We Must Quit Our Unhealthy Obsession with Leads

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We Must Quit Our Unhealthy Obsession with Leads


We live in a world obsessed with leads. But, are they actually worth your time and money? Does sales really care about the magnitude of leads that marketing generates? 

Let’s break this down to see if leads have the impact that we’ve been brainwashed to believe. (Spoiler alert: they don’t!)

What Even Is a Lead?

Is it an email offering? A nurtured email? An inbound request? Basically, a lead is anyone who shows an interest in your product or service. However, whether collected from a form, a purchased list, or an event, less than 1% of all leads turn into customers. When they’re nurtured, 20% more turn into customers (roughly 1.2% of all leads.) Next, you convert them to an MQL to hand over to sales. The average lead-to-MQL conversion rate is a decent 31%. However, how specifically tailored is your lead scoring to meet MQL quotas?

There’s no denying that inbound requests are the “hot leads” that sales teams are eager to receive. Unfortunately, 57% of the buyer’s journey is complete before filling out a form. 77% have already fully defined their needs and know what they want. So, you never get a chance to frame their perspective with your product or service in mind.

What Could We Measure Instead of Leads?

If leads are no longer the main goal for revenue, then what should you focus on instead to measure success? How can you optimize your program to quickly create more qualified sales opportunities?

Focus on account-based marketing just as much as you do on collecting leads and eventually, as your program matures, the momentum shifts to these four ABM pillars:

  1. New business generation
  2. Pipeline acceleration
  3. Customer retention
  4. Customer expansion

Leads are great, but when less than 1% become customers, it’s an unreliable indicator of revenue performance. Mature ABM programs are generating 78% of all sales opportunities and 73% of revenue without ever touching leads. Only 10% of mature ABM programs consider “leads” to be a top-3 performance indicator. Your favourite sales teammate would rather have ten opportunities than a hundred leads. 

Life Cycle Stages for Modern Go-to-Market Teams

Think of the 4 ABM life cycle stages as a pipeline rather than a funnel. Ditch the traditional marketing funnel and start measuring these stages instead. First, decide your target accounts. A target account list is the number of accounts you’re targeting when running a coordinated campaign. You can optimize your target accounts by running a content audit or diversifying your segments.


Leverage firmographic and intent data to put highly relevant messages in front of your best-fit prospects via targeted display and social advertising. This generates initial interest and edges out competitors vying for the same attention. Start creating tight segments and associating personalized messages and you can experience huge lifts in display ad performance. Industry or persona-specific ads perform twice as well as normal display ads. Account-specific ads perform five times better!


Opportunities created are accounts that engage with your brand (both digitally and in person), show interest, and are qualified as a legitimate revenue possibility.

Here’s where the magic happens. By sharing real-time engagement data with your sales team, as a marketer you can alert them to the accounts that see those ads and take action. Then, your sales team can reach out, trusting that these prospects are already familiar with your brand and solution.

Pipeline Progression

Here you deliver personalized, mid-funnel content to buyers to expedite the sales process. By aligning relevant content to sales stages, you can automatically target accounts at each stage of your opportunity cycle.

Customer Retention + Expansion

Create tight customer segments based off of customer data. Organize and group customer segments by NPS scores, product usage, contract renewal dates, or even contract type. With these clusters of customers, marketing can deploy product best practices and usage applications to customers who aren’t using your product as much as you’d like them to.