Why your leads don't behave like customers - girl thinking at chalkboard

Imagine you matched with someone on an online dating site, and their first message to you said, “Will you marry me?”

Ridiculous, right?

But many brands do this to their website visitors and new leads all the time. They make a sales pitch before their audience gets to know their brand. Your audience isn’t ready to make a $400 purchase right off the bat. They need to know what you’re capable of, and they need to see you as valuable—worth committing to.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck out of your leads, you need to stop treating them like they’re already paying customers.

Top-of-funnel leads aren’t ready to buy

When someone first joins your email list or visits your website, that’s not the time to make a hard sell. Bombarding new leads with sales pitches is like fishing with rocks: you might hit something, but you’re probably just going to scare away all the fish.

Leads have the potential to become customers. But at this point, most of them don’t know:

  • Who you are
  • What you’re good at
  • How you can help them
  • Why they should trust you

These are all things you can teach them through content marketing. But a lot of brands are too impatient to educate their leads, so they miss out, and then they get frustrated when their leads don’t convert.

Brands that want to maximize their ROI use sales funnels to guide their audience from awareness to conversion and from lead to customer. The broadest possible section of your audience (website visitors and brand-new leads) are in the top of the funnel. The vast majority of them aren’t ready to buy yet—because they don’t know you.

People will pay hundreds of dollars for products or services from brands they know, trust, and believe they’ll benefit from. But from an organization they’ve never heard of, or just met? Not as likely.

That’s why every lead-gen campaign should be followed by a lead nurture campaign.

Leads need to be nurtured

Lead nurture campaigns (also known as drip campaigns) give your leads a chance to get to know you more and get more value from you before you ask for a sale. They’re most often a series of automated emails that deliver your leads relevant, consistent messaging related to a problem or goal they have (presumably one that relates to your lead magnet).

This is basically a chance for you to demonstrate thought leadership, develop your relationship, and educate your leads about the concepts they need to understand before they’ll be ready to make a purchase.

Your lead nurture campaign might:

  • Highlight some of your best blog posts about a topic
  • Offer your leads free resources
  • Provide free tips and insights to solve problems or reach goals
  • Ask your leads why they signed up, or what they want your help with

Ideally, your lead nurture campaign won’t even end with a sales pitch—it’ll lead people to a more appropriate call-to-action, like starting a free trial of your product, signing up for a webinar, or even scheduling a call to talk about their unique situation. The best marketing teams use these events to trigger new drip campaigns that drive their leads further down the sales funnel, where there’s more time to warm up their leads and make them more receptive to a pitch.

However you decide to do it, the point is to earn the right to be heard, so your eventual sales pitch won’t feel like it’s coming out of nowhere.

Leads aren’t customers (yet)

Every lead could be a customer someday. Even after you make a hard sell or two, it’s worth keeping the leads that don’t convert (and continuing to nurture them). For all you know, they just weren’t in a position to buy when you asked. Or your product isn’t relevant to them, but your content is, and they happen to be an influencer with connections to potential customers.

You can’t treat your brand-new leads as if they’re ready to buy. But you should talk to them as if you believe they might buy someday—or help you reach people who will.