Getting sales leads for IT services is really just the same as acquiring sales leads in any other market. It all starts with a sales-ready prospect list. In the vast IT field, however, what gives you the edge over your closest competitor is a prospect list built on a solid understanding of the IT industry, as well as its product and service needs.
Know the target Market
According to a study by the Australian Trade Commission, the Malaysian Information Technology Market has strong growth fundamentals, including low PC penetration, rising incomes, and a high-tech focused national development plan.
The market is somewhat fragmented – there is sophisticated metropolitan market in and around the capital, but still very much a developing market in other regions. The Malaysian IT market is import oriented and relies on foreign technologies, with international software, hardware, and service providers already active in the market.
Striking a Balance between Conventional and Emerging Trends
That said, let’s set this straight. There is no absolute best way to generate the sales leads you need. Yes, you read that right. There had been hundreds of studies done and thousands of man-hours of research spent for this, some even employing complex analytics, but there really is no clear-cut winner. Some observers swear by the influence of social media, while others say it’s overhyped. Still, others believe the traditional ways of generating leads are underrated and thus, underutilized.
While the experts are arguing about this, what one should remember is how to find the sweet spot between the conventional lead generation strategies and the emerging trends.
1) Use Only Good/Useful Content
These days buyers have become proactive because of the internet – they find their own solutions to business problems, instead of relying on salespeople’s pitches. Because of the internet, almost everything – yes, even IT solutions, can be a D-I-Y thing.
A recent report by TechTarget and Google suggest that 95% of technology buyers conduct their own research online, starting with search terms about solving particular business issues.
Let’s call this the “awareness phase”, when they are just discovering solutions to their problems. Next comes the “consideration phase”, where specific vendors or companies are researched, and finally, the “decision phase”, where brands are being compared until the buyer finally chooses what he believes is the best solution. Marketers should capitalize on this by being “top-of-the-mind” even in the early stages of the process in order to increase the chances of a buyer including his company in the pool of those which can help them address their business issue. How? According to www.onestopclick.com, it is wise to place content online, but make sure it is intelligent content.
Find ways to have a positive presence in areas of the internet which target customers will be likely to go to for advice. Information must be knowledgeable, unbiased and authoritative – the emphasis is on engagement rather than selling your products. Companies that produce educational or informative content – ebooks, webinars, cool videos — can establish thought leadership and generate leads earlier in the buying process, setting the stage to ultimately win the business.
2) Customer referrals
Customer referrals are an organization’s best friend. If the one giving the referral is a satisfied customer, he or she should be a friend for life. According to JR Rodrigues, CEO of NetCablesPlus, which sells a wide variety of networking cables and accessories, “There is nothing better than getting a sales lead from a happy customer.” An existing “customer knows what you are offering and probably has a good idea of what the referred prospect needs,” he says. It goes without saying that the lead is probably well-qualified. Beyond this, you will have tremendous credibility with the prospect since you come well-recommended from someone that they know and trust. However, taking care of customers well is an entirely different topic.
3) SEO: Use Long-tail Keywords in SEM and PPC
It is common knowledge in the marketing industry that the best way (in terms of lowest cost per acquisition) for an IT company or a service-based B2B company to generate leads is through pay per click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO).
According to Gabriel Shaoolian, the CEO and founder of digital agency Blue Fountain Media,
“PPC and SEO are the most effective way to generate leads because when companies need IT services, they go to Google and search for IT companies.”
Fact: 90 percent of consumers — business or otherwise — go to Google search first.
To increase the effectiveness of your search engine marketing (SEM) and PPC campaigns, use “long-tail keyword phrases, which are highly targeted search terms typically consisting of three words or more. Long tail keywords are those three and/or four keyword phrases which are very, very specific to whatever you are selling. You see, whenever a customer uses a highly specific search phrase, they tend to be looking for exactly what they are actually going to buy.
In terms of SEO, consider something educational, something your audience could benefit from. Don’t we love it when we can benefit from something without shelling out much? Once you’ve identified your target keywords, create content around it. You may be amazed at how fast you will rank and start generating traffic and leads for this term.
Related: Confession of a Google Spammer
4) Social media
Social media is the way to go.
Consider this: 64% of the 19 million internet users in Malaysia are active in social media.
A study by www.wearesocial.org published in the Malaysian Insider reports that 15 million Malaysians are active on Facebook, while www.Techinasia.com claims that Malaysia is home to 3.5 million Twitter users, albeit only 21.8% of these users are active. Approximately 162.4 million tweets were published for a certain 30-day period, which means Malaysians sent out roughly 5.4 million tweets per day.
Tip (from respected social media influence Jeff Bullas): Twitter is not only a social networking website, but also a source of potential leads for your company.
With the help of Followerwonk, you can analyze aspects such as; information about followers, at what time your followers tweet, etc., so that you can reach the audience that is associated with your niche.
Latest research findings from TNS show constant connectivity and digital media have enabled Malaysians to leap-frog to be one of the most socially engaged markets in the world.
According to findings from TNS’s Connected Life study released today, over three fifths (62%) of Internet users in Malaysia access social media networks daily, compared to 42% globally.
According to Joe Webb, Head of Digital, APAC, TNS, “Internet users in Malaysia are hungry for content and conversations. We’re seeing high levels of engagement with content and a desire to stay connected with friends and family. So while the medium has changed, the motivations haven’t.” Indeed, there’s a strong opportunity for businesses that really understand these behaviors.
5) Speaking at trade shows, conferences and industry events
“The best lead generator is to give an event presentation and follow it with customized letters, calls or emails to individuals that you met [there],” argues Susan Carol, CEO, Susan Carol Associates Public Relations.
Speaking at an event immediately gives you name — and face — recognition, literally separating, and hopefully elevating you from the hundreds of other vendors or service providers trying to get noticed. There is no better way to achieve recall than by being physically present and doing so with aplomb. And by following up with people you meet at shows in a timely fashion, you stay top of mind.
No Right or Wrong Way, Just the Appropriate Way
Successful lead generation is a process that does not end once a lead arrives. It must continue beyond the initial indicators as to whether the prospect is ready to buy. Chances are they are not. But at some stage they will be and to ensure that your company is one that they want to talk to when they are ready, you need to be able to nurture the lead.
There are a diverse number of strategies we can implement in order to increase our success in generating leads for our businesses. There is no right or wrong way, just the appropriate way for your particular company at any given time. Whatever measures you put into place, make sure they are fully integrated and sensitive to your customers’ needs. Keeping a balance of the right sort of tactics is the key – like any efficient system different tactics must be able to stand up to scrutiny and be measurable in terms of financial performance.
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