Making Lost Leads Found Again

Most lost leads aren't lost; they're just forgotten. Here's how to capitalize on these non-starters.
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Many marketers are great at generating leads, but they also excel at losing them. Let’s face it: Lost leads are a huge blind spot in many marketing programs.

So what exactly is a “lost lead” or a “dead lead?” Basically, a lost lead is a lead that did not convert into a sale and that has been parked in a marketing wasteland. They might remain on a generic email marketing list but they are all-too-often stranded without any deliberate strategy for re-engaging them.

This is sad because a marketing investment was invariably made in order to acquire these leads. All that money, time, and effort gets wasted simply because the leads didn’t progress in a linear fashion through the “lead funnel” that many marketers envision, failing to convert the first time around.

If faced with this situation, the smart thing to do would be to create a marketing program that attempts to “find” those lost leads again. In other words, identify the moments in the putative funnel where marketing and sales failed — for whatever reason — and develop solutions to re-engage the lost leads. This will help eliminate some of the “waste” in the marketing process and undoubtedly improve any return on one’s marketing investment.

Fortunately, this is relatively simple to do thanks to the levels of lead intelligence and hands-off lead nurturing enabled by today’s marketing automation platforms such as Act-On, HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot.

So what is the first steps in creating a marketing program to nurture lost leads? It begins with identifying how they got lost in the first place and then developing content and promotions that can be deployed to address and counteract the reasons that caused the leads to stray in the first place.

Common Reasons Leads Lose Their Way

Leads get lost along the way due to a variety of reasons. While every business will have its particulars, here are a few common reasons leads get lost with suggestions for how to counteract those tendencies.

Reason #1: Immaturity

One reason leads don’t convert into sales is because they simply aren’t ready to adopt a new product or service. Often, this is because they don’t even know they need it.

Solution: “Immaturity” scenarios should be approached with marketing content that offers basic education about problems your products or services are designed to address. A lead nurturing campaign that explains these challenges and their effects on a business’s overall potential can help evolve an immature lead’s perspective. Make sure this content includes talking points relevant not just to the frontline contact but that will also resonate with all the internal stakeholders they are accountable to at their organization.

Reason #2: Lack of Budget

Frequently, leads don’t convert into sales because they don’t have the money. This can be due to competing spending priorities or because the lead wasn’t able to convince the executives who hold the purse strings to authorize the disbursement.

Solution: Develop a campaign that focuses on the value or return on investment (ROI) of your product or service. This can include case studies or more conceptual pieces that focus on bigger-picture financial questions such as decreased downtime and total cost of ownership (TCO).

Reason #3: Went With a Competitor

This is probably one of the most frustrating reasons a lead doesn’t convert into a sale — when they decide to go with a rival after all the time and effort your team spent ushering them to the finish line.

Solution: While it’s best to have the lead’s sales contact follow up periodically to see how things are going, it’s also a good idea to enroll leads lost to competitors in branded nurturing campaigns that explicitly point out differentiators from competitors. That way, when your salesperson does reach out again, the conversation will seem more current and they will have specific, competitor-specific pain points to discuss. Use your marketing automation system to show your salesperson which emails, links, and topics covered in the communications elicited some interest from the contact in question.

Reason #4: Cultural Incompatibility

At the highest level, purchasing decisions often come down to a feeling of cultural compatibility. For example, if a company considers itself progressive or technologically advanced, it will usually buy from a company that emphasizes similar values. Frequently, companies lose out on this count because they don’t have a clear brand strategy, projecting a mixed message about their company that leads their prospects to conclude that their organizations are incompatible.

Solution: While you can’t fundamentally change what your company stands for, you should make an effort to clarify your company values and value proposition. If you feel like you’ve missed a sale with a culturally compatible company due to a lack of consistency in your brand messaging, spend some time developing a coherent brand strategy and then design a nurturing campaign that spells out who you are, what you stand for — and how you’re similar — for your lost sale.

Reason #5: Missing Feature

Sometimes, a customer fixates on a particular feature. If your product doesn’t have it, it could mean a lost sale.

Solution: Presumably your product team left the feature in question out of their product roadmap for a reason. In which case, share this thought process your customers, explaining why that particular component might be outdated, unnecessary, or supplanted by a more versatile or forward-thinking feature. On the other hand, if your customer’s instincts are right and your product really should have the feature in question (and you keep missing opportunities without it), make plans to add it and then communicate the addition to all interested parties.

Reason #6: Competing Priorities

Today, almost every worker faces an array of shifting demands and priorities. What was hot one minute may have to be relegated to the back burner the next. In this effort to keep all the plates spinning, your particular prospect may have to defer the conclusion of their sales conversation with you until a later date.

Solution: In these situations, the classic way to influence the prioritization of your conversation is to run a time-sensitive promotion. Give your prospect a limited window to take advantage of preferential pricing, complimentary added levels of service, or extended warranties. While these offers can, of course, be extended in the context of sales conversations, they may actually have more motivational force if they seem to arrive “out of the blue” via remarketing ads or a triggered email marketing campaign.

Reason #7: Neglect

Let’s face it, not all leads get attended to. Salespeople get too busy, something’s off with the lead scoring or lead routing system, or leads simply fall through the cracks.

Solution: For these sorts of situations, the best solution is internal discipline. Marketing and sales need to communicate regularly to ensure that leads are being identified and scored properly. Meanwhile, it never hurts to have some sort of persistent brand campaign, such as a regular e-newsletter, to keep your company top of mind with customers and give them opportunities to pursue activities — such as visiting your website or filing an inquiry — that might flag them again as qualified leads.

When It Comes to Lost Leads, All Is Not Lost

Smart B2B marketers should take a momentary break from their efforts to generate new leads to reflect on what can be done to reactivate lost leads. By applying just a little dedicated attention to lost leads, marketers can bring leads that have strayed back to the flock and help sales close deals.

This “low-hanging fruit” opportunity is within reach of every B2B marketing program that has invested in a strong digital marketing presence. By combining the lead intelligence offered by marketing automation with thoughtful, strategic content and promotions, it’s quite possible to find — and finally convert— lost leads.

Moreover, marketing campaigns targeting lost leads help eliminate “waste” in the marketing funnel, ensuring a better overall return on your marketing investment.

In short, don’t write off lost leads. They could become some of your most valuable customers.

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About the Author

Jake Gerli


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