Lead qualification is what turns your traffic into high-converting fuel for your revenue engine.
Most B2B enterprises never reach the point of having a steady flow of traffic – if you’ve achieved that much, congratulations!
Now, you have to go one step further. Traffic that doesn’t convert is nothing more than overhead, but how can you sort the wheat from the chaff?
Lead qualification is the process of determining whether a lead matches your expectations for the ideal customer. It uses automation to apply a lead qualification scheme to your marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), prospects who’ve “raised their hand” and put themselves on your radar.
Most MQLs will never actually make a purchase, and those who do might not move forward for months (or even years!) So, lead qualification lets you get the upper hand by cherry-picking those who are most likely to take action – that way, you can focus your efforts.
Ideally, your Customer Relationship Management system will help you apply your lead scoring criteria to each lead as they interact with your website.
A good CRM can do a tremendous amount of the heavy lifting in implementing these criteria or any other that you might want to use. Before that can happen, though, you need to do the brain work. For that, your team needs to understand your goals for leads inside and out.
Here’s how it all breaks down!
Step 1: Define What Makes a Lead “Good”
If you’ve got buyer personas for your business, you’ve already taken a quantum leap.
Your buyer personas represent your “ideal customer,” and your leads should match that vision as closely as possible. However, leads don’t have to be perfect down to the last detail to be SQLs: You’ll fill in the finer details when your sales team sits down with them.
Your lead scheme needs to incorporate the broad outlines, like:
- What industries do you serve? Leads outside your industry focus are generally not SQLs.
- What size category do you focus on? This maps directly to whether budget is available.
- What major business challenges do you focus on solving? Good leads should have one!
- What position or job title does the decision-maker for your purchase generally hold?
Step 2: Set Up Basic Lead Capture on Your Website
Now for the fun part: Setting up your website to do the work for you.
Marketing automation can save you thousands of hours of hard labor every year. Our team swears by the HubSpot CRM – it’s robust, free, and built by inbound marketing geniuses.
But even if you don’t have a CRM in place yet, you can still get started structuring your site in a way that does the work for you. A simple contact form can make your life much easier.
When users request your lead magnet or subscribe to your email list, you can ask them about their annual revenue, industry, and even job title. Yes, some potential leads will be spooked by this, but let’s face it: Most of them aren’t the right leads for you, anyway!
Step 3: Implement Robust Segmentation and Lead Nurturing
A lead capture form is a good start, but that’s all it is – a start.
To get down to the nitty gritty and really capture the benefits of automation, you need to go further. The right marketing automation solution will improve your productivity while making it much easier for you to stay focused on the big picture.
A good CRM does all the following:
- Scores leads for you, highlighting leads who are most likely to buy based on behavior.
- Centralizes all your data, refining its lead scoring over time and making reporting easy.
- Gives you the power to keep an eye on leads and proactively follow up if they go dark.
No matter what CRM you use, you’ll need to figure out which actions on your site signal buyer intent. With that information, you can assign weight to different actions and get immediate alerts when leads do things that suggest they’re on their way to making a buy.
Luckily, if your content marketing strategy is aligned to the buyer journey, things get a lot easier.
You already know visitors will be reading your blog posts as they enter the Awareness Phase, will move on to more detailed written and video content as they establish buying criteria in the Consideration Phase, and will finally request details of your offering in the Decision Phase.
So, assigning scores to these activities, you might say:
- Read three blog posts – 1 point
- Subscribed to email list – 3 points
- Watched subscriber-only training videos – 1 point per video
- Read a case study – 5 points
- Checked out the product demo – 7 points
As scores increase, your CRM can automatically segment your leads into different email lists based upon their qualification level and specific activities. This ensures that wherever they are in the process, they’re continuously getting useful, relevant content.
Step 4: Manually Confirm a Lead’s Qualifications
A lead hits the “magic score” and you feel good about the future. What next?
Any automated system is going to make mistakes every now and then. Before you break out the party hat and confetti, you should double-check the lead’s details.
This process should only take a few minutes, tops:
- Review the lead’s record in your CRM and see which pages they’ve looked at recently.
- Check out the company website and make sure that it looks like a good match for you.
- Zoom on over to LinkedIn and get an understanding of the role the individual plays.
If everything checks out, then you’re almost through with lead qualification!
Step 5: Make Contact
You don’t have to jump on the phone right away at this point.
In fact, you probably shouldn’t do that.
Sending a quick email to test the waters can save time – both yours and theirs.
Template out a few simple questions to send along covering basics like budget, timing, and who should be involved in the process. Also pick out one of your favorite content pieces to help you educate the client and get them grounded before the one-on-one talk.
Always link your lead to content rather than sending it to them by attachment!
First of all, an attachment might set off alarms that your lead has no control over ... and might even get your email dumped rather than delivered. Almost as important, though, is the fact that you can track whether or not a link was clicked.
Finally – at long last! – you can roll up your sleeves and jump on that discovery roll.
It might seem complicated to set up a lead qualification process that works, but once you’ve set the stage, the rest is seamless. Your content and marketing automation software will chug along in the background and you’ll be alerted only to leads you can really get excited about.