If you want to increase your product’s or service’s online sales, inbound marketing is your ally. As I am sure you already know, this strategy consists in attracting users using content: ebooks, podcasts, videos, etc. and then taking care of those contacts until they convert into onlines sales for your brand.
For this strategy to work, leads are absolutely essential. You need to understand how to get more and better leads, how to distinguish different kinds of leads and how to deal with each one to lead them through your conversion funnel. So, to give you a little hand, today I would like to tell you about the different types of qualified leads and how to better define them to increase your online sales. Let’s go!
Types of qualified leads
Let’s start at the beginning: What exactly is a lead?
Although the exact definition may vary depending on your inbound marketing strategy, we can generally say that a lead is a person who has shown some kind of interest in your products or services and has left your their contact information. The goal of this marketing strategy is to increase your lead database and maintain your relationship with them until you are able to convert them into clients.
In a bit more detail, we can distinguish between 3 main different types of leads:
1# Cold leads
They have consumed some of your content and left you their basic information (their name, email and profession, for example). It is true that they are now a part of your database, but they are still a long way from actually making a purchase. We call this phase of the process the TOFU (Top Of the Funnel).
2# Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
These users have showed recurring interest in your content, which you have been able to use to obtain a bit more information about them and evaluate whether or not it might lead to a good business opportunity. This is the MOFU phase (Middle of the Funnel).
3# Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) or Hot Leads
The most interesting of all leads, those who are ready to buy. In this phase, the user is ready to receive a direct offer: a meeting over the phone, a demo, a product sample, etc. and you already have all the information you need to organize this transaction. This is called the BOFU (Bottom of the Funnel).
Through this entire process, lead nurturing is essential. This is basically “feeding” your leads by offering content that will make them advance along the purchasing cycle. For example, if your lead has downloaded an ebook about tourism in China, you could send them a customized email with suggestions of interesting online articles about this country.
Another key concept is that of lead scoring: giving each lead a score or “grade” according to the actions they take. The more the lead interacts with your brand, the higher score they will get and the more interest they will be in initiating an online purchase.
We also cannot forget about subscribers, who are the users who have agreed to receiving information concerning your brand (by subscribing to your newsletter, for example). These contacts have yet to convert into leads, but you have already established a relationship with them. Make the most of this to offer them content that will interest them and get them to convert into qualified leads.
Defining your MQL to increase online sales
For your inbound marketing strategy to be truly effective, the right qualified leads have to be sent from the marketing to the sales department. To do so, you need a lead scoring strategy that will help you distinguish between the different users.
When putting all of this into action, the collaboration between the marketing and sales department is vital. If the former is in charge of the whole process of acquiring leads, then the latter is in charge of sealing the deals. This makes it extremely important for these two departments to be on the same page and coordinate amongst themselves to achieve the goals. These 7 steps will help define your qualified leads to increase online sales:
- Develop a joint definition of MQL. It may seem obvious, but all too often there are marketing departments who begin working on a lead strategy without taking into account what the sales team has to say about it. Wrong! Get both teams working together and you will see your results improve.
- Use your buyer personas. Start from the beginning: who is your target audience? Take all your buyer persona’s characteristics into account when defining your MQLs and SQLs, and not just what stage they are at in the purchasing cycle.
- Ask your sales team. Sit down with your online sales people and ask them what a qualified lead is to them, or what kinds of users they find more appropriate to close a sale with. This doesn’t mean you have to include every word they say in your MQL definition, but they will be sure to give you a great place to start!
- Determine your qualification factors. Take a look at what your clients have in common: demographic characteristics, what sector they work in, the size of their company - basically any quality that can help you filter the more interesting leads.
- Take notice of your qualified leads’ behavior. Your users’ “digital footprint” is extremely valuable information to know when they are ready to buy. Use your best detective skills and analyze all the data: the ebooks they download, videos they watch, pages they visit, etc. For example, someone who visits your Pricing page several times in one day may be ready to get an offer.
- Don’t overlook quantity. Sure, if you combine 57 different characteristics, you will get the perfect lead… but it's no good if you then only have 3 people who actually fit this description. Put both marketing and sales brains together to find a balance.
- Revise your definition. As always in marketing, you will have to analyze results and see what in fact is working and what isn’t. My recommendation: sit down once every trimester with your marketing and sales teams to revise your MQL definition.