Every startup is looking for more and better Leads at a lower cost. So what’s the superweapon? Patience.

Really? That’s it. Yes – and let me explain.

You are in a fight for Leads with your competitors. You want the most Leads and Marketing Qualified Leads at the lowest cost. Then you want to hand them smoothly to sales and for those to progress to SQLs, Opps and Closed Deals (or whatever equivalent buy cycle you might have).

Here’s the reality check – this is going to be an endless, detailed process with no enduring advantages. That’s the game – and we’re all playing it. No-one has all the answers, and whatever ‘growth hacking’ tactic might achieve a marginal gain, there’s only really one which will work – and that’s patience. Just keeping at it, making improvements and being patient.

As a quick aside, let’s not conflate patience with inactivity, lack of ambition, hustle or determination. Far from it – those are a given in startupworld. You’ll need them all as the entry fee. What your competitors will lack is patience – and that’s why you’ll win.

Here’s where your patience will be put to the test:

These leads are junk

If you have a form on your site as a conversion event, say to download a whitepaper, you’ll likely be running programs to drive people to that landing page. Some of those form fills are going to be junk as in ‘Mickey Mouse – BlahCo – [email protected]’. That is clearly not a Lead, and the person is just filling in the minimum requirements to get access to your content offer.

Frustrating. But let’s just pause a minute – if this asset wasn’t gated, you would just let this person read your content. You want them to read it! Ideally, you want to know their name, but if it adds value – they’ll follow up. The asset has to do the work, if the form doesn’t. Perhaps they’ll come back via a different channel, which will mess with your attribution but still, it’ll become a Lead. Call it Marketing Karma. But it needs patience – something that can be at odds with a startup’s business plan, but will pay dividends for an enduring business.

If you need a little insight into how your users actually convert, pop over to Google Analytics, and look at the Top Conversion Paths. That will show you the combinations of channels users take before they become a Lead. Buyer journeys aren’t linear – what matters is they do eventually convert.

We’ve no idea who these people even are

Mickey Mouse of BlahCo is obviously not ready to take the next step with us. More typically with forms, people will use a personal email address like Gmail, and yes a vintage Hotmail account. This can seem like junk too – since you don’t know who the companies are. You could put a mask on the form to force people to use a business email address. That would reduce conversions but increase quality. Hmm. Think about it though – we’re all working from home, and no-one wants to be followed up by an SDR on their cell phone while helping Little Johnny dial into his distance learning math lesson. It’s easy to use a burner email address to get out of that. So this contact might be a legit contact, who is just not ready to take that step. You can look them up on LinkedIn to get a sense. Often the name matches the email address and a profile on LinkedIn. So rest assured, this is a Lead. Don’t junk it – but don’t pass it to sales as an MQL. They aren’t ready yet – put them in your nurture flow.

All our Leads are MQLs

You have a team of hotshot AEs who need to be fed Leads. Any Leads – they don’t mind. They’ll knock on every door on the street to get those deals. So there’s a temptation just to throw anyone who has expressed a passing interest to the sales guys. But many of those names just won’t be at the Consideration or Decision stages. Gartner says B2B buyers only spend 17% of their purchasing time meeting with potential suppliers. If there are multiple vendors, that drops to just 5 or 6% – so late in the process. At the same time, there’s an opportunity cost of the time for the AEs. They have quotas to hit, which they can’t do chasing unready Leads.

Do you really have to do lead scoring? Yes. So no matter how urgently your AEs need names, names, names, now is the time to practice patience and nurture them to sales-readiness.

As a marketer at a startup, your patience – taking the long-term view to build an enduring company – is a key trait. Absolutely you need to hit short-term goals, but keep your eye on the mid- and long-term. Farmers don’t dig up their crops and sow another one when they don’t instantly sprout. Equally, marketers shouldn’t jump from tactic to tactic in search of an elusive vein of untapped MQLs. That’s not a winning approach – it’s just a series of wild bets. The real winners are those who are patient – they set their course and keep at it. And where does that path end? More and better leads at a lower cost.

About the Author

Morgan McLintic is the founder of Firebrand. With over 25 years’ experience in the tech sector, he advises clients about their marketing and PR strategy. Prior to Firebrand, he was the founder of digital communications agency, LEWIS in the US, growing it to 250 staff and $35m revenue.