Measuring leads is insufficient: We need a new sales funnel category

I’m putting together a series for March and I’ll be talking about a couple of points including leads and lead generation. But in preparing for this series, I’ve been deep in thought about what we define as leads and how we measure them.

Leads are usually anyone in within our target market who has risen above the rest as an ideal person to strike up a conversation with about our product or service. Perhaps you have their name or address or phone number or email address — those are common elements that define a lead. (From there, once you start the conversation and learn more about them, they turn into prospects). As illustrated below…

But I don’t think the definition of “lead” is sufficient. It might have been years ago when sales people would capture some kind of information (or buy it in a list) and contact that person. But with the ubiquity of free information and interaction (including newsletters and ezines, Twitter, fan pages, etc.), I’m not so sure that Facebook fans or Twitter followers qualify as leads.

The internet didn’t just cause our lead generation rate to jump overnight. People who follow us on Twitter might fit our definition of lead as it was a few years ago but they don’t necessarily now. And yet, we should still interact with them because they have indicated that they want to hear from us and because they may not be our target market but they might know someone who is. Free content and social media have both helped to redefine what “lead” means.

So, in our sales planning, budgeting, and metrics, we should add another category to the sales funnel: Audience…

Your audience has given you some kind of indication that they want to hear from you (usually an email address or they’ve followed or fanned you). But they are still far from being called leads. They’re listeners. They’re participants. They’re your audience.

If you’re measuring you Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and free ezine subscribers as leads, stop. Create a new category in your sales funnel called “audience” and put them there, instead. Figure out what it is that will propel someone to move from “audience” to “lead”. Is it more information? Is it a phone call? If you think of your audience as an unsorted mass culled from your target market then your leads should be a sorted, strained version of that group. So the evolution of an audience member to a lead should be some kind of indicator that they are ready to be sorted.

In some cases, it could be another ezine — a very specific ezine, for example — for just a select few who are willing to give more information or even to pay a small fee. Or perhaps it happens when someone fans you, follows you, subscribes to your newsletter, and becomes an active blog commenter. There are probably other indicators as well, I’ve only started to think about this. You’ll likely hear more from me on this in the future.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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