5 Questions to Vet a Lead-Gen Pitch

Every day, you probably get multiple cold emails and ads—from agencies and tech firms—offering some kind of miracle lead-gen solution. So, like most busy people, you ignore them all. (If you’re like me, you dismiss them with an aggravated eye roll.)

But you need lead gen. We ALL need lead gen. So who can you trust? And how can you vet lead-gen providers, in a quick and effective way, to sort the good from the useless?

That’s why you’re reading this piece.

Let’s start with some basics. Before you go after quality leads, be sure your team agrees on what defines “quality leads.” For most it comes down to four things:

1. They want what you have.
In the simplest terms, you want leads coming in who have a serious need for the product or service you provide. This is elemental.

2. They have budget and authority.
Want is one thing. But if your lead doesn’t have decision-making power—or doesn’t have the requisite budget for your solution—all is lost.

3. The problem you can solve is their top priority.
The person who perceives your solution as a “nice to have” is in no rush. But the person who “needs it yesterday” will make it happen ASAP.

4. They have substantial lifetime value.
A one-time sale is great. Recurring revenue is better. When investing to find new prospects, identify the ones with the greatest lifetime value.

Now, let’s move onto the critical details.

Vetting out shitty companies and dubious offers is actually pretty simple. When a junior salesperson comes at you hawking a toothless, pointless, plug-and-play “solution,” they won’t have anything to back it up. A few push-back questions will have them scrambling … and once they start drowning in a self-created ocean of “umm”s and “well”s, you can just hang up the phone.

For seemingly credible offers, however, you’ll need to dig deeper. For some may look promising on the surface … but fall apart once you kick the shovel in hard enough.

Below are five questions you can use to do just that. If the salesperson or pitch runner can answer these with confidence and automatic ease, it’s probably a solution worth considering.

1. How will you target leads for me?

Most data-driven targeting is done with outbound channels. A social media platform like LinkedIn, for example, let’s you select your audience by industry, geography, title, years of experience, company, etc. But most quality lead generation comes from search, not social. (Social plays more of an awareness and interest-piquing role.) Thing is, a lot of search agencies will answer the targeting question by saying that they determine “user intent.” So ask them: How do you do that, exactly? How do you look at a list of potentially relevant keywords and determine what the searcher intends to learn by using them? For example, if yours is a solar solutions company and you’re seeing a lot of volume on the keyword “solar panels,” how do you know which of those searches are relevant to you? (e.g., Which are commercial and which are residential?) Your digital agency better be able to tell you.

2. What kinds of content do my best prospects want?

The unofficial (and unspoken) answer that most agencies have for this is, “The kind of content we make.” If you’re talking to an agency with a strong video department, they’ll tell you how important video is. If they have designers who are great with motion graphics, they’ll sell you on motion graphics. Yadda yadda. When really, the answer should come from your audiences. Intent through search matters (as mentioned above). So does social media content consumption. What topics are they gravitating toward? (And what are they leaving untouched?) What formats tend to drive action? (One segment might love videos, while another loves white papers.) A deep-level social media audit is a fundamental step in building any successful digital lead-gen campaign. (Or, it should be.)

3. How do you convert traffic to leads?

When it comes to audience conversion, marketers tend to do one of two things wrong. The first is thinking too much about audience targeting/traffic and not enough about content. If your inbound traffic is landing on your home page (too general) or on pages that don’t address their needs (specific but wrong), you’ve wasted their time. The second no-no is trying to convert that inbound traffic anywhere and everywhere—forms, pop-ups, scroll-triggered boxes, smart bars, etc. Not every website visit is a conversion opportunity. UX and CX are paramount to building the equity of your brand. So design a customer journey that introduces CTAs at the right time, to improve the overall experience with the brand and radically increase your Hand-Raiser Percentage (HRP). And, make sure you engineer your landing pages for optimal conversion. (More to come on that in a future piece.)

4. What data can you give me on my leads?

In most organizations, the drop off from MQLs to SQLs is sharp. “The leads are weak” isn’t just a line from Glengarry Glen Ross, it’s a complaint of many sales teams. That can come from a lackluster inbound strategy; it can come from poor communications between the marketing and sales teams; or, it can come from a lack of data transparency. When a digital marketing campaign is humming, loads of qualified traffic is streaming to your site and engaging with key pieces of content. All of this is trackable. So, when the leads start converting, a marketing team with transparent access to their data should be able to inform the sales team as to what types of content their audiences are looking at. This way, Sales knows how to address the new leads coming in. Your salespeople should never have to jump on a first call, ice-cold, and ask, “How can we help?” They should already know.

5. How will your efforts adjust to the changing needs of my audiences?

Set it and forget it” is great when you’re cooking a rotisserie chicken. It’s less than outstanding when you’re running a digital lead-gen campaign. Your audiences’ needs are always changing. The trap of data is that, by its nature, it exists in the past. But what will your audiences be asking about—what will they want and need—tomorrow, next week, next month, etc.? To know that, you need to be consistently watching the numbers to see where your audiences are going. Ask your agency what their reporting methodology is. How frequently will you get campaign updates? Will they include changes in audience behavior, analysis of recent campaign performances, and recommendations for go-forward changes? In 2024, data should be more than a fancy online dashboard. It should be information driving actionable insights—leveraged to help you gain every possible edge and maximize your marketing ROI.

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IMA has a proprietary lead-gen solution called a Digital Brand Activation. (And, yes, we can answer all the questions above.) If you’d like to discuss a DBA for lead-gen—or, if you’d like a second opinion to vet another agency that you’re considering—give us a call.

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