Leads are often treated as the main goal of marketing. The more leads you generate, the better a job you’re doing – or at least that’s the idea. For a long time most marketing organizations treated lead quantity as the standard, at least in part because it’s a relatively easy metric to measure. But now that we have more sophisticated tools for tracking marketing data and connecting the dots to get more insights from them, we can do better.
Leads aren’t ultimately the most important metric to measure marketing success, ROI is. And not only is getting more leads an imperfect measure to count on, an emphasis on getting more leads could actually be hurting you.
When your work results in huge numbers of email signups and downloads, it’s exciting. You want to believe your efforts are paying off, but the truth is more complicated. The longer those lists of names are, the more likely they are to spell at least as much trouble as success for a few significant reasons.
1. It puts sales and marketing at odds.
Sales and marketing teams have long been known for a contentious relationship. That’s because the goals of the two teams have for too long been misaligned. When marketing prioritizes lead quantity over quality, it creates more work for sales and breeds resentment – especially when that work doesn’t pay off.
If you’re loading your sales team down with loads of leads that aren’t worth much, it’s only adding fuel to the fire of any tension between your departments. That’s bad for business. Companies where sales and marketing are aligned make 208 percent more in revenue.
2. It could be losing you sales.
While 61 percent of B2B companies send all of their leads over to sales, in most cases only about 25 percent of the leads that come in are actually legitimate. Both sales and marketing are spending time focusing on getting more leads. However, these leads often don’t fall into your target audience at all and don’t have any chance of turning into a sale. When you’re spending time and resources on the ¾ of leads that won’t go anywhere, you’re probably failing to follow up with the ¼ that are worth your time. And with 30-50 percent of sales going to the first business that responds, that means lost revenue.
3. A low lead to conversion ratio makes marketing look bad.
If getting more leads has been your priority and lead quantity has been the main metric you show to your superiors to demonstrate the value of the marketing department, you shouldn’t count on them being satisfied with that for long. Marketing software allows for much more sophisticated and useful ways of measuring marketing results. Businesses can now see in more specific terms how much marketing is contributing to revenue and how much the leads you’re sending over are worth.
If your efforts to get more leads aren’t contributing to actual sales, it will catch up with you.
We talk a lot in marketing about knowing our audience, but if you’re paying attention to the number of leads more than the quality of those leads then you aren’t living that advice. Marketing should be making an active effort to match the leads you get to your personas. If your analysis shows you’re attracting the wrong people, then something needs to change.
And you should move fast, because other marketing organizations are already putting focus on attracting quality leads specifically. 83 percent of marketers say they’re making lead quality a priority over simply getting more leads. How many of them have successfully made that shift is harder to quantify, but if you haven’t started, now’s the time.
That long list of leads may not be as valuable as you initially thought, but it’s far from worthless. You just have to do some extra work to sift through all the dirt to find the gems most valuable to your company. Make sure you heed a few lead scoring best practices to make the process both as easy as possible and useful to both you and sales.
First things first, any tension you may have historically felt with the sales team needs to go. Work with them to establish a criteria for determining the priority levels of the leads you attract.
There are a few main standards you can use to decide what level of priority to give each lead. Some important ones to consider are:
Good lead scoring is complicated because there are so many different factors to consider and knowing how much each of them is really worth requires some guesswork. By working with sales and bringing your historical data into the conversation though, you increase your chances of making more meaningful judgments about how to prioritize your leads.
If you have a good CRM, you can use the criteria you worked out with sales to develop an algorithm that automates the process of segmenting your leads based on how valuable they are and the lifecycle stage they’re in. A strong algorithm automates and speeds up the process of determining which leads should be sent on to sales, which ones need further nurturing from marketing, and which can be discarded.
Developing a system for identifying the leads worth quick follow up should be accompanied by creating clear guidelines for how that follow up should work. Since speed is of the utmost here, both sales and marketing should have a specific plan of action for each lead based on where they are in the buyer’s journey and the persona they most closely align with.
Some of these actions can be automated to make the process smoother. For instance, you can decide that every time a lead that matches your Doctor Dana persona downloads a particular eBook and opts in to emails, she receives an email drip campaign related to the topics covered in the eBook. In some cases, a more direct, personalized follow up may be best—particularly for the leads your data suggests are of high value. The specific course of action to take is one more thing you should work out in advance, ideally with some input from your sales team.
Paying attention to the quality of your leads isn’t just about knowing which ones are worth nurturing, it can also help you improve your marketing campaigns to increase the relevance of the future leads you generate.
Marketers today have access to more data than ever before. All the historical data you have on past leads who have turned into customers is a treasure trove of information about who your most valuable leads are and their patterns of behavior in reaching the point of purchase.
Do an analysis of your past sales to determine:
That’s powerful information for following the No. 1 rule most marketers seek to follow: know your audience.
Your analysis can give you clear insights into the steps to take moving forward. If a particular eBook was frequently downloaded by leads that became customers, then you know that’s a topic of interest to your target audience that should be pursued further. If blog posts targeting a particular keyword tended to bring in traffic that wasn’t relevant, you know to shift your keyword strategy.
Use the insights you’ve learned about what worked for your current customers to better tailor every part of your marketing to better reach the leads most like them.
Marketing has been moving toward a more targeted approach for a long time. And for good reason—it works. Account-based marketing, a hyper-targeted approach to reaching specific leads, has been shown to produce 20 percent larger deal sizes.
Whether you put the insights you’ve gleaned from your data toward an ABM approach specifically or not, you should use it to create campaigns intentionally designed to target the particular audience you want to reach. The higher proportion of leads you attract that are relevant, the less work you have to do in analyzing, segmenting and nurturing them. And the insights from your sales team combined with the data you already have should make it easy to increasingly move toward the point where you attract fewer, better leads.
There’s a lot that goes into attracting the right leads and nurturing them effectively to achieve sales. For a deeper dive into creating a strategy for bringing in better leads (not just getting more leads) and turning them into sales, check out our eBook on Effective Lead Management and Lead Nurturing.
Attracting leads will always be part of marketing’s job, but focusing on the right leads instead of just getting more leads will increase your value to the company and ultimately make it easier for you to do your job well.