All Leads Are Not Created Equal: 8 Ways to Determine True Lead Quality

by Alexis Robbins, Chief Marketing Officer Have you ever been asked for the total number of leads a marketing activity generated? Did you […]

by Alexis Robbins, Chief Marketing Officer

Have you ever been asked for the total number of leads a marketing activity generated? Did you feel pressure to try and hit or inflate that number for executives?

But what does that number actually mean?

We take you through the process of determining which type of leads may be coming into your pipeline, how to assess their value and understand why focusing on quality rather than quantity is a better approach.

Turn that funnel upside down

You may have heard of the marketing lead “funnel,” where you throw heaps of new leads into the top and hope they miraculously pour themselves all the way down to Closed-Won deals.  Over the past few years, smart marketing professionals have begun to turn the funnel upside down.  Instead of casting your net far and wide for new leads at the top of the funnel, start your campaigns with targeted leads.  Develop and understand your buyer personas and meet them where they are instead of trying to reel them into you.

Determine the type of lead

There are two types of leads. To present them simply:

  • Unknown: These are leads that are new to your database and have not interacted with your brand before. They may also have been generated from database searches, research through LinkedIn and other traditional prospecting aggregation methods. These leads are often earlier on in the sales cycle, but with the right approach, you can determine their interest level and place them in the right stage of the funnel.
  • Known: These leads have engaged with your brand before, either through contact with a sales representative, a booth chat at a conference, discovering a landing page through an organic search, filling out a form to access custom content and other means. These are often warm leads that are more willing to have a follow-up discussion or view a demo and take the next step.

It is important to monitor these two types of leads closely. Depending on your business objectives, each can play an important part in your marketing strategy. If the goal is “net new logos,” then the unknown leads are the ones you want to spend the most time with. If your business objectives include upselling and cross-selling than keep a close eye on the known leads and build campaigns for them.

Determine the lead’s lifecycle stage

The next step is understanding where the lead is in their buying cycle.

  • Are they just browsing? These leads are not yet in the buying cycle but may hold a position that has them window shopping. Think of this as the neighbors that go to the open house next door to check out the place. They are not buyers right now. In the future they may buy a house somewhere else and become a qualified lead, but probably are not buying anytime soon.
  • Are they aware of your market presence and messaging? The lead has become aware of your brand and your services, either through word of mouth, a blog post, an e-mail newsletter or a conversation with a salesperson or event representative.
  • Have they demonstrated they might be considering your product or service? Has the lead contacted a salesperson directly? Have they provided their information in the course of downloading an e-book, or accessing an on-demand Webinar? Have they signed up for and attended a live Webinar? Is there related evidence the lead has visited your company Website? Any of these can be seen as a consideration step along the buyer’s journey.
  • Is the lead actively evaluating similar B2B products or services? A lead at this stage may come to you via a referral from an existing client or industry colleague. You may find them actively researching multiple landing pages on your website—and frequently. Perhaps there’s already an RFP out. Or the lead has expressed to a sales or event representative that they are indeed actively in the market for your type of product or service.
  • Is the lead on the verge of making a decision, or looking to make a decision quickly after engagement? These leads are nearing the end of their journey. They are likely interested in product sheets, technical specification documentation, roadmaps and other informational collateral, and pursuing demos and conversations with decision makers and influencers. Keep an eye out for “trigger events” that will speed up the urgency of the request. These can include pending litigation for a legal technology provider or a recent data breach for a cybersecurity company.

Consider your Lead Source

Lead quality stems from the source. Questions you should ask:

  • How engaged was the lead with the company?
  • Did they receive a product demo?
  • Did they have a 1-on-1 discussion?
  • Would they remember the brand?
  • Did they sit through an entire event session or Webinar?
  • Were the events they attended targeted? Or were there free passes so that anyone could attend?

Generally speaking, the more engaged, the higher the quality of the lead. There is a reason marketing budgets were made up mostly of live events up until recently. Face-to-face interaction is hard to replace. Along with the ability to set up private meetings, networking events and product demos, large events (when planned and executed with precision) can bring in immediate sales opportunities and help move the sales cycle forward, faster.

However, engagement can also take place online. We see social-media selling making a strong comeback right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are eager to interact with brands online. Being able to create the online engagement opportunities through social media and video conferences provides potential leads a chance to raise their hand and reach out to you to get more information. We find that weekly trivia games and networking events enable this interaction and break down the walls between a brand and its audience.

There are lots of discussions on the power of e-mail marketing, but if you are sending out the right content to the right segment, a simple email open and click through can be a great way to identify strong leads. It is all about the timing and knowing that a potential prospect is actively reading your communications in real-time. The best automation tools will also provide insight into the time of day they are opening your e-mails, when the best time is to call them back and connect the dots to their other activities such as website visits and content downloads.

Use BANT to better qualify your leads

You have your marketing campaigns planned and leads starting to come in, but when do you pass them over to sales?  BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. Together, these four elements can be used to determine the quality of the leads.

Make sure to try and qualify your leads as much as possible prior to the lead going to sales. Are they already a current customer? Do they have a decision maker or influencer title? Are they on the targeted account list?  When possible, ask one or more of these questions during the activity through a short survey. It can be done following a Webinar or through an onsite event survey. The more you know about the lead, the better.

All of these qualifying questions lead to better sales conversions. Try not to waste your sales team’s time with leads that are going nowhere. The best approach is to start with a buyer persona document that clearly defines the “ideal” lead, which is fleshed out through an interactive workshop with sales and marketing.

Prioritize your leads

Instead of assuming that all incoming leads are “top of funnel” leads, take a different approach. Start instead at the bottom and work your way up.

Look for the leads that have an immediate need, trigger event or a raised hand during an event. When a lead list comes in from a show, those leads need to be prioritized, and they should be scored differently. In fact, you shouldn’t wait for the lead list to come in to start your follow up. Rather, at the end of each day of the event or immediately following a Webinar, you should debrief and discuss potential hot leads, connect on LinkedIn and send a personal message with a follow-up call-to-action (CTA).

Score your leads

Here is where your automation tools definitely come into play. Set them up correctly and you can automate the prioritization of leads. Set amounts that correspond with the various marketing channels and the activities a lead would take with each one. Most solutions like Zoho, Hubspot and Marketo are designed with default scoring built-in, but take a close look at that because you want to make sure that all of your channels are accounted for and that within each channel there are levels of scoring. For example, you are not going to score a lead that registered for a Webinar but did not attend the same as someone who registered and then attended the full live session. Getting more granular with your lead scoring will help down the line when you go back and assess the success of an event.

Emphasize quality over quantity

As much as you may want to hit your numbers, make sure when you are coming up with objectives and success metrics for your marketing channels you consider the quality of the leads you are generating, not just the quantity.

Cost-per-lead (CPL), for example, can be misleading if the quality is not there, so it is good to do a second calculation that only includes CPL on “engaged” leads.

When marketing and sales are aligned in the planning, execution and follow-up of marketing activities, everyone in the revenue organization wins. Get all the stakeholders involved early and often to ensure that the leads generated are more receptive to a sales conversion and thus more likely to turn into actual opportunities.

When marketing and sales are aligned in the planning, execution and follow-up of marketing activities, everyone in the revenue organization wins. Get all the stakeholders involved early and often to ensure that the leads generated are more receptive to a sales conversion and thus more likely to turn into actual opportunities.

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