Demand generation can be difficult at times because marketers occasionally need to balance competing interests. Sales teams expect a constant flow of hot leads. Marketing managers work hard to ensure an uninterrupted stream of ripe opportunities. But the singular focus on easy-to-close leads might be at the expense of potential opportunities from “cooler” leads that seem inactive or dead.

No Lead Left Behind

When hot leads don’t convert to revenue – or don’t convert quickly enough – sales sometimes complains that marketing’s qualification process isn’t stringent enough. Sales reps don’t want to waste time and effort on what they perceive to be non-productive opportunities. Marketing usually responds accordingly, but in doing so may inadvertently tighten the criteria too much and discard leads that may have revenue potential.

Another related problem (but a good one too have, relatively speaking) is generating too many qualified leads. The sales team may “cherry-pick” among many great choices, leaving the rest to wither on the vine. More staff is the answer, of course, if this is an ongoing problem. But infrequent overproduction of hot leads may result in missed sales.

The key lesson for marketers is not to let any good prospects or partially-qualified leads go to waste. A company that’s been around for a few years probably has a CRM database full of seemingly dead and inactive leads with notes or a status update as of the moment they were abandoned. Some appear to be truly dead (“lost to competitors”, “no need”) and others seem to have future potential (“no budget”, “decision authority changed”, “follow up later”). Or to cast this situation in classic demand generation terms, these leads are stuck in the funnel.

Bringing these leads back to life requires careful nurturing. Let’s look at how to do this based on their most recent status update:

  • Lost to competition: After using a competitor’s product for some period time, a customer may be dissatisfied. All software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions require periodic renewal, which means there may be an opportunity to displace an existing vendor. The correct approach is not to talk about offerings from you or your competitor. Rather, concentrate on providing information that’s both interesting and relevant to the specific industry. Follow up by emailing them, but make sure the frequency of messages is relatively low.
  • No response: Although this may mean this lead is truly dead, you should first determine where the prospect is in the buying cycle before writing it off entirely. (This assumes, of course, that they are willing to communicate with you.) If they are within a buying cycle, chances are they are in a late stage. If so, the intensity of communications should be high; and should include analyst reports, case studies and customer testimonials. If the prospect is beyond the buying cycle, communications should focus on new trends and changing habits.
  • No budget: Focus on providing information about new wins, accelerating adoption and your brand. Communications should be on a periodic basis to ensure brand recall when the prospect starts (or resumes) the buying cycle in the future.
  • Decision authority changed: Find the current decision-makers and reach out to them with webinars.

Although somewhat counterintuitive, marketers can generate significant results by reviving moribund leads. You need to mine all possible sources because, at the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. More sources yield more opportunities. When you try the methods outlined above to revive those leads, make sure to track any signs of life. You should also collaborate with sales to understand why those leads stalled initially. Those learnings can make the overall demand generation process more efficient.

Reviving dead leads is a bit like playing a gothic treasure-hunting video game. You never know what you’ll find. You might be horrified by what lurks under rocks and around corners, but occasionally you’ll uncover a few gems that will make you a winner overall.