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“Just get us lots of names of people who might buy our stuff”

All this talk about nurturing prospects until they’re ready to buy is great, but for many companies the practicality of the situation is that they need sales leads, and they need them now. It’s great to have a stream of nurtured prospects turning into buyers at their own pace, but that can be unpredictable.

Judging from the discussions I have with clients, there are still plenty of marketing departments around who are told to “just get us lots of names of people who might conceivably buy our stuff at some time”, rather than “get us a few names of people who want to buy, from us, now”. This probably comes from having one of those overconfident sales teams who reckon “we can sell anything if you can just get us in front of the right person”. Of course, when you do start giving the sales team 100 names of people who’ve been known to buy products like yours, rather than 10 names of people who’ve actually enquired about buying your products, they’re the first to complain about the quality.

You can normally spot the marketing department which has been told to “just get us names!” and has acquiesced for a quiet life. They’re probably the ones who have been tempted by those people who claim to have software which can tell you who’s been visiting your website. However, the obvious giveaway will be that all the information on their website necessary to make a buying decision won’t be accessible without “registering” or at least giving up an email address.

If that’s you, start measuring just how much (or little) of this “gated” content on your website is actually being requested, and list the names you’re getting in return, as well as counting the normal requests for sales calls. Then set up an experiment where the content is made public for anonymous reading, and compare the requests for sales calls. This will need a few months, while Google gets to work on indexing all the content which was previously hidden away.

The company whose story inspired me to write this said it went from (proportionately speaking) 50 email addresses and 1 genuine sales lead, to 0 email addresses and 20 genuine sales leads. In the former case, the 50 email addresses were chased up (at some effort) and generated another 5 sales opportunities. And the sales director’s preference? The latter, by a mile.

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