No one would argue that leads are the life line to the growth of any business. But I suspect sales would be the first to object to the idea that all leads are good leads. Their support for this perspective is quite simple – If a lead isn’t in the market to buy now (or within a pre-defined sales cycle), then the lead isn’t going to have a personal monetary benefit, nor will they contribute to the monthly sales goal. Sales survives in the present tense. However, from a marketing perspective, all leads “could” eventually turn into a good lead if we simply abandon the “one-size-fits-all’ approach. This is marketing’s opportunity to develop a strategic lead gen plan that organizes leads into segments based on their “sales readiness” – tracking leads by 3 distinct segments:
Early Pre-Purchase Stage– may have some awareness regarding your product or service category but not likely to engage, other than general learning
Mid Pre-Purchase Stage- feeling some stress, and beginning to research options/solutions within your category without urgency
Late Purchase-Ready Stage– feeling stress, and actively researching options/solutions with urgency
There’s a more strategic reason for segmenting with the above approach, beyond the obvious. By establishing a strategy and plan to manage leads at all stages, your paid media dollars will be significantly stretched. Meaning that although a lead may not be ready to buy today, the cost of nurturing a lead until the time they ARE ready to buy will significantly decrease and generate a greater return on marketing investment.
Here’s Why: Lead databases and marketing automation platforms, if configured correctly, will convert a percentage of the mid and early stage leads over time. Put in financial terms, with the aid of technological support, businesses can convert a marketing dollar from a “one and done” allocation to a dollar with a shelf life that can last several months or even years.
Marketing Pays for Itself: There’s a trick to this approach- the power of automation is only as good as your pre-programmed communication strategies. This is where marketing should apply their strategic prowess – by building multi-touch communication streams designed to move early stage leads to mid-stage, and mid-stage leads to late stage, by leveraging content that’s purposefully developed to accelerate each segment to move to the next stage in their purchasing journey. Below is a high-level summary road map, illustrating two touches designed to move leads through the process (Review Other Contact Strategies):
The power of lead generation requires a well thought out plan that’s orchestrated, where every component of the plan serves a distinct purpose. From a sales point of view, lead volume will only have value if they’re ready to buy. From a financial and operational point of view, if that volume can be cultivated into predictable sales over time, marketing has moved themselves from a cost center to a predictable revenue contributor.