Aug 172011
 
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Part one of this series described the importance of minimizing friction and maximizing trust as you attract and manage leads.

Part two describes how these low-friction, high-trust* leads help you feed your beast.

* These adjectives are TLOTL equivalents of free-range, grass-fed, gluten-free, and no high fructose corn syrup.

Why Leads Matter, Reason #2: Leads have unique and valuable insights into how you can get more new business.

If you have an established business, you have customers, employees, vendors, shareholders, and tax authorities who need your attention. Every member of those groups has a commercial relationship with you. Those relationships come with obligations and expectations. Your reward for maintaining those relationships is… …you get to keep running your business. And truth be told, if you’re doing an AMAZING JOB of managing those relationships, you probably don’t need to worry too much about leads. They will seek you out and buy from you. And if they have to crawl through five miles of gravel just to join your exclusive club of happy customers, they will thank you for the privilege.

If you’ve reached this state of business bliss, leads are, understandably, an afterthought. If you’re a generous CEO, you might consider a kind gesture towards them. Perhaps free first aid kits.

But 99.9% percent of businesses don’t have these high-class problems. For those companies, existing commercial relationships consume nearly all their resources. Some growth occurs organically. But customers churn, prices flatten out, fixed costs stay fixed, while shareholders demand predictable, profitable growth.

This reality is why I’ve titled this series of posts, “Why Leads Matter.” If I ask a CEO how to define a lead, many will give a straight-forward answer like, “it’s the people who talk to Sales about buying our product.” That’s a good start, but it’s incomplete.

Like any living beast, your business must eat. You may have great hunters on your sales team. But they hunt leads. Leads feed your beast.

By definition, leads haven’t bought your product, yet. But they’re considering a purchase right now. And that makes them unique.

Your customers and past customers have already drunk your Kool-Aid. Focus group attendees will accept your $250 in exchange for two hours away from home and their opinion of your Kool-Aid in a simulated “I’m thirsty” scenario.

But your leads, right now, are accumulating a ton of information that is valuable to you.

How so? Well, they’re:

  • researching the overall market (analyst reports, research briefs, etc)
  • listening to consultants, resellers, and others knowledgeable in your category
  • talking to salespeople **
  • looking at web sites, advertisements, and promotional offers **
  • receiving email and direct mail, attending webinars, viewing infographics **
  • participating in social media conversations**

** yours and your competitors’

The wisdom of this crowd can’t be overestimated. You could easily pay someone $100K per year to know your market as well as your leads. Maybe you already do. If so, ask them to show you how your leads are being heard in your product, marketing, sales, and operations plans. Remember, these are people who have given you (some of) their attention. They deserve (some of) yours.

Yes, this is my dog (The Mighty Quinn) when he was a puppy. No, I didn’t stage this pic. Please don’t report me to PETA.

One more nice thing about leads: you’ve already paid for them. Whether you’ve spent $100 or $100 million to bring leads to your door, they’re here now.

Short-term revenue is an ideal way to exchange value with your leads. But it’s far from the only way.

Listen to your leads.

Then feed them to your beast.

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