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Not all leads are created equal – engaging a lead with the right approach at the right time

Dan Sands

June 30, 2021

How do you define a lead? Is it an email address of someone who has downloaded an asset from a publisher?  Or is it someone that has requested more information to be sent to them from your website?  Maybe it’s someone who has agreed to a call from a sales executive following contact from an SDR?  Truth is, these could all be defined as leads (and trust me, I’ve seen all of them defined as such!).  But each of them is subtly different in terms of the level of interest, and therefore each of them has to be managed in a slightly different way in order to nurture them to the place where every marketer wants a lead to end up.  In a sale.

So, what’s the best way to take a lead, in whatever form it may appear, through to that holy grail of revenue?  First things first, before any lead engagement activity, it’s essential to actually establish some lead qualification criteria.  In essence, you need to understand, as far as you can do, that the people you’re looking to engage are actually going to be relevant to your sales efforts. Clearly, you don’t want to waste precious resource and time on following up potential leads that never convert.  So, you need to look at relevance or suitability to purchase as the first initial qualification for all types of leads.  The data that helps here is clear; has the business bought from you before?  Is there a good sector/product fit with your organisation’s portfolio?  Is there intent data that shows their level of possible interest?  

But you also need to be very clear on what you are trying to achieve with your leads at the qualification stage; you need to ask yourself ‘what is the outcome that we’re trying to generate? Are we trying simply to sell more product to fulfil an urgent promotion quota?  Or are we trying to educate people at each stage through the funnel?’  Understanding this allows you to move to the engagement stage.

We approach the lead management process by flipping from a PUSH approach (‘here’s what I want to entice you with’) to a PULL approach (‘I’m going to understand your particular needs and serve those needs accordingly through targeted engagement).  We believe taking this approach creates a high level of lead qualification and conversion.  Let’s look at this approach very simply; imagine you are a ‘lead’, what would you expect?  If you’d just opted in to download one whitepaper, you would reasonably expect that you’re now going to be sent some more ‘stuff’ where the brand will have done its best to contextualise what you’re interested in and will listen to how you respond.  Did you download more after this?  This is classic nurture stuff, basically.  But you’re probably not going to respond well if you then get called out of the blue with a generic approach which is simply geared towards trying to push you to a sales call.  The caller has taken no time to understand your business needs or interests and is simply pushing you a product.  It’s a turn off and likely you’ll be irritated by the experience, and inclined to end the engagement there. The failure here is created by the organisational structure (which is often volume focused) coming into play – ‘we have a sign of interest, let’s call them’.  Too much ‘push’ and not enough ‘pull’.  

Compare the following two conversations:

a)     “Hi lead, I see you downloaded our whitepaper so you’re clearly interested in this area. Can I arrange a call to talk to you about the products we offer?”


b)    “Hi lead, I wonder if you’re interested in this area of business? Oh you are? Great, we have this really interesting guide on the next generation of this area and what it’ll mean for business, can I send it to you? While I’ve got you, could you tell me a bit about your business and what stage you’re at with……Oh, OK, thanks.  Understanding that, we have a webinar you might be interested in…”

Which of these two engagements do you think has longevity?

Our lead management philosophy is that you have to reach the people you want to engage at the level they are ready to be engaged with.  And that will be, for some, just an exchange of email, some will have a tertiary interest and some will express a bit more interest, and may be ready for a sales conversation.  But each time we are being guided by the needs of the lead and then respond with our next form of engagement accordingly. 

OK, so far, so obvious. But the truth is that too much lead generation activity does not work this way.  Far too often we see leads being managed on a volume basis with brands accepting very low conversion rates as a result.  But rather than scream for more leads to come in at the top of the funnel, brands need to take a more considered approach to managing the leads they have in smarter and more efficient ways.  The good news is the data, and tools, are now available to flip from a traditional volume-based lead management approach to the more thoughtful and considered approach we’ve outlined above.  And trust me, those people that you are targeting in your lead generation campaigns will thank you for it.  As will your colleagues in sales when you are able to deliver them higher quality leads that are quicker to convert.

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