How to Improve B2B Lead Quality
May 23, 2018
It may be common knowledge that generating a high volume of leads at the lowest cost possible is at the top of every marketer’s priority list. But while generating hundreds or even thousands of leads is a good thing, it doesn’t always translate to sales and profit.
Your website may be getting a high volume of traffic, but only a small percentage of them are qualified as engaged leads, and even a smaller percentage might convert into paying customers. When it comes to lead generation, quality usually trumps quantity.
But, getting quality leads can be costly. A recent study on lead generation revealed that for 77% of marketers, improving the quality of leads is the most important goal and the biggest barrier to success. The quality of the leads handed off to the sales team significantly impacts an organization’s capability to acquire new customers.
When leads aren’t qualified, guiding them down the marketing and sales funnel can become even costlier in terms of time, effort, and resources. Before marketers can even begin to actually improve the quality of their leads, they must first know the attributes of a high-quality lead.
The Foundations of Lead Quality
A lead is the collection of data about a person that has the interest, authority, capability, or motivation to purchase a product or service. This information can be highly valuable for marketers and sales professionals to help nurture prospects into customers. The higher the quality of the lead, the bigger the probability of conversion. So, how do you know whether lead quality is high or poor?
Well, the term “quality” can be highly subjective, perceptual, and conditional. But, in the discussion of lead generation, there are four foundations of lead quality that need to be considered.
A lead is not just composed of a name and email address. It’s a collection of relevant customer data including demographics, firmographics, purchase behavior, and contact information. The depth of the data you have on your lead will allow you to get to know them better.
You can figure out what they like, what their problems are, and how you can best offer solutions. High-quality leads can provide you in-depth information about their personal life, the organization they belong to, and how you can best get in touch with them.
Demographics include a lead’s personal information, such as their name, age, job title, location, income, gender, educational level, languages spoken, and even marital status. A person’s demographics can go further, but the pertinent data depends on your product, service, and marketing goals.
Knowing your lead’s demographic data will allow you to personalize your marketing messages and determine how a particular lead stacks up against your other leads.
If demographics are individual persons’ details, then firmographics refer to an organization’s information. This company information includes annual revenue, capital events, market share, employee count, and growth rate. These details can help you determine whether the company is national, regional, or global.
If demographics are important for B2C business, firmographics are critical for B2B marketers. This allows your sales team to determine how large an organization is and how having them as a client can benefit your business. Thus, you can score and prioritize leads accordingly.
- Purchase Behavior
Purchase behavior refers to a set of data points that signal a lead’s receptiveness to your product or service. These are unique to your business and your target market’s profile. As such, it’s high-value data that you can use to personalize the sales process.
It reveals your lead’s pain points and what solutions they’re after, giving you a clearer picture of what they’re looking for and whether your products and services provide a good fit for their problems.
- Contact Information
Because B2B marketing nowadays involves multiple touchpoints, high-quality leads have various types of contact information, such as their personal email address, work email, mobile number, and more.
For you to fully leverage your marketing automation strategy and direct them along your sales funnel, you need accurate contact information in every channel or customer touchpoint, such as email, post, phone, social media, and more. All these touchpoints can be used to nurture and drive your lead towards a sales conversion.
If your lead’s data isn’t accurate, then your sales team could well be wasting their time, effort, and resources. Yes, a website visitor may have placed all the required information using all the right formats, but is the information they provide correct? Names may not match up with email addresses, phone numbers may no longer be valid, and people change their emails over time.
When you hand over inaccurate information to your sales reps, they may stumble on calls when they utter the wrong information or use a strategy that will never work on a specific lead. A high-quality lead account should contain accurate information without any deficiencies.
Lead generation is an ongoing, ever-evolving process. It’s a fast-paced industry, so think of your ideal customer as a moving target. Each one’s data, no matter how accurate, will not stay that way for long. They may have moved to a different residence, changed phone numbers, or left their current organization. Businesses open and close. Employees are hired, fired, and replaced all the time.
Speed and continuity are crucial for a high-quality lead generation strategy. Once high-quality leads are acquired and are deemed ready to buy, hand them over to your sales team immediately for follow-up. Ensure that your lead generation strategy is an ongoing process and that data can be updated and refreshed over a period of time.
So, you’ve qualified your leads and scored them. Do they match your ideal customer profile? Is the data you gathered aligned with your overall business goals? Remember, your ultimate goal is to generate new customers and boost your profit and revenue, not mere MQLs or SQLs.
How to Improve Lead Quality
Generally, marketers are responsible for generating quality leads so that the sales team can acquire new customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, in the B2B industry, the competition is tough, and prospects are limited. That’s why lead quality is crucial to growing your bottom line.
1. Know and Understand Your Ideal Customer Profile
In any marketing campaign, knowing and understanding your buyer persona is the first crucial step. Who is your ideal customer? Create buyer personas for every possible customer profile in your target market.
When leads are generated and qualified, you’ll know exactly when you’ve hit the gold mine. As such, sales reps can prioritize these leads and have a better chance of converting them.
2. Align Your Marketing and Sales Teams
Your marketing and sales teams should be working hand-in-hand to increase sales and revenue. However, some organizations often overlook the importance of alignment of goals and strategies.
Once you have a clear picture of your ideal customer, ensure that your marketing and sales teams understand what an ideal prospect looks like. That way, there’s no back and forth in terms of determining whether a particular lead is already qualified for a sales call or not.
3. Qualify Your Leads Early in the Game
Most marketers believe that reducing friction in the early stages of the sales funnel will help generate quality leads. Yes, less friction may help you generate more leads, but they may end up being poor quality. Don’t waste your sales team’s time by letting them ask the qualifying questions during their sales call. They’re not the ones in charge of qualifying your leads – you are.
Include direct, relevant questions in your B2B lead generation form. A question such as “are you shopping around for a specific product/service or just looking for information?” or “how soon do you plan to decide on this solution?” will help you determine whether a lead is ready to purchase. You can even ask them their budget outright with a question such as “what is your budget for this particular solution?”. Of course, you can personalize your question further depending on your product or service offered.
If you want to reduce friction, you can use multiple question format, or a dropdown menu where they’re given options to choose from.
4. Create a Marketing-Sales Feedback Process
Communication between the sales and marketing teams are important, especially for B2B companies with long sales cycles. When salespeople object to the quality of leads handed over to them, marketers need to understand why. Enter closed-loop reporting.
Remember, your sales reps are the people who communicate directly with customers and prospects, so they have first-hand experience with how they’re motivated. Some of the most common complaints of sales reps are that the leads are from companies or startups that don’t have the required budget to purchase, they are not decision-makers in the company, or they’re not ready to purchase and are just looking for information.
Communication is a two-way street. Your sales team should also listen to your marketing team. They should also understand how leads are generated as well as the challenges associated with lead generation and qualification.
When they understand the lead generation process, sales reps can also provide the right information that can guide marketers in the right direction. For instance, they can tell you which keywords are generating more leads, and which ones generate fewer higher quality leads. They will also tell you how the buyers came to their purchase decisions, or which marketing strategy drove the final push. You can then refine your lead generation strategies accordingly.
Listen to your sales team and never take their expertise for granted.
5. Implement a Lead Scoring System
Decide on a lead scoring system with your sales team to ensure that both departments are aligned. A lead scoring system will allow you to classify your leads according to their readiness to purchase or business size. This way, your sales team knows which leads to prioritize and what sales tactics to utilize on a particular lead.
A typical lead scoring system may distribute their leads into four classifications:
- Class A – Companies with the highest sales potential. These may refer to large enterprises with high purchasing power, within your specific target market and within your desired geographical area.
- Class B – Smaller companies that are still within your target market. They may require several follow-ups and lead nurturing strategies.
- Class C – Companies that fall outside your target market but still have a high potential for sales.
- Class D – Companies that have the least potential for sales. They may require follow-ups but are not high on the priority list.
6. Use Innovative Lead Nurturing Strategies
When leads are not ready for a purchase, it doesn’t mean you should throw them out. An effective B2B marketer knows and understands that every prospect needs nurturing to some degree. Try various tactics such as email marketing, content marketing, or even cold-calling to follow them up. Experiment with other marketing channels to see which ones work best for your audience.
Reach out to them through multiple platforms and touchpoints. A study reveals that it takes at least ten touchpoints before a prospect is converted – use them. Think beyond the inbox, and engage them on multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Use targeted multimedia content such as interactive calculators, white papers, or even direct mail to build value-based relationships that you can invest in.
7. Purchase the Most Effective Lead List
As much as you would like to organically build your list and generate your leads, your company may not have the time it takes for your inbound marketing strategies to reap ROI. A lot of marketers and industry leaders will discourage purchasing a contact list. But despite all the negativity, list buying remains a serious marketing strategy for B2B businesses.
Of course, you need to take precautions when purchasing lists. You need to make sure that the lead list you’re purchasing maintains the four foundations of a high-quality lead. Again, that’s depth, accuracy, reliability, and functionality.
Find a reputable lead generation or list provider who is consultative. Meet with them or speak with them through a video call, so that you can determine whether he or she is making an effort to understand the quality of leads you need.
Find out how they source their lists, whether it’s done through keywords, SIC code, or both. You can also ask them if they can determine whether the leads from the list have already purchased a similar product in the past.
Understand that your lead list is an investment and that quality leads can be costly. For as long as you’re getting high-quality leads, then you’re actually saving on costs and enabling your organization to achieve its ROI quicker and more efficiently.
Finally, always test the leads in the list you’re purchasing. Generally, if more than 1 out of 20 leads fail your test, that means that the list needs cleaning and verification before it can be used. Assign someone on your team who can monitor, update, and maintain your lead lists.
You can have the best marketing automation software and thousands of leads. But, if the quality of your leads is poor, then you could be wasting your time and resources trying to convert prospects that never had the intention or the capability to purchase right from the start.
When it comes to deciding whether to focus on the quantity of your list versus the quality of your leads, it all boils down to quality. The best way for you to grow your business is to focus more on the good leads and focus less on the bad.
Optimizing your sales funnel to generate quality leads is just one component of an effective lead management plan.