Sales qualified leads. This is what inbound marketing is all about, right? Leads that ask for sales to call them because they’ve decided that your company is the one they will buy from. I mean that’s the goal, right?
Recently I wrote about lead scoring strategies. The goal of every one of those strategies is to identify those bottom-of-the funnel, sales qualified leads and it’s every agency’s goal to generate more of them for every client—faster, please.
If you have two sales qualified leads this month you want four next month. If you have four today you want eight next week, etc. But lead scoring isn’t going to generate more sales qualified leads. It will help you distinguish the best leads, make them visible and respond to them more quickly, but lead scoring doesn’t generate more leads on its own. So what does?
Based on our experience with the Content Marketer’s Blueprint, the most successful inbound marketing strategy in use today, made popular by over 200 B2B and Higher education subscribers, here are three tactics you can implement to increase the number of qualified leads you send to sales.
Get More Mojo in Your Bottom-Of-The-Funnel Offers
One of the biggest weaknesses we see in most businesses’ inbound marketing funnel is the bottom-of-the-funnel offer. Not cool, uninteresting and intellectually dead BOFU offers are everywhere on the web: “Contact Us,” “Free Consultation,” “Free Assessment,” and the increasingly-popular, “Speak With an Associate.” Yawn.
These are not bottom-of-the-funnel offers, and they won’t deliver sales qualified leads—or much of anything else. (And by the way, the two standbys for software companies, “Free Demo” or “Free Trial,” don’t work either.)
Bottom-of-the-funnel offers have to pass the “What’s In It For Me” (WIIFM) test. The offer has to be about your prospect, not about you. If I say “You’re the 10,000th visitor. You won the prize, and get to speak with A rep,” you know exactly what’s coming next… the hard sell. That offer is all about me and not about you, the prospect.
Great BOFU offers have to be value-oriented and require engagement on the part of the prospect. At the bottom of your funnel the relationship with a well-qualified lead (one ready for sales) should be a two-way street. Remember, they haven’t yet committed, “Yes, I want to hire you.” A free demo or free trial is a lot of time and effort on the part of both parties. The bar is high. Very few people are going to sign up for these offers unless they are already convinced your solution is going to work for them.
Instead of a free trial or demo, which requires high levels of engagement, make sure you have some creative and educational bottom-of-the-funnel offers. Here are a few ideas from some of our client campaigns.
- Get 20 Blog Title Ideas In 20 Minutes
- Find Out Exactly How Many Leads You Need In Just 15 Minutes or Less
- Score Your Marketing in 5 Minutes With Our Inbound Grader Report
- 10 School Admissions Upgrade Ideas You Can Implement This Afternoon
- 7 Business Tax-Saving Tips In 10 Minutes
- 3 Ways to Improve Your Shopping Cart Conversions In Just 30 Minutes
Each of these BOFU offers gives the prospect something tangible and desirable, something worth the risk of filling in that form that implies readiness to speak with a rep in the near future. With some creativity and a plan, you can turn your bland “speak with a sales rep” offer into an offer that is valuable for your prospect that passes the WIIFM test. You can make it all about them, their problems and challenges, instead of all about you.
Apply a More Aggressive Lead Nurturing Effort
Aggressive lead nurturing? You’re probably thinking, “I thought inbound was about making marketing non-disruptive.” It is. There is a subtle difference between disruptive and aggressive marketing when it comes to lead nurturing.
Some inbound marketers give up on a prospect if they aren’t ready to buy right now or after one follow-up email. That’s a mistake; buyer’s buy on their timetable, not yours. Ever have that experience in a car dealership showroom where the salesperson is determined not to let you leave without buying today when all you wanted to do is start learning about your options? That’s not what we’re talking about!
So you have to continue to use your best inbound marketing skills to educate and inform aggressively through lead nurturing so you will be top-of-mind when the buyer is ready.
For example: You get 200 leads a month, 10% are sales-qualified. Ninety percent, or 180 of those people who started your buyer’s journey, aren’t ready – yet. A well-designed lead nurturing campaign can double the number of sales qualified leads over the next two to three months by working that pool of 180 people each month who aren’t quite ready to speak with sales.
I always feel a little twinge of pride when I come across a company that’s doing inbound right in the wild, even when it’s not a company our agency has worked with. An online wellness and nutrition company I engaged with at the top of the funnel continued to provide excellent educational material, through email lead nurturing, every week for an entire year. (They must have had a massive content creation budget!) Every bit of the content was about me and my health. None of it was pushy and demanding a buy. When I was ready… I bought.
To observe your sales qualified lead increases from lead nurturing in practice, you have to be looking at your funnel metrics. Specifically, pay attention to the conversion rates of your current leads to sales qualified leads. That’s where the gains will come.
Treat ALL Leads Equally
Think about it. Every top-of-the-funnel lead is potentially a bottom-of-the-funnel sales qualified lead. Thinking that you’re smarter than your prospects because you can “pick a winner” at the top of the funnel is a common mistake inbound marketers make. It’s the inbound marketing analog of judging a book by its cover because at the top of the funnel, you’re just getting to know each other.
All top-of-the-funnel leads need to be treated as if they could be buying today. If you adopt this mindset in your marketing to all of your leads, you’re going to see an increase in sales qualified leads. This may seem counterintuitive, but if your marketing is actively engaged in the process of nurturing all unqualified leads to the point of sales readiness and not just those who appear most ready, you will get more sales qualified leads every month.
This behavior is sort of like a teacher who doesn’t just teach to the few students who always raise their hands and participate in class but instead engages all the students in every lesson, even the quiet introverts. The result is that every student, not just the most outgoing, will do well on the final exam. The more you have at the top, the more you’ll have at the bottom.
How does this work in practice? It’s easy to create lead nurturing offers for the person who exhibits the most obvious buying behaviors: talking about the benefits of your most popular features, sending a customer testimonial for a customer who fits your “best customer” profile. But there are prospective buyers who may not fit that profile or who may respond to a benefit that isn’t your most popular. Be sure to create lead nurturing content that engages both the “typical” buyer and the buyer who doesn’t exactly fit the profile.
Last but not least, you have to remember that buyers buy for their reasons, not yours. Prospects don’t buy until their pain overcomes the perceived risk of doing business with you. As good inbound marketers we have to admit that we have no idea when that’s going to happen and our marketing efforts primarily work on the part of the buyer equation that deals with perceived risk.
There is very little we can do to increase the pain a prospect feels. We can’t make people want to buy if they’re not ready to buy. Even so, we can help move them along. We can tweak their pain and educate them on why starting sooner is better than waiting. We can always focus on the benefits received by engaging with us instead of wasting time talking about features that we think make us great. We can share more compelling customer testimonials that get prospects excited and inspired to engage us. We can offer guarantees that minimize risk so that prospects want to hire us as soon as they are ready.
So the best strategies for increasing the number of sales qualified leads each month remove the friction in the process of becoming sales-ready and increase the number of new top of the funnel leads who may become the next bottom of the funnel, sales qualified lead.
Begin With the End in Mind
Do enough of these things consistently over time, and you create the lead generating machine that every business owner, VP of marketing, and chief revenue officer dreams about.
So where to start? At the bottom! In order for you to have success tweaking the conversion in your funnel via lead nurturing, you must have compelling bottom-of-the-funnel offers that aren’t about “contact us” or “have a rep call me.” So start there. Review your present bottom-of-the funnel offers. Make the offers about your prospects and give each of them the WIIFM test. Then work back up the funnel, making tweaks to your lead nurturing to get more people seeing those offers. The results will surprise you.