Successful online marketing will bring your business an ever-increasing number of leads every day. This number quickly becomes too large for you to pursue every one.
To handle all these leads, you need a system to sort out which ones are most likely to become paying customers.
The best lead qualification systems consist of two processes, lead grading and lead scoring.
Lead grading is the process of rating how well leads match your target demographic. Factors that should be taken into account when determining a lead grade include:
- Industry the lead is involved in — make sure the lead works in a field that your company caters to.
- Location of the lead’s company — if you work primarily with companies near you, make sure the lead is based locally.
- Department and job title — check that the lead you are communicating with works in the right part of their company and has the proper authority to do business with you.
- Company size — make sure that the company is small enough for you to handle, but also large enough that you won’t be wasting your time on them.
Based on these factors, you can assign a letter grade (A-F) to signify how valuable a lead is, with “A” being the ideal customer, and “F” being someone not worth your time. How you weight each of these characteristics in determining a grade will depend on how important each is to your company.
A lead with a high grade should be designated a qualified marketing lead (MQL). By marking a lead as an MQL, you establish it as one more likely to become a customer.
Once a lead has become marketing qualified, you should begin to take into account its lead score.
Lead scoring assigns a numerical value to a lead to show how active they have been with your company and how interested they are in your product.
Points are added to a lead score whenever the lead performs an action that is deemed valuable. These actions may include things like:
- Viewing pages on your website
- Reading and clicking through on your emails
- Downloading information from your site
- Watching an informational video
How many points are added to the score should vary according to how valuable the action they took was. Reading about the details of one of your products should award more points than simply viewing the homepage of your website. Again, the specifics of actions’ relative values will vary company to company.
Keep in mind that a good lead grade does not necessarily mean a good lead score and vice versa.
A lead might fit neatly into your target demographic, giving them a good lead grade, but if they already have a relationship with a company similar to yours, they will probably have a low lead score, as they are not very likely to want to switch companies.
Alternatively, that competing company might have an employee researching yours to see how they can improve theirs.
This would involve them looking through much of your website and marketing material, giving them a high lead score, but they would have a low lead grade, as they are unlikely to make any purchase from you.
Both lead grading and lead scoring can be automated with any of a variety of marketing programs. Which one is best for your company will vary based on the company’s size, industry, and target demographic.
One aspect of lead scoring that is often overlooked is negative scoring/score degradation.
Points should gradually be taken away from a lead score if it begins to seem that the lead has lost interest in your company or is interested in something other than purchasing from you.
If a lead has not interacted with your company in any way for a long time, they have most likely lost interest in buying your product, so their score should decrease.
Over time, if a lead’s activity becomes focused on your “careers” page or contact pages for your employees, you should begin to subtract points from their score, as they are most likely looking for a job with your company instead of looking to purchase from it.
If you do not incorporate these elements into your marketing program, you may waste valuable resources pursuing leads that have long ago moved on.
Different Types of Leads
Another way to fine-tune your lead qualification is to create different systems for different types of leads. If your company has multiple product lines, it will almost certainly be beneficial to set up multiple lead grading and scoring models to tailor your marketing process to each customer’s needs.
For example, if your company manufactures cosmetics, it would be wise to separate models by type of product (makeup, hair products, etc.) and possibly by gender as well.
If you do not differentiate your lead qualifying models based on these factors, your automated marketing might end up trying to sell hair gel to a nail salon or mascara to a barber shop.
When an MQL reaches a high enough lead score, your sales team should begin to look into it further. They should research the lead, both to double check the software’s work and to learn more about the potential customer. If the MQL meets their criteria, they become a sales qualified lead (SQL).
An SQL is a lead that is ready for the final stages of the sales process. An SQL should be assigned to a specific salesperson, who should then contact the lead in person to work on finalizing a sale.
Good lead grading and scoring systems usually take some trial and error to set up, and they can always be improved, so experiment with how you weight different characteristics and actions to see what gives you the best results.
These techniques will help you save precious time and avoid human error in deciding which leads to pursue. Using objective data to qualify leads will also help you find patterns in your leads and sales, allowing you to improve your marketing strategies further.
To learn more about lead grading and scoring, click here: http://www.pardot.com/scoring-grading-lab/
Have any advice on finding the best leads? Share with us in the comments!