That’s Not a Lead!

As I type this blog from the “happiest place on earth,” otherwise known as the soggiest place on earth as it has been raining since we got here, I am thinking about the true meaning of the word “lead”. To be successful in this world of interruption marketing–a world in which most of us operate—we, as marketers, need to better define what we consider a true lead and what is not. Specifically, our lead generation strategies need to include methods that help us customize first contacts and the overall “experience” with our company— in a way that matters to that potential client.

As lead management and nurturing companies such as Eloqua and Silverpop will tell you, many of the companies we have deemed to be leads are really nothing more than weak prospects. These companies aren’t ready for, nor are they likely to appreciate, personal contact from us at the point we interrupt them; though, we will force that interruption on them.

Why is the distinction between a lead and prospect so important? That’s because if we “interrupt” a prospective client too soon, in an annoying and non-personalized way, we could lose them forever. It’s like when you are browsing at a retail store and the sales person just won’t leave you alone. Interruption marketing works the same way.

So how can we combat the pain we inflict on and potential loss of our prospective clients if we interrupt them too soon? I would recommend two simple, yet not necessarily easy, things: profiling/lead scoring and nurturing.

Profiling & Lead Scoring—Believe it or not, many companies don’t differentiate between hot leads, warm leads and mere prospects, they treat them all the same. So the first step really is to determine how you should classify your leads and prospects— automatically if possible. To do this, you need to start with a determination of how potential clients will come to you. Once you determine this, you then need to determine value of the type of lead/prospect you have.

When thinking of the value, don’t fall into the revenue trap; meaning don’t just focus on potential revenue of the prospective client. You should be thinking more broadly. Value could also include things like your need to build your client base in a certain region of the country, your need to attract clients in a certain industry and/or your need to gain customers that have political or social clout. Once you determine your value scores, you can determine an overall score for your lead/prospect.

Nurturing—Once you have the score, the next step is a determination of whether contact can be made now or nurturing needs to occur first. So, by scoring your lead, you are systematically determining a couple of things: 1) should the prospect/lead receive immediate contact or not, 2) if not, when should contact occur (frequency) and how should it occur? (e-mail/mail/phone) and 3) what types of messages should be provided at each contact point. Your nurturing process can be as simple or sophisticated as your business dictates.

To be successful in this world of interruption marketing, it is critical that we really understand and differentiate the leads and prospects we receive each day. By profiling, lead scoring and nurturing your leads and prospects, you will improve your chances of converting your leads/prospects into clients.

Good luck in your lead generation and conversion programs!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Sharon,
    great points, and I very much agree. To take it one step further, there is often a confusion on scoring leads in terms of what one is looking for. It turns out there are actually two distinct things to look at – is the person the right “fit” (role, title, industry, geo, etc), and is their level of “engagement” right (web activity, interest, response).

    If you don’t separate “fit” from “engagement’ in lead scores, you can end up scoring a person highly just because of their role, even when they show no interest (and vice versa). This, as you point out, only ends up driving people away as they are not ready for an interruption.

    Great post, thanks for sharing,


  2. Posted by sharonmarkovsky on February 19, 2010 at 7:42 am

    You make a very fine point and I totally agree! Having separate fit and engagement scores is critical to scoring. And, I believe these are some of the most often missed nuances of lead scoring.

    Thank you for your insightful comment!


  3. Totally agree with you.

    personal assistant


    • Posted by sharonmarkovsky on February 25, 2010 at 9:22 pm

      Thank you for your comment. It’s amazing how many people delude themselves into believing that cold prospects are hot leads.

      Thanks again,


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