Brands and marketers have long recognized the potential of experiences to tie products and services to personal journeys—by making memories. My company has been doing this for 14 years. As an experiential marketing agency, we’re focused on forming memories through experiences, living by the mantra, “The right moment can transform someone forever.”
In a way, sales reps are like nurses or doctors. They take people’s temperatures to determine how they’re feeling. A “hot” prospect is ready to buy. A “cold” prospect is merely browsing inventory.
Before the internet, this heat check was usually performed in person. Sales reps would get a good sense of how interested someone was in their company’s products or services by spending some time with them.
Qualified leads would ultimately receive more attention—the sales rep might play 18 holes with them to help close the deal. For people looking to buy later, an occasional phone call to nurture the relationship would suffice.
But with the way modern customers conduct online research prior to purchasing, the human interaction aspect of qualifying leads has all but disappeared.
Many companies today have turned to innovative marketing automation software to analyze a prospect’s digital engagement behavior and determine whether they’re qualified enough to move on to the next step in the sales cycle.
But successfully qualifying leads for sales means having three key fundamentals in place:
1. A solid definition of “lead”
First things first. What’s a lead? At Marketo, we define a lead as any “qualified prospect that is starting to exhibit buying behavior.” That could mean when somebody begins following a social media account, subscribes to an email newsletter, or browses a product page on a website.
Of course, every business should have its own definition for what a lead is. Why? Because differentiating a lead from a non-lead will help you determine who’s worth nurturing and who’s not.
If you haven’t yet defined what a lead is for your organization, here’s how to get started:
Schedule a sit-down between sales and marketing. Talk about what your target market looks like, who’s in your database already, and what kind of buyers are currently closing deals. You’ll also want to discuss things like when to start lead nurturing and what makes a bad lead.
Marketing operations usually has access to the tools, systems, and data that tell you everything you need to know.
Once you’ve developed a solid definition, write it down. You’ll what to share what you’ve come up with so everyone’s on the same page.
And don’t forget to meet regularly. Your definition of a lead will change as your business grows or your priorities shift.
2. An effective lead scoring system
With a lead scoring system, you can assign values to prospects based on actions they take, behaviors they exhibit, and more. This will help you rank leads to determine which prospects are ripe for nurturing and which are ready to engage with your sales team.
There are four attributes you must identify through your lead scoring system:
- Lead fit: Collecting information around your prospects’ demographics (title, role, location), firmographics (industry, company size, name of company) and BANT (budget, authority, need, time) will give you an idea of whether they fit your ideal buyer profile. You can capture a lot of demographic and firmographic information through a registration page form. Gathering BANT data may require getting to know your prospects a little bit better—perhaps through progressive profiling.
- Lead interest: Studying your prospects’ online body language by analyzing how they engage with your brand will give you insight into how interested they are in your product or service. The more interest they show, the more likely they are to buy—and the more heavily you should shower them with attention and valuable content.
- Lead behavior: Certain prospect behavior shines a light on where they are in the customer journey. Visiting a website or attending a webinar are the signs of an early-stage prospect. Checking out a pricing page or watching a solution demo reveal buyer intent. You can take advantage of this information by offering early-stage prospects more educational content and passing off leads with high buyer intent to sales.
- Buying stage/timing: Knowing when your lead intends to buy is extremely important. If a prospect is just beginning to research a product, it’s not the time to put the hard sell on them. Instead, send valuable information about how the product can help solve their problems. By closely evaluating a prospect’s behavior, you’ll get a firm sense of where they are in the buying journey.
Developing a lead scoring system is a core component of lead management—and no department is better suited to help your company bring this system into fruition than your marketing operations team.
That’s because marketing operations has access to the data required to establish a lead scoring program—so it doesn’t have to rely on guesswork.
3. A culture built on testing and optimization
Like most things in marketing, your lead nurturing program shouldn’t be a set-it-and-forget-it endeavor. You’ll want to regularly test what’s working and what’s not so you can optimize your processes.
But what exactly should you be testing? In a word: Everything.
The goal of your lead nurturing program is to provide satisfying customer experiences that align with your audiences’ preferences and ultimately drive sales.
So, scrutinize every method you use to engage with your prospects. Measure how people respond to your social media posts, the offers on your websites, and the material in your videos.
Email nurture streams, in particular, provide a plethora of opportunities to test and optimize. You can:
- Assess how different variations of a subject line impact open rates
- See if click-through rates improve by swapping your content type
- Evaluate whether readers respond better to short or long emails
- Change the layout to learn what kind of design resonates most with readers
- Modify send frequency to get a better idea of how often audiences want to be contacted
By creating a culture of testing and optimization, sales and marketing can collaborate to turn qualified leads into surefire customers.
A new frontier of qualifying leads emerges with AI
The three fundamentals above will go a long way toward helping you successfully qualify leads for sales. But like we’ve seen before with the emergence of the internet, there’s always something new around the corner ready to shake up the status quo.
Today, that’s AI.
Sales reps currently spend a lot of time and attention just determining if a prospect is a qualified lead. Sometimes, it’s all for naught, as a months-long engagement could develop into nothing.
Hiring more sales reps isn’t the answer. But leaning on innovative conversational AI and machine learning could be.
Instead of an employee interacting with a prospect, an AI-driven bot could communicate with them. When a person visits a website, the bot can converse with them, help them, and, most importantly, collect the valuable insight needed to decide if they’re a qualified lead.
This allows human sales reps to limit their focus to building relationships with prospects who are actually worth their time.
A chance to transform lead qualification
With a few key principles and an eye on the future, you can do wonders for your lead qualification program. And it won’t be long until your entire organization feels the effects—experiencing more closed deals and higher revenue.
Via Marketo blog
When it comes to marketing, times have changed. From advertising to public relations, digital has taken over. Hiring and keeping talent is more difficult and the use of consultants has risen, making capacity planning hard. The growth of project-based work is complicating team utilization and pipeline forecasting for in-house marketing teams and agencies. Even acquiring new clients has taken on a life of its own.
Meanwhile, competition is at a high, so it’s critical agencies increase efficiency and profitability. Owners and senior leaders need tighter control over time and cost allocation, invoicing, pricing, cash flow, and projects. They need to analyze business metrics to gain insights that’ll provide a competitive advantage, and harness artificial intelligence (AI) for data on email habits to campaign performance.
Business is getting emotional when it comes to customer experience strategies. The traditional rational consumer model has been challenged by a more intuitive consumer model. Rather than viewing customers as essentially rational in their decision making, the role of emotion in our decision making has received an increasing amount of attention and consideration. It is also a key component of building customer trust.
The collaboration of fields and disciplines such as marketing, psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience have opened this relatively new view of consumer behavior, essentially flipping the dominant understanding of human nature. Aristotle declared the human being to be a rational animal.
Marketing and sales teams rely on lead scoring to identify high-quality prospects they want to pursue. This improves the efficiency of the sales process, drives conversion rates and improves the buyer’s journey by providing relevant information when leads are most engaged.
As video becomes the content of choice for many buyers, marketers have had to develop a way to incorporate video into their lead scoring models.
As customers and technologies evolve, marketing analytics is likely to remain essential for marketing teams across industries to demonstrate ROI, and forward-thinking companies will look to leverage neuromarketing insights for added depth and confirmation of metrics.
It’s important that your metrics and marketing analytics measure with accuracy and purpose. Not only will those actionable insights guide you to improved marketing performance, but they will also show the connection to revenue and profit – numbers the C-suite finds most compelling.
Historically, whenever a large, technological leap is taken it’s met with a degree of resistance, sometimes in a way that makes us laugh. The Wall Street Tech article, “Women And Children First: Technology And Moral Panic” shares that when trains were first introduced to the public there was a fear that women shouldn’t ride them since “uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies as they were accelerated to that speed.” They did not.
In that same article, Cultural Anthropologist Genevie Bell states that society often experiences fear “when particularly revelatory technological advances show up—specifically, ones which interfere with or alter our relationships with time, space, and each other.”
Customers are increasingly demanding more from B2B organizations. They no longer want to be treated just as “leads” in your system. They want simple, fast, and intuitive solutions to their complex problems. And they have options. This is where an advanced lead generation strategy comes in.
The new generation of digitally savvy customers does a bulk of their product research online. In fact, today’s customer is usually 57 percent of the way through their decision-making process before they directly connect with a company for the first time. In most cases, they’ve already made somewhat of an assessment about your products based on your digital platform.
Modern marketers know that personalized messaging is key to reaching an increasingly distracted audience, but recent research from IBMsuggests that truly customer-centric marketing is still just out of reach. This is despite the proliferation of data and analytics technologies — and perhaps because of it. As the array of tools and information at every marketer’s fingertips continues to grow, so does the pressure to turn it all into real, measurable results. The reality, however, is that most lack the basic resources — including time and domain expertise — to translate unfiltered data into viable personalized marketing strategies, and agile workflow can help.
Startup founders know marketing matters. They also know that there’s a product to be built and investments to be won. Outsourcing marketing is one of the ways to maximize the success of a new venture.
Especially as the marketing landscape grows, founders with technical and sales backgrounds simply don’t have time to study marketing’s many niches. No wonder the latest CMO Survey, conducted by Deloitte, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and the American Marketing Association, showed planned marketing outsourcing at its highest level in at least five years.