Marketing Microsoft

A Tasty Recipe for Lead Generation

Mac's guide to marketing for good, juicy sales leads.

No marketing tactics used by Microsoft partners are more important than those designed to find, nurture and qualify sales leads. I call it marketing for leads. Done correctly, it will increase the bottom line and help your company achieve its growth goals.

Here's a marketing recipe that's created solid leads for large, medium and small Microsoft partners, regardless of their business focus.

1. Build a database of the right contacts at the right companies.

Not every business can or will buy from your company, no matter how aggressively you market to them. The trick is to determine which companies appear to have a need for what you're selling, are receptive to working with your kind and size of company, and have the ability to buy when the time's right. Then aim your marketing at them.

I recommend you start by rounding up all the miscellaneous lists of suspects, prospects and customers at your company. Give them to a third-party list service to help you merge them, purge duplicates, update postal addresses and append information such as industry and company size. Microsoft can help with the third-party list services offered on its Marketing Services for Partners site at Next, ask the third-party list service to add those companies and contacts that resemble your best customers and those in specific vertical or niche markets where you've determined there's a clear need for your services and products. Building the database and cleaning the data is tedious. But keep in mind that your database will be the foundation of half of your marking-for-leads efforts.

2. Use direct marketing to regularly reach all your marketing database contacts.

You should use the database to drive regular direct marketing campaigns via direct mail, e-mail and telemarketing. I recommend you plan to use direct marketing to touch prospects at least once a quarter. Better, aim to touch them with direct marketing monthly. But because nobody's perfect, settle for nine or 10 times a year.

This approach also works well for nurturing your not-yet-qualified or longer-term prospects. And they are worth it! My research with Microsoft and its partners shows that the short-term buyers -- those who buy within six months -- represent only a quarter of the sales that will happen. The other three out of four sales occur between six months and two years later.

3. Include multiple offers or calls-to-action for different sales cycle stages.

I recommend you always make more than one offer; each designed to appeal to people at different stages of the sales cycle. For example, offer info kits, whitepapers and case studies for those early in their consideration/buying process. Offer worksheets, checklists, webinars or live seminars for those a bit further along. Offer demos, assessments, quotations and “if you buy now ..." offers for those who are ready to move forward with their buying decision.

4. Organize your Web site to help move prospects from awareness to consideration to inquiry to sales.

Instead of scaring prospective customers away with confusing or out-of-date information on your Web site, consider re-focusing its content to help your prospects determine that your company is their best choice. [For more advice on organizing your site and optimizing it for search engines, see Mac's July and November 2005 columns. -- Ed.]

5. Involve the sales team when creating sales tools.

If your salespeople turn more of your marketing-generated leads into sales, you won't have to generate as many leads and you will get a higher return on both your marketing and sales investments. So what tools do they need? Start by asking them, or ride along on sales call and see for yourself.

Yes, this is a pretty basic recipe. But I'm always surprised how many Microsoft partners blow their budget on fancy or expensive marketing tactics that don't get results. Instead, I recommend you start with this basic, but proven, recipe. Add fancier and more expensive marketing ingredients to the mix later, when you can afford to experiment.

About the Author

M.H. "Mac" McIntosh has been providing marketing and sales consulting services for Microsoft and many of its partners for more than seven years. More than 1,000 Microsoft Partners across the United States and Canada have attended his Marketing Boot Camps and Marketing for Leads (tm) live and Web seminars. You can contact Mac via