In BrighTALK's 2015 B2B Lead Generation Report, 68% of respondents identified increasing lead quality as a lead generation priority, making it the #1 response. By comparison, 55% of respondents identified increasing lead quantity as a priority.
This only makes sense. What would you rather have - 10 leads that are CEOs of companies in your target market or 100 leads where you only know a name and an email address? I think the question answers itself. We've long come down on the side of quality as being the most important aspect of B2B lead generation.
One important thing to keep in mind as you take steps to imrove the quality of your inbound leads - lead quanity will drop. Not to worry, that's actually a good thing. You don't want your sales team wasting time trying to qualify leads that will never buy from you.
The drop in lead quantity is a consequence of increased "friction." In this case, friction can be defined as the amount of information you require from someone to access your lead generation offer. We'll talk more about that later in the post.
So if you're with me in looking for ways to improve the quality of your inbound leads, here are 5 foolproof tips to improve the quality of your inbound leads right now.
1. Require a work email address to access content offers
If you're a fellow graduate of the school of hard knocks, you've probably learned that most sales conversations aren't worth continuing if your prospect isn't willing to put a little skin in the game.
A great way to make sure you're spending precious sales time with serious people is to require them to use their work email to access your content offer.
Sure, you might lose a quality lead or two who wants to use their Gmail address to access your content offer. But if someone either doesn't have a work email address or doesn't want to give it to you, do you want to spend time and resources trying to figure out if they're serious? I don't.
Most marketing automation platforms let you exclude email domains in your forms. Here is how HubSpot does it:
2. Email your content offers to inbound leads
I must confess - I'm a little bit torn on this one. The idea is that instead of directing leads to a thank you page where they can download their content offer immediately, you send it to them in a follow-up email.
The upside of this approach is that you don't give your content to people who give you a phony email address. Clearly these people will never buy from you. When your marketing automation software tells you that the email bounced, you can delete them from your database. If you've done inbound marketing for a while, you almost certainly had ldldld ldldldl download your content.
The downside of this approach is that you may lose the opportunity to engage with a real lead when their attention is focused on you. If you send them the content in a follow-up email, the lead may never open the email or it might get trapped in a spam filter.
I've been experimenting with this and will let the data guide me in how I proceed. Here's the email delivery stats for my Ultimate Lead Generation Handbook content offer over the past month.
3. Use your lead generation forms to segment and qualify inbound leads
We've discussed the importance of focusing on target niches frequently on this blog. Your chances of being the best accountant for management consultants are much higher than competing with KPMG in industries where you lack experience or expertise.
In our business, we provide inbound marketing programs for professional services firms, government contractors and technology companies. Those are industries that we know and for whom we're confident that we can get results. Retail? Not so much. We also know what sizes of companies we are best suited for and who in those companies we should be talking to.
We use our lead generation forms to qualify for our best fit prospects. We ask three questions on our standard forms:
- Which describes you best? (The lead's role in her company)
- What industry do you work in?
- How many employees work at your company?
We give the lead 4-5 choices in a drop-down to make it easy to quickly answer the questions. These questions get to the heart of sorting out the companies in our target markets.
In addition to helping us qualify our leads, this approach lets us segment them by industry, size and role so that we can tailor future communications to their unique interests.
4. Include content offers for all stages of the buying process
Most B2B buying processes include at least these 3 stages:
- Awareness - the prospect becomes aware of a problem or an opportunity and learns about the ways to solve/take advantage of it.
- Evaluation - the prospect begins to evaluate the different ways they can solve/take advantage of the problem/opportunity.
- Decision - the prospect chooses between the options they feel will work for them.
Make sure to include lead generation offers for each of these buying stages. EBooks, whitepapers and webinars are good offers for the comparison Awareness stage. Comparisons and case studies are good offers for the Evaluation stage. Free consulations and free trials are good offers for the Decision stage.
You should have offers for each of these stages that are specifically designed for your target niches. Remember, the inbound sales process will put you in contact with people that are well into their buying processes. Our first contact with our best customer came through a consultaton request on our website. They were ready to buy when we first talked.
5. Don't forget about using inbound content to generate outbound leads
One of the advantages of an outbound prospecting process is that you are pre-qualifying your leads before you approach them. Take what you've learned from your inbound lead generation to optimize your outbound lead generation.
Remember, you haven't been invited to market to your outbound leads like you have with inbound leads. Show them respect for their time - be brief and to the point and offer them value in every communication you have with them.
Make it about them, no you. Nobody cares about how innovative or state-of-the-art you are, they care about how you can help them.
By sharing helpful content with them, you just might be invited into a sales conversation with them. By wasting their time, you just might be ruining your chances of ever doing business with them.