‘Leads’: it pays to pay more attention

The vernacular of the marketer is often purposefully misleading to veil the fundamentally manipulative methods of their trade. However, the language of marketing – with its own highly developed colloquialisms, abbreviations and, as the industry evolves, even anachronisms – also has the unintentional capacity for pulling the wool over the eyes of its own interlocutors.

Certain terms fail to evolve at the same pace as the industry itself; buzzwords slowly lose their meaning as their rigid definitions don’t open themselves up to updating. Soon enough, without anyone really realising it until the deed has occurred, what was once useful – even helpful – terminology loses its place at the elite jargon table.

One such example of this is the term ‘lead’. In marketing speak, this is a word that incites as much excitement as it does anxiety. Leads are enigmas, but the good kind – the kind that if you unlock and lock down you’re ensured a lifetime of career happiness and professional

However, the obsessive pursuit of leads has led to a sort of frantic myopia where the opportunity landscape for marketers has been dramatically narrowed. Indeed, in a sort of semantic paradox, the broadness of the term – used to denote any person of any demographic who could for whatever reason turn into a potential customer – has resulted in an exclusion/dismissal of the details that actually define different consumers.

As a result of this, digital marketing content is often ill-conceived – targeted at a wide range of potential customers through dilution. This means that it renders itself inefficient; although a larger number of people may access the content, its lack of engagement specific to any one group (as defined below) inevitably discourages consumer action (i.e. purchase).

Joe Chernov, of US-based lead generation firm Eloqua, has taken it upon himself to re-define the consumer as perceived by the marketer. Businesses, he says, need to understand their audience more fully, so that online content is fundamentally tailored more specifically and effectively. Instead of the all-encompassing ‘lead’, he has categorised what he believes are the four specific identities of prospective customers. They have been explored in this helpful article by Jodi Morris and set out as follows:

Suspects: ‘Suspects’ are individuals who are of the right demographic for a given product, have accessed its relevant content but have not yet responded by taking action. They might be interested in buying the product at some point in the future, or have accessed the content out of interest rather than a desire to make a purchase.

So, what kind of content do suspects want to read? Well, their reluctance to make an immediate purchase and their inclination towards engaging with interesting material would suggest that content should focus on what a company knows – thought leadership – rather than what it sells.
The idea, then, is to provide content that readers will wish to share; consistent and thought-provoking blogging is perhaps the most useful tool to encourage this, while social media platforms provide self-evident opportunities for sharing.

Prospects: ‘Prospects’ are one step along from this; they’re individuals who have entered into a discourse with content. In other words, although they may not be in the active process of purchasing a product, they have exchanged personal information with a brand in order to access more content – content which they then share.

A desire for more information denotes that this group of people is after content that’s relevant to them, particularly from a professional perspective. This may mean content along the lines of tips and guides, though the most important action to take when targeting this demographic is to engage them in conversation.

By using forms, the marketer can extract information with which they can actively embark on a course of more direct marketing. This will take the form of e-mail marketing, advertorials, direct mail, on- and offline events etc. – in other words, techniques that are likely to engender a cycle of conversation.

Leads: ‘Leads’, then, are individuals who have not only engaged with your content and entered into conversation with the brand, but have also shown an overt interest in making a purchase. They’re still after content that means something to them in a professional capacity, but are perhaps in need of one final point of persuasion.

As such, content here should be specific – even niche. Case studies and product related information that is both quantifiable and appealing (positive product comparisons, demo videos) would be of most value.

Opportunities: The final stage – when the marketer has achieved their goal and secured a purchase. An ‘opportunity’ is someone who has been driven to content, engaged with it and been persuaded by it, and is now ready to make a purchase.

Content here is all about facilitating – helping the customer make their decision in a helpful and informative manner. This can be seen as “nurturing” the consumer through the purchasing process, supplying prices, ROI calculators and various other templates that the customer can use at their own discretion.
Whether down to ease or the ever-pressing need to ‘streamline’ processes, marketing terms can often lead to an unsuccessful deployment of content. The audience is the marketer’s ultimate objective – understanding them on every level so that content can be targeted accordingly. High quality, engaging content is an invaluable tool that all marketers will implement to attract consumers – it’s what to do with those consumers when they’ve accessed the content that’s the tricky part.

By categorising and analysing the different phases of the purchasing process from the consumer’s perspective – instinctive mind-sets etc. – the marketer may more adroitly establish a discourse with their potential customers and, hopefully, incite action.

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