As an industrial marketer, it’s likely your responsibility to create a marketing plan that will generate leads and engagement opportunities for your sales team. But not all leads you generate are the same—and therefore you shouldn’t treat all leads equally.
Because the quality of a lead varies, if you handle all leads in the same manner, you’re bound to run into trouble. Studies have shown that 70 percent of new business can come from long term leads. These prospects are in the early research stages of their buy cycle when they first engage with your company, and are not ready to make a purchasing decision. You can’t treat them as you would a highly qualified lead.
If you hand a pile of long term leads to your sales team along with a few hot leads that are ready to buy, you will end up with a damaged relationship between sales and marketing. Sales people will stop following up on leads because most leads aren’t ready for their attention. This could also result in even the good leads being overlooked or ignored. Then the finger pointing starts. Sales complains that marketing isn’t generating good leads; marketing accuses sales of not following up on leads.
You can avoid this disconnect and do a better job as a company of converting leads into customers by segmenting leads and handling each segment appropriately.
Determining the Value of a Lead
The first rule of assigning a valuation to leads is to make sure that marketing and sales work as a team to agree upon definitions and the value of the different types of leads.
You can do this in any manner that works for you, although a good starting point is parsing the amount of information you have available to you on a lead. At the lowest end of the spectrum, if someone visits your website from a general search engine, typically the only thing you know is click-through information such as the IP address of where a visitor came from. You could hardly call this a lead, because you can’t follow up. You can only wait for them to raise their hand in a more visible way.
At the other end of the information spectrum, you or a media partner might capture a wealth of lead data through a targeted marketing program that uses registration or lead conversion forms. You might get the prospect’s name, contact details, area of interest, buying timeframe and more. The more information you have on a lead, the better you can segment or score them and follow up appropriately.
Lead scoring is both an art and a science. It’s an art because you can be creative in establishing scores, using any criteria that are important to you and any scale that makes sense. For example, you could score leads 1-5, A-B-C, hot-medium-cold, or sales lead-marketing lead. Your scores could be based on any combination of prospect interest, demographics, the fit of their need with your offerings, the type and amount of content they’ve accessed, stage of buy cycle, the number of times you’ve interacted with them, prospect budget and purchasing timeframe, where the lead was generated from, and more.
Lead scoring is also a science, meaning you must consistently and rigorously apply lead scoring to all leads you generate. It’s the only way for you to know how to manage a lead moving forward. You should also review your lead scoring methodology at least once a year, to make sure it is still relevant.
Leads Ready for Action
Once you’ve determined a score for a lead, you must then act upon it. The highest scoring leads might go directly to your sales people, who should welcome them with enthusiasm because these leads are most likely to become customers in the near term.
Other leads may belong to marketing, yet still require action. Here is where your lead nurturing programs take over. Long term leads require long term attention in the form of regular and relevant contact with your company.
And there will be leads that are determined to be “throwaway” leads, often due to a lack of fit for your company, and the product and services you offer.
For each segment of leads, plan a campaign of scheduled touchpoints, which can include emails, phone calls, direct mail, and more. Each touch point should contain a call to action. Lower scoring leads might still be gathering information, and are attracted to white papers, how-to articles, webinars and other educational content. Higher scoring leads may be ready for demos, spec sheets and product trials. The point is to deliver value by offering prospects what they need to progress through their buying journey.
Establish response rules for your campaign. For example, if a prospect downloads a white paper and attends a webinar, you send them a related article; if they ask for a demo or price quote, they are considered sales-ready. It’s up to you and your sales team to define the rules of the campaign.
Marketing Automation as a Strategic Asset
While you may be able to handle lead scoring, management and nurturing through a simple spreadsheet, you might considering investing in marketing automation. These systems can track your prospect’s digital behavior across websites, social media, blogs and more. You can use marketing automation to score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails and report on the effectiveness of your campaigns. There are number of affordable marketing automation systems for smaller companies as well as robust software for larger and more complex marketing organizations.