Today’s B2B Marketers can choose from a wide array of identifiable lead generation methodologies, all designed to get the most from their investment in lead generation channels. So, why are so many companies frustrated with their efforts to generate high-quality leads that translate into sales? Hubspot reports that only 5 percent of Sales professional say the leads passed to them are of very high quality. Clearly, companies are failing to commit to a comprehensive lead generation strategy that integrates powerful tools, such as automated lead nurturing programs and advanced lead prioritization, into a comprehensive plan.
The answer is not simply pumping money and effort into your funnel to generate more leads; – this only increases costs, while driving down results. Instead, your Marketing team should develop and implement lead generation strategies that integrate methodologies designed to identify the hottest leads, as soon as they engage with your company. Other potential customers should be routed to automatic nurturing programs that build a relationship between themselves and your company and products, until the moment they are ready for a Sales call. Remember, there is no such thing as a bad lead, only bad timing.
As you develop your company’s identifiable lead generation strategy, remember that each of the tools and methodologies we’ll discuss here are reliant on each other to reach their full potential. And strategies are about the long view; your team can’t be derailed when one quarter’s bulk lead volume falls a little short. With a dedicated plan of attack, you can identify the most promising opportunities, while driving predictable revenue growth.
Commit to Partitioning Your Funnel from the Outset
All modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems enable you to assign new leads to various funnels and automatically route prospects to specific action queues or nurturing activities. But, before this automation can be effective, you must commit to building a detailed program of how to appropriately identify and funnel leads, as soon as they enter the system.
There is no reason to treat all leads as equal, regardless of how early you are addressing them in their lifecycle. Advanced resources allow you to augment even the most casual contact from lead generation channels, with high-value additional data, (more on that later). But none of these insights will be useful if your first contact with a lead is off-target because you took a simple spray-and-pray approach to partitioning (or not partitioning) your funnel.
Use qualifying questions to quickly identify higher quality leads
One proven tactic for generating higher-quality leads is to ask qualifying questions during initial contact and conversion. Obviously, you don’t want to invite needless attrition on a simple whitepaper form with five or six qualifying questions, but one or two additional fields can quickly differentiate a promising sales prospect and a marketing lead that should be routed to a long-term nurturing program. Even a simple qualifying question such as “What is your decision-making timeframe?” can help immediately pinpoint a time-critical prospect and filter out contacts who are simply curious about a topic.
Identifiable lead generation qualifying questions typically follow the established BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) for evaluating leads, but other systems such as CHAMP (CHallenges, Authority, Money and Priority) have emerged that focus on the prospect’s needs and challenges, more so than budget or timeframe. Asking a question such as “What happens if you do nothing about the problem?” allows you to identify leads which may be primed for a long-term relationship with your company, even if they are not currently making a spending decision. And knowing a lead’s challenges and pressure points will help you personalize messaging that they find most relevant and compelling.
Use Intent Signals to immediately identify your highest quality leads
As potential customers navigate the Web, they leave valuable clues about their level of interest in your company and product, as well as how ready they are to make a spending decision. These actions often occur outside your own marketing activities or site domain – if a lead has downloaded a late-stage whitepaper from a key competitor, they are likely to be primed to advance in your own funnel, even if their direct interaction with you was simply landing on a blog post.
Advanced intent monitoring services, such as True Influence’s Intent Signals™, collect millions of user actions daily and map them to your leads, dramatically improving your insight on the most effective way to contact, nurture and convert them to sales. Intent monitoring employs beaconed site data from across the Web and social media services to add a behavioral dimension to explicit profile data that users may provide via forms on other sites.
These vital signals may include:
Armed with these insights, you can quickly trigger late-stage Marketing or Sales actions for quality leads that might otherwise be considered “anonymous” on your site. You can tailor content to leads’ specific interests, and identify entirely new nurturing programs that based on a lead’s content consumption on other sites.
Hone your lead scoring system to prioritize and advance high-quality leads
With the volume of data now available, you must develop an effective system for scoring prospects, based on their influence and behavioral indicators that they are ready to make a spending decision. Every Marketing and Sales team must create their own lead scoring system that assigns point values to key demographic and behavioral factors. Be sure to weigh in implicit factors, such as Website visits and key content interactions by topic. You also should include negative scores for extended periods of inactivity or “junk” behaviors, such as visits to your site’s Career page. Develop scoring tiers that define leads as “sales-ready” or appropriate for various nurturing programs, and use these scoring thresholds to automate lead contact programs in your CRM and other marketing systems.
And be patient. Demand Gen reports that, while the overwhelming majority of Marketers have some lead scoring regimen in place, companies that have been using their scoring systems for more than two years see much better results than new adopters. Like all lead generation strategies, lead scoring and prioritization is always evolving and requires a long-term commitment.
Act quickly on “sales ready” leads, but be picky
InsideSales.com reports that 35 to 50 percent of sales go to the vendor that responds to a customer inquiry first. Obviously, speed in reacting to hot leads is essential in growing revenue. But don’t fall into the trap of believing any “new” lead is a “hot” lead.
Even leads that meet your “sales-ready” criteria should be evaluated based on the type of content they have interacted with other behavioral indicators. Your Sales resources are precious, and you only have one chance to make a first impression – be sure your messaging matches the opportunity, before Sales makes that call. Utilizing intent signals and monitoring will help you achieve this goal.
There’s nothing wrong with a lead that’s not “sales ready”
Gleanster Research reports that 50 percent of leads are qualified, but not yet ready to buy. These contacts are a prime asset, but Marketing must be strategically committed to nurturing them to being highly qualified and primed for Sales.
Your nurturing programs should include a variety of content options – not everyone has the patience to digest a full-length whitepaper, and may prefer a quick blog post or infographic. Your programs should recognize this, and automatically route users to different content and engagement models, based on response.
And, as with all components of your lead generation strategy, you have to take the long view. Autopilot reports that Instapage realized $30,000 in recurring annual revenue by committing to a nurturing program for 55,000 emails that had previously been considered candidates for a purge.
With a successfully implemented lead scoring system and automated nurturing programs, there’s little downside to contacting even seemingly latent leads. Just be sure to stop marketing to users who have explicitly opted out of your relationship.
SEO remains an anchor for B2B leads
As you incorporate intent monitoring and automated nurturing programs into your marketing programs, don’t forget the best long-term B2B lead generation strategy remains creating compelling, useful content that places highly in leading search engines through SEO. Organic Search was cited by 70 percent of respondents in a recent DemandWave survey as their top lead generation channel, placing well ahead of SEM. Users who conduct Internet searches are among the most motivated potential clients. If you can provide valuable insight or help them solve a problem, you’ve created a trust relationship, during what may well be your initial contact.
Staying ahead of changing SEO algorithms was cited as the top priority by 61 percent of inbound marketers in Hubspot’s recent annual survey; creating quality content was second that anchors organic search traffic was second at 53 percent. Remember, that your investment in strong SEO can continue to generate leads months and even years after you first publish a blog post.
Stay focused on the big picture
Your identifiable lead generation efforts may be producing results on their own, but you won’t realize the maximum ROI from your investment until you commit to an overall lead generation strategy. By coordinating your team’s skills, the latest technologies, and a commitment to the basics of high-quality content, you will create high-quality leads from all your lead generation channels.