness." This organization is "generating awareness" among the 25,000 readers who may (or may not) be targets for its services.
Meanwhile, the funds to create the ad (and to run the ad week after week) can surely be much better spent by reaching out to the smaller, more targeted pool of, say, 1,600 key prospects your firm wants as clients. For the most part, spending on general awareness ads produces a very low ROI if any.
Focus your lead generation efforts and dollars on tactics that are going to produce strong ROI.
Lead Generation Mistake #2: Expecting marketing tactics to produce results without a clear call to action.
I recently saw an ad in Harvard Business Review for a major consulting firm touting the nature of the firm as offering "solutions" versus just "services." Many people saw that ad-and did nothing because they were asked to do nothing.
If, however, the ad had focused on new research in intellectual property protection for technology companies that could be downloaded as a white paper, the ad could have been used to generate leads for the firm.
People will accept an offer-white paper, case study, article, book, research, sales call-from an ad. They will rarely, if ever, pick up the phone and go from ad to becoming a new client.
Have a goal and clear call to action and offer for each of your marketing tactics.
Lead Generation Mistake #3: Not implementing any lead generation tactics because of inefficient decision making.
I can't tell you how many times I have met with a consulting firm to talk about lead generation, and these companies are hot to trot with their lead generation efforts-they want more leads and they want them now. Then, six months go by, a year goes by, three years go by, and they still have done nothing.
All too often in consulting firms there are too many decision makers who can't get on the same page and decide what to do when it comes to marketing and lead generation. So, they end up doing nothing or even worse running another awareness ad in the business journal.
If you find yourself complaining about a lack of leads, yet unwilling to move forward with any lead generation campaigns, either stop complaining or do something about it.
Lead Generation Mistake #4: Not being able to sustain implementation over the long-term.
As much as you might like to shorten the sales cycle, buying complex, trust-based services takes time. Leads need to be nurtured over the long term so you are top of mind when the elusive time of need arises.
All companies want more leads and want them now. As a result, they plan and implement a lead generation campaign, but they impatiently dig up the roots after two weeks to see if it's growing yet. (This is not a good way to grow a tree or to generate new leads.)
Lead generation efforts must be sustained over months to make them 1) work and 2) improve over time.
Lead Generation Mistake #5: Relying on one tactic only.
In Managing the Professional Services Firm, David Maister lists "first string" marketing tactics, which include small scale seminars, speeches at client industry meetings, and proprietary research. Maister calls direct mail and cold calls "clutching at straws tactics." By themselves, they are. Very few prospects will go from receiving direct mail, an email, a cold call, or even a first conversation straight to being a client.
But the best way to get people to take advantage of those "first string" offers is a combination of "grasping at straws" tactics.
Lead Generation Mistake #6: Poor implementation (e.g. poorly written marketing copy and poorly designed or poorly targeted campaigns).
Let's say you decide to run a small-scale seminar (a "first string" marketing tactic). You spend months preparing the content, practicing your delivery, putting together the invitations, and booking the facility. Then, the day comes and two people show up. So, what happens? You give up on seminars and declare, "We tried that, it didn't work."
On the contrary, seminars can and do work, you just implemented the marketing of the seminar poorly.
A number of tactics can be successful to generate new leads for your consulting services. Know what it takes to successfully implement each tactic. And if you don't know what it takes, get help from someone who does.
Lead Generation Mistake #7: Dropping leads and failing to nurture leads.
According to a research report by BPM Forum, over 80% of generated leads are never followed up on, are dropped, or are mishandled. Professional services businesses are particularly adept at neglecting the leads that they already have in-house, just waiting to be called.
It's also been our experience that with proactively generated leads, 25% are short-term leads while 75% are long-term leads. If you're focused on the short-term, you might be missing out on three-fourths of your opportunities.
Don't let leads fall through the cracks. Develop a long-term nurturing plan to win your fair share of the 75% of prospects who are not ready to buy right now.
Lead Generation Mistake #8: Not communicating your value in marketing.
We often hear from our clients that they want their prospects to perceive that they are credible and distinct, so they end up writing marketing messages that say, "I'm credible and distinct." Or, "I'm trustworthy." Or, "I'm innovative, yet solid."
If you want your clients and prospects to believe you are credible and distinct, you must demonstrate that you are credible and distinct. You can do this by providing value directly in your marketing and selling efforts. When you interact with a prospective client, or send any message to them, that prospect is evaluating what it might be like to work with you. Help them understand that working with you after they become your client is much the same as what it's like working with you before they become your client.
Lead Generation Mistake #9: Not integrating various marketing tactics well.
Lead generation is a multi-step process. It takes multiple touches to draw prospects into the seduction of your services. These touches need to be well-planned with a consistent message, at the right frequency, and with the right mix of offers. Not all prospects will be interested in attending a seminar or reading a white paper. While others will want to do both before engaging a conversation with you.
Consider this: do you think a prospect will accept a meeting with you from a cold email? Probably not. But will that same prospect provide you with their contact information in exchange for a new white paper that is relevant to their business? Probably. And will they accept a follow-up call to discuss the content of the white paper or an in-person meeting to discuss how the topic applies to their business and situation? More often than not, the answer is yes.
Integrate your lead generation efforts for the greatest success.
Lead Generation Mistake #10: Planning poorly for lead generation.
Value in marketing. Consistent messaging. Integration. Targeting. Lead nurturing. All of that is for naught if it is not well-planned, measured, and tested.
Planning for lead generation is not the kind of thing that happens one time and is forever etched in stone for the year ahead. When it comes to marketing and lead generation, some tactics work better for some companies than others-and you never know which ones work best for you until you test them.
Avoid these top 10 lead generation mistakes and you won't end up waiting for the new leads. You will already have them.