Scaling lead generation to access the ‘long tail’ of customers

by Shiana Gunasekera

In the current environment of uncertainty, enterprises everywhere are looking to accelerate their growth in a cost effective and scalable way. One of the biggest and commonly overlooked opportunities to enable this, lies within the ‘long tail’ of smaller or lower spending customers. For many organisations, whilst the key accounts are well managed, the smaller and harder to access segments are often neglected – however, these represent an enormous growth opportunity if addressed efficiently and effectively.

Defining ‘the tail’

Most B2B organisations have around 4 tiers of customers groups – each of which are handled quite differently.

  • Tier 1: The major accounts underpinning the economics of the business. These are commonly looked after by Key Account Managers with significant influence in getting things moving internally to solve customer problems.
  • Tier 2: Sizable or high-growth accounts which drive the most revenue for the business and are commonly handled by mid-level account managers.
  • Tier 3: Whilst these accounts have high potential, the size or frequency of purchasing doesn’t warrant an account manager.
  • Tier 4: Lapsed customers or smaller accounts generally associated with occasional or small ticket purchasing, so investment is hard to justify.

Engaging the lower value segments is often difficult – if they receive attention, it is typically through digital channels or inside sales. However, there are few businesses we see do this in a highly deliberate and optimised way.

So how can enterprises efficiently tap into tiers 3 and 4 to realise the elusive growth opportunity the long tail represents? A specific combination of data, segmentation, operating model and technology components allows businesses to realise full tail potential in a cost efficient and scalable way.

Steps to realising value:

1. Clean up your data – given the tail segments are likely to have been neglected for some time, in most cases data quality has degraded as a result. Common data gaps often result from little thought being put into the CRM fields and therefore the information captured, as well as varying portions of the database having ‘opted-in’ for future contact. A good place to start is by figuring out where marketability is strongest in the tail, then investing in cleansing and augmentation accordingly – often using a junior or offshore resource.

2. Identify pools of value – a thorough segmentation exercise is required to identify where the most profitable growth lies within the tail. This is an important step as coverage of the whole tail will rarely be possible or desirable. Analysis and experimentation is necessary to identify both commercial potential as well as segments with which you can develop compelling campaign angles. For example, should you target previously good customers who have been lapsing, or the larger businesses with whom you have low share of wallet? Often, slicing off combinations of industries and personas where you have a particularly strong proposition can also work well.

3. Develop simple, yet compelling campaigns – the segments you define should then inform your campaign design. It will have often been a while since these customers have heard from you, so ensuring that the message is compelling and there is a clear reason for outreach is important. These campaigns don’t have to be overly complex or detailed, keep it simple with a single call to action – this will then become the trigger for lead routing and prioritisation.

4. Prime the operating model – If the tail campaigns go to plan, there will be potential for a sudden increase in the volume of incoming leads. From a people and process perspective, this can be quite a big change – it is important that the marketing and sales teams are fully integrated to ensure optimal results. Some key questions to consider are: what does the execution process between marketing and sales look like? Where are these leads going to be routed to and who will be carrying out the follow-up? Do those handling follow-ups have the right skills and knowledge for the expected conversations, or is training necessary prior to launch?

5. Setting up enabling technology – with the preceding elements coming together, automation is the key layer which delivers true scale benefit and brings the opportunity to life. Ideally a CRM and marketing automation platform would be in play, however reasonable outcomes can be hacked together with lesser tools. The key item to be built is the lead routing and prioritisation rules, which become active off campaign triggers and push leads into sales for actioning. Establishing dashboards will assist with measuring campaign results, lead provision and critically, lead actioning and follow-ups.
Key takeaway – prioritise and measure well

The beauty of the tail is that while in totality it presents enormous opportunity, it is always made up of several very specific needs. Depending on business appetite, existing capability levels and the investment required – you can start with one or a few segment opportunities, prove value and then expand. This makes ‘scaling the tail’ a highly attractive option for leaders to consider in this current low-growth and cost-conscious operating environment.

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