Here's my list of the top seven b-to-b prospecting platforms, in rough order of ROI.
1. Website lead gen. Anyone who visits your site already has a degree of interest in your product or service. So take advantage of this by adding lead generation functionality to your site.
2. Customer referrals. Referrals are the best prospects you can get, since they come pre-endorsed. Review all your marketing communications, and add a referral request where appropriate.
3. Search engine marketing, both paid and organic. Enhance your site copy with the terms your prospects are looking for, and include plenty of fresh educational content to attract them. Supplement your advertising on AdWords with vertical search engines specific to your industry.
4. Outbound telemarketing. The "Swiss Army knife of b-to-b media," the phone is flexible, personal and dependable enough for a zillion applications, among them inquiry generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing.
5. Direct mail. A recent Direct Marketing Association study pegs b-to-b direct mail response rates to prospects at a healthy average of around 2.0%. Dimensional mail -- which comes in a box or a lumpy package -- is especially effective at getting past gatekeepers, like secretaries and mail rooms.
6. Trade shows. Exhibiting at trade shows and conferences is a time-honored way to get in front of prospects in a focused and interactive manner. But trade show marketing is expensive, costing an average of $276 per contact, according to Exhibit Surveys.
7. Pay-per-lead generation programs. Also known as content syndication, performance-based programs are available in broad industry categories like technology, healthcare and human resources. Only use this medium if you have good data on conversion rates -- conversion-to-qualified-lead and conversion-to-sale -- so you can buy the right level of quality.
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