In a previous article titled Types of MQL leads, we discussed MQLs at great length, and while we highlighted their importance, we pointed out that MQLs aren’t the end-all-be-all of lead generation. At the end of every lead nurturing process, salespeople should be left with a data base of high quality leads from which to generate revenue. In other words, from many MQLs, you should narrow down to few HQLs.
In this article, we will discuss the process involved in this narrowing-down process. In other words, how can you vet MQLs, to ensure you remain with HQLs that will give you maximum ROI? Read on for more:
Lead Nurturing and Its Important Role In Turning MQLs to HQLs
Lead nurturing, to a large extent, is a role that falls squarely on marketers. It is a process that requires establishing relationships throughout the sales funnel so that by the time salespeople make first contact with a lead, that lead would take a reasonably short time to close.
According to Invescpro, successful lead nurturing results in:
- A higher instance of sales-ready leads: up to 50% more
- Lower cost of generating leads: 33% lower compared to other companies
Successful lead nurturing involves:
- Listening to what the prospect is saying they need, then,
- Giving them what they need. That is, valuable information such as industry data, product information, company activities etcetera.
In so doing, you will:
- Remain in constant touch with your leads, which gives you ample opportunity to keep passing information. Note here that you should have systems in place to accumulate as many leads with consent as possible. The last thing you want is emailing prospects without their permission as this would only lead to trouble for your business.
- Shape the prospects’ minds with the information you provide, prompting them towards considering your product as a viable solution to their problem.
Another important aspect of lead nurturing, and that we will discuss later in this article, is the role of intent data for turning MQLs to HQLs. Lead nurturing (that is listening and then responding to your audience’s needs), gives you the opportunity to track your prospects’ digital signals. When you automate your process, you can track your prospects as they go through your website and third party sites.
As you track your leads and subsequently pass them through a lead scoring system, it becomes easy to know when to pass them over to the sales team.
Why Lead Scoring Is Important
Scoring leads helps to gauge interest levels and determine sales-readiness. A study by Kentico found:
- A 38% increase in closing rates for companies that make use of lead scoring
- 42% improvement in ROI
- Improved pipeline visibility by 27%
Every industry is different, just as every company or customer base is different. So, as much as it is important to have a lead scoring system in place, the methodology for establishing that scoring system should factor these nuances. If possible, your lead scoring system should be campaign based.
As you determine how qualified a lead is, consider their:
Fit. That is, does the prospect fit your criteria for a perfect decision maker? You can base this on their designation within their company.
Engagement. How much does your ideal lead interact with yours and third party websites? As well, what functions (trade fairs, events etc.) are they attending? Again, here, we emphasize the importance of tracking intent data.
Use Lead Qualification Questions to Further Vet MQLs
While it is important to encourage and foster trust between your marketing and sales teams, it is vital that the sales team pass any leads they receive through a “sales sieve”. This process doesn’t indicate doubt but is appreciative of the differences involved in sales and marketing processes. As well, as with anything in a company, a second pair of eyes ensures accuracy.
Several methodologies are used in b2b circles to establish sales readiness as shown in the summary below by Jeremy Donovan, SVP at SalesLoft.
Figure 1: Lead qualification methodologies. Source: Jeremy Donovan, on Slideshare
It is important to stress the importance of asking questions. Before launching into any engagement with your leads, ask them questions to establish their fit. Each of the 7 methods summarized in the table above requires you to ask specific questions.
Intent Data for Turning MQLs to HQLs
We have already pointed out that a high-quality lead is one that is sales ready.
- Do they have the power to make decisions?
- Do they have a pain point that they believe could be addressed using your service?
- Would it be more costly for them to ignore the pain point? In which case, does it make more sense to resolve it?
- Do they have a budget?
- Have they expressed willingness to meet and discuss a solution?
- Does the sales team consider them a high-quality lead?
The fact that a lead is classified as HQL doesn’t guarantee a sale. A lot of work goes into closing leads, although the advantage is that done right, the process of closing HQLs can be a lot shorter and less painful as the lead is closer to a buy.
MQLs are prospects who have taken actions such as downloading, form filling, loading their cart, clicking on ads, requesting for additional information, etcetera. But even though these actions are meaningful, they don’t guarantee that a lead will form a relationship with you. As such, MQLs rank lower than HQLs and have to be nurtured through tactics such as:
- Content creation
- Social media
- Content syndication
- Google ads
- Landing pages, etcetera
You can not underestimate the role that intent data plays in the lead nurturing process. Your prospects give a lot of behavioral signals as they browse the internet for solutions. If you can harness this data and make it actionable, you will stand a better chance of targeting prospects with a higher likelihood for converting down the funnel. And here, actionable refers to being able to use that data to deliver the right message to the intended recipients at the intended time.
It’s important when using intent data, to not be stuck on internal data alone as this can be misleading. This is because first party (or internal data) comes from your own marketing activities and therefore it may not necessarily represent the entire picture of a prospect’s online activities.
By tracking third party intent data, you can better gauge surge signals recorded across your industry, on topics that are of interest to you.
Use cases for intent data in lead qualification include:
- Crafting more effective account-based marketing campaigns
- Effective lead scoring leading to better account prioritization
- Smarter prospect segmentation. For instance, you can create segments based on topic searched (interest), and this then advises who receives specific marketing emails.
- Ad targeting
- Personalizing content to resonate with targeted prospects
- A/B testing and optimizing campaigns
Revenue generation for b2b depends heavily on high quality leads. To close a b2b sale, long cycles are involved, and a lot of resources also go into nurturing every lead. It is therefore a great danger to your bottom lines if you invest a lot of time on every lead you get, only to have majority of them not pan out. This is what makes the process of vetting MQLs to HQLs extremely vital.
Now you may think that having a database of high-quality leads somehow guarantees you positive ROI on your marketing campaigns. But this is not the case. After identifying your HQLs, there is still a lot to be done to make your campaigns successful. But that is a longer topic to be discussed at a later date. For now, know that your leads aren’t created equal, and marketing team needs to nurture all leads to become HQLs through a prior agreed-upon process with sales.
As always, never underestimate the value of having a qualified lead generation expert on your side. A lot of times, it’s always the difference that makes the difference in any lead generation program.