Ask Olive: What is the Value of a Lead?

Ask Olive is a place to get your most pressing modern marketing questions addressed by the experts.

Question

My product has a relatively short sales cycle and doesn’t require the work of a sales team to close the deal, so what’s value of a lead for my brand?

Answer

In the days of Glengarry Glen Ross, leads may have had very little value to companies without a dedicated sales force. Inbound marketing and the automation of everything we do have changed all that, expanding the way we think about leads. Now, even companies that play in the realm of one-click or off-the-shelf buying cycles, rely on lead nurturing to drive their brands.

Take, for instance, TurboTax. They’ve solidified their place as the Kleenex of the tax preparation world. They’ve carved out this position with a variety of marketing tactics, not the least among them is a robust lead nurturing strategy. A lead nurturing strategy built independently of a dedicated TurboTax sales team. Follow up emails throughout the year, prompts when tax season is just around the corner, alerts integrated into Mint all keep the brand top of mind without a single sales call.

In the past, this level of contact with customers was a luxury only brands with a dedicated sales team could afford. For the one-click and off-the-shelf products, employing this dedicated sales team didn’t make fiscal sense. Why invest in an entire sales force to support products that don’t yield enough revenue to cover the salaries?

The wonderful reality of lead nurturing in the 21st century is that your automated marketing efforts can play the role of this sales force, boosting revenue for your brand by 10 percent or more. Even for products that require salespeople to close the deal, automated lead nurturing is a Modern Marketing necessity given the fact that most customers are 90 percent of the way through their buying cycle before they reach out to a salesperson.

Naturally, I’m not saying brands with more complex buying cycles should replace their sales teams with a marketing automation platform. Only that these tools extend the benefits of a lead nurturing strategy to products that simply can’t justify the budget for an entire sales force. Still, whether it’s a sales team or a tool, they need leads to nurture.

The good news is we’re operating in an age when customers are happily opting into the lead label. They want to be treated as a lead. They want to build a relationship with the brands they shop, because it’s the only way they can get the personalized content they crave. When brands aren’t set up to nurture them as leads, these customers get frustrated.

So, you get it, a lead-gen program is important. Regardless of the wares you’re peddling or how you’re peddling them, lead nurturing drives sales and keeps customers happy. But, let’s circle back to the original question: what exactly is the value of a lead?

That answer is going to vary from brand to brand and product to product. If you want to tie a dollar figure to your leads, there are clear-cut formulas you can use to calculate exact numbers. But, on a larger scale, we do know that lead nurturing makes for a more profitable business no matter how complex (or nonexistent) your sales funnel is. In fact, nurtured leads spend 47 percent more than unurtured customers.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you to gather up leads like the diamonds they are, understand that you may be losing business if you ignore them. As much as 50 percent of sales go to the vendor who responds first, and your competitors who have a lead nurturing program in place are likely to beat you to the finish line if you’re relying on your product pages and buy now buttons to do all the heavy lifting.

Many brands have told themselves this staggering evidence doesn’t apply to them. That their products sell themselves. Like Adobe, Moleskin, Amazon, and a million other household names. But, great brands don’t find their way into our everyday vernacular because they are above leads. They earn and/or maintain that place by leveraging lead nurturing tactics (among others) to establish the lasting (and profitable) relationships their customers continue to crave.

Yours in Modern Marketing,

Olive