Marketing agencies help others achieve their branding, awareness, and pipeline generation goals. But how can these marketing gurus apply a smart lead qualification strategy to their own businesses? When they have to demonstrate expertise in doing the very thing they are paid to do, agencies do not want to become living examples of the old adage, “Those who cannot do, teach.” Instead, marketing agencies can combine a mix of tried-and-true methods along with new, cutting edge strategies to automate lead generation, optimize their efforts, and create new clients.
As Hubspot has noted, 90 percent of marketing agencies say that their top lead referer is word of mouth. This is a business that is both highly visual (prospects can see portfolios on an agency’s website), and very relationship-driven. It makes sense that a certain amount of client validation, along with the ability to “peek in the window” would drive new business. But in order to grow, agencies have to run other types of marketing campaigns.
Consider the ways that reliance on personal referrals can hurt an agency that’s trying to grow:
- This approach lacks scalability. You just won’t have big numbers of leads to work with, which can hurt if you can’t close business.
- It can inadvertently pigeon-hole you. Your referrers are likely to recommend you to colleagues, most of whom work in the same field they do. Over time, you might find that your clientele is so narrow that you lose appeal to those outside of that circle.
- There is no predictability when you’re relying on recommendations.
- You risk losing your marketing muscle. If an agency can’t test different ways of lead generation, it misses opportunities to deliver insights back to clients.
Smart agencies are not waiting for leads to arrive. Since 2011, there has been a major increase by marketing organizations to invest in lead generation through blogging, paid media, content syndication, email marketing, and social media, but many have been scattered and disorganized in their approaches. While these inbound methods require disciplined effort to initiate, manage, and optimize, they are giving agencies a more deliberate way to pull in new business. They are also helping them learn and become experts in their own field.
To be effective and innovative, marketing agencies need a mix of proven methods, new approaches, and automation. Here’s a list of lead generation components that can help an agency develop a vibrant stream of effective leads:
Lead generation must be a business priority: Creating marketing campaigns for clients is taxing, stressful work. It’s easy to get bogged down with customer demands, and in the iterative process of making something “just right.” Creative people put themselves into a flow state and shut out distractions in order to generate exciting and interesting work.
But in order to grow, a lead generation system must be operating in parallel with the actual work you’re doing. That said, just having a system won’t be good enough; it has to be a disciplined methodology that is retooled through trial and error, but maintains a focus on generating and converting quality leads. This involves a solid plan, but it also demands investment in the right inbound, outbound, and lead automation tools.
Get the right mix of channels: Determine your marketing budget and then apply a varied mix of paid social media ads, paid search ads, content syndication, and other efforts. User acquisition will come from a variety of sources, but in order to spend wisely, you need to track which sources generate the best leads. A good rule of thumb is to start by distributing across social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. Include paid content placement in sites that cater to your target audience. Learn, refine, and double down when you have identified channels that are most effective.
The right calls to action: Start by demonstrating that you’re a customer-first organization. Rather than just offering downloads of PDFs, consider calls to action that actually give you time with a prospect. Perhaps you offer a 30 minute consulting session or an interactive webinar. To do this requires a high-touch, automated model that enables you to collect a lead, schedule a meeting, and then perform immediate follow up.
Make copy creative, engaging, and short: Pretty much every lead gen activity an agency does will have a written component to it: paid ads, blogs, social media. Keep in mind that the goal is not to give a prospect an education; the goal is to get them to engage, whether by filling out a form, making a phone call, or checking out more content. People rarely read every word in front of them, so use skimmable copy that is broken up into small paragraphs, make use of bullet points, and put your creative muscle to work to make it pithy and interesting.
This will get people to engage with your ads and content, which will get them to act. It will also imprint into their brains that your agency is smart and creative.. Remember, that’s all you need to initiate the lead process.
To most effectively reap the benefits of your marketing strategy, you also need to layer in automation and apply focus. Verse.io provides a comprehensive solution that offloads much of the heavy lifting of lead generation so agencies can focus on the creative efforts that distinguish them from the competition.
Verse provides marketing agencies with more than just a tool for lead nurturing. It connects to other sales and marketing tools and applies AI to deliver important insights about lead sources and campaign efficacy.
The collection of data points available to Verse users can help those in the insurance field to quickly do the following:
- Identify what creates a good lead by understanding what is driving them to the website, and what calls-to-action are most effective at driving them closer to becoming a client.
- Understand trends by learning what timeframes perform most effectively for prospects.
- Identify and fix those areas of the process where lead nurturing efforts get stalled.
By being able to lean on an automated system, agencies can count on Verse to score leads and provide automated follow-up, bookings, and ongoing nurturing. After leads have been captured, Verse also enables agencies to connect with them through texting, phone calls, emails, and other types of communication channels. Prospects can choose how they want to be contacted, which means that their needs are immediately met, courtesy of the agency.
To be successful in the competitive world of marketing, innovative agencies can demonstrate their creative skills and customer-first approach by working with Verse to build a thriving pipeline of informed, engaged prospects.
The insurance business has always been built on relationships, and agents used to be able to achieve success by demonstrating care and attention to their clients. While it’s still a hands-on business, insurance has become wildly competitive and more complex than ever before. More agents are in the market and there are more insurance products available to consumers. In this new environment, it’s harder than ever to initiate a relationship in the first place, so more and more insurance agents are looking for effective ways to automate their lead generation and turn prospects into clients.
Perhaps more than any other business, insurance has a long history as a high-touch lead process. Sales used to be done almost exclusively over the phone and in lunch meetings, and once you signed a client, that person was usually a client for life.
But in today’s world, phone outreach has become almost obsolete. Hubspot says that 92% of prospecting phone calls go straight to voicemail, and the average buyer has completed more than 50% of the sales process before even talking with a sales person. Yet, the need for new leads and continuous engagement with existing customers continues to increase as agents look to sell new products and provide things like bundled packages and discounted pricing opportunities.
Some agents will continue with outdated methods, but call volume isn’t going to solve the problem. What insurance companies need is an effective way to generate leads from the right target market, perform rapid follow-up with them, and nurture them through the buyer’s journey. This all has to be done quickly, and in a way that educates prospects so they can be informed buyers.
That calls for the kind of automation and focus provided by Verse.io, because it was designed to handle all aspects of lead generation so agents can focus on identifying the best coverage for their clients and their specific needs. With an emphasis on both speed and efficacy, Verse is helping agents stand out from their competitors and build successful, growing businesses.
Verse gives insurance agents more than a tool for lead nurturing. It uses artificial intelligence and connectors to other sales and marketing tools to deliver important insights. When used the right way, these leads generate new clients. The information being provided to agents is packaged in an easy-to-use user interface and acts like a framework for how to most effectively acquire, convert, and close leads, and it supports alignment across marketing efforts and sales engagement. Because speed is so critical, insurance agents are then able to see where slow response time and poorly managed follow-up processes prevent leads from moving further along the sales funnel.
The collection of data points available to Verse users can help those in the insurance field to quickly do the following:
Understand who their good leads and bad leads are, what is driving them to the website, and what calls-to-action are most effective at driving closer to becoming a client.
Get the pulse for cadence and timeframes by learning what timeframes perform most effectively for prospects.
Identify and fix those areas of the process where lead nurturing efforts get stalled. While slow follow-up practices may account for a lot of issues, agents will often find that speed is not the only issue. With Verse, they will see that things like lack of conversion has to do with any number of things, all of which can be fixed. These might include poor communication on the part of the agent’s sales rep, the time of day communication happens, or even the type of channel used to deliver the communication.
Armed with this information, agents can rely on Verse to score leads and provide automated follow-up, bookings, and ongoing nurturing. After leads have been captured, Verse also enables agents to connect with them through texting, phone calls, emails, and other types of communication channels. Prospects can choose how they want to be contacted, which means that their needs are immediately met, courtesy of the agent. Also, because it also performs the follow-up rapidly after initial contact from the prospect, the connection with the insurance agent feels authentic because it’s top of mind for the potential client.
Consider what’s happening in this scenario: you have started communicating with a prospective client immediately after they have indicated intent to learn about insurance, and you’re engaging with them in a format with which they’re comfortable. In most circles, this would be called “a live one.”
Now, consider that your competitors are still cold-calling, getting voicemail, and wondering about the money they’ve dropped into buying lists, and the opportunity cost that calling demands. All the time they’re going about their lead nurturing in outdated methods, you’ve automated your outreach so you can ultimately build an effective proposal based on the prospect information that Verse has collected and delivered to you.
The insurance business is innovative and adaptable, but this is not always manifested in the tactics of agents. To thrive in this new marketplace, insurance companies can leave old marketing behind and use Verse to build a thriving pipeline of informed, engaged prospects.
The types of services and products available to business and consumer product customers have changed in the 21st century. Customers not only have far more options than ever before, but they can also access the products and services they need in different ways.
Now, we’re not talking just about downloading books or music. That’s as common as sneezing. In today’s market, even enterprise products with seven-digit price tags are being delivered in the cloud. The rise of SaaS products in the market is a key indicator that a model of rapid deployment and continuous innovation are becoming the delivery and operating method of choice for fast-moving, progressive companies. That becomes both an opportunity and a challenge for marketing professionals.
SaaS products are high-touch and can actually be tested and used in the sales cycle. Demos and free trials tend to lead to higher conversion rates, so a huge effort is made to drive potential customers to these tools. Because of this, the competition for the attention of prospects is fierce. It’s normal for these companies to spend upwards of 35-40% of their operating budgets on sales and marketing efforts.
With aggressive marketing tactics being the norm, SaaS companies must have effective lead nurturing in place in order to grow. Sales cycles are also typically much faster for SaaS services, so everything about the marketing process is accelerated. When deals — even large, six- and seven-figure deals — are closing in 30-90 days cycles, business have to align all their efforts to move fast. The process for managing leads needs to mirror the pace at which business is taking place.
Companies need to create tactics that demonstrate rapid ability to process leads, and a focus on telling the right story. When combined, effectiveness at those two things create a killer go-to-market strategy.
The need for lead speed
Slow response time can be a killer for SaaS companies, and to meet needed speed demands of the cloud-based product sales cycle, companies are increasingly outsourcing lead engagement to Verse.io as a way to optimize conversion rates.
Creating leads for SaaS companies can be done in a way that is far more targeted than through more traditional channels like print and mail advertising. Digital ads and content distribution channels enable a highly targeted approach that uses information like IP address, company, industry, job title, and other data points to identify key leads. Smart targeting can save time, as well, and ultimately, this method can deliver a better quality of lead. Verse uses this type of data to identify high-value leads so customers can emphasize their tactics on those that have a statistically higher likelihood of converting.
But speed is only valuable if the follow-up is done intelligently and in context. Buyers want a quick response, but they also want to know they are understood and that they are getting usable, helpful information about the services they seek.
Verse helps sales and marketing teams identify and apply information about prospects to turn both speed and background information into important tools. For example, data about email open rates, response to CTAs, or other positive top of funnel engagement may reveal patterns that enable marketing campaigns to be more focused. Additionally, with a workflow to get leads into the hands of SDRs, and providing contextual data about those prospects, SDRs can respond not only with very little time lag, but will be equipped with data to make their follow-up more targeted.
With a targeted, rapid follow-up, SaaS companies not only push leads through the sales cycle faster, but are better positioned to fail fast, learn from testing, and apply continuous improvement.
Tell the right story
Software developer Chris Herd made an important point about the efficacy of marketing and lead generation when he said, “You don’t need a better product, you need a more powerful story.” The most effective channel for taking that story and imprinting it into the minds of your prospects is through lead nurturing.
Buyers connect with stories and often look to them to make smart buying decisions. It’s one of the ways that complex products can be made understandable and connectable, and because of that, stories are essential for SaaS products.
But just telling the story is only part of what’s needed. Prospects have to also actually feel something in order to make actual sense of it. This is a big differentiator for Verse. Most lead generation tools rely on canned scripts and datasheet content that blankets any and all prospects. Verse, however, applies artificial intelligence to deliver marketing messages in a variety of formats, including chat, texting, and email, all using data derived from website behavior to engage with the vertical market you’re targeting.
Verse helps SaaS companies maximize their stories by providing a channel for sales and marketing teams to take advantage of buyer personas in their lead targeting, and to address prospect pain points in email campaigns and follow-up content.
SaaS companies operate in a competitive environment, so they have to move fast and demand results. With Verse as a critical piece of their lead generation and nurturing playbook, these companies can move rapidly to turn prospects into customers, all while exceeding high expectations and operating in shortened sales cycles.
A 2017 study of higher education admissions directors discovered an issue that has long been underreported. The report, delivered by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed, found that 66% of admissions directors fell short of their enrollment goals, which the report attributed to poor awareness of individual schools, and a lack of focused recruiting efforts.
Innovative admissions officials recognize that the days of tri-fold marketing brochures are no longer cutting it. Today’s colleges and universities have to act like marketers, and need a disciplined approach to lead-generation and nurturing that includes effective response, follow-up, and conversion optimization. Most schools have a compelling message and brand that can create enthusiasm and awareness for potential students. They key is to put together the right stack of tools and strategies to move those prospects from interested parties to members of the student body.
The good news for those who want to identify qualified candidates and engage with them is that the competition among schools for marketing-driven mindshare and lead generation is low. The vast majority of schools rely mostly on social media and websites to convey curated images of their schools, and to communicate calendar-driven milestones like admissions deadlines. What’s missing is a targeted approach that helps schools not only identify solid candidates, but nurtures them through the path from early engagement, through an educational process, to ultimately applying for admissions.
Engaging prospective students
The key to effective student recruitment is similar to what’s used to perform prospecting in any field: effective communication and authentic connections. Admissions officers are increasingly looking to create an experience for prospects that truly reflects the spirit of their school. Many higher education institutions are turning to Verse.io to do it effectively through a full-funnel approach that helps blend the human touch with the efficiency and effectiveness of automation.
It provides a variety of ways to connect, including chat, texting, and email, all using website intelligence to connect with the vertical market you’re targeting. Considering that the target demographic for higher education is digital-savvy teenagers who vastly prefer SMS messaging over all other forms of communication, the ability to deliver messages through these various digital channels is incredibly important.
For administrators, Verse also has the ability to weed out duplicates, competitors, or out of scope leads that don’t fit your target market. All of this is done through artificial intelligence that identifies leads by target characteristics (title, organization, geography, or any of a number of custom types that users can set up) and then initiates a nurture cadence of communications in a variety of formats, including texts, emails, and online chat. Considering a demographic that is accustomed to digital engagement, it’s important to have these different channels available through which schools can deliver their messages.
Leads coming from interested students are only one part of lead generation. The reality is that just acquiring leads is only part of the solution towards business growth. The far more important discipline is to move those leads through the “buyer’s journey” to become customers, or in the case of higher education, full time students.
Turning interest into leads
One important piece of the Verse process is visibility and coordination. These are often overlooked because many only want to get leads from acquisition to the end of the funnel as quickly as possible. Emphasizing speed may, however, can result in pushing through a lot of bad leads . Certainly there’s nothing wrong with speed, but as modern marketers know, speed is important, but having the RIGHT leads move through the customer funnel, and having those leads become more engaged and smarter about your service is what ultimately converts.
To support all of that for colleges and universities, Verse gives users a simple dashboard for sync’ing all the tools used to increase awareness and generate demand among potential students. This includes tools like marketing automation, student relationship management tools, and other lead sources. This helps create that single source of truth that all higher education institutions need to put marketing nurture workstreams into practice to maximize their ability to turn interested parties into potential students.
Beyond just the organizational advantages, a simple but comprehensive system like Verse enables deeper visibility into where hidden lead opportunities exist, and how to take advantage of them. It also initiates the multi-channel framework that is so critical for reaching prospective students.
Connecting with the future freshmen
Now, with data being identified and processed in a way that supports the lead framework, the most important piece of the prospect lifecycle starts — communication. This is where schools start to give target candidates a sense for what their school is truly like. It’s far more than just a brand message. Your school is a place in which students will invest many years, a lot of money, and has the chance to shape their lives in major ways. With that in mind, communication has to be authentic, meaningful, and purposeful.
The feeling at Verse is that each communication with a lead is the beginning of a new relationship. Our name (which you might have noticed, we recently changed from Agentology to Verse.io) comes from the suffix of the word, “converse,” because this is where conversations start. It’s also where first impressions are planted, and every organization wants to present itself in a positive light.
Students want to be part of something they can be excited about, and it’s the human touch that makes all the difference in demonstrating just who and what your school is all about. Verse provides a variety of ways to make this connection, and keep it going throughout your relationship with potential students.