How to Make a Cold Lead turn Inbound – Startup Marketing 101

When I first start talking with a company who wants to transform their marketing into a more inbound way, one of the first things that we discuss is:

Where are your leads coming from now?

If you want to diagnose your lead issues and build out a sustainable method to lead gen in 2014 then you need to ask yourself the following questions. From these questions should come answers that will help you to diagnose your issues to help you build out a better strategy for 2014.

  • Where are our leads coming from?
  • How are you getting these leads? 
  • What is the quality by source?
  • Do we know the conversion rates from the lead turning into an opportunity and then into a customer?

These questions are important if you want to figure out how to develop an inbound strategy with your cold leads.

Typical lead sources for companies that are not doing inbound marketing yet: 

  • Trade shows (trade show attendee lists that they get, booth visitors, sponsors, other exhibitors, etc)
  • Bought lists
  • and other sources like that where the sales people source their own leads
  • Sourcing leads through search and Google

Whatever way you are getting your leads doesn’t matter to me really. I could probably give you some tips on how to source better ones where your product or service you sell might be more timely for the organization but that is not what this post is about… If you want to turn a cold lead inbound there are some tricks you can use to do this. 

First, understanding the benefits of getting a cold lead to turn into a inbound lead is pretty important. Let’s review this…

  • Technically a cold lead – meaning one that has not opted in to be marketed to or sold to by you should not be email marketed. You should not just be uploading cold lists into your marketing software and blasting emails out. This is not a good way to get a good response. You should be creating a way to turn your cold leads into an inbound lead so marketing can support your sales efforts with email marketing and other ways of marketing.
  • If you are going to work cold leads (which I don’t think there is anything wrong with it) then you need to do it in a SMART WAY. Keep the cold leads from lists in the sales people’s hands until those leads turn inbound. Do not give the cold leads to marketing until they convert on a form. At that point the lead is technically now an inbound lead and the sales person has done a good job getting that lead to convert so now marketing can market to this lead.

How do you work a cold lead and turn it to an inbound lead: 

  • Upload your lists into your CRM or marketing software and push those leads to your sales people. Make sure that your sales people know the source of the list and why.
  • Have your sales reps scrub the list and make sure that they actually want to work the lead.

The way I teach reps to figure out if a lead is worth being worked is simple: Do you have a reason to be reaching out and why. If you don’t have a reason to reach out other than that you found the company at a trade show or sourced it from X source then you shouldn’t call it. Just because you found a lead or a company and you think you can help them is not enough. If you want your chances of closing a lead into a sale to go up then work leads in a SMART way. Source and prospect leads that have a better chance of your service or product being timely and relative to their business. If you don’t have a reason to reach out you should probably get rid of them and spend your time working a company harder and smarter where you might have an impact. 

  • Once you have scrubbed the list and you know you want to work the lead, do SMART RESEARCH on the lead. Understand the things that would make them potentially a good fit and make notes in the lead record so you know why you are reaching out.
  • Reach out to your leads in a customized and human way. Don’t just call to call. Really do your research so you know how you can potentially help them.
  • What helps me at HubSpot is that marketing has a centralized place on our WIKI where they put all our of marketing resources. They put links to our content behind landing pages so I know where to find them. I then take those landing pages and filter out the resources so I know which ones might help in my prospecting process.
  • Send relevant links in your outreach so that you can start tracking the lead.
  • If you have lead intelligence through marketing software, once that person fills out a form from your prospecting they are now considered inbound and marketing now has the right to help you work them and help you educate them with your company’s marketing content.

That moment when a cold lead of mine turns inbound is huge. I get excited because I know now that marketing is going to help me educate this prospect. If I did a good job at sourcing a good lead where HubSpot could be timely then sometimes what happens is almost a miracle….Sometimes what happens is that I get an inbound lead notification on a lead that I have not even worked yet. Yes, that is right…if you source good leads as a sales person what can happen is that marketing might reach that lead as well in their marketing efforts and that lead can turn inbound without you having to do anything. Then the record is sent to you because you own the company and URL in CRM. Those times are the times that I know I am doing something right.

Those moments where you get an inbound lead on a record where you have not even started reaching out yet means that you know how to source good fit leads for your company. That lead would have gone to another sales rep in the rotator but now it is going to you because you are doing a great job at sourcing good fit companies.

If your company is contemplating an inbound strategy for 2014 you should know that:

  • Inbound works but it takes time.
  • You can in fact coordinate outbound, cold efforts with inbound and it works.
  • Align your sales and marketing together so sales people know how to turn a lead inbound and why there is value for the sales rep in doing that.
  • Get marketing to understand what makes a “good fit” lead so they can start to assert their selves to these types of personas with the content they are creating.
  • Focus your cold sourcing on good, timely fits so that you have an easier time reaching out and turning the lead inbound.
  • Don’t stop doing cold outreach but turn that outreach into inbound.

Overtime if you add in inbound marketing to your marketing and lead gen mix you should have a good portion of your leads coming from inbound efforts and not just cold efforts.

Right now when you look at your lead mix, if you are seeing most coming from trade shows, cold lists, bought lists, etc then you should start incorporating inbound marketing into your mix. It will only help those efforts in the short term but also help you create a more longer term sustainable method to lead gen for your company. You will have short term results and ROI but I would bet in 1 year or 2 years you will have more inbound influence on your lead base than you did right now.

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