8 Ways to Generate More Sales-Ready Leads: Part One

May 7, 2019 | Elizabeth Rivelli

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a two-part series that explores best practices for nurturing prospects, generating qualified leads, and improving conversion rate. 

One of the most important functions of marketing is to get leads to your sales team—but not just any leads. To get the most out of your salespeople’s time, those leads need to be qualified and ready to enter the sales process.

So it’s up to marketers to make sure that their tactics are bringing in the right leads. How are real-world marketers delivering those qualified leads? To find out, we teamed up with the research team at Databox and asked 43 marketing experts how they do it. And stay tuned for a second blog post with more of their valuable insights coming later this month!

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that content marketing and SEO are by far and away the most common tactics, as the first chart below shows. But, would you have expected to see that more than 35% of marketers haven’t even tried using interactive content yet, even though more than 50% of the respondents said it ‘significantly helped’, ‘helped’ or at least  ‘somewhat helped’ them further qualify leads?

We also asked the respondents to tell us which tactics their sales team successfully uses to further engage and qualify leads. While referrals and ‘following up with leads via the phone’ were universally reported as effective, there are some surprising insights about less popular topics.

For example, as the chart below shows, ‘following up via social media’ was an unpopular tactic with only 2% of marketers saying it has ‘significantly helped’ turn leads into sales-ready ones.  And while 26% of our respondents said that “Using video to send personalized messages” has significantly helped create sales-qualified leads, 53% of them haven’t even tried the tactic.

It’s clear from the charts above that marketers are willing to try a wide variety of tactics for getting the right leads to their sales teams. And sales teams are willing to try a bunch of different tactics too to warm those leads up. But, to find out what marketers really think we asked them to share the specific methods they are using and how those are working for them.  Here’s what they said:

1. Understand Your Buyer Personas

“Really understanding your personas is key to attracting the right sales-ready audience,” says Jennifer Lux from LyntonWeb. “Marketing teams are sometimes too aspirational about their personas.”

“It’s best to start by understanding your best customers, what makes them unique and successful, and then working backward from there to better understand, precisely, which buyers you want to attract. Then, reverse engineer their needs by identifying their pain points. Use content/offers/tools to attract and convert them.”

Alchemise Consulting “achieved a 25% conversion rate for sales-ready leads for a leading IBM business partner client in Australia,” says Chak Ng. “This resulted in delivering in only one month, 8 Sales Qualified Leads from 23 Marketing Qualified Leads which originated from 170 initial profiled contacts.”

How did Alchemise get such great numbers? “[D]eeper understanding of the client-desired outcomes and sales enablement preparation of the contextual content and clear campaign objectives. The depth of qualification was achieved with strategic and tactical knowledge of the subject matter and use of inbound marketing automation.”

“One of the keys to better success was to ensure we prepared all the sales enablement and aligned the content to the buyer‘s journey ONLY relevant to the prospective stakeholder of value.”

Kathy Hermann of d3 Specialists reminds marketers to stay laser-focused on the most valuable prospects: “Whether we’re working new business leads for our agency or helping our clients acquire more valuable customers, it’s imperative to understand who is most likely to convert and to seek out prospects that reflect that profile.”

“It’s easy to focus on the ‘what’ of the campaign and messaging, but without a precisely targeted ‘who’ campaigns may fail.”

2. Create Content that Appeals to Buyers at Different Stages of their Journey

“We see so many organizations focus on getting digital leads through top-of-funnel content, when what they really want is sales-ready leads NOW,” says TSL Marketing’s Ryan Nicholson.

“What they often lack are bottom-of-funnel offers that one would convert on when they’re firmly in a sales-ready stage of the buyer’s journey.”

“The problem for a lot of organizations is that these bottom-of-funnel leads don’t typically generate a lot of volume and they can have high acquisition costs in advertising—costs that may be very much aligned with business goals, but nowhere near the low costs that they’re paying for top-of-funnel activity.”

Nicholson continues: “Filling the funnel with a lot of fit contacts is certainly a great practice, but when you’re looking for sales-ready leads now, you need to [go to market] with an offer that’s aligned with what the prospect is looking for at that point in the buyer’s journey where sales wants to start to engage them.”

Avidly’s Thoralf Lindström also emphasizes the importance of the journey: “Everything we do in marketing and sales builds on our buyer persona, and map[s] his/her questions and challenges in the buyer’s journey.”

“From that point on, it’s pretty [straightforward] creating the right content and workflows that generate leads, marketing[-]qualified and sales[-]qualified leads.

Maria Mora from Big Sea recommends creating “a context matrix that aligns content with the funnel and your buyer personas. You’ll quickly be able to see if you’re creating and distributing enough content to nurture leads who are ready to make a decision, or if you’re overly focused on attracting top of the funnel leads.”

Once you know who you’re marketing to, you can start focusing on how.

3. Set up an Inbound Marketing Funnel

“Inbound marketing is our number one way to create sales-ready leads,” says Henri Pallonen of Hehku Marketing.

“It works, when you do it comprehensively. You won’t be getting good results only doing good content, it’s really important that this content is shared and advertised properly and for the right people.”

“When you want to achieve great results with inbound you want to make sure that you’re doing the right things. Here is a simple recipe you can use to get started:

  1. Create a downloadable piece of content (guide, ebook, check list, etc.)
  2. Create a landing page where people can download your material
  3. Create a thank-you page where people can access the material you have provided
  4. Create a blog article related to the content in your downloadable material
  5. Add calls-to-action to your blog to guide people to the landing page
  6. Share your article on your personal and company social media accounts
  7. Advertise your article to your target person on social media (Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter Ads, etc)

With these seven steps, you’ll start getting qualified leads in.”

“To help your customers even more you can:

  1. Create automated nurturing emails that your lead will get after downloading the material
  2. Analyze which channels provide the best leads and focus your media budget there
  3. Ask your colleagues to share the article to their social media channels”

4. Create Great Content

Content is, of course, the cornerstone of inbound marketing. It’s no surprise that many marketers lean on specific types of content for attracting sales-ready leads. “Create content that genuinely helps people,” suggests Ollie Roddy of Catalyst. “If you want to bring in quality leads, that’s the #1 thing you have to do.”

“Right now, whoever you are and whatever you sell, people are searching online to find solutions to the problems you solve. If you can capture them and offer to genuinely help them with your title, they will download your piece. It’s as simple as that.”

Jake Fisher of Bridges Strategies recommends “helping prospects get deeper into the sales process online.” But what kind of content moves prospects through the process? “Static content around the prospect’s common questions and needs. This is usually in the form of written copy and video.”

“Additionally, we build interactive content that provides high-value feedback based on the prospect’s specific situation. This kind of interactive content provides a level of automated qualification that is helpful in prioritizing prospects.”

BOOM Marketing takes an approach that might surprise you, says David Balogh: “We write a lot of blog posts and other types of UNGATED content, and our prospects really like these, because they feel like we helped them a lot even before they reach out to us.”

And again, the buyer’s journey is important.“Make sure to publish not only Top of the Funnel (TOFU) content, but write a few articles on middle (MOFU) and bottom (BOFU) of the funnel topics, too, because these will be the content pieces that produce most of the Marketing Qualfiied Leads (MQLs) for your business.”

“A lot of people only focus on big topics, and they try to rank every piece of content for at least one keyword (for organic traffic), but these usually produce prospects who are in the beginning of their research process (not necessarily ready to buy).”

“We started to generate nearly 300% more Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) as soon as we published our first few articles with MOFU content.”

Not every marketer recommended the same type of content. A knowledge bank has worked well for Structsales, says Emelie Svedberg. That’s where the company shares “e-books, templates and guides.” And Casey Bowden of Design Extensions has had success with pillar pages. It’s worth experimenting to find the right type of content for your buyer persona.

5. Optimize Your Content with High-Intent Keywords

“A great way to generate more qualified, sales-ready leads is by targeting the right keywords,” says Growth Hackers’ Jonathan Aufray. “You don’t want to target keywords that are too general or broad. Instead of targeting informational, educational or navigational keywords, start targeting transactional, buying-intent keywords.”

These same keywords can be useful in advertising, says John Holloway of NoExam.com. “This means targeting high-intent search phrases with words like ‘buy,’ ‘best’ and ‘top rated.’ The leads that were generated from these types of phrases were 3 times as likely to buy than leads generated from keywords with less commercial intent.”

Fundera has also focused on high-intent keywords, says Nicolas Straut. “The content we create targets competitive keywords for the small business lending space like ‘small business loan’ and ‘SBA loan.’ This system allows our sales team to focus on closing rather than finding new leads through outbound sales tactics.

This process can lead to great results, says Cardinal’s Alex Membrillo: “Our organic website traffic accounts for approximately 3,500 organic site visits per week. Organic traffic also generates over 60% of our new leads.”

6. Create Offers that Educate The Most Qualified Leads

“Offering a free lead magnet is one strategy that allows me to generate a ton of high-quality leads,” says James Marques of Iconic Genius. “The goal is to make sure your lead magnet is set up to only capture quality leads.”

“For example; one of my clients is an educational program that teaches kids Spanish. We created a lead magnet in the form of a help guide. This helped us do two things:

  1. Identify who is really struggling with Spanish.
  2. We get their contact info.

This also helps us because the help guide actually helps. Which builds trust with our prospects and helps us turn them into customers.”

ClickMeeting has been experimenting with webinars as lead magnets, according to Agnes Jozwiak.

“We’ve worked with some of the best-known marketers in the digital space, including Larry Kim, Andrea Vahl and Zac Johnson, to present top-notch webinars on various topics surrounding use cases for webinars, and they’ve all been hosted on our own webinar platform.”

“So we’ve been able to deliver a lot of value to ‘borrowed’ audiences in a way that dovetails nicely with our product and its value proposition. Every time we’ve done this, it’s yielded tremendous engagement and several hundred super-qualified leads who ultimately convert into paying customers at higher rates than almost all of our other acquisition channels.”

Ian Evenstar of UNINCORPORATED also stands by webinars: “The two most successful types of webinars we organize and promote are educational webinars and informational webinars.”

“Educational webinars are a great way to generate leads of the most interested people about what our degree program teaches. Our goal is to demonstrate the expertise of our faculty, the value of our curriculum, and the accessibility of our learning platform.”

“Informational webinars are useful for nurturing contacts who have expressed a moderate level of interest: attended educational webinars, viewed specific pages on our website, or attended in-person recruiting events. Informational webinars effectively communicate the finer details of our online programs in an easy, one-to-many format.”

7. Start the Sales Process on Your Website with Interactive Content

“An incredibly useful activity is to essentially start the sales process on your website,” says Chris Mechanic of WebMechanix. “We’ve had a lot of success asking our clients how the initial sales interaction typically goes and then attempting to mimic that on the website itself.”

“For instance, a pricing calculator or quote builder might be a useful way to not only capture sales-ready leads, but also to attract prospects to them. We’ll generally have retargeting campaigns in place for prospects who engage with these conversion mechanisms but don’t convert. These retargeting campaigns would be prioritized from a budget perspective since users on these lists are somewhat pre-qualified.”

Kiwi Creative makes sure “that potential leads can easily find all of that ‘first round’ qualifying info on their own,” says Jen Lombardi.

“We very clearly list the types of companies we work with and their common pain points. We have a ballpark pricing page with FAQs. We have tons of portfolio samples with testimonials. We even have a ‘why kiwi’ page that dives into our company culture.”

“With just a few clicks, visitors can easily tell if we’re a fit or not…so those who do request additional info are sales-ready because they’ve done their research and gotten excited about our company.”

Brian Casey says that Ironpaper uses a similar strategy with their online forms. “When focusing on qualified, sales-ready leads, it’s important to have your forms optimized with questions that will indicate whether the lead aligns to your ideal buyer profile.”

Want even more tips from top B2B marketers? Stay tuned for the second article in this series coming later this month!

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