The following is a guest article by Will Richards of the Research Alliance, a leading business development agency for independent research (www.theresearchalliance.com). This is the fourth article in a series examining challenges and opportunities facing independent research providers. The first article can be found here, the second article here and the third here.
“These are the good leads. These are the good leads, and you don’t get them.” – Alec Baldwin in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross”.
Ask any salesman and they will tell you leads are everything. With quality leads, a salesperson can make it rain. Without them, it is a rough, tough job.
The problem becomes how to generate these leads. Twenty years ago, the answer was simple: e-mail marketing. At the Research Alliance, we used to send out 20,000 emails to buy-side fund managers, receiving hundreds of responses. With some careful screening and interviewing of those responses, dozens of quality leads would be generated, leading to multi-day business trips with high conversion rates.
Now, however, the email response rate is down to a trickle. So what specialized marketing methods exist to increase the production of targeted, warm leads? At the Research Alliance, we have been brainstorming on this question for years, and are continuously testing new approaches.
Invest in marketing
Firstly, you must make an investment of both time and money. This includes not only investing in dedicated salespeople with institutional investment experience, but also in marketing professionals that understand how to attract the attention of the buy-side. On top of this, you must invest in the right tools, including purchased lists, share ownership data, a robust CRM, and working with the key distribution platforms. Even the best salespeople will not produce results if they don’t have the right tools.
A multi-pronged approach is required. Is your website current? What can you do to maximize success of an email campaign? Who is managing your social media – especially your Twitter account? How will the buy-side find you? Is your SEO fully optimized? What content, if any, can be given away for free? Who is managing your presence on research platforms and research aggregators?
And then, when the leads come in, who is following up, and by what method? Are your leads and sales activity being organized and recorded in a CRM? What approach is best with new prospects? Is it best to cold call? Warm them up by email first? Or are alternate methods of communication preferred by the buy-side when reaching out to them the first time. Is your salesperson up to date and knowledgeable about your research product and current views?
And at what point, as the Managing Director and Senior Analyst, should you be involved in the sales process? Your time is constrained, and you need to be focused on your research product. And we have all been involved in too many sales meetings where it is obvious that the buy-side contact just wants to leach information and that chances of an actual sale are negligible. Worse, often this is obvious within the first couple of minutes, yet we end up being ‘stuck’ in the meeting– completely wasting our most precious resource, time.
Building the lead pipeline
But this changes with a pipeline of warm leads. Ideally, your salesperson should have a list of 100-200 investment professionals that have been screened for AUM and for their holdings, ensuring that they are good targets. Of these, he or she should be in weekly communication with 50-60 of them. Within that group, there would be 5-10 hot prospects from which a decision on the research subscription is imminent (i.e. within one week).
If your marketing efforts are working properly, 5-10 new leads would be added each week as decisions within the ‘hot prospects’ are being made and those closed prospects are removed from the ‘to do’ list. This way, the pipeline remains full, and the salesperson is always busy nurturing his leads and living the ‘ABC’ dream: “A-Always; B-Be; C-Closing: Always Be Closing.”
The next article in the series examines opportunities with buy-side generalists.