How to Build a Better Qualified Lead

It seems online dating and lead qualification have more in common than I first thought.

Imagine you're a matchmaker, setting a friend up on a hot date. Not hundreds of dates (they don't have time to date 'em all this month). More is not more. There has to be some effort to match them up with the perfect person. Qualification.

And this is where it all goes wrong (cue online dating horror stories). eHarmony speaks directly to this...

The way eHarmony promises this is with their "29 measures of compatibility". Data.

The same applies to qualifying leads. What are your measures of compatibility? Of fit and intent? Where is your data?

It's right where you're not looking.


The top of the funnel has the big numbers. Ah, vanity metrics! "WOW! We have 100,000 visitors last month!" Impressive, right?

The bottom of the funnel has the money. And you can't argue with money.

But what about the middle? You've got their email address - now what? Is there really much excitement here? Lead scoring, drip nurture campaigns, webinars... woohoo.

Mid funnel is not sexy

But actually, yes there is!

Here's why the mid-funnel is awesome - only with the mid-funnel do you have a data-rich profile of your leads AND scalable marketing tools. Top of funnel you don't have enough data. Bottom of the funnel you can't personalize and automate at scale.

Even better, your lead-to-SQL benchmark is probably very low. For the number of leads you generate each month, what proportion truly convert through to sales opportunities? Or even revenue?

The mid-funnel is the easiest stage of the funnel optimise and grow significantly. You can't get the same rapid results from the boot and bottom of the funnel. Double your lead gen from SEO this quarter? Sure, it's possible. 10X your SEO? Good luck with that!

Let's make the mid-funnel sexy again!

How to build a better qualified lead

You've heard it before -

You need to pinpoint "fit" and "intent".

Fit = are they an ideal customer for you and your operation?

Intent = are they interested in buying a solution right now? Your solution?

Qualified Leads

The problem with weak mid-funnel marketing is it doesn't do a good job identifying either of these angles. That's "shallow" lead qualification. We want "deep" lead qualification.

weak-qualified-leads

Lead qualification is a data problem, NOT a marketing problem

If we could send many, deeply qualified leads through to sales, we would already. Instead we work around the problem and make it up with volume.

But more is not more. Your challenge is assembling all your data on each lead to measure and match fit and intent quickly, easily, and accurately.

Best practice suggests we don't burden leads with lots of lengthy, conversion-killing forms - that are common (apparently..) with online dating.

But, if you can't easily capture data through forms into your marketing automation tool, how can you deeply qualify leads?

The answers to deep lead qualification do NOT lie in your marketing automation tool

Earlier, I said your data is right where you're not looking. Your ideal customer profile and your target accounts almost certainly need data from outside your marketing automation tool.

All your captured lead and customer data ends up in broadly six types of tools (where you may have multiple tools of each).

  • Analytics
  • CRMs
  • Data enrichment
  • Backend databases
  • Ad platforms
  • ... and your email, messaging, and marketing automation tools

You need to capture the data this data from multiple different places, and connect it to your key marketing tools.

You'll notice some of these data sources are owned by different teams of your organization. For instance, if you want product usage data, you'll have to talk to product and engineering about access to their backend data. Deep lead qualification = "orchestrating" your lead data across multiple tools and teams.

Fill-in-the-blanks to find fit upfront

How do you describe your ideal customer profile? And for B2B, what makes an ideal customer account?

Oz Content used data enrichment to fill out the profiles on their existing leads (like their newsletter subscribers) with company and profile information (like job titles, industry, and tools used) without needing lengthy forms, to identify the best fit accounts and people to nurture.

They used this data to segment and engage best-fit leads with personalized, mid-funnel content. Within two months, they had a 20X-increase in marketing-sourced qualified leads - a rapid result only possible with mid-funnel optimization.

hull-mql

Fill-in-the-blanks to measure intent

So what about intent? How do you measure how engaged leads are with your brand and product?

If you have a free trial, understanding when your users have their "aha!" moment is key. Appcues cut 30% of their leads to sales by focusing on just one event trigger. Again, this result was only possible with the data-rich mid-funnel.

Without a free trial and product usage data, there are other measurable marketing engagement like viewing pricing, responding to live chat, and re-engaging with retargeting ads.

Deep lead qualification powers personalization at scale

If you have a deep understanding of why someone (and their company) is a fit, and how they've engaged with your brand to show intent, you can deeply personalize your marketing engagement at scale.

EmberTribe built a simple ad campaign to retarget only their mid-funnel leads. With ad audiences updating in real-time, they could precisely target ads to each individual lead at every stage of the buyer's journey.

By concentrating their ad spend on active leads, and sending highly engaging content, they sent through dramatically cheaper sales qualified leads who were primed to buy.

Similarly, Oz Content (mentioned earlier) used enriched data for their leads to identify what niche webinars they could create to address big known problems within subsets of their leads. They then invited those targeted leads with hyper-segmented emails. The emails drew a 3X increase open rates compared with their previous emails.

Only the data-rich, mid-funnel can engage leads with personalized, automated messages at scale. Better still, it enables you to create and deliver the content to warm leads that your competitors never could.

Deep lead qualification = sales enablement on steroids

Marketing isn't the only winner. Everything in your data-rich mid-funnel trickles down to sales (and everyone after them too).

Deep lead qualification defines WHO to talk to, WHAT to say, and WHEN to say it (part of our five-part personalization framework)

Sales save their precious 1:1 time and spend it only talking to the right people at the right accounts.

Sales can be more engaging. They have the clues and context to reach out in a relevant, meaningful way. No "let's have a call?", more "I noticed you just invited your entire team to your account. How can I help?".

Sales can work deals faster. With real-time data flows, they have the insights they need to react in real-time, without leaving their tool of choice. "Tesla just looked at the pricing page three times today".

For Lengow, automating real-time lead qualification transformed trust between marketing and sales.

hull-mql

The most unexpected benefit - the relationship between marketing and sales is now quite amazing. Before they weren’t keen on our leads. Now they say “I want this lead now. Give me this lead!”

Remi SablongUser Acquisition Manager, Lengow

Remember, lead qualification is a data problem - NOT a marketing problem. The data and answers aren't where you're looking today. They sit outside your marketing automation tool.

You need a method and a map to orchestrate your tools, teams, and data to feed those answers into your marketing automation tools of choice.

Get started with smarter lead qualification

Connect to all your lead sources, then enrich, score & pre-qualify leads before syncing only best-fit, sales-ready leads to your CRM.

Explore Hull's lead qualification playbook

What you should do now

  1. If you'd like to setup Hull - to seamlessly sync all your tools, teams & data (like we did for all these companies), then talk to sales to setup a free data flow consultation.

  2. If you'd like to learn our best practice for customer data integration, read our free Guide to Getting Started with Customer Data Integration.

  3. If you enjoyed this article, perhaps your team will too? Why not share it with the links below.

Ed fry
Ed Fry

'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at inbound.org (acq. HubSpot).

If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇