Change3 Enterprises LLC

The Reasons Why Sales Think Your Marketing Leads SUCK

Written by Kneko Burney on July 26, 2017.

  0 comment

When I was a kid, my mother would speak happily about getting visits from the local milkman.  He was someone the whole neighborhood knew and trusted, and though he was a salesman – selling all sorts of dairy products, not just milk– the way she spoke about him told me that he was a helpful, thoughtful person in the community.


The personal connection is what struck me most – someone who actually cared about what you needed.  Unfortunately, by the time I was growing, the days of milkmen were long gone.


The era of MASS marketing and sales had dawned, bringing about the slow demise of the personal, human connection with which my mother grew up.  And, today, I’d say the buyer and the seller are even more disintermediated, despite the use of “technology” to give us more information about one another. 


This missing “personal, human” connection is the root cause of why Salespeople often find that “Marketing Qualified Leads”…SUCK.



Though “lead” tracking capabilities tell us what people are doing with our digital comms, they do not tell us "who" these people are as buyers or individuals.


At the same time, the availability of that information can give one the impression that you “know” someone – even though there is no personal connection whatsoever.  In this article, I’m going to talk about how we handle this disconnection and how we as marketers can change our points of reference to leverage digital tools to equip salespeople with better opportunity data.


With the rise of competition, product commoditization, and disintermediation of the channel, the marketplace stopped buying on cue and sellers lost confidence in the ‘leads’ that marketing was giving them.  To meet this challenge, call centers were established with relentless, quota-driven telemarketers in pursuit of “leads” to arm the salesforce with, which in many cases were individuals with little interest in the offerings being sold…it’s become clear that not all leads are created equal.


As the CEO of a digital agency specializing in B2B and information technology, I talk to both marketing and sales professionals from all kinds of businesses. The other day, I spoke with the head of marketing (lets call her Carol) from a midsize distributor.


Carol heard me give a presentation for a large tech client of mine, during which I talked about my company’s unique approach to establishing relationships with potential buyers INSTEAD of setting appointments or filling the funnel with form submissions; this alternative approach struck a cord with her.


Carol’s journey, like many marketing professionals started at a digital marketing workshop hosted by a vendor, a year before. Following her completion of the workshop, Carol decided to double down on content marketing expecting a flood of ‘leads’, as suggested in the workshop, if she did everything ‘right’.


She wrote and posted blogs, sent out tweets, developed whitepapers, published articles, contributed comments and used her social media accounts to share like crazy.


She was so focused on filling the funnel - using content, that she hardly had time to do anything else.  Not surprisingly, she did get results – in the form of increased web traffic, downloads and form submissions, but no sales.


Using a content marketing approach by itself won’t deliver leads.


Excitedly, Carol walked into her performance review armed with hundreds of ‘marketing leads’ for which she was expecting to be congratulated on - for all her hard work.  Instead, her boss told her “Carol, YOUR marketing leads suck!”.  I could feel her disappointment over the phone.  And, her utter confusion.  How could this be possible – she did everything right…didn’t she?


As an industry, we need to address this problem, and fast.  Point in fact, Carol DID do everything right, but the definition of ‘right’ is what’s fundamentally wrong.  The marketing industry (agencies and solution providers) have mistakenly perverted the term ‘lead’ to mean something it’s not and this is where the problem lies.


Here’s why typical marketing leads suck:


  1. Post Engagements are NOT Leads: Some marketing solutions might score contacts in your database as leads because they engaged with your various social posts, one or more times.  Yes, this is incredibly useful information, but these individuals are not YET leads.  They have made the first step in the journey to discover your business and potentially build an on-going relationship with you.  However, there are several more interactions an individual should have (and several more things a marketer could and should do to convert these people into leads) before you hand them to sales.


  1. Form Submissions are NOT Leads: When someone submits information to one of your forms, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to buy. Obviously, this is a step beyond someone just showing casual interest, but he/she still needs to be qualified. How many times have you personally run across something online that you ‘liked’, completed a form to download an interesting whitepaper or signed up for a consultation in exchange for a free perk? Often you filled out the form but never had a real interest in talking to the sales person when he began to call or e-mail you.


  1. Appointments are NOT leads and leads are definitely not relationships. Instead, what’s needed is to develop and cultivate a relationship with an individual who works at a company with specific interests, challenges, and unique requirements. This is the point where every single marketing strategy, campaign, or approach all fail. They talk about targets, segments, and personas, and they generalize. You are going to be successful when you try to build a relationship with them, by asking questions, listening, and learning and not just trying to sell to them.


  1. Content Marketing results on their own are NOT Leads. Simply throwing more money at content doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful. So why isn’t content marketing working for you? Let’s say you’ve invested in ample content, good quality information (articles that are helpful and valuable to your readers while being interesting and engaging) and sufficient promotion (sharing via social channels and leveraging bloggers and other industry influencers), then what you’re missing is linkage to a lead generation program; in B2B people are tired of the generic how-to-do-this, how-to-do-that type of article. Instead, develop practical tips and proof that something is working with a connection to a set of nurturing activities – a strong varied set of opt in resources.


Now, let’s get back to Carol who had become deflated by her boss’s reaction, wanting to know what she had done wrong.


My response to her was – No, of course not. But she had been doing it out of context. You have to stitch all of these programs and tactics together in a meaningful way. It’s critical to ensure you not only have a good process to identify, engage and qualify the people who drop into your buying funnel, but also, to implement a real and meaningful process to nurture them. Nurture doesn’t mean sending out emails over a 6-month period. Instead, nurture means really getting to know these individuals.


You must understand the need to nurture and meet it. Track these contacts on social media via Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn and learn what they are ‘liking’ and posting. Like those things too and maybe even share an article they’ve promoted. Congratulate them on their job anniversary, on an award they recently won, send them a note and even share a funny joke.


Make sure you have a real meaningful process to nurture your prospects.


Have you gotten similar confessions from your clients? Are you questioning your own marketing tactics and the results – or are just experiencing a lack of leads? What do you do to make sure your marketing leads don’t suck? I want to know.


In the next article, we will talk about how to start building relationships through your marketing tactics. And you do that with integrated, marketing programs.


I look forward to your comments and ideas. Let’s start a whole new era of more successful marketing together!