Marketing is an important means of generating brand awareness and driving your target audience toward your website. But its job doesn’t end there; ideally, your marketing should also ensure that once your customers become leads, they are slowly nudged toward becoming customers and are fully qualified / educated before ever speaking with your sales team.
There are two primary qualification levels for any lead: marketing and sales. The first refers to leads who have shown enough interest to engage with one of your marketing campaigns. These are the leads your inbound or outbound marketing campaigns have generated, who entered your database willingly and are expecting to receive further communication from you.
Marketing qualified leads are also known as opt-in leads.
Sales-qualified leads, on the other hand, are those who have been nurtured to the point where it is now worth a salesman’s time to pick up the phone or schedule a meeting and present to the lead.
Does your marketing generate both marketing and sales qualified leads? If not, you may need to revisit and adjust your strategy. Embracing inbound marketing can ensure a generous pool of marketing qualified leads in your database, but where are they in the buyer’s journey?
Check out these three steps for how you can better qualify and prepare leads before the final sales pitch.
1) Systematic Follow Up
First, you should have a system in place that follows up with your leads, fulfilling your promise that caused them to sign up on your website the moment it happens. A landmark study by the Harvard Business Review found that leads who receive a follow-up within one hour of signing up are 7 times more likely to engage in a meaningful conversation with the brand, and eventually become customers.
That study makes one thing obvious: to increase the quality and engagement of your leads, you need to have an automated system in place that goes into motion as soon as a lead enters your database. Depending on your industry, that system may involve a simple, automated follow-up email, or a notification to one of your marketing and sales personnel to start the conversation.
Either way, following up quickly and efficiently is the first, crucial step to lead qualification.
2) The Nurturing Process
Next, you should set up your marketing automation in a way that nurtures your leads toward becoming sales-qualified. In most cases, this includes a series of automated emails that keep your leads up-to-date about their industry, your company, and your product. The messaging in these emails slowly evolves from purely informational and educational toward becoming more brand and sales-oriented.
In many ways, lead nurturing is the only reliable way to move your leads toward becoming sales-qualified.Forrester Research found that companies who engage in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-qualified leads, at only 33% of the cost. Another study by Annuitas Group reported even more success, noting that businesses using lead nurturing experienced a 451% increase in qualified leads.
3) Lead Scoring Possibilities
A successful lead nurturing system helps significantly in qualifying your leads. But understanding just when your leads are ready for the sales pitch is still difficult. That’s where lead scoring enters the equation.
Lead scoring, an increasingly popular inbound marketing concept, enables your business to assign points to individual actions your leads take in response to your nurturing efforts. Opening or clicking an email, navigating to your pricing page, or even contacting you directly are all valuable indicators of a lead’s interest in your product. Once a lead has reached a certain point total, you can set up your marketing automation system to send an automatic notification to your sales team noting that this lead is ready for the sales call.
Qualifying your leads is as important as generating them in the first place. Even the largest pool of contacts in your database matters little if these leads never turn into sales. Through a systematic follow up, along with a coherent lead nurturing and lead scoring system, you can increase your number of sales-qualified leads and generate more customers for your business.
Of course, setting up such a system can be daunting. If you need help in the process, or simply want to learn more about the process of nurturing and qualifying your leads, contact us.