Editor’s note: “The Angel Connection” is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share with readers advice for entrepreneurs seeking investment. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast. The Angel Connection is published weekly.

Entrepreneurs often come up short when explaining how they are going to achieve potential customer awareness of their new product or service. Generalities about widespread advertising, appropriate trade shows and email campaigns will not impress potential investors and will leave the impression that you really don’t know how to find customers.

When explaining this aspect of your business, you need to bring your marketing programs to life with specific targets and expected results that are focused on the sweet spot of your target market.

The Purpose of Marketing

I am all in favor of creating a strong brand image and a positive public image, but the primary purpose of marketing is to identify qualified customer leads that will be approached with an effective sales presentation leading to the closure of a sale. Every marketing program you launch should have specific objectives for the number of qualified leads you want to create and should be designed and managed to achieve those objectives.

Have Criteria for Qualified Leads

Establish the criteria for what a qualified lead is in your target market; being as objective as possible. Some of the elements of a qualified lead are that the potential customer has:

• A demonstrable need for your product or service
• The urgency to buy now
• Funds available to make the purchase
• A purchase decision making process
• The authority to make the purchase decision

You need to have a clear understanding about which potential customers you should be selling to and what the sales cycle will be so that you don’t waste valuable time and sales resources on customer leads that are not likely to make a purchase.

The Foundation of Effective Marketing Programs

At the heart of all marketing programs is a compelling set of marketing messages that bring to life the value that your product or service brings to potential customers. These messages are meant to show an understanding of the customer issues that your products or services solve and the quantifiable and objective benefits that will accrue to the buyer. These messages become the basis of what you say to potential customers when you qualify them.

Creating Qualified Leads

Investors want to know that you have the real possibility of generating qualified leads. You need to be very specific about where you will find them and how many there will be. Some of the primary sources of leads that will be tested against your qualified lead criteria are:

• Personal contact lists that you and marketing and sales people in your company have
• Specific trades shows that are attended by people who could be qualified leads
• Advertisements in trade magazines read by your potential customers
• A website that is optimized for searches performed by potential customers
• Telemarketing campaigns to potential customers in your target market

Whatever lead generation programs you employ, you need to have an objective plan for specific results. Such a plan is based on marketing lead generation productivity assumptions that help you determine the number of contacts you need to make in order to actually create the number of qualified leads that your sales team needs in order to make its sales objectives.

Your potential investors need to be comfortable that your marketing programs will really be able to achieve the customer awareness that will quickly generate revenue growth. Be specific and describe expected results.

Bill Warner is the Managing Partner of Paladin and Associates, a business consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park area of central North Carolina, and is the Chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast.