It isn’t enough to generate a huge number of leads if a large percentage of them will never become customers. Low quality leads result from the scattershot approach to marketing that some companies engage in because they think it will cost less than putting together a targeted marketing campaign.
What they don’t realize is how many dollars are wasted in following up on bad leads, not to mention the frustration and busy work it creates. A targeted marketing strategy requires some hard work upfront but once the basic process is in place you will begin to see the benefits and the numbers to convince management that it was worth it.
What Is a Lead Anyway?
Many low quality leads aren’t really leads to begin with. They are nothing more than inquiries from the curious who either don’t have a problem to solve, are still sitting at status quo, or are researching your products and services for another reason entirely.
These may be termed “raw inquiries” and include each and every contact, customer or not, that has communicated with your business. These will include competitors researching your business, writers researching for projects, and all those who leave fake email addresses and phone numbers so you won’t call them up and bother them. Since Google Analytics and PPC don’t take this into account their lead acceptance rates will not reflect the true numbers.
According to Dale Hursh (writing for Search Engine Land), it is not uncommon for a B2B company to have only a 50% acceptance rate for leads.
How can you separate inquiries from potential leads?
Develop a Lead Scoring System
Get marketing together with sales to hammer out the definitions of a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead.
- Marketing qualified leads will go into a nurturing program of triggered emails and offers targeted to the section of the funnel the lead is in
- Sales qualified leads are close to making a purchase decision and are ready to talk to your company
Determine what behavior leads must exhibit to move through the marketing funnel and assign a score to each behavior. For example, assign each lead who downloads an ebook 5 points.
Assign another 5 points for downloading a general white paper. In order to make more granular decisions give the behaviors and actions different weights depending on how much that action drives toward sales.
Only the highest scored leads will be passed to sales at a point when the lead is most ready to speak to them.
According to HubSpot there are two dimensions in lead scoring:
- Implicit - Based on how the lead engages with your content and company. It generally denotes that specific action has been taken by the lead.
- Explicit - This is related to how well the lead matches your buyer persona and ideal demographics.
Basing your scoring on the implicit dimension whenever possible will likely have the better result.
Implement Lead Scoring
Once again, make sure sales and marketing sit down and agree on what behaviors are taken at various parts of the funnel and sales cycle. Come to an agreement about when a lead is sales ready. Working backwards, determine how many marketing leads you need to generate to provide an adequate number of sales leads. Then create a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with sales that states marketing will provide a certain number of leads per time period. Include rules for rejections (if sales rejects a lead then it must be accompanied by a specific reason).
The SLA will include the cut-off number of points a lead must reach to become sales ready. And don’t abandon those with lower scores no matter the age. These leads may move through the funnel more slowly or have more step-backs than others. It may just be an early stage for them in their own process.
Use your current customers to help you determine your scoring system and to monitor them for additional marketing and sales opportunities. Also, take into account no-sales behavior like unsubscribing from your email list, an indication that lead is not ready for more.
Segment Leads and Targets
If you haven’t done so already, create or review your buyer persona(s) for accuracy and use lead behavior to begin segmenting your targets according to their actions. You should have relevant, effective content prepared for email and web offers so you can begin moving leads through the tunnel at the most efficient rate.
As you provide content better suited to the lead’s placement in the funnel you will get better email results with fewer unsubscribes and more open/click rates.
Develop a Marketing/Sales Feedback Loop
None of this will work without open communication between marketing and sales. Without sales feedback, marketing won’t know what needs fixing. Without marketing feedback sales won’t have any awareness of campaigns or other activities.
If you have a long, complicated sales cycle marketing can’t wait until the end to make changes so have sales and marketing directly plugged in and require feedback at all times. A regular meeting to talk about issues and to tweak algorithms is also advisable.
Not all leads are created or behave the same. Technology in marketing and email platforms has made it possible to personalize down to the individual lead. Email triggering systems and lead scoring keep both marketing and sales aware of lead handling and movement so there are more high quality leads going to sales while marketing continues to shepherd others through the funnel.
This way no lead gets left behind.