4 Ways Marketing Can Improve the Quality of Sales Leads

Written by Heather Mueller on September 11, 2015

Posted in Lead Generation

Remember the days of cold calling and mass marketing?

Neither do we. They’re long gone.

Today’s companies have access to so much customer data it can virtually eliminate the need to contact people who have never interacted with your brand. Instead of making a hundred calls and hoping one of them will stick, you can whittle down a short list of warm leads before you ever pick up the phone.

But there’s a challenge to overcome: Out-of-the-box marketing software can overload your team with too many unqualified prospects. And then you’re back to the old days of devoting hours to dead-end sales efforts.

When your lead qualification system isn’t set up properly, every single person who lands on your website is sent to sales—whether they’re ready to buy or just looking for a job. This is a monumental waste of everyone’s time.

We’re going to walk you through a simple process you can use to send more qualified, purchase-ready leads to your sales team. To start, let’s take a look at what “qualified” means.

What is a qualified lead?

Do you know what a qualified lead looks like for your business? If you’re like 56% of marketers, you might not have a clue. Less than half of sales and marketing teams have formally agreed on a definition.

Yet there’s a big difference between leads and qualified leads.

A lead is:

  • Any visitor captured through your online form and added to your database
  • Anywhere in the conversion funnel
  • Potentially unable to afford your products or services

A qualified lead is:

  • Working through your lead nurture cycle
  • Comparison shopping or interested in making a purchase
  • Ready (or getting ready) to buy within a set timeframe and budget

Both types of leads are generated through the same general outreach, such as social media and AdWords. If you don’t create a system to differentiate them, half of sales’ time is spent on unproductive prospecting to unqualified leads.

There’s a way to avoid this.

1. Define “quality” for your business.

You can begin this process by calculating the value of a lead and answering some basic questions about your dream customers:

  • What is their annual income or budget?
  • How much are they willing to spend on a single transaction?
  • How big are their companies or departments?

This will tell you what parameters to set when qualifying leads. Remember that high quality isn’t the same as high volume. As a general rule, the higher the value of a qualified lead the fewer of them you can expect.

For example, a company selling monthly software subscriptions for $10/user will need to market to a big pool of entrepreneurs as well as corporate departments. But a consulting firm that deals with annual contracts worth $500,000+ would anticipate fewer qualified leads and longer conversion cycles.

2. Clean your database.

For this step, you’ll need to pull up your CRM or marketing automation software and get ready to downgrade or delete prospects who are bound to go nowhere. If you’re nervous about removing leads, remember:

Quality trumps quantity. Always. It’s better to have a handful of super-qualified leads who are ready to buy than a thousand tire-kickers you have to weed through.

Look for anyone who falls outside the parameters you set in step one. One easy way to do this quickly is to set up filters for things like:

  • Bogus email addresses and phone numbers
  • Competitor domains
  • Specific page visits (such as your careers page) that indicate job hunting
  • Job titles (such as “student”) that signal information seeking
  • Annual revenues that indicate an inability to afford your products or services

3. Create qualifying content.

Your web content can be a highly effective tool for attracting more qualified leads and reducing the amount of time spent cleaning lists in the future.

Forrester Research indicates that prospects are anywhere from two-thirds to nine-tenths of the way through the buying journey before they contact a vendor. They’re reading your content as part of the self-education process. If you design it to push people closer to a decision, you can easily turn leads into qualified leads.

To do this, you’ll need to move beyond basic informational blog posts to create a killer content marketing strategy.  

For example, you could ask your sales team what questions they hear most often and answer them in a new blog post series. Or you could identify a common challenge and create an e-book on proven solutions discovered by your customers. The key is to identify topics valuable enough that people will be willing to exchange personal data for access.

4. Qualify leads as you capture them.

This step is perhaps the most challenging of all. The more data you collect, the easier it is to qualify leads. But studies indicate people are less likely to fill out your forms with each field you add.

Conditional Logic is one of several features that can help you keep forms short while still collecting data. “Smart” forms let you present new questions to users based on their answers to previous ones. You can also use progressive profiling so that each time a prospect fills out a new form on your website, he’s asked for a new piece of information.

Once you qualify your leads, you can focus on getting them sales-ready with tools like HubSpot and Salesforce. And if you’re not yet ready to give up on cold leads, there’s a way to nurture those, too.