When you think about Marketing Qualified Leads versus Sales Qualified Leads, what differentiates the two? What could inbound marketers learn by looking more closely at both sales processes and sales tactics? Perhaps by taking this extra step, inbound marketing strategies could be improved and streamlined, and, even more impressive, lead handoffs to sales could be easier and more targeted.
When I start working with an organization to help them implement an effective, repeatable and criteria-based sales process, I have a number of focuses. I’d like to share some by translating them to inbound marketing. Hopefully, this will provide some insights into where a current strategy might be failing, at least in the area of lead generation, which we can all agree is a pretty important facet of inbound marketing.
The Challenge of Qualifying Leads
Marketers try to “qualify leads,” but as an active Hubspot user, inbound marketing believer and someone who’s worked on lead generation with hundreds of agencies and companies, I must say that these kinds of qualification are typically pretty lame at best and, more often, total failures. Sometimes I receive a lead who has visited our site several times, downloaded several items, such as my e-books or whitepapers and given all of his information accurately, requesting a call. He may still be a horrible lead (even though he’s checked all boxes) when it comes to how a marketer qualifies leads.
Conversely, there are times when a person has visited only once and didn’t appear interested, based on her activity. Yet, she may turn out to be an excellent lead. This typifies most of the companies that I’ve closed as a result of inbound marketing.
Do you see the inherent problem in the above examples?
If I had someone try to qualify my leads, there’s a chance that I would miss the good ones and only get the junk! Could this be happening in your organization? Might your criteria be out of whack? How can we solve this?
The Importance of Movement
Sales organizations tend to look at their pipelines and focus on quantity and quality. But they never seem to focus enough on movement. I have a new perspective I often share with these sales organizations: Are the prospects moving from one pipeline stage to another? Even if they’re moving slowly, at least they’re moving. But if opportunities are stagnant, that can be a deathblow to forecasts and a reliable revenue stream. Typically, I will get the organization to focus on moving opportunities.
Let’s apply that lesson to your inbound marketing strategy. As I said, I’m not an expert on how this will happen. You’ll need to work with your own inbound marketing specialists, like the Kuno Creative staff, to help with the execution. But, what if we apply the following principles as they arise?:
- Categorize all of your content and calls action (CTAs) as to ideally when they would be available to the prospect. Ask yourself, “Is this piece of content an example of Top-of-the-Funnel Marketing (TOFU) or Bottom-of-the-Funnel Marketing (BOFU)?” Establish different stages to be more detailed than just “top” or “bottom.” Maybe your funnel will have as many as eight stages.
- Within those first-stage pieces of content, direct visitors to the next content stages.
- Each successive content stage is, therefore, only available to the prospects as they progress and move through the funnel, and some content may not be available to a new visitor.
- Each successive stage should get more specific and require more prospect information and/or engagement.
- As they move through the pipeline, the nature of the content might become more (for lack of a better word) pushy or pitchy. They should be ready for it by the time they hit the last BOFU stages.
By mirroring the sales opportunity movement principle in our inbound funnel, we may be able to actually tighten up on lead quality by the time they’re handed to a sales person. Of course, nothing is foolproof and human interaction still can either make or break even the best of leads. There’s still the possibility that sales reps will mess up, but at least you will have refined your process.
This brings to mind a popular fantasy action-adventure video game called "The Legend of Zelda." What often occurs is that players cannot advance to the next level until they’ve completed the right steps and acquired the right items. Perhaps as we refine our inbound strategies, we could learn from Zelda.
If we allow prospects to advance too quickly, they’re not ready for the sales call and reject it. On the other hand, if they’re not pushed to advance through the funnel at the right time, they may never receive the call they need or they may not receive it at the right time.
Frank Belzer is the VP of Corporate Training at Kurlan and Associates. Frank's Blog, The Sales Archaeologist, draws on lessons from history and makes application to sales and business leadership. Frank is the author of Sales Shift: How inbound marketing has turned sales upside down making it more difficult and more lucrative at the same time.