Has this happened to you lately? The sales EVP just sent you an e-mail that said, “We need more leads quickly!” This was the third e-mail of its kind in the past 4 months, so you no longer go into panic mode. You simply forward the e-mail over to the content team and say, “Looks like we need another white paper… Please put one together to launch before the end of the month.”
You have a lot of pressure to generate more leads. Fortunately, your content team puts together terrific white papers that get plenty of (gated) downloads. You upload these “leads” to the CRM system and send a note back over to the sales EVP saying, “We just uploaded 500 leads.” Whew! Now, you figure you won’t get another frantic e-mail from the Sales EVP for another month.
This madness needs to stop.
I don’t mean stop producing white papers (although I would encourage you to consider interactive content as an alternative). Done well, white papers provide value to the buyer, and in turn, help you move the buyer down her journey. I also don’t mean stop gating (although this should be done very strategically). What I mean is, stop treating someone who downloads a white paper as a qualified lead ready to be shipped over to sales.
A completed form that was required to download a white paper is not a reason to give the “lead” to sales. The person who completed the form:
- May have no interest in buying now
- May have no interest in buying ever
- Has not indicated that they want to speak with sales. In case you haven’t noticed, buyers are doing much of the buying process without sales and doing so on their own terms.
On top of all of this, sales gets upset when they get weak leads. Besides the obvious issue, this means that your content efforts will be viewed poorly within your organization. By the way, even if sales isn’t touching the lead, but there are automated sales e-mails going out, you are still annoying the prospect.
Here is a better way:
- Continue to nurture leads via follow up e-mails. These e-mails should include links to content that is designed to take the prospect further down the funnel.
- Always include a call to action (CTA) to speak with a salesperson. You never know when someone is ready to buy, so make it easy for them to raise their hand.
- Of course, if you are using lead scoring and automation, each content asset consumed should increase the lead score.
- Use progressive forms to collect more information about the prospect.
One final tip: when including a CTA to contact sales, position the CTA as the next logical step in the buyer’s journey. For example, “Do you have more questions about how our product works?”
I know that the quantity of leads going to sales is an important KPI for many, so intentionally reducing that number seems counterintuitive. But the power in giving sales qualified leads, while not turning off prospective customers, is undeniably compelling to the bottom line. As a bonus, you can then have the time to get ahead of the game by creating your content strategically and proactively.
To learn more about effectively nurturing leads by delivering the right content at the right time, download our e-guide Fueled by Content: Accelerating the SMB Buyer’s Journey.