Need a Lead Generation Strategy? Follow Your Top Prospects

Devon-McDonald by

There are a lot of extreme tactics out there to track and communicate with your company’s sales leads. One of the best strategies is to follow those prospects.

Okay, that sounds creepy. I don’t mean that literally. Under no circumstances should you search for your prospect’s home address and stalk them on the weekends. A restraining order would probably be pretty damaging to your career.

I do mean that you should take your top 20 prospects (those with the highest probability of conversion) and follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, their corporate blog, and other online outposts (avoid personal blogs and Facebook pages). But don’t just follow them. Retweet their posts or leave a comment on their blog every now and then if you have something interesting to add to the conversation.

I promise, I’m not crazy. Last month, Cisco rolled out software that will allow companies to better track their customers and prospects. By understanding what those prospects are talking about and what is important to them, you’ll be able to foster a more personal conversation and sales approach. According to the Network World article, Cisco says that 34 percent of Americans used their personal Facebook, Twitter, or other online accounts to “rant or rave” about a particular company, product, or brand. That can be pretty powerful information.

Cisco’s SocialMiner software mines social media sites, monitoring status updates, forum posts, and customer blogs. Not that you need the software, but the fact that it was developed at all shows how big the trend of tracking customers and prospects online has become.

I would suggest scheduling a time each week to check on your prospects’ updates and educate yourself on the topics they’re interested in. Dedicate an hour to purely following and reading up on their recent social activity and save any interesting links in your CRM for future use.

If you’re not sure if your prospects are active on the various social media sites, Jay Baer at Social Media Examiner offers four great ways to find out. Here are a few of his suggestions:

Hire a Spy

There are a variety of services out there for businesses big and small, but Baer suggests Flowtown for smaller businesses and Rapleaf for larger corporations. By simply providing a list of your prospect’s e-mail addresses, those two services will find out which among them is actively involved in social media and where they spend a lot of their time. It’s not as creepy as it sounds. Those companies aren’t mining any personal information. They are, however, doing some of the legwork for you.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask

You don’t want to come across too aggressively with your prospects, but it never hurts to ask if they’re on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you feel particularly comfortable with them, inquire about which industry sites or blogs they follow. Baer also suggests providing a field for social media involvement in your newsletter sign-up and lead generation forms. It never hurts to ask.

Keep Tabs on Email Behavior

If you include links to your various social media outposts in an e-mail signature, there are ways to track which of your customers and prospects clicked on those links. By finding out which of those prospects took a look at your Twitter or LinkedIn profile, you can find them on the social web and begin to follow them, too.

Assuming that your expansion stage business has completed market segmentation research, all of your leads should fall within a certain category. For example, they might be in a similar industry or share certain pain points. So, if one of your prospects posts an article on Twitter or a blog, it’s likely that the article might also interest another one of your leads that hasn’t read the piece. Take the opportunity to spread the word. By sharing valuable content with your prospects, you’ll score some major brownie points.

Now, it’s time for the disclaimer. As with most customer engagement practices, you need to know when you’re crossing the line. Moderation is key, particularly if you’re prospects aren’t responding to your comments or interacting with you online.

The point of “following” is to educate yourself on your prospect’s personality and passions. You want your prospects to know that you’re on top of your game, a fan of their work, and knowledgeable about the things that interest them. You don’t want to annoy them, so don’t overdo it.

In a nutshell, you need to establish a good social media engagement rhythm that will show your prospect that you’re a respectful and knowledgeable admirer. If you do it right, they will likely be flattered and  flattery can go a long way in this world.