Brian Carroll

How to Put the Customer First in Lead Generation

Putting customers first in lead generation.

As marketers, we have more ways to observe our customers’ behavior and can leverage tools like marketing automation, Web analytics and CRM systems to help us manage all this complexity.

Complexity found in things like Marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), Sales-qualified leads (SQLs), opportunities, lead engagement scores and other KPIs are helpful to see trends and measure what we deem important to us, but something is often missing.empathy

That missing piece is customer empathy.

Unfortunately, empathy is often ignored or lost when we start to become overly clever and complex with lead generation.

We can get so caught up in our systems, tools and investments that we lose sight of empathy.

To build that empathy, I recommend:

Push the acronyms aside and actually talk to your customers

Sadly, I’ve found that marketers don’t talk directly with the very people they are reaching out to with lead generation messages. All too often, customer service agents and sales reps are the only ones talking to customers live and/or in real life.

Here’s some ways to fix that:

  • Pick up the phone
  • Survey customers on your email list
  • Get out in the field with your sales team and meet customers face to face

It is critical to know what customers want in order to serve them better.

Businesses often take understanding the customer for granted when this is one thing that should be always valued. For ideas on the questions to ask your customers, read this post from the B2B Lead Roundable Blog: “8 Questions to Steer Your Marketing Priorities.”

Use those conversations to understand what customers care about

Instead of worrying about being interesting, you need to first be interested in your customer. Your goal is to understand your customer’s motivation (what they want) and make sure that’s aligned with what you can deliver.

It is most effective to actively listen with empathy to consciously try to understand and see the world from the other person’s perspective.

Avoid “hearing” through a filter formed by your own worldview as a marketer, and do not impose your preconceived ideas on what you hear, because doing so will inhibit your efforts to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.

Use that understanding to anticipate what they want next from your organization

You need to move from company logic to customer logic.

Customers want to work with people and companies that can step in their shoes and understand the results they are trying to achieve. But before you can do this, you must first actively listen to them and understand their situation and concerns.

At its core, lead generation is really about relationships.

I’m wondering what would happen if we stopped treating people as leads (dehumanizing) and instead treated them as human beings or future customers. What would happen if we put ourselves in our future customers’ shoes and looked at our messages from their perspective and trying to feel what they are feeling when they hear from us?

If you want to improve your influence and empathetic connection with people, watch this RSA short:

In this 3-minute animated video, Dr. Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathetic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.

Image Attribution: Crystal Coleman

You might also like

Customer-centric Marketing: How transparency translates into trust [More from the blogs]

Customer-centric Marketing: Learning from customers helps increase lead quality 130%, Sales-accepted leads 40% [Case study]

Customer-centric Marketing: 7 triggers to engage customers and build loyalty [More from the blogs]

Creating Customer-centric Messaging for Optimal Lead Generation [Webinar replay]

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  1. | #1


    Thank you for this timely post. It is easy to forget that behind the numbers are people like you and me who make the majority of their buying decisions based on emotions. While all the data that we can capture today is helpful, it is still difficult to gage a prospect or customer’s true feelings without having an actual conversation.

    Whenever possible, sales and marketing people need to pick up the phone, get in their car or get on a plane and talk to the people who are making the actual buying decisions. It is the only way to know if you are heading down the right path.

  2. | #2

    Hi Brian.

    Thanks for sharing your insight and that great video clip. I absolutely agree that customers are not deals or leads but there are humans and want to be treated as such. I think this is the most important message of your article. Moreover, it is pretty clear that a service provider must understand their needs. You say that we should stop “hearing things through a filter”. Well, that is a difficult point. Providers are human too. And nobody can understand anything without a certain background. We cannot just swich off ourselves. However, we should try to make some “free listening space”.

    Have a great week.

  3. | #3

    @Brigitte Kobi Thank you for reading. I liked your point that we need to remember we’re human and need to make “free listening space.” Fran Leobowitz said the following about our about our humanness tendency, “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.” For me this is true. The hard part is making sure we’re really listening to understand rather than using that time to figuring out what we’re going to say.

  4. | #4

    @Matthew Theis Thanks for taking the time to comment! You bring up great points that we can’t know if we don’t have a conversation.

  5. | #5

    @Brian Carroll

    Figuring out what we are going to say even before the other person ended their speech seems rather over-hasty and gives you a 95% chance to say the wrong thing :-)

    Have a great weekend.

  1. | #1