Building a Strong Lead Generation Pipeline for Less

February 22, 2017 0 Comments lead generation, sales, marketing

Having worked in a lot of startups, I know that acquiring your first customer is one of the hardest challenges but an even harder challenge is proving that you can consistently acquire customers from a specific lead generation activity and also prove that the process is scalable. Besides that being a daunting task in and of itself, you are often up against time and money constraints. So while a robust adWords and mobile FB install ad strategy could drive you a ton of traffic for installs, many startups don't have the money or time for these ads to start working before their product is dead or a competitor has beat them to market. This article will show you a specific lead generation email process that I have had relative success with at startups and that has resulted in significant money savings for these early-stage sales departments.

First, you have to truly understand the customer personas you are trying to target or reach out to in your marketing activities. This will help you understand what prospects you are looking for. I recommend creating 2 or 3 customer personas that you can run campaigns against. It's also important to note that I always will run one generic lead generation campaign along with the ones targeted at different personas. The reasoning is because the customer personas are your conception of your user and why they might buy your product. A more generic lead generation campaign allows users to self-select into groups and tell you how they will use your software. This will help you build a better product, more aligned with your customers' needs. Below I've shown a good example of what these customer personas should look like.

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Second, you need to search on LinkedIn for individuals who fit each of these personas. There are ways to do this without buying one of LinkedIn's Premium Sales plans but if you do buy it for your prospecting you'll unlock a lot of the API limitations LinkedIn puts on free users and you'll be able to perform more complex searches to truly identify the closest users to your personas. When I find someone on LinkedIn, I use LeadIQ to capture and extract that person's information into a lead list that I can upload into my email marketing automation system. LeadIQ is the best lead capture tool I have used to date. It pulls the most accurate information, the information I need to connect with the individual, and allows for the cleanest export of that data into other systems. It's integration with LinkedIn and AngelList also fulfills most of my lead generation purposes in the software industry. Below is a picture of what the interface looks like.

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As you can see after I click the plus sign by each lead I want to add they are added to a list entitled with a date from my prospecting efforts and what campaign that prospect list is for. I can then take those CSVs and import them into an email sales automation platform. Two that I recommend are Mixmax and ToutApp. I currently use Mixmax as I like some of the other power email features that it gives me when I am not doing prospecting efforts. These tools allow you to create email campaigns and sales sequences for your prospecting lists to follow and then gives you analytics on those campaigns.

I recommend setting up your sequences in the following manner:

Day 1 - Email (Topic: General Intro to you and Product) This email should introduce yourself, explain your company's value proposition in less than 2 sentences and ask them for 15 minutes to review the product and give you feedback, even if they're not in the market at this time.
Day 2 - Follow on Twitter/FB (company not necessarily individual but if you can find individual on Twitter than that works too. Send a nice tweet about the company or industry.
Day 3 - Email (Topic: Share something with them) I usually share a piece of original content that targets the problem I'm trying to solve for the customer persona of that campaign.
Day 4 - LinkedIn Request + Message
Day 5 - Email (Topic: Ask for 2 mins of their time and do a quick survey w/ ask that's no more than 5 questions) The purpose of this survey is to get them to give you info that'll help you identify better customers in future or identify why they're the right customer for your brand.
End campaign - opt-in to future correspondence or segment based on survey answers to new drip campaigns.

*I usually opt anyone out of the campaign that responds to an email. I usually try and skip weekends. You can A/B test the best times to send out your emails and different messaging.

Here's a quick look at the 3 email stages in Mixmax's interface.

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And here's a quick look at the analytics you get from one of these campaigns.

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As a business you should use these analytics to refine your messaging, compare your marketing success rate across different verticals, learn from your customers as to what content resonates with them. This will ensure that your lead generation efforts do not just increase the chances at bat for sales conversions but it will help you build a better product and grow your company.

These lead generation campaigns and emails will take you a day to setup at most and then in as little as 1 or 2 hours of prospecting a day you'll be able to send out around 200-500 emails. This generates qualified, opt-in leads and increases brand awareness. This is why this strategy should also be coupled with a digital strategy that promotes fresh content on your website. More and more people will gain awareness, visit your site, and you want to ensure it's designed to convert users but also keep them engaged with fresh content.

In conclusion, a strong blogging and content strategy, a solid lead generation effort, and an email marketing sales campaign can generate more revenue and deals for your business for less than $500/month.

What have been your favorite lead generation strategies? How do you build your sales pipeline? What tools do you use? Answer these questions or leave your comments below!

Ryan C. Smith
Austin, TX Website
I help startups operationally succeed in product, marketing and sales; I am a creator of product and builder of the future - interested in tech inflection points. No power in the verse can stop me!