In today's marketing universe things are very different. Customers have a wealth of information at their fingertips about products and services: if they need information about particular subject matter or a product review, consumers now obtain recommendations from friends on social media, and so much more. By the time a customer even thinks about going purchase— and it may well be via an online store, at that — because they’re less likely to ask a salesperson about a particular product ” and more likely to try and negotiate for a lower price on something they already know they want.
Whether you’re selling to consumers or providing business services to other businesses, customers today know what they want, who they want it from, and what they want to pay before you can even ask “May I help you?” Growing your business means reaching potential customers before they’ve made up their minds. Lead generation is key.
Leads are people who are potentially interested in buying your products or services. Lead generation lets you reach potential customers early in their buyer’s journey, so you can earn their trust, build a relationship, and be by their side until they’re ready to make a purchase.Let’s take a deeper look at how lead generation works, and why it’s so important to growing your business.
Lead generation used to involve purchasing lists of names and having your sales teams cold call people at home. Thanks to technology, we can now generate leads based on specific criteria and information. Companies collect information about potential buyers, and then tailor marketing methods and sales pitches to those prospects’ needs.
This mainly happens through digital channels, using inbound marketing techniques and a little bit of old-school outbound marketing (more on that in a minute). Buyers today do so much online information gathering on their own, they’re not so keen on listening to traditional sales pitches. Instead, companies have to meet prospective buyers on their own turf: the internet.
People have only so much attention to give. But there’s so much content and information available in our digital world, businesses are constantly battling to catch the eyes and ears of potential customers. Some call this the “Attention Economy,” meaning that attention is a precious resource that drives markets. You might think of it as a “Customer Economy,” since ultimately your goal is to win customers and their business.
Winning customers and business is how you grow, after all. Winning that business is all about relationship building. That’s true for B2C businesses, and it’s true for B2B, as well. With so much information at their fingertips, customers research and form opinions on brands and products well before they make contact with salespeople and enter what we traditionally think of as a customer journey. So when they do make contact, customers are looking for something more than an old-fashioned sales pitch. They want to trust your brand and feel good about buying what you’re selling. It’s on you to earn that trust and build a relationship with each customer.
New: Any potential customer you know something about. A new lead could be someone who visited your website and entered their email address, stopped by your booth at a trade show and swiped their badge, or walked into your store and signed up for a mailing list.
Working: A lead with whom you’re having an active conversation. This person could be signed up for your email lists, following you on social media, or on the phone with you right now.
Nurturing: A potential customer who’s not interested in buying right now, but does anticipate a future need. You keep in contact with this lead by sending them additional info — maybe a newsletter, product announcement, or upcoming webinar schedule — so they remember your company when it comes time to make a purchase.
Unqualified: A lead who has decided they are not interested in what you have to offer.Qualified: Good news — a qualified lead is someone who has shown interest in your offerings and wants to do business. Qualified leads are also known as sales leads.
Lead management is more than just organizing your leads so it’s easy to count them up and send them emails. Lead management is a sort of bridge between marketing and sales. It’s a process that starts with identifying leads, moves on to qualifying them, and ends with working them as sales opportunities. But there’s a lot that happens along the way.
As we said at the start of this article, today’s customer is incredibly educated about what they’re buying. They take control of the buying process way before you enter the picture, leveraging all of that online information we talked about earlier. Still, if you’ve identified them as a lead, that means they are at least someone interested in what you’re selling. Your job, then, is to help them learn more — about your product or service, about industry trends, and about successful customers they can relate to and be inspired by.
Engaging with and educating prospective customers like this is a big part of lead management. It’s at the core of lead nurturing.