Is Lead Generation Success Prohibiting Your Firm’s Growth?
Most tech consulting firm leaders answer that question with a single-word answer: Yes.
They often look at marketing through a single lens: Lead Generation. They measure effectiveness and success based on this singular measure. Marketing is either working or not, depending on the evidence of lead generation.
01 – What is Lead Generation for Tech Consulting Firms?
02 – Lead Generation Prerequisites
03 – Goals and Expectations
04 – Lead Generation Overview
05 – Beyond Capturing Contacts & Prospects
06 – Lead Generation Mistakes
07 – Lead Generation Best Practices
08 – Final Thoughts
01 What is Lead Generation for Tech Consulting Firms?
Attracting Potential Customers
Lead generation is a defined process of attracting potential customers (prospects) for your firm’s services and solutions.
The process includes the prospect recognizing you can solve their problem, demonstrating interest in your firm, capturing the prospect’s contact information and context, and progressing the prospects through a series of defined stages that qualify them as a lead.
your prospects need to know you can solve
Tech consulting firms usually have qualifiers that define the market where prospects are found. These qualifiers may involve technology brands (i.e., Salesforce, MuleSoft, Snowflake, etc.), a technology sector (i.e., cybersecurity, infrastructure, integration, etc.), or a particular business focus (i.e., compliance, tax, reporting, etc.). Prospect may discover and recognize consulting firms because of their technology affiliation, industry thought leadership, marketing efforts, or through referrals.
The typical “lead” process follows this path:
A person becomes aware of your firm and exchanges their contact information for something of value (ebook, whitepaper, tool, checklist, study, etc.). These new contacts are not leads — they are not ready to buy your services. They are signaling an awareness of your firm and allowing you to market to them.
The contact enters into a defined nurture process, including informational and educational content sharing and planned calls to action demonstrating heightened interest. The “warming up” or nurture process must be relevant and personalized for the contact, and it’s marketing’s job to determine the appropriate nurture program and how to validate and measure progression (e.g., lead scoring).
When and if the contact moves from the awareness category to interested or evaluating, they become a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and can be handed off to sales with supporting information and assistance.
In this context, lead generation has a beginning (you identify someone interested in your services) and an end (the lead is handed off to the sales team).
The entire process, beginning to end, needs to be planned in detail and executed with purpose; after all, leads represent your firm’s growth.
02 Lead Generation Prerequisites
What You’ll Need to Get Started
Several prerequisites must be accomplished before you spend time, effort, and money on lead generation.
Prerequisites For Maximizing Lead Generation
Do the Work to
— of contacts, prospects, and leads,
— your website, social, and email marketing capabilities should be congruent with your message and brand identity,
— case studies and evidence of expertise will build trust and credibility, which are necessary for effective prospect contact capture,
— Marketing and Sales should agree on when and how handoff will occur.
Defined Nurture Process
— the process of moving the customer through their buying journey should be defined with established reporting and optimization capabilities,
— ensure your message is crafted to target the right audience and the problems your firm can solve for that audience,
Content That Informs, Educates, and Engages
— content is the fuel for the marketing system and is a vital element of lead generation. Content-oriented lead generation should align with the buyer stage (awareness, interest, decision, etc.),
With these prerequisites in place, your firm can successfully execute lead generation campaigns and convert leads into sales opportunities.
03 Goals and Expectations
Set Goals and Expectations in Context
Any discussion of the firm’s marketing goals should begin with this statement: The business and marketing goals should be aligned and directly connected. Marketing should be focused on achieving business goals, not merely marketing goals.
Focus Your Marketing efforts on Your
Lead quantity and quality are two primary elements used to establish marketing goals, but they are not the only ones.
Other elements in the marketing goals for tech consulting firms include those that point to building future capability (content processes, operations, case studies, etc.) and the leading indicators of future lead generation success (website traffic, social media engagement, email engagement, and contact capture).
Your marketing goals should reflect near-term success (lead generation quantity and quality) and long-term success (i.e., contact growth, content production).
Marketing goals should be reviewed frequently, and most firms have a monthly goal and KPI reporting cadence. Campaign reporting and measurement may be more frequent and real-time rather than the normal process and timing.
Typical Tech Consulting Lead Generation Targets and Growth Measures
include the following:
- Contacts Captured — the number of new prospects that have shared their content information and given you permission to market to them.
- Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) — the number of leads complying with your calls to action (CTAs) and demonstrating heightened interest.
- Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) / Conversation Ready Leads (CRL) — the number of leads ready for sales engagement and to be qualified further using the Sales teams’ process.
- Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) — the number of leads progressing from MQL to SQL status.
- MQL to SAL Percentage — the percentage of MQLs that become SALs.
- MQL to SQL Percentage — the percentage of MQLs that become SQLs.
- MQL to Sales Opportunity — the percentage of MQLs that become opportunities.
- MQL to SQL Lifecycle — the time (usually in days) from a lead became an MQL until they became an SQL.
Tech consulting leaders should also have reasonable expectations for lead generation. If your firm has had no or minimal lead generation capability and activity in the past, your expectations shouldn’t be to have measures equal to firms that have finely tuned marketing departments and abilities.
Conversion of leads to projects is also an expectation that needs to be reasonable and data-driven. It is commonly reported that only 3% of your market is in the buying stage of their journey when they engage a potential vendor. That 3% is not the percentage of prospects that respond to your call to action. It’s the total in the entire market. Only a fraction of which will become a prospect for your firm. But our objective isn’t to concentrate only on quantity. We want quality prospects and leads — those likely to progress over time into revenue-producing clients that have multiple projects and help us market to others, just like then…
Don’t be discouraged by the “small” percentage of the market that responds to your lead generation efforts. You don’t want every prospect in the market. You want the ones that are right for your business.
04 Lead Generation Overview
The Nuts & Bolts
Tech consulting firms usually begin with referrals from existing contacts and relationships. In the early stages of the business, this is what’s needed as the firm expands expertise, establishes a reputation, and builds credibility. Eventually, the “friends and family” referral list will dwindle, and leaders will decide that marketing and lead generation are necessary to grow beyond the introductory and start-up phase.
Not being marketing experts, tech consulting leaders will experiment with lead generation tactics and programs, including signing up for brute force cold calling, dial-for-dollars appointment settings, and questionable LinkedIn processes. Usually, the results are poor, and the execution can be a little “sketchy.” Sure, some companies can deliver leads to your list, but time, effort, and money are wasted without the strategy and follow-up processes in place.
It Takes Work to
A better approach is to build scalable capabilities that expand your reach and influence that can grow with your firm.
That begins with strategies to grow your contact list, nurturing activities to move those prospects towards the MQL stage, and orchestrating the processes to have your sales team discover and work opportunities.
Listed below are several lead generation areas used by tech consulting firms. Most firms start with one area of lead generation and then progress to multiple areas as their ability to attract and convert leads become more refined and successful.
Inbound lead generation is one of the primary strategies for tech consulting companies
The primary focus of inbound lead generation is bringing your audience to your website. This audience is typically knowledgeable about their need or problem and may be aware of your firm.
A robust and comprehensive online presence is needed for new contacts and prospects. Tech consulting firms are successful with inbound lead generation when they use a combination of tactics.
Posting engaging content on LinkedIn and other platforms to have the viewer click on links to your site.
Understanding how your audience searches for firms like yours will allow you to engineer SEO results. You’ll need to understand keywords, intent, and content that satisfy their interest and need.
Creating informative, educational, and engaging content and then promoting that content on social, via email, and via partner channels (who also use their social media and email capabilities).
Inbound lead generation should be mindful of the recipient’s stage of the customer buying journey. Send visitors to the most appropriate areas of your website based on their level of knowledge and interest in your firm.
Getting traffic to the firm’s website is only the first step in inbound lead generation. Once they have found your website, you must keep them engaged and allow them to take the next steps or demonstrate that they are prepared to progress to a sales discussion.
Outbound lead generation is purposeful and proactive reaching out to people you don’t have a relationship with but are in your broader target market.
You may associate “outbound lead generation” with tarnished marketing tactics like a telemarketer calling you right as you sit down for dinner to inform you that your car’s warranty is about to expire. Your outbound lead generation efforts should not be like that. You want to create practical outbound efforts that feel more like helpful prospecting than desperate-sounding shots in the dark.
The target audience for your tech consulting firm’s outbound efforts should only include people likely to have the problems your services and solutions solve. For example, if you have a Salesforce customization offer contacting Salesforce licensees would be outbound lead generation.
The best-case scenario in outbound situations is one where the person has brand recognition of your firm (“That is the firm I see…or I’ve heard people talking about”), and your outreach helps them connect the dots between their needs and your firm’s capabilities.
Introductions and warming up the person to accept other communications from your firm,
Sending relevant and personalized information helps pique interest and lead to engagement (which then follows the inbound marketing process),
LinkedIn messaging is becoming a more commonly used outbound technique. Unfortunately, an increase in the amount of spam and unwanted messages have also become common,
In some instances, like associations, trade shows, and conferences, direct mail may also be appropriate for outbound lead generation efforts.
This audience may know consulting firms in their problem or need area but may not know your firm or have an established relationship with another firm. Your communication with this audience should be relevant and informative, establishing your firm as adding value and a potential solution to their known issues.
PARTNERSHIPS & ALLIANCES
Tech consulting firms benefit from strategic technology-based alignment and partnerships.
Many tech consulting firms partner with technology providers, such as CRM packages, integration solutions, cyber security product providers, automation platforms, etc.
These partnerships are natural lead generation sources. Typically, they require an investment (financial, resources, time) and have the potential for significant ROI. As a partner, your firm may also qualify for funds from these partner organizations that can be used for proof-of-concept (POC) or pilot projects or even matching cooperative marketing dollars.
This area of lead generation can be very effective if your firm has solutions for the various life-cycle progressions customers of the technology or sector move through. For example, if your firm is focused on installing and customizing a platform, referrals from their sales team or professional services team would be highly qualified. They would also have a high chance of converting into projects. Likewise, if your firm does specialized reporting (regulatory and compliance), close relationships with the providers that store and transact the source data might yield highly qualified leads.
Partnership(s) should be part of your lead generation portfolio.
EVENTS & CONFERENCES
Another lead generation area is industry-oriented and technology-aligned events, conferences, and organizations. These events allow your firm to be where your audience is.
Organization memberships provide event participation and sponsorship opportunities. This strengthens brand recognition and could put you on the shortlist of possible vendors when people seek solutions after an event.
Being where your audience is allows your firm to grow the contact list, expanding your reach and providing an audience for your warm-up and nurture campaigns.
Additionally, firms can use virtual events like webinars and virtual meetups to establish thought leadership with informative and educational content. They can also increase their contacts list and present calls to action to separate contacts, prospects, and marketing qualified leads.
Both types of events (live and virtual) should be in the firms’ lead generation plans.
PAID LEAD GENERATION
Many tech consulting firms believe paid lead generation is a viable lead generation tactic. And for some, it may be. For most, it should be a channel only utilized after the prerequisite brand identity, messaging, targeting, and follow-up elements are in place.
If those elements are not in place, paid lead generation is one of the quickest and easiest ways to waste marketing time and money. You may generate traffic and responses to ads, but you’ve wasted valuable effort and money if you can’t convert those responses into viable leads and opportunities.
If the prerequisites are in place, success can be found on Google and LinkedIn ad systems, and your choice to use these should be based on where your audience can be reached. The LinkedIn ad platform has significantly improved in the last few years, and campaigns can be created quickly and easily.
Regardless of the ad platform, well-designed campaigns with congruent messaging and brand identity elements are necessary. If they are not, trust can erode.
EXISTING CUSTOMERS & REFERRALS
Your firm’s referrals and new opportunities from existing customers and internal champions are valuable leads. Firm leaders often view these leads as bluebirds or one-offs, something they are glad when it happens, but don’t feel they have a role in producing.
That thinking is incorrect.
Firms can influence referrals and new opportunities with existing customers just like any other lead source. And they should since leads like these are usually more likely to progress to won-business because they come with implied trust and credibility.
To influence leads through existing customers and referrals, firms must focus on engaging with existing customers for this explicit purpose. Communicate with your customer points of contact and internal champions the value of their referrals. Also, communicate whom you wish to be referred to and what will happen when an introduction occurs.
Measure and track these leads like other leads. You may find that referral leads have characteristics that positively impact your business, including higher deal values, higher close percentages, and shorter close durations.
Referrals are a lead generation activity your firm should concentrate on building.
05 Beyond Capturing Contacts & Prospects
You Have Some Leads, Now What?
The focus on lead generation has generally been on the capture phase – the techniques and methods used to identify a person who has a problem you can solve and building awareness and recognition of your firm’s capabilities.
That is a critical phase. Without a growing list of contacts and prospects, you will not be able to achieve the firm growth you desire.
But lead generation extends beyond that capture phase. You must also consider, plan, and execute the steps after the capture; Nurturing, Sales Handoffs, and Improved.
Focus Your Marketing efforts on Your
The Role of Lead Nurturing
Contact capture and prospect generation are nothing without lead nurturing.
Why bother capturing new contacts and prospects if you aren’t going to help them solve their problems?
This sales axiom is true: “The fortune is in the follow-up.”
Lead nurturing allows you to assess the prospect’s buying stage and tune their engagement with your firm so they receive maximum value.
Ensure that your nurturing activities align with the person’s current journey stage and guide them toward their next stage. Allow them to demonstrate their interest and intent using a well-designed warm-up and nurturing process, and you’ll be better equipped to decide when to hand off to sales and impact the firm’s deal pipeline.
Is your contact just beginning their solution journey? Present them with content on evaluating their approach, mistakes they should avoid during their pursuit, and what the path forward looks like.
Is your prospect knowledgeable about their problem and potential solutions? Furnish them with check sheets, comparison tools, and business case material so they can make the proper selection.
Guiding contacts into the revenue-generating project phase is lead generation’s payoff.
Handing Off Leads to the Sales Team
As documented here, lead generation is a process with a defined beginning and a defined end. That “end” is when the sales team accepts a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and begins to qualify further and guide the lead on their buying journey.
Sales and Marketing teams historically experience love/hate relationships. Each disparages the other, with common refrains from marketing being “Sales never follows up with the leads we give them” and “We don’t know if the leads are good or bad – we don’t get that feedback from Sales.” Common sales remarks include “We don’t get good leads from marketing” and “Marketing doesn’t understand our ICP, so they don’t give us leads ready to buy.”
To prevent this type of internal mismatch, the handoff of MQLs to Sales should be a well-defined process that outlines each team’s expectations and actions.
A smooth handoff relies on definitions of the essential elements of the process, information about the MQL, scripted actions, and feedback. The two teams should establish a benchmark process and an agreed service level agreement (SLA) to measure the handoff process’s performance.
The best-case scenario is for both teams to share a standard definition of success and mutually beneficial goals. By creating an environment of joint success, finger-pointing, complaints, and lack of improvement can be avoided or eliminated.
Measuring every aspect of your lead generation efforts, from contact capture to quality (as reported by sales), will help you improve lead generation performance and, ultimately, the quality of your leads.
You should measure the effectiveness of almost everything related to lead generation. That includes but is not limited to, your lead sources (e.g., inbound, outbound, etc.), capture processes (e.g., landing pages, social calls to action, event booth visits), and conversions from contact to opportunity.
Measuring against expectations allows you to make critical decisions based on your collected data.
Examples of these types of decisions include:
We will stop outbound lead generation if our conversation-to-contact percentage is under 10%.
Paid Lead Gen
We will increase our paid lead generation (advertisements, etc.) if ad landing pages convert at over 20%.
Lead Score Threshold
We will increase the score for a prospect to obtain MQL status if MQL to SQL conversion is below 40%.
Improving lead generation performance depends on data. After all, you manage what you measure, and lead generation is no exception.
06 Lead Generation Mistakes
Mistakes Will Be Made — Aviod The Ones You Can
There are many mistakes that can be made when your tech consulting firm begins to address lead generation. They typically occur in three distinct areas: before (strategy), during (execution), and after (conversion).
Mistakes in any one of these areas will impact results. Mistakes in more than one could result in you wasting time, effort, and money. Not to mention the erosion of trust and credibility.
Lack of strategy — your lead production efforts will be costly and wasteful if you haven’t identified the right target audience, created a message that resonates with the target audience, used visual brand identity elements that are congruent with other presentations of your brand the audience has seen, and identified the channels where your audience will encounter your lead generation work.
Execution — lead generation begins with capturing the attention and interest of prospects. This requires your marketing efforts to produce content that is relevant to the prospect, skillfully presented using social posts, content, and landing pages (traditional lead generation) that are professionally crafted and produced, and frictionless calls to action that balance what the prospect provides (information and permission to market to them) and the value you provide.
Conversion — if you don’t have a defined follow-up and nurture process, your lead generation results will be poor. You need to define what will happen once you have captured a contact and how you will help them continue their buying journey or determine that your firm isn’t a fit.
Lead generation isn’t a switch you push to the on position and hope the results pour in like light from a fixture. Lead generation for tech consulting firms requires planning, creating, execution, and purposeful follow-up.
Get these things right, and you’ll be happy with the results. Ignore them or get them wrong, and you’ll be more frustrated than before you began.
07 Lead Generation Best Practices
The Ways That Work
Tech consulting firms should employ several lead generation best practices to ensure results are achieved.
Tried and true
The firm’s business and marketing goals should align. Marketing goals should contribute directly to achieving business goals.
The definition of messages, ideal customer profiles, differentiators, and other strategic marketing elements will align your lead generation efforts. This will ensure you do not confuse your audience or waste time and effort.
Lead generation activities should occur in numerous ways, including inbound, outbound, partners, events, etc. Executing multiple initiatives will provide you with more data points and data than singular lead generation efforts.
Measure & Optimize
Utilize data to assess what’s working and what’s not. Capitalize on success and limit failure.
Marketing results should have some near-term impact (every firm wants leads today!). Still, the emphasis should be on building consistent, repeatable, and predictable results for the long term.
Building a solid marketing foundation around the marketing communication elements of the website, email, social media and content production, and the related processes gives your firm the capability to conduct effective lead generation and proper nurturing.
To maximize the payoff of lead generation activities, the Sales and Marketing teams must collaborate on critical definitions, processes, hand-offs, and reporting.
An old sales saying is, “Fortune is in the follow-up,” and it’s true for lead generation efforts too. You need defined and measurable warm-up and nurturing processes for new and existing contacts. Without the discipline and capability to follow up, you cannot reap the reward of growing your contacts and leads into opportunities.
Lead generation is not easy and will require a lot of effort.
Employing established best practices ensures that that effort is not wasted.
Tech consulting leaders believe marketing and lead generation are synonymous. They also know that lead generation is a key performance indicator. Leads are important.
Getting marketing “done” means getting leads into the sales system. Hence, the project pipeline grows, which propels all other growth areas of the firm (e.g., more offers, expanding geographies, and strategic opportunities).
When marketing isn’t “done,” there are no leads, and new projects are challenging to come by. Without new projects, growth cannot be funded, and stagnation occurs. This is a situation no consulting leader wants.
That’s why understanding lead generation fundamentals is essential. There is a balance between message, strategy, and marketing foundations and activities that leverage those elements to attract the right audience, convert them into contacts, and nurture them into leads.
This guide provides an overview of lead generation. Using this basic understanding, tech consulting leaders can work with marketing leaders and teams to implement their unique practices and processes.
It’s important to remember that lead generation isn’t a mystery and leads are not an area outside of the consulting firms’ control. Lead generation and post-capture processes can be planned, executed, measured, and improved.
This self-assessment will help you evaluate your lead generation capacity and effectiveness. You’ll
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The Fundamental Guide to Lead Generation For Tech Consulting
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