Don’t generate leads -- do this instead

I wish I had tracked the number of times that the goal of a customer was to generate more leads. Since I didn’t, anecdotally (no not literally or technically :)) I would say 90%+ have that as a goal for their marketing efforts. It makes sense, who wouldn’t want more leads?

It occurred to me after so many times tracking the elusive sales lead that something was wrong. How is it possible that a single word, lead, would be applicable to so many businesses across every industry? After questioning my sanity, I began to question the term. What is a lead anyway?

One definition of a lead is a person or business who expresses interest in your products or services. Another definition is a person who matches a specified set of criteria that has a need, reason or interest in your offering. The goal is for a sales lead to become a customer. That sounds generic enough to apply to everything. It is also not very useful.

Any definition of a lead sounds so impersonal. Is a lead even useful? Will getting more of them provide a positive impact? Will more leads mean more work, more qualification calls without a true benefit? The leads to sales number gets very large when looking at formulas to calculate how many leads you need. By the lead metric and definition, can you ever increase your leads enough?

Perhaps a sales lead is looking at the desired outcome all wrong. What if we connected with a lead? Stop thinking of her as a lead and start thinking of her as a customer. A lead is statistic, a value representing how many times a person submitted a form.

Now that you have a customer and not a lead, let's go back to the initial premise. The goal is to generate more leads. We turned that into generating more customers. More customers have a lot of benefits for companies:

  • More stability.
  • More current customers that have needs.
  • More repeat business.

The benefits are clear for the business. What about the customer? Not a single benefit. I would argue that the concept of generating leads is selfish. Today's customers are savvy and expect more from businesses. It is why searches for 'my website doesn't generate leads' or 'ways to increase' leads are so abundant. Generating leads is not what you are actually trying to accomplish.

Instead attract new customers

Sure, not exactly an earth-shattering revelation. But frame of mind matters. If you are trying to generate leads, you do things like buy email lists and call people who may have visited your website. We are all guilty of this. Why? There are never enough leads. The leads are weak?

No, the lead is a metric that is solving a problem in the wrong way.

If you are trying to attract new customers, you use different tactics. You create content that speaks to a specific pain point of a potential customer. You offer advice and are helpful without any expectation. You share solutions to common problems.

How can you attract more customers? I could go on about journeys and personalization, etc. To be honest, it is different for every company. It depends on the tools you have, your staff and your goals. But, if you stop thinking about leads and think about customers, you will already be better off.

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