In concept, lead generation is pretty simple: find a group of people that have expressed some interest in your product or service with the ultimate intention of selling to them. Unfortunately, in practice, lead generation proves a bit more complicated.
According to several studies by eMarketer, lead generation continues to be one of the greatest challenges among B2B marketers. For consecutive years, more than half of US B2B marketers reported lead generation as a challenge.
What exactly makes lead generation such a challenge? In general, it’s hard to say – there’s not really a single, easy answer. Lead generation difficulties tend to vary by company and industry. That being said, there are some common themes that we, as an agency, see all the time.
We’ve found that many of the issues commonly associated with lead generation – low quality leads, a low number of leads, poor conversion rates, etc. – can actually stem from a larger problem with lead management processes. We’ve listed four of the most prevalent lead management mistakes below.
1. Forgoing Nurture
A form completion is by no means a sales qualified lead.
Think about the kind of actions that are associated with forms – content downloads, subscriptions, registrations, trials, and so on. These actions fall into the Awareness or Information Gathering stage of the purchase process. Even in the case of trials, which are typically considered one of the deeper-funnel conversions, leads must be given time for their due diligence.
Many leads have the potential to buy in the future, but are not currently ready to comfortably make the decision. HubSpot reports that, on average, 50% of leads are qualified, but not yet ready to buy. By being involved in this purchase decision, companies can influence prospects toward their offering without being overbearing. The key is providing stage-relevant value and various opportunities to move forward.
The problem with rushing to the pitch is that it fundamentally changes the relationship between the lead and company. The company transforms from a trusted advisor and valued resource to ‘just another vendor’. Credibility turns into skepticism. If the transition is sharp enough, it feels like a bait and switch tactic, which can result in further disillusion for the lead.
By failing to nurture leads, you’re failing to tap the potential of your efforts. A hard initial pitch may shake loose a few low-hanging fruits, but it will leave the bulk of the crop hanging firmly on the tree.
2. Rushing Leads through the Buying Process
Companies have sales cycles. Buying takes time. That’s not to say that quick sales don’t exist, but rather that they should be considered the exception instead of the rule.
There’s no substitute for time in the decision-making process. It’s a common misconception that shrinking the time between touch points will proportionately shorten the sales cycle. This is simply not true. The goal is to guide a lead through the buying process, not drag them kicking and screaming.
The key is to understand the general stages and the time frame of each unique sales cycle. Use data to construct and continually update this understanding. Once established, use your projected sales cycle to set general expectations for leads (expect variance).
This projection is not end-all and be-all. Some leads will move faster, some will move slower. By understanding your typical sales cycle, you have a yardstick for progress through the process.
3. Treating All Leads the Same
Buying is a distinctly individual process. The buying process is influenced by a combination of situational factors (company needs, budget, required approval, etc.) and buyer preferences (guided vs. self-guided, purchasing in advance vs. last minute, guidance from industry experts vs. guidance from friends/peers, etc.).
A one size fits all approach to potential buyers does a disservice to all parties involved. Buyers don’t want to feel shoehorned into a predetermined track, while this resistance will result in fewer sales opportunities for the company. In the end, both parties come out disappointed.
The remedy to this problem is segmentation and personalization. By breaking leads into smaller, more homogeneous groups, companies are able to craft multiple tracks that more effectively accommodate the common needs of these groups. Beyond that, companies can incorporate buyer-specific information into their messaging and tactics to ensure the utmost relevance. This relevance is persuasive.
4. Failing to Understand Your Audience
Targeting is Marketing 101. You shouldn’t need to be told that you should understand your target audience before planning and executing a campaign.
Usually, the issue isn’t that companies rush to reach their leads without some – at least superficial – understanding of their target audience, but rather that they lack the required degree of understanding. In addition to the classic demographics (location, age, gender, industry, job title, job function, etc.) and psychographics (value, attitudes, etc.), companies must understand more nuanced details of the buyer’s role, like job responsibilities, interaction with the offering, purchase authority, clout within the organization, evaluation criteria, and purchase process. Wherever possible, this information should be paired with behavioral data to create the most complete target profile.
When a company possesses this degree of understanding, it allows them to intelligently segment and deliver buyer-relevant value at each stage of the purchase process. As a result, they’re able to reduce stage-to-stage drop-off and increase the overall number of sales opportunities.
Let us know what you think:
- How successful is your lead management process?
- Do you view lead generation as a challenge?
- Do you suffer from any of the discussed lead management issues?