What’s a Business Lead?

You see everyone talking about generating leads and qualifying leads (myself included), but you’re still a little unsure what that means. If you’ve been asking, “Just what is a business lead?” then this post will help you out.

What's a Business Lead?

So, What Is a Business Lead?

Essentially, a business lead is a prospect or potential customer. Someone who might buy from you. And they’re not theoretical, even though many educators talk about them in that way. They are real, specific people who you have identified as people you would like to turn into (convert) into customers.

Within some companies a lead is anyone your sales team reaches out to, so the list of names and phone numbers is a list of leads. 

A healthy business has leads coming into their business on a regular basis to feed into the sales process and create a steady stream of customers. 

Not all leads will become customers, and the rate at which this happens (conversion rate) depends on many variables: exactly who is considered a lead, industry, positioning, price points, etc. The most important thing is to define how you calculate your own conversion rates and measure your success against your past performance so that you know if you’re improving. 

Example: When you see crazy click-bait headlines with insane conversion rates, like, “Get the sales funnel with a 78% percent conversion rate!!!” ask some questions! What is considered a lead? What action is considered the conversion? What industry is the example from? Is this a high-end product or commodity?

Cold Leads v. Warm Leads

You will hear people talk about different temperatures of leads. We’re still talking about people – don’t lose sight of that. It’s really easy to ignore the human component and look at the numbers. But these are real people with real thoughts, feelings, and actions. They can be as arbitrary as all other humans can be.

Cold leads are not yet aware of your business. These people are outside the entrance of your sales funnel or process.

Warm leads have become aware of your business, and may have expressed some interest in your types of products or services.

Hot leads are leads who have been qualified and are your ideal customers.

This temperature progression is very much a gradient rather than three clear-cut segments. And each company can decide exactly where the dividing lines are. Categorizing leads in some way is important so that you can most effectively reach out and market to these folks.

Business-owning moms looking to make the most of the time they have will want to think about automated marketing to colder leads and saving personalized attention for warmer leads. It makes sense to put your time to the tasks that will bring you the most return.

If that sounds a little cold, another way to think about it is that you can’t build personal, one-on-one relationships with every person who visits your website. You don’t have time. But that’s okay. Leads that are cold, or just starting to get warmer can easily get the level of information they need from business assets like your website and your content, or even a chat bot. In fact, nearly all introverts and most people in the Millennial and Gen X age groups will prefer it.

Once a lead is warm to hot, they may need more in-depth information or they need just a little more interaction to fully trust you. Spend your valuable time with these people. You will be able to give them the answers they need, and you get a couple of benefits too. Obviously, you may close a sale. But even if you don’t, you’ve had the opportunity to hear the questions and opinions of a representative of your target market. That’s valuable intel!

Phase of Funnel: Attraction to Interest

Sales Funnel Model
Remember this model from Do You Really Need a Sales Funnel?

When I talk about generating leads for business-owning moms, I’m talking about the process of moving people from the awareness/attraction phase to the interest phase of the sales funnel. But the “generating” isn’t enough. We have to capture (or gather or collect) those leads – I like the word collect best these days, but you’ll see and hear all 3.

In the simplest form, that means making a record of the lead with some identifying information and a way to contact them. It could be a handwritten list of names and phone numbers, a spreadsheet with last names and physical addresses, a Word doc list of email addresses, or a CRM (customer relationship management system) with information about all your interactions.

For business-owning moms, the most effective way to collect leads is to build up a list of email addresses of people who have willingly given their email address for future contact. There are many tools to automate this process, but a sign-up sheet at a talk, a meet-up, or an arts fair works as well.

In my own business, I would consider people on my email list to be warm leads. I try not to count people as leads (in my conversion calculations) until they are on my email list.

Words of warning – your social media followers may not be completely cold leads, but I don’t consider them to be warm leads. Having social media followers is fantastic, but the level of interest between a social media follower and a person who has willingly signed up for your email list is very different. Giving an email address is a much higher level of interest. 

How Do I Know if Someone’s Interested?

To figure out if your business lead is actually interested in what you have to say, you need them to nominate themselves.

If you ask them outright, “Hey are you interested? Y/N?” many people will lie and say yes when they’re not at all interested. They like you, and they don’t want to hurt your feelings. 

People indicate they’re truly interested when they raise their own hands and take an action. If your question instead prompts them to do something rather than just answer, you will see just how interested they are.

Following is a list of ways people can express their interest in what you’re doing. I’ve ordered it by level of interest required for the action from low to high.

Follow you on social media

It’s very easy to follow someone on social media. It requires very little work, very little commitment, and is somewhat anonymous, depending on platform. Encourage your followers to visit you in a place where you collect lead information.

Walks into your physical store

Like social media, this is a low-commitment action, but they’re at least curious! Ask visitors to leave their contact information in some way for future communication: addresses for catalogs, email addresses for email newsletter, phone number for personal shopper contact.

Comments on your blog or social media

A comment shows a bit more interest in what you’re doing. It’s tough to get people to comment, and the various search algorithms know that. It’s still not permission to contact them except replies in the commenting system, but it’s the start of communication. Again, encourage them to visit your website or your email sign-up landing page.

Joins your FB group or other free forum

This is on par with the comments – it’s a touch more interest than the following social media, but it’s still not a whole lot. It is, however, a good place to talk with potential leads, and to understand what their interests are. As of the writing of this post, I’m starting a FB group called the Done by 3:00 Club. Even with just a few members, I’ve learned so much about how I can better help business-owning moms.

You can ask them for their email addresses (or other contact info) in exchange for a guide or a worksheet related to the group.

Asks you questions 

Now, when someone asks you business-related questions, pay attention. These are interested people and their questions reveal opportunities to help. Offer to send them resources to help with their problems in exchange for signing up for an email list.

Fills out an online or in person opt-in form

If you have a subscription form (or opt-in form for your lead magnet) on your website, and someone fills it out, they are interested in hearing more. Same with the person who signs the guest book with an email address at a gallery. These people are self-selecting to become warm leads.

Makes a small purchase

And finally, anyone who makes a purchase from you is pretty interested in what you do. Don’t assume that’s the end of the journey. The people most likely to buy something from you is an existing client who was delighted with their first experience. 

How to use this information

Try to be aware of your lead generating and lead collecting processes so that you can put as much as possible on automation and spend your time with the warmest leads.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

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