If you ask any SMB business manager if they need more leads to hit their goals, they will invariably say yes. But are all leads the same? For must businesses, the answer to that question is no. If I'm targeting companies in the IT infrastructure business, a lead from the retail sector isn't worth much to me. If my targeted buyer is a CFO, a lead that is a product manager probably isn't worth much to me. What that SMB business manager is really saying is, "I need more qualified leads to hit my goals." If her company can improve the quality of their leads, they can actually hit their goals with a smaller number of high-quality leads. Here are 3 tips for improving the quality of your inbound leads.
Target your inbound lead generation to your ideal customer profile
It may seem counter-intuitive, but most SMB businesses find that when they narrowly define a niche and use discipline in their business development efforts, they produce more business. If you're just starting a business, it's hard to say no to an opportunity that's outside your comfort zone. But the reality is that you're more than likely wasting your time pursuing that opportunity. Your competition has more experience and is better suited for opportunities outside of your niche of expertise.
Applying this concept to your inbound leads starts with having a clearly defined ideal customer profile. The ideal customer profile describes the characteristics of prospect organizations that are most likely to become profitable, long-term customers for your business.
For example, I target technology companies and professional services firms that have between $1 million and $50 million in annual revenue. I have 25 years of experience working with these companies and know their businesses. I can add much more value to these companies that I can to a manufacturer.
If I have an opportunity with a manufacturer, I will politely refer them to someone with more expertise in their industry. If I decided to pursue the opportunity, I would waste a lot of time and resources and probably not get the business. If I did get the business, I would place a strain on my internal customer service process that is geared towards technology and professional services companies.
Taking this concept one step further involves developing buyer personas. Buyer personas are psychographic and demographic profiles of the individuals within your ideal customer that buy your solutions. It could be a CFO or the Vice President of Human Resources. Whoever your buyer is, it's important to understand what makes them tick and what's important to them.
By targeting your inbound lead generation content offers and conversion paths to your ideal customer profile and buyer personas, you will improve the quality of leads you produce.
Include lead generation content for all stages of the buying process
It's important to understand the buying process your customers go through when they purchase your solution. According to internet marketing software provider HubSpot, almost all buying processes include these three basic stages:
"Awareness stage - your prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity. The prospect is doing educational research to more clearly understand, frame and give a name to their problem.
Consideration stage - your prospect has now clearly defined and given a name to their problem or opportunity. The prospect is committed to researching and understanding all of the available approaches to solving their defined problem or opportunity.
Decision stage - your prospect has now decided on their solution strategy, method or approach. They are compiling a long list of availabe vendors and products in their given solution strategy. The prospect is researching to whittle the long list down to a short list and ultimately make a final purchase decision."
You can improve lead quality by making sure you have lead generation content for all stages of the buying process. If you're just targeting prospects in the awareness stage, you're missing out on leads that are further down their decision-making process. If you're just targeting leads at the decision stage, you're not filling the top of your sales funnel and creating a sustainable pipeline.
Qualify inbound leads in your lead generation offers
It's a commonly accepted fact that "friction" in your inbound lead generation process will reduce the number of leads you generation. For example, you will generate less leads if you ask for a phone number to access your offer than if you just asked for name and email address. It makes sense, doesn't it? You wouldn't give your phone number to a business unless you really placed a high value on the content they were offering.
For businesses with tightly defined target markets, "friction" can be used to qualify leads. For example, if you're targeting technology companies with revenues between $5 and $50 million, ask potential leads to identify their industry and company size. Make it easy for them to give you this information - let them choose from a few selections in a drop-down menu.
Some of you are probably asking, "Won't that reduce the number of leads at the top of my sales funnel?" The answer is yes. However, I recommend an approach where you ask for minimal information on your awareness stage content and progressively ask for more qualifying information on the consideration and decision stage offers. If you have a product or service that is only bought by a narrowly-defined niche, I would argue that using "friction" to qualify out leads that will never buy your product is a good thing.
So you've likely come to the conclusion that lead quality is more important than lead quantity for most businesses. Even better is a large quantity of high-quality leads! Try using these 3 tips to improve your lead quality and you should see an impact in your sales results.