What is a lead?
In marketing, a lead is a prospective customer that shows interest in your products or services. But the term doesn’t just refer to individual consumers; even businesses that show interest in what you sell are called leads. The process of initiating contact with these prospects is called lead generation.
Importance of a lead
In the digital age, you need leads to stay in business. Without leads, you won’t have customers, without customers, there can’t be sales, and without sales, you would go out of business.
Back in the day, getting customers was easy. Marketing could find the names of potential buyers and pass the names to sales. Sales would then talk to the prospects. Mind you, these were usually uneducated early stage buyers with little to zero knowledge about the product or service.
But this has all changed. Today’s buyers can do their own research online and learn a great deal about the product or service before speaking to a sales person. By the time they make contact with sales, the prospects are usually between 67% and 90% of their way through the marketing journey. Changing a prospect’s mind at this stage is almost impossible. So, businesses need to start early.
That’s where lead generation comes in. Through blogging, email marketing and other marketing campaigns, you need to build trust and interest in your prospects from an early stage, effectively converting them into leads. It is these leads that the sales team will then work with to find your new customers.
What makes a great lead?
Essentially, any lead is a good lead. If someone is taking interest in your offers, then it means they could one day consider buying from you.
However, for purposes of efficiency, it’s important to narrow down on prospects that not only show an interest in your products but who also demonstrate other traits that make them better targets. These include;
1. Great data
The best leads are those whom you have a lot of information about. You should have the lead’s email address, contact information, demographic data, buying behaviors, and so on. This makes it easier to reach and monitor the lead which would in turn allow you to better nurture and convert them to customers.
2. An interest in buying
The lead shouldn’t just show an interest in your products but must also show signs that they are looking to buy. To know whether a prospect is interested in making a purchase, track their online activities to see if they are actively reading buying guides and tying to compare prices from different brands.
3. Knowledge of the buying process
Does the prospect know how to move from where they currently are, step by step until they finally make the purchase? Those with a clear understanding of the buying journey are better prospects because it shows they’re really interested in getting the product.
4. Knowledge of your company and products
Any serious prospect will usually take time to familiarize with your company structure and your range of products. They’ll want to know who to talk to at what stage of the buying journey and whether you have different products within the same category.
5. A confirmed date of first contact and discovery
This is very important as it usually determines the success or failure of future engagements. A lead that has already made initial contact is likely to be open to further engagements and will happily pick your calls and duly respond to other follow up communications.
You also need to consider the financial position of the prospect. Do they have the money to make the purchase? While all leads should be treated seriously, those who have the financial resources to make the purchase need even greater attention.
Usually tied to budget, authority is about having a voice in the final buying decision. This is especially important in organizations and families. Is the prospect you’re dealing with the person who makes buying decisions? A kid, for example, may take interest in your products. But it’s the kid’s parents who may have the money and authority to make the purchase decision.
Finally, great leads are those that are in genuine need of the product or service. Sometimes people will come to your website just to watch your cute videos or read your blog just because they are looking for ideas for their own blog. Such people are rarely in need of your products. It is your job to differentiate them from serious prospects.
In summary, never treat everyone who shows interest in your products as a worthwhile lead until you’ve assessed their underlying traits. If you think they could be prospects, dig deep to find out if they meet these eight criteria before qualifying them as marketing ready.