Your target personas are developed. Your compelling, customer pain-point-oriented content plan is crafted. You’ve documented your customers’ purchase behaviors and the buyer cycle so you can appropriately nurture those leads. You’ve tailored your social media strategy so that it aligns with the usage pattern of your target customers. Bring on all those leads…but wait!
While you may have checked all the boxes for attracting those business-critical leads, you still need to put a plan in place to qualify them. Think of it like you’re prepping for an exclusive, high-class Oscar afterparty. If you don’t have a plan to let the right people in and keep the wrong people out, you may end up meeting Lindsay Lohan or Carrot Top.
This last step of the lead qualification process is crucial to the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales team, your reputation with them, the company’s bottom line, and, perhaps your longevity as your B2B company’s marketing manager.
So, where can you start your lead qualification process and what do you need to do so?
1. Determine What Your Ideal Leads Look Like
Having already specified your target personas, you probably have a gut-feel for who these folks are. However, you’ll want to take it a step further so that you truly know and can make an objective evaluation…after all, you don’t want that gut-feel to turn out to be indigestion. Start by examining your best customers to:
Get a good financial snapshot
With cooperation and involvement from sales and finance, get a picture of who your best customers are. Take a look at established and new customers, total profit each generates, order/purchase frequency, and the lifetime value to the company. Be sure to note discounts, rebates, or other incentives these customers are taking advantage of so you can account for them as you work with new customers.
Document your demographics
Document the demographic information you know about each customer, including:
Job function (engineering, customer service, finance)
Job title (segment manager, service technician, CFO)
Market segment (industrial services, equipment manufacturer, financial services)
Purchase decision (influencer, maker)
Geography (city, state, country)
Company size (revenue, number of employees)
Determine how they got to you
How did your best customers find you? Was it through your website – if so, what page(s)? Social media? Email? Trade shows? Looking at the paths these customers took can help you predict where your best leads may come from in the future — and where you should spend your time marketing.
With your financial, demographic and path information documented, you’ll have a solid picture of the commonalities of your best customers, as well as your worst.
2. Develop a Scoring System
Now that you’ve established whom you do and don’t want as a lead, you have a great start to score leads as they come in using a points system. You can assign values to each of your criterion using any kind of scale you like, but a 0-100 type of scale is generally the easiest for everyone to comprehend.
Remember, however, that as you create a lead-scoring scheme, you’ll also want to account for a lead’s behavior related to your site as well. These behaviors further qualify them and may include the amount of time on your website, number of pages viewed, number of forms submitted, resources downloaded, event registration, social media interaction, etc.
For example, an engineering business with $2.5 million in revenue might get 20 points, whereas a company with $100,000 in revenue would get one point and a student might get -30. The same type of points could be given for someone who downloads multiple tip sheets or webinars.
With point values set for each of the qualification categories you’ve determined, you can then select when someone’s a total score would validate a sales conversation.
Although the scoring concept is easy to comprehend, it’s not something you’ll want to do manually – you can try, but it will probably make you a bit nuts. Lead management software will be your best bet. If you’re using HubSpot, the Lead Management Tool will help keep things simple for you.
3. Use Data to Refine Your Site Content
Having defined your personas, you've probably refined your site’s content to address their specific pain points. Once you have determined what your ideal leads look like, you should be making further refinements, so that the content speaks directly to those you want to attract most.
Consistently look at your site's analytics to understand what pages your high- and low-value leads are looking at, what type of content and offers they are (or are not) viewing, which forms are performing well, how they navigate through your site and how they arrived on your site. With this information compiled, you know what things you need to tweak and what to delete.
4. Always Be Nurturing
Not every high quality lead will be immediately ready to make a purchase and not every lead will be keeping you top-of-mind after an initial engagement with content you’ve put out there. Consequently, you’ll need a bit of consistent nurturing to get them to that point. Craft some timely nurturing email campaigns that will help get them there. You’ll want to set up the content of these campaigns to speak to where those customers are in their buying journey and give them the opportunity at each touch to indicate that they’re ready to buy. The campaign should be delivered in consistent intervals, show how your company can eliminate their pain points, and needs to be tracked so that you know which leads are fully engaged.
Like anything worth doing, qualifying your online leads takes time and effort, but the rewards will be well worth it. Establishing an objective method for whom to focus your efforts on and — perhaps more importantly — who not to focus your efforts on will save you time and help you grow your business.