Redefine The Way You Think About Leads

Brokers should view leads as the result of valuable interactions with potential partners.

There’s a quote that goes something like: “The telephone book is full of facts, but it doesn’t contain a single idea”.

I think sometimes our lead-driven industry values facts over ideas, certainties over imagination and in my opinion it’s something that’s holding us back. You either have them or you don’t, right? Those lists of names and numbers either correspond to real human beings who are vaguely interested in your services, or they do not.

Your employees just need to finesse and finagle the humans on the other end

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It’s convenient to work in this way because it makes what you’re doing easier to quantify. Your employees just need to finesse and finagle the humans on the other end of those contact details until a certain percentage of them are magically transformed into paying customers. You can determine how efficient the process is by the ratio of leads to bona fide conversions.

And the performance of your other people, the ones responsible for generating those leads, can also be judged according to how many they can bring in month over month. When you stop to think about it though, it’s quite an unrefined way to do business and I think it’s had its day. Allow me to explain.


Not all leads are created equal

If someone walked into your office and tried to sell you that aforementioned telephone book disguised as 80,000 quality leads, would you bite? Or would you have them escorted out of your building?

Why, then, are businesses still wasting precious resources collecting and attempting to convert leads that are just as worthless to them as the yellow pages? I think our first problem here is one of definitions. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word lead as: “Someone or something that may be useful, especially a potential customer or business opportunity”. Not bad as definitions go.

However, I think we’re in danger of stretching the “may be useful” part to the point of complete meaninglessness. Especially when we still regard leads as little more than names and numbers that we can brute force into handing over a sums of money.

The humble lead redefined

In marketing spiel, people talk about ‘qualified’ leads, which is an attempt at further precision, but it is also problematic because what qualifies a lead will vary hugely from business to business, even within the same industry.

This leads us (no pun intended) back to square one, where we have no objective way to judge the quality of a lead, no ‘basis grade’, as it were.

In our industry, we could broadly define quality leads as being: prospective traders who are genuinely interested in trading independently on their own accounts. I’m quite satisfied with this definition, but I’d also like to investigate it further. Brokers are inundated with such leads every day and still fail to convert most of them. Why is this? In my experience there are three fundamental questions that must be asked before determining lead quality or indeed deciding what to do next.

Quality leads are prospect-ive traders who are genuinely interested in trading independent-ly on their own accounts

Where are they coming from?

Today, you’re not just able to create detailed profiles for your incoming traffic, you can also segregate it in all sorts of interesting and creative ways. A lead’s source should determine the strategy that you use to convert it. How many businesses are really doing this effectively?

I hear lip service paid to the idea of business intelligence all the time, but when you scratch the surface you realise that most business intelligence is an oxymoron. If you have the ability to track, then you also have the ability to apply rules and to redirect, so do this.

A lead that comes to you from one of our industry’s major portals can and should be treated differently than a lead arriving organically, or from a PPC campaign, or an affiliate link etc. And I’m not just talking about those five crusty landing pages that you update every six months. In fact, even traffic from within different areas of the same portal, can and should be corralled in ways that better tailor your message to the sort of people hitting your online real estate.

What’s their intention?

You have quality leads turning up all day long and you consistently let them slip through your fingers by failing to understand what they came to see. What do they want? Why did they click? And what do you have that corresponds with those intentions?

Online marketing is a lot like speed dating, there’s a very small window in which to make the right impression before your dream date casts his or her attention elsewhere.

Online marketing is a lot like speed dating

For example, that ebook campaign you spent months on. It’s finally paying off, correct? The landing page is blowing up. But is that ebook actually any good? Or did you create it to be another glorified advert for your business, complete with calls to action on every page and low resolution information that your readers can easily get elsewhere?

If so, what do you think the leads it’s generating will be worth to your business? That’s right, not much at all. Also, did your aggressive sales team start ringing people a full 28 seconds after they clicked ‘download ebook’? Okay, well you just halved your potential conversions from an already problematic campaign.

On to the rest of your offering. The people you attracted with this promotion can be defined as content-driven, what else do you have to show them? Is the rest of the content on your website also an afterthought? Do you have a legit corporate blog? What’s your education centre like? It’s not full of those click-baity “5 reasons to trade forex” articles from 2007, is it? Because if it is then you just halved your potential conversions once more and you only have yourself to blame.

How are you connected to them?

Personally, I’m not even willing to call it a lead unless it has already had some kind of meaningful interaction with my business. That’s how strict my definitions are, it’s only a lead if the person has received something useful from me.

I call this principle ‘connection before conversion’ and I don’t just mean it in some wishy-washy branding sense. I’m not talking about the catchy slogan that abducted his attention when reading the morning’s news, or the cheeky YouTube spot that caused her to raise an eyebrow last night as it popped up on her feed.

By meaningful I mean that the person was looking for something very particular when they found you. Perhaps it was a thoughtful video on trading psychology that doesn’t recycle the same five basic premises that content managers have been flogging to death for the past 10 years. Or maybe it was a glossary entry for the term ‘dead cat bounce’ that they came across on some trading blog, searched its meaning and found your explanation.

Or how about that nifty app that allows them to compare live spreads across the top 10 brokers in the industry? You see, when we start thinking about what we can do to create an atmosphere that’s conducive to lead conversion, then we also start seeing high quality, convertible leads showing up in numbers. Coincidence? The one cannot take place in the absence of the other. And it’s all about shifting our definitions from seeing leads as these sneaky things we have to corner and bully money out of, to seeing them as resulting from a process that places a premium on creating valuable interactions with potential future parters.


Throughout this article I’ve tried to narrow down the definition of a lead from something very general, to something highly specific that can be both generated and converted by asking the right questions and hopefully having the right answers. As I have tried to demonstrate, a lead should not be regarded as possessing quality in and of itself, independently of what your business does to attract it.

A lead’s quality only becomes clear after it has had the opportunity to interact in a meaningful way with your business. If you’re still casting as wide a net as possible and working with anything you can drag in, eventually, as everyone else becomes more surgical in their approach, all your business will be attracting is what others leave behind.

The onus is on you to ensure that your business treats potential customers with the respect they deserve, by adding value before any attempt to convert is made. This requires more imagination than we are currently deploying and is the only way forward in a world where attention is an increasingly scarce resource that more and more of us are competing over.

This article was written by Ran Cohen, founder and CEO of Traders Education.

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