Would you like to tap into the most valuable source for leads? You might be surprised to discover that you are climbing over the low hanging fruit in an effort to get to the top of the tree. In your haste to shout your message to the masses, you could be shouting over the heads of the potential business that is already in a queue at your door. Slow down and reflect for just a moment. Then tap into the most valuable source for leads.


The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council has just completed a study of channel executives, distributors, resellers, and other channel representatives. The results of the surveys may not surprise you, but the contrasts of the responses provide a shocking insight into the sheer volume of missed opportunities. This is good news for you, because missed opportunities by others can create new opportunities for you. While you may agree with the initial results of the survey, consider how you can adjust your approach to the market and leverage these opportunities.


According to the survey results by the Chief Marketing Officer Council, most valued source of leads is from customer referrals.


54% Customer Referrals


14% E-Mail or Direct Marketing


8% Internet


7% Events


7% Leads from Vendors


3% Third Party Lead Generation Organizations


8% Other


Would you agree that the best leads come from the referrals of satisfied customers? Is it surprising that customer referrals were ranked as four times more powerful and valuable than E-Mail or Direct Marketing campaigns? Customer referrals were ranked nearly seven times more likely to result in sales and new business than leads derived the Internet.


Customer referrals are a means of providing immediate credibility. With the increasing ability for consumers to share personal expression on the Internet, Blogs, E-mail, and word of mouth, the ability to communicate has enhanced the voice of the customer. In business-to-business transactions, a customer referral is more likely to lead to an appropriate contact with a relevant message, which is far more powerful and likely to result in success than a cold call from a third party lead generation. Events and trade shows can be a powerful platform to market a brand, but fall short in delivering valuable leads.


With all of this insight, how did the same channel executives, distributors, resellers, and channel representatives respond to the survey by Chief Marketing Officer Council with regards to tactics for generating new leads in the coming year?


14% Plan to use Direct Marketing and E-mail campaigns


13% Plan to use Sales Brochures and collateral


10% Plan to focus on Tradeshows for lead generation


8% Will use Seminars to generate leads


7% Will rely on Print Advertising


7% Plan to use Public Relations and Article Placement


7% Plan to use the Internet and Online Advertising


6% Will revert to Telemarketing


6% Plan to invest in Internet Search Engine Marketing


5% Plan to engage customers in User Group Gatherings


4% Plan to rely on Yellow Page Advertising


4% Will experiment on the Internet with Blogs and Social Networking


3% Will use Online Directories


3% Will create Webcasts


1% Plan to use Content Syndication


2% Will try something completely different


The results of the survey regarding lead generation tactics for new business acquisition are hardly surprising. Very little has changed in the planning and tactics as conveyed by the survey response, and yet, the contrast in comparison to the most effective and valued leads is staggering. Even though 54% of respondents acknowledged that the most valued leads are based on customer referrals, the first mention of leveraging this goldmine occurs in the 4% of respondents that plan to engage customers in user group gatherings.


Fortunately, it would appear relatively that fourteen percent of respondents believe the most valuable lead generation comes from Direct Marketing or E-mail, and fourteen percent plan to use this tactic for lead generation in the coming year. However, even though only seven percent believe that the best leads come from trade shows, there are ten percent planning to take this tactic, and another eight percent who will augment this activity with seminars.


Although only eight percent believe that the highest chance for success comes from leads acquired by the Internet, there is a staggering number of diverse plans to leverage this channel of communication. The tactics include seven percent Internet and Online Advertising, six percent investing in search engine marketing, four percent using blogs and social networking, three percent using Online Directories, and another three percent experimenting with webcasts. The Internet provides an exciting vehicle to be creative, showcase the brand, and communicate to a very large audience. However, is it targeting the most valuable audience by engaging the most valuable leads that come from customer referrals?


As you can see, the tactics are not groundbreaking or unusual. On the contrary, the approach to market is contrived on establishing a brand, shouting a message to the masses, and hoping that the merit is recognized by the appropriate lead. The Internet, Trade Shows, Brochures, and Advertising, provide effective, if not innovative vehicles for spreading the slogan. While it may be necessary to invest in these channels of communication to maintain competitive placement, there remains untapped opportunity for higher rates of success when tactics engage customer referrals.


Stop what you are doing right now and imagine how referrals from satisfied customers could generate valuable leads and grow your business. It does not matter what kind of business you are in, or what responsibilities you have in the organization. Every member of an organization contributes directly, or indirectly, to customer satisfaction. Your actions may results in testimonials, endorsements, or positive word of mouth. If you could harness the power of customer referrals, your sales force would blossom with representation from independent trusted advocates.


So, how do you encourage and empower customers to grow this incredible pipeline of valued referrals? You ask them, of course. However, before you make such a bold request, your customers must know that you are fully engaged and obligated to their aspirations. When customers are assured that you are a trusted advocate, committed to customer satisfaction, they have the confidence to share referrals and recommendations.


Once customer confidence is established and the relationship is mutually rewarding, then it is just a matter of creating the appropriate opportunity for referrals to occur. This can be as simple as asking for referrals, or as formal as creating gatherings for existing clients and potential prospects to meet and exchange experiences. Introducing existing clients to potential prospects demonstrates immense confidence in your own relationship with your customers, because you are not fearful of losing the mutually rewarding relationship. Group gatherings and communications creates a unique opportunity to endorse your customers, grow their circle of influence, and for them to provide a third party endorsement of your efforts.


There are many ways to empower customer referrals by engaging individuals in group gathering or discussions, leveraging the Internet or Advertising, or by collecting a powerful collage of testimonials. The tactics for getting the most out of this goldmine pipeline are as diverse as the markets and customers in them. It all begins with recognizing the most valuable source for leads, acknowledging the value of these resources, and creating specific action items in a plan to unleash these untapped opportunities. Actively and effectively mining the most valuable source for leads will give you an advantage over 95% of your competition.


About the Author:

John Mehrmann is author of The Trusted Advocate: Accelerate Success with Authenticity and Integrity. The book that is changing everything by reawakening personal values in business as a competitive edge.