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Is Your Definition of a Lead Outdated?

Allison Gibbs

Posted by Allison Gibbs on 12/20/16 2:30 PM


Lead generation starts with a good definition. Sales and marketing have to work together to agree on an important question: what is a lead? 

But what if one or both parties are working from an outdated definition of a lead? That could spell trouble and missed opportunities.

In general, a lead is a prospect who has shown a desire to learn more about your product or service. The trick is to agree on how to measure that, what criteria to use, and how to identify these folks in your database. You see how this simple definition is critical for creating sales processes, nurturing leads and closing sales.

A phone number in a rolodex or an email address in a database is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lead strategy. Let's look at a few digital marketing tactics that may help you rethink your definition of a lead.

Visitor Tracking & Remarketing

Remarketing is a way of engaging with people who have visited your website. The visitor doesn't have to fill out a lead form or give you any information about themselves. You know what they're interested in because they've engaged with the content on your website. Use that information!

How many times have you noticed an ad appear for a random thing you were just searching for on Amazon, or another website? This happens to me all the time. Oh wait, I wanted to buy those Warby Parker glasses and I forgot to finish the transaction. Sometimes it's creepy and you get a weird feeling that someone's following you. But it's increasingly part of the online experience and most of us are used to "remarketing" even if we don't know the definition.

By using a tracking pixel you can turn a visit into a lead without even asking for their email address.

Once you add the tracking pixel to your website, it begins tracking your visitors. If you've set up custom audience rules in Facebook, then the visitor's activity on your website is compared to your set of rules and the visitor gets added to a custom audience. For example, one rule might be "visited our website, but did not buy a product." The next time the visitor goes to Facebook, they'll see the ads you're serving to that audience. Read the step-by-step tutorial: How to Remarket Your Prospects Using Facebook Custom Audiences.

PPC & Google AdWords

PPC, or Pay Per Click, can be an effective way to accelerate lead growth, as a supplement to your content marketing and inbound strategies. As the name suggestions, PPC advertising requires you to pay a fee every time someone clicks on one of your ads. You pay for people to visit your site rather than generating clicks with organic search.  

Let's look at the results: Are you getting leads from PPC? Are you getting traffic from PPC, but not leads? Think about how you define and nurture leads from paid sources.

Click Here to Download the Marketing & Sales Process WorkbookThe percentage of people that click on an AdWords ad is small, but those who click are interested in your service, and they're likely to become leads if you play your cards right. Getting them to your website is just the first step and you can't stop there.

Make sure you have a solid plan for targeting and capturing leads before you begin a PPC campaign. It's just one piece of the puzzle in your digital marketing plan. 

Social Media Advertising

Your prospects are living and working and hanging out on social media. Are you proactively identifying and attracting these contacts?

We've already talked about Facebook ads and custom audiences, but that's only one channel. Facebook has the most sophisticated lead gen and ad tools of all the social media channels, but LinkedIn runs a close second.

Other social media ad opportunities include Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and the list keeps going. One of these platforms might be better suited to your business and your audience. 


Do you count referrals from friendly competitors in your marketing or sales qualified leads? 

What about referral website traffic? Let's say you're getting good traffic from a guest post, shared content or a strong backlink on a niche publication. What are you doing with those visitors? They're not leads yet, but you have a prime opportunity to nurture and convert them with some of the tactics discussed above. 

Networking & Events

Think of how to expand the ways you get leads from networking events. If you host an event, are you setting up the right tactics for lead capture and nurturing? Online registration for events is an opportunity to gain quality leads—if you lay the groundwork

Do you have a list of leads from a networking event with only names and phone numbers? Email addresses aren't the only way to track your leads. If you do have a large set of contacts with phone numbers but no email address, you might plan a text or mobile campaign to follow up with them.

Nonprofit Leads

Nonprofits have a similar, but unique challenge for lead generation. You may not have sales and marketing departments, but you have their counterparts—membership development, volunteer recruitment, fundraising, etc. Don't fall into the trap of vague marketing goals or vanity metrics. Get specific about lead generation. We know that there are various points of conversion along the journey of your "prospects":

  • Donations
  • Grant applications
  • Event registrations
  • Sponsorship commitments
  • Membership applications
  • Volunteer applications

These are only a few examples, but make sure you're focused on generating leads that move the needle on your organization's goals. Donations and sponsors mean more funding to serve your community. More volunteers mean more people to help execute projects.


Sales and marketing can't be working from different definitions of a lead. Agreeing on criteria and updating your definition of a lead is the first step to a successful lead generation strategy. When you think beyond a phone number in your rolodex or an an email address in your database, you'll start to develop more leads through nontraditional tactics.

Click Here to Download the Marketing & Sales Process Workbook

Topics: sales, marketing

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