What to Do About Dead Leads

Inbound marketing systems help you nurture and revive slow-moving or dead leads

Are you familiar with the “inbound marketing” concept? Hubspot has popularized this term in recent years. Here's a quick run-down of what it is and how it can help you build new leads, make sure they don't die quick deaths, and revive dead or dying leads. 

Inbound marketing is easy to describe if you compare it to traditional or conventional marketing/advertising methods.


Conventional marketing seeks to interrupt and pitch to people.

  • It’s the unsolicited junk mail in your actual mailbox and the spam in your email inbox.
  • It’s the car salesman that asks about your kid’s soccer team but has no interest or intention of getting to know the details of your son’s 8-2-1 season.
  • It’s the 10,000 address Hoover’s mailing that seeks a 1-2% conversion via reply card.
  • It’s the out-of-context radio ads that drone on and on about re-financing when you have no intention of re-financing your home. . or going bankrupt. . or rehabilitating your credit or whatever.

In short, interruption marketing is the old school approach that throws $10 million in ad budget at every method under the sun in order to bludgeon the market into coughing up a slim margin of return. As you might guess, the lead quality you get from interrupting is not optimal.

An Alternative to Annoyance

Inbound marketing is the modern, Web-connected alternative – although it integrates off-line advertising, direct mail, billboards, text messages, magazine ads and so forth. It’s really not about offline/online. It’s more about integration, conversion and accountable measurement.

Inbound marketing seeks to generate leads by offering content, value, conversation and education up front. It’s like “working the room” at a networking mixer. You ask about the other person first and try to understand what they’re up to before you lean in with your needs analysis. You don’t just foist out the business card and recite your elevator pitch. It’s about thought leadership, too. Inbound marketing might generate an email list by offering an in-depth, educational white paper.

Ideally, the best inbound marketing strategy should just offer up that white paper without any strings attached (no email capture or sign up form). Your content should educate and position you as the advisor resource right off the bat. That alone generates email leads, phone calls and qualified conversations about how your products and services can help.

Inbound marketing is also about measurement. How are your leads converting to real business? Can you measure that? Which landing pages are successful? . . which headline? Subheads? Photos? Calls to action?

All that stuff is easily measured with simple Web tools.

When you're ready to shift from interruption and dive into a more integrated approach, the following list of general strategies will help you build the right system or process. Follow these guidelines and you'll be able to improve your lead flow, improve the quality of your leads and keep your lead generation program away from the morgue.

Content Creation: Is your current Web site set up as a blog, or do you have some other Content Management System (CMS)? Are you pumping out relevant, useful, well-written content on a consistent schedule? If not, why not? Your competitors probably are. Make it a habit to create content every week. If you can't do it, find someone who will

Optimization: Are you using tools to grade keywords, landing pages and inbound links? Do this right, and you’ll make some significant SEO strides. (ASIDE: These days you might be better off focusing on content creation. Google updates like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird have been killing sites that try to game keywords and use sites like Fiverr to buy poor quality inbound links. Time spent creating original content is much more worthwhile.)

Promotion: How are you using social media “channels” to connect with customers and leverage the exponential reach of friend and follower networks? Do you have an efficient system for communicating with prospects via email and measuring the results of those interactions? Again, do this well and you’ll smoke your competition.

Conversion: What do your lead-gen process and pipeline/nurturing practices look like? Do you have simple, clean yet powerful ways to manage prospect lists and leads? Are you using web tools/systems/solutions to automate this? Marketing automation platforms are getting cheaper by the day. You might want to look into solutions like Hubspot, Hatchbuck, Infusionsoft, Marketo, ORBTR (for Wordpress sites), and Salesforce Marketing Cloud. There are significant differences between these solutions - give us a call or send a message, and we'll help you figure it out.

Analysis: Who are you reaching? When are they most receptive to your messages? Are they weighing you against competitive offerings? Are they asking their social networks about your solutions or products? Do you have a way to track all this and “listen” to the market? Again, the tools are out there or you can set up "home-made" systems - ask me how. Listening is crucial. Why do you think Salesforce bought Radian6?

Ok, you get the point. Inbound marketing is an integrated, accountable approach to lead-generation and conversion. It’s about creating great content, making promises, having conversations, delivering value and converting interest to revenue.

This is one area of your business that you don’t want to ignore. There’s a big shift going out there in sales/advertising/marketing/lead-gen-land, and you don’t want to get caught behind the curve. Your competitors will just beat you up at every turn.

And please don't get suckered into green, newbie "social media" and SEO outfits that promise to solve all your problems by setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts. Inbound marketing programs are about reasoned, focused marketing campaigns. You don't want to keyword stuff, pump out useless blog posts, or spam your press releases every 1/2 hour on Twitter. Content development is the key. You need writers, designers, creative input and cohesive strategies to make progress.

This is a revised version of an article I originally published on QUALITYWRITER.COM in 2012! It has some updated info but I'm amazed at how long ago this went live and how evergreen the topic is. Businesses have been slow to adopt inbound marketing, but I think they're finally catching on. 

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