Marketing is really all about creating leads for a company’s sales team. As a marketer, your first step is to create as many leads as possible. You then want to work them through your sales funnel, setting up your sales team with leads that are ready to be closed and to become customers.
How they go from a basic lead to a lead ready to be closed is the real crux of your job as a marketer, and a lot of your success will depend on your organization and attention to detail. Your primary job is to create ways for you to get enticing messaging in front of individuals to become leads, and to continue with the presence of your messaging as they make their way through your sales funnel.
In other words, you are messaging individuals who are not always at the same point along your sales journey. So, why send leads at different stages the same messaging? Whether it’s on social media, email campaigns, blog posts, or the like, the messaging is only going to work well for the leads that are in the best position to receive that particular messaging – everyone else is either going to ignore it or be annoyed by it. And you don’t want to annoy possible customers.
This is why you need to be organized and attentive to details: you need to track each individual’s journey, and be able to contact them with the appropriate messaging at the right moment. Here, we begin to dig into all of this. In this article, we distinguish between the lead types you will be faced with, discussing how to separate them into groups for crafting specific messaging for each type. In a follow-up article, we will move ahead, suggesting ways to keep your leads organized, and looking at the types of marketing strategies you should employ for the various lead types.
Defining your lead types
Knowing who your leads are and where along the sales funnel they are is paramount to you generating leads that are ready to be closed. Knowing who they are will able you to connect with them at the right moments and with the most appropriate messaging for their current level of interest in your product.
The best way to organize this is to create buckets that designate where along the sales journey the lead is. You can then cater messaging for those buckets (or lead-types), providing a more automated process, and one that targets your audience in a specific way.
While your particular business may want to create more buckets than these (depending on the length of the sales journey your company requires), we will break leads up into 4 basic types: cold, cool, warm, and hot.
Cold leads are probably the leads you want to avoid creating. Cold leads are the lead types that didn’t
intend on becoming a lead: they received a cold call (probably in the middle of dinner) for a product they have shown no interest in whatsoever.
Cold-calling is not a strategy we’d encourage. While it can work (it’s a numbers game, of course: the more calls you make, the more leads you may generate), it can also work to annoy people, leaving an unpleasant taste in their mouths about your company. While it may generate leads, it may also turn off potential future customers who stubbornly may never forget your intrusive cold call.
Not cool as in “trendy and fashionable,” but cool as in not exactly warm in the water with you yet, cool leads are those that have shown some minimal level of interest in your product. They’re really the leads at the top of your sales funnel.
Perhaps they stopped by your shop or website, maybe they followed a social media account or downloaded a coupon, but they haven’t reached out to you, they haven’t followed you on any other social media channels – they just sort of popped by for a visit.
Cool leads are also those leads who fell through the cracks; leads that were further along the sales journey (perhaps warm or even hot leads at some point), but who fell out of contact for a myriad of reasons. Like any relationship, if time and space come in the middle of it, the relationship will chill. Treat leads like this as a cool lead, not the sort of lead they were way back when.
These are the leads you need to nurture the most, as they have the furthest journey to take with you. While you need to nurture them the most, this does not mean that you also need to message them most frequently – it simply means they have the longest journey to travel before they can arrive to your sales team. At this point, you likely have not much more than a name and email address.
Warm leads are not much further along the sales journey than a cool lead, but they have indicated more interest. You can identify these lead types by their more frequent visits to your website and social media accounts. They have likely signed up for a newsletter or for blog updates, and they’ve also probably commented on a social media post or perhaps even emailed a question to you, but they are clearly more invested in what you offer than those above.
The best way to identify these leads though, is to have an automated lead nurturing system, one that creates a two-way flow of information between your brand and the lead. Here, they’ve clicked through to more content and traded information through progressive forms (giving you additional information about their industry, company, position, location, etc.) for various marketing offers you’ve devised to keep them nurtured.
While cool leads require the longest journey, warm leads likely require more of your day-to-day attention. At this point in the process, you should have a good understanding of who the lead is, beyond simply their name and email address.
A lead can become hot without you needing to do any real nurturing work – a lead can start out hot. If an individual searches online for a product or service you sell, and comes across your company, clicking through to your site, then they are already a hot lead, as they have made explicit their need for what your company offers.
A hot lead is the lead type that is (almost) ready to hand off to your sales team. We say “almost” because hot leads can be further broken down in order to determine whether the hand-off to sales should occur. The way to know whether a hot lead is ready for the sales team is to enlist the BANT approach, which requires you to know 4 specific pieces of information about the lead:
Budget: do they have the finances to make the purchase?
Authority: are they the final decision-maker in their family/at their company, or do they need to appeal to a superior to close the deal?
Need: does the product or service satisfy a need that they actually have?
Timescale: is this the right time for them to making the purchase?
If you can answer “Yes” to all 4 questions about your lead, then you have set them up fully for your sales team, and the hand-off is now. If, on the other hand, even just one of these are left unsatisfied, then a bit more work on your part is still required.
What’s important is being organized and detailed with your leads so that you can approach them with appropriate messaging at the right moment, rather than bother them with irrelevant messaging at an inopportune time. Breaking them down into lead types will help you manage the timing of your messaging, improve the consistency of your sales funnel, and increase your overall success level.
As you gain leads, you need to group them accordingly to keep them organized and know when and what to message them with next. Our follow-up article will dive further into the process, and uncover some of the most successful marketing strategies to employ for each lead type. In the meantime, feel free to leave a questions, concerns, or clarifications in the comments below.