The term “sales lead” means different things to different people because sales leads provide varying levels of detail and prospective customers have varying levels of interest in your offering.
Looking at the most common basis of comparison, a lead is an individual or a representative of a business who has provided a way for you to contact them by email, by phone, or in person. Presumably, this person has shown an actionable interest in what you offer.
Your Prospective Customers Hate Being a Lead
You and your sales team have learned, sometimes the hard way, that some leads want nothing to do with you, your product, or your service, and they don’t want to be leads either. You’ve also learned that it’s nothing personal. Usually.
Rather than being an indictment against you or company, it’s an understandable discontent with the way lead acquisition works, or how it has worked until recently. It’s a general feeling by prospective customers, by people, that they are being disrespected by the lead generation process, regardless of how courteous you and your team may be.
Nobody wants to be played as a fool, but that’s how many lead generation websites or call centers have treated your prospective customers. Prospective customers feel like they’re being tricked into providing information, then tagged and sorted on a conveyor belt at a processing center, stamped with quality grades like cuts of meat.
Some of your competitors have also abused these prospective customers by pitching before listening, selling without qualifying. By the time you contact a lead you’ve purchased, that person may be suspicious or hostile. Many won’t answer the phone, will hang up if they answer, and won’t respond to your emails.
And you paid good money for this.
Leads Can Cost A Small Fortune, or a Large One
The cost of a lead varies by industry, by quality, by lead source and by other ethereal qualities dreamed up by the lead generation and advertising industries.
To use the insurance industry as an example, the cost of an internet lead to an agent is between $10 to $20 per lead. These prices represent non-exclusive leads for insurance lines such as homeowners insurance or auto insurance. Life insurance leads, annuity leads, or exclusive leads will cost more.
Buying the lead is only the first part in calculating the true cost of that lead and of a customer. Once the lead is in hand, you still have to pay someone to contact that prospective customer and calculate sales closing rates versus your expected profit for a new customer or client.
Bad Sales Leads Happen to Good Businesses
How many times have you seen the same names provided by a lead company week after week?
How many times have you contacted the prospective customer provided by a lead company only to be told that they didn’t fill out any forms and aren’t interested?
Some people have told you they not only aren’t interested, but only filled out the form for a chance to win a trip, money, or a free iPad.
How many times have you been told that you’ve dialed the wrong number, or that the person on your high-quality lead hasn’t lived there in years?
Now you have to pay someone to keep track of all those bad leads, request credit for them, and then keep track of which leads were or weren’t credited. At the same time, more bad leads keep rolling in from the lead providers.
You need to keep adding customers both to grow your business and to prevent it from shrinking though attrition. Five percent of local customers will move to a different market each year. Others will be wooed by competitors or leave for other reasons.
Buying leads can seem like a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be the primary way you gain new business.
Content Marketing Makes Heroes and Wins Over Hardened Hearts
Content marketing changes the relationship between you and the prospective customer. Instead of beginning the relationship in a sometimes adversarial way, and having to first win the customer’s confidence before you’ve any hope of moving the conversation forward, you are instead providing value with no cost or obligation by the customer.
You’re creating goodwill, lowering apprehension in the same way that a kind smile can warm a greeting. The entire tone of the conversation changes for the better as you’ve already established some credibility, some trust, or birthed its beginnings by removing doubt and suspicion.
People love it when you solve their problems and answer their questions honestly.
Effective content marketing provides an honest answer to a question asked, and those questions not yet asked. Your existing customers and prospective customers have questions about your product or service. As they move through the buying process, new questions arise. They want to know how your product or service will benefit them, understand what the potential downsides are, and they want your honesty.
You already know, as salespeople, that objections are often questions that haven’t yet been answered.
Answer those questions through content marketing. Earn trust and new business through useful and honest web content.
The customer or prospective customer can call you and ask their question, but most won’t. Most will search for an answer using their favorite search engine and most of those will find a competitor’s site. That competitor is reaping the rewards of content marketing.
Once customers know your website is loaded with useful and informative content, there’s less reason to look elsewhere for answers.
There are a lot of definitions for content marketing. The marketing industry likes to confuse business owners with new terms and weird acronyms to learn. Think of content marketing as blogging, but not a personal blog about your goldfish, “Bubbles” or your bouncy-seat travels in your Winnebago.
Those blogs are great for their audience, but content marketing for your business needs to answer questions your customers have about your product or service and provide useful information about related topics.
Maybe your business website has a dusty blog section that needs to be reinvigorated. If you don’t have a blog or article section that provides useful content for customers and prospective customers, then it’s time to start one.
Some of your competitors have already discovered content marketing, and the best of them provide new content like clockwork.
Here’s the beautiful thing about content marketing: As you invest more in content marketing for your business, your average cost per customer attained through content marketing goes down.
All those new blog posts and articles create an interlinked synergy on your website, a one-stop resource that search engines love to index and customers love to explore when they need information.
You can even put out an email newsletter with recent or featured posts. If the content is useful, your customers will forward the newsletters to friends, relatives, or colleagues, expanding the reach of your posts and ultimately increasing your customer base.
Breaking the Sales Lead Habit
If your business sales volume has become dependent on purchased sales leads, making your move toward content marketing doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning purchased leads. Neither option is mutually exclusive.
Take a look at your average expenditures for purchased leads on a monthly basis and divert a percentage of that expense to make an investment in content marketing. Think of it as diversification, or as the first steps in a new direction.
The content you build today will keep working for you for as long as it’s on your website, unlike a purchased lead that can go bad within days, or even hours or minutes.
As a business owner, you know your business like no one else. However, as the business owner your time is in demand and valuable. You can assign content marketing to current staffers, but they may not be expert writers and they have other tasks within their expertise to complete.
A quality post requires time and research. Ultimately, your content marketing will cost less and be more effective if you hire a freelancer than if you wrote the content yourself or assign the job to a current staffer to squeeze in between other tasks.
Be Picky About Your Content Marketing Writer.
Now that you’ve decided to begin content marketing or renew your efforts, you’ll want to find a writer who produces quality work consistently. Everything that appears on your website reflects upon you and your business. Your writer should care about your customers as much as you do, sharing your goals of customer retention and customer acquisition, while providing value for both new and prospective customers.
When it comes to writers, the least expensive option can cost you the most in lost credibility.
You know the old saying: Cheap, Fast, and Good — Pick Two.
A argument can be made that none of those adjectives apply.
Forget about cheap, fast, and good. You want a content marketing writer who is Excellent and Reliable. This is your business at stake.