June 2011

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Is a lead by any other name still a lead?

Understanding the Contact Funnel to maximize Lead Generation Efforts

Manny Mandrusiak

Manny Mandrusiak
Managing Creative Consultant,
4 Bravo Marketing

Contributing Editor


Many companies spend thousands of dollars each year on marketing activities with one express purpose – to generate leads.  The ability to generate high quality leads is an art form. What separates good companies from great ones is their ability to understand the leads that they generate, and only pass on the hottest leads to their sales force.  This maximizes the opportunity of closing a sale while providing marketers with the opportunity to continue to move leads down the contact funnel.

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The Contact Funnel, or Lead Generation Funnel, is a marketing diagram that visually illustrates what types of marketing activities generates a specific type of lead.  Not understanding the Contact Funnel often leads to frustration as companies interacting with media providers may feel that they are not getting value for their advertising dollar.  It is the intent of this article to hopefully shed a little light on what methods yield what results.

Contact Funnel

Prospecting for Contacts

Before we get into the topic of Prospecting for Contacts the natural question that arises at this point of the article is: “How much time should I spend prospecting for new contacts?”  The rule that one of my Business Professors used to preach to us was:

80% of your time should be spent on your top 20% of your current customers.
20% of your time should be spent on gaining new customers and maintaining 80% of your non-top customers.

Those numbers vary from company to company. I personally think that in today’s economy the numbers read more like 70% on your top 20% and 30% of the remaining 80%. 

When Prospecting for Contacts the objective is to engage is as many activities as possible to bring people to your website. If we consider a traditional store the goal of any business is to bring people in through the front door.  A corporate website is now every company’s new front door, and what everyone wants is to get as many people to that website as possible.  Once they are there then it is the responsibility of the content and website structure to take the customer to a place where they contact you and move further down the Contact Funnel. 

Activities used to Prospect for Contacts:

•    Case studies
•    Published articles
•    External Links back to Corporate Website
•    Marketing partnerships
•    SEO ranking
•    Speaking opportunities
•    List rental campaigns
•    External editorials / articles
•    Joint press releases
•    Brand references
•    Third party newsletters

These leads require further cultivation by marketing to develop them into warm and hot leads.  Typically leads at this stage of the Contact Funnel should not be passed to sales.  They are not mature enough for sales to engage and will burn up all of the sales force’s time in trying to mature them. These leads need to be touched by further marketing activities. 

Cold Leads

Cold Leads are defined as leads that have been collected by marketers that have not been touched by a sales person or been matured through corporate marketing activities.  These are the leads that often get passed on to “Cold Callers” to qualify.  Ever receive one of those random phone calls asking you about how a company can fix your windshield for a special price?  That is a cold call made to either sell you a windshield repair package, or qualify you as someone who can get passed on to a sales person. 

Here are some channels that produce Cold Leads:

•    Company Portal signups
•    Company Database contacts
•    Conference contacts
•    Purchased list from a list broker
•    Prospect Contacts
•    Online Banner Ads

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Warm Leads

A Warm Lead is a lead that has either been matured through various marketing activities or entered the Contact Funnel through one of the activities listed below:

•    Webinar signups
•    Social Media Followers
•    Company Newsletter
•    Workshop signups
•    Tradeshow contacts
•    Matured Cold Leads or qualified Cold Leads

These are classified as Warm Leads primarily because these individuals have opted-in to receive information from a company, or attend an informational activity such as a webinar.  Some may argue that Social Media Follows are cold leads because they do not view Social Media as a valid marketing tool.  Social Media is a huge tool when it comes to generating Warm Leads.  Every follower that a Social Media site obtains opts-in to receive information from that site.  Growth of a Following can be extremely fast providing that good content is posted.  This makes Social Media channels the perfect place to get signups for webinars, products announcements and announce corporate events.  News moves quickly and it is extremely cost effective to promote once the sites are established.  The only investment is time.

Hot Leads

The hot lead is what the sales force craves!  These are individuals who have indicated that they wish to be engaged on a personal basis because they have an extreme interest in your company and products.  They have made and investment in your company either through a financial transaction or through time. These leads have taken the time and effort to fill out a contact form, or submitted a quote request providing all of their contact information, and sometimes project details.  They want to be contacted because they have a genuine interest in your product or service. 

Activities that generate Hot Leads are:

•    Product Downloads
•    Quote requests
•    OEM / Partner opportunities
•    Online product purchase
•    Trained students from classes or workshops
•    eLearning modules purchased
•    Completed Contact form / Info Request

The entire goal of the Contact Funnel is to take Prospect Leads down the funnel to make them Hot Leads as quickly as possible.  This is what marketers strive for when they conduct their activities. 

In Conclusion

By examining how leads are obtained, and how they are matured, companies can now better understand what the investment of their advertising dollar can provide them.  Knowing this will hopefully dismiss some of the misconceptions associated with some marketing activities.  Lead generation is an art, and companies that have great artists (marketers) working for them get their leads through the funnel the fastest and off to sales.  A fast stream of qualified hot leads to a sales force means a faster closing rate and ultimately greater profits.  That is something that every company is striving for in today’s economy.


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