Business Development

Beyond SEO – Digital Lead Generation Management

Brian Swanson, Flash Point Marketing


Search engine optimization (SEO) has helped firms increase their digital awareness and connected qualified prospects with their site. As a result, firms are getting the conversions desired. However, that’s only the starting point. Since partners evaluate efforts based on the value of new business generated, the number of prospects identified is not enough.

Managing the Digital Pipeline
Ushering a lead through the firm’s pipeline can be a challenging task, especially if the process is not well defined or is dependent on a single resource. The good news is creating a process does not have to be difficult, and there are best practices you can follow. To help sculpt or refine the process consider the advice and insights shared by fellow industry marketers, strategists and business developers.  


  • Attracting Quality Leads – A common objection many marketers encounter is the quality of leads coming in through the site is of low value. While this may initially speak to the attraction process, lead quality also impacts how partners view the value of digital marketing. There is a clear connection between content and lead quality.
“As we have made a concerted effort to increase the quality and length of content,” said Sean Smith, chief marketing officer of Schneider Downs, “we have observed there is an increase in the number of leads being generated that have no prior connection or relationship with the firm.” This has opened the door to opportunities where traditional marketing was simply unable to convert and garner the prospects attention. This is a crucial point to consider as firms seek to enhance their digital marketing’s value.

  • Lead Qualification – While quality content goes a long way to enhance lead quality, it doesn’t guarantee they will all be “A+” prospects. According to Nikki Burgeson, director of sales & business development at Rehman, there should be a qualification step.

In her firm, Burgeson takes the lead and researches whether the prospect is associated with an existing client or prospect, and then assigns the opportunity to a business development executive (BDE) for follow up. This step ensures the firm understands the type and quality of the lead and whether there is an existing relationship (or important associated details) that need to be considered prior to connecting.  In cases where the lead is not a good fit for the firm, consider referring it to one of the firm’s referral partners. This will allow you to gain maximum value even from an opportunity that doesn’t directly fit with your firm.

  • Follow-Up Time – It’s no secret that Americans live in an immediate gratification society. If someone has submitted a form on one firm’s site, it’s more than likely they have done the same on a “handful” of others.
“We try to respond to each lead within one hour. If we can’t get a service professional to make the connection, then someone from our department reaches out,” Smith said. He explains that the immediate reply is necessary because “the close rate is astonishingly higher when we connect within our one-hour goal.” While Smith admits it’s not always possible to make a connection that quickly, he has calculated the benefit.

  • Hand Off – Once the lead is qualified, then it is handed off to the appropriate professional. For those working in large firms, that team member may only have business development responsibilities. For those in smaller firms, it’s likely going to be a manager or partner. When this is the case, it’s important to brief the professional about the lead and stay in regular contact about the details of the opportunity.
According to Eric Majchrzak, chief strategy officer at BeachFleischman, “the more information you can collect the better.”
If the prospect turns out to be a good one, take the time to find out why. Majchrzak advises asking questions. “Remember, good questions will lead to good answers and provide useful details that can be used to refine digital marketing efforts,” he said. The converse is also true. Whatever the situation, make it clear that you are a resource.   

  • Double Check – Despite having a lead management system, things can fall through the cracks. That’s why some firms have a standardized, independent, “double check” process to make sure all leads have received a reply.
“We have a step in the process whereby a member of the team reaches out to our internal team professionals to confirm every lead has been followed up on 30 days after received,” Burgeson said.

It’s a confirmation that nothing was missed, and the firm is being responsive and communicative.  It’s also important to schedule a monthly pipeline meeting to establish a sense of urgency and a best practice to keep team members with other professional responsibilities engaged in follow up. This will also go a long way to keeping marketing/business development informed on the status of existing leads and if any new ones have come through the site (and their status).

Getting prospects to the firm’s site is only one part of a more complex process. As a marketing or business development professional, you will also need to educate, inform and partner with internal stakeholders to move the lead through the pipeline to a close. If your firm doesn’t have a formula or process, consider documenting one to follow. Even if it’s just an internal process for your team to follow, it will go a long way to keeping efforts focused and on track.