Not all leads are created equal.

If you’ve ever used an advertising platform to generate the highest amount of leads at the lowest price, you might have seen your list size increase, but not your conversions.

That’s because despite the appeal of lead-finders and other quick lead generating tactics, this type of quantity over quality approach doesn’t work. Instead, focusing on qualified leads who are likely to buy is a more cost-efficient and results-oriented way of marketing today.

According to a survey by Ascend2, generating qualified leads is B2B marketers’ top challenge. The survey showed that in 2017, 77% of B2B marketers felt that improving lead quality was a top priority, even above increasing the quantity of leads (41%) and reducing costs (24%).

By using advertising platforms to target high quality leads, and paying higher prices to get those leads, businesses are generating lists of contacts that are actually able, willing, and interested in buying. When 60 percent of your leads are taking steps to learn more about your product, and 40 percent are converting, spending those extra dollars at the beginning to attract those leads becomes a great investment in your business.

Lead Qualification: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Lead qualification is the step between building a contact list and selling more that is often overlooked as a helpful, but unnecessary, use of time. Unless marketers take the time to lay out what defines a qualified lead, they’ll waste countless hours toiling over leads who have no interest in their product or service at all. By qualifying leads, you’ll save time by focusing your efforts on the people who are most likely to convert.

Whether you are bringing in leads from advertising platforms, referrals, word-of-mouth, content marketing, or any other form of marketing, you are more than likely building a list of contacts that you know very little about. If a lead clicked on your article about dog food, did they do so because they are interested in buying your food for their dog or because the picture in your ad copy was cute? If one lead clicked due to buying interest and another clicked for the photo, which lead do you want to put your resources towards converting?

How Will Lead Qualification Benefit You?

Lead qualification is the tool that will save you from wasting time, resources, and money on the leads who were just interested in the cute dog. More than just determining which leads are interested in buying your product, lead qualification also helps determine when a lead is ready to make the next step. If both leads clicked due to buying interest, but one lead already has a dog and the other is looking to buy a dog, the first lead is ready to be sent to your sales team, while the second should be nurtured by your marketing team until they do have a dog.

Marketing can be expensive. By understanding who your qualified leads are and which ad sources they’re coming from, you can hone in on the best ways to spend your marketing budget.

The Latest in Lead Qualification Strategies

Qualifying your leads allows you to get to know them, but what are the best methods for determining if they are potential customers? Are you trying to sell a B2B product to an intern who doesn’t have the authority to buy it? Are you offering a cat owner dog food?

The following strategies will help you to weed out the leads who are not potential buyers and determine which are your ideal clientele so you can spend your efforts on converting them to customers.

STRATEGY 1: THE ASK METHOD

The Ask Method, by marketing expert and author Ryan Levesque, is a methodology designed to help you better sell to your prospects, serve your customers, choose your market, build your list, and scale and automate your funnels. The basis of the Ask Method is simple — ask. By asking your prospects what needs they’re looking to have met, you can figure out exactly how to sell to them.

According to Inc., one reason today’s small businesses are thriving stems from the adoption of segmentation or, in other words, dividing your market into targetable groups with shared demographics, interests, behaviors or other qualities. In Levesque’s book, Ask, he says his clients often fear segmentation because they feel their segmented audiences are too small to be worth anything. “They rely on ‘one-size-fits-all’ products and messaging. But the reality is when you try to be all things to all people, you end up being nothing to nobody,” he said.

In 2017, Marina Kogler, a spiritual healing expert, used Levesque’s Ask Method to earn $11,000 in sales. Marina promptly quit her day job and began focusing her efforts towards her passion for spiritual healing. She used the method to help her discover entire audiences interested in her services that she had not yet targeted.

By asking your leads exactly what they’re looking for and segmenting your audience accordingly, you can tailor your products and services, and the messages you use to market them, to better address their needs.

STRATEGY 2: BEHAVIOR TRACKING

When prospects interact with your company, you can track their behaviors on your website, affiliate sites, social media pages, ads, and any other platform where people are engaging. These behaviors can give you a lot of information about your prospects without even asking them anything. Tom Burgess, CEO of Linkable Networks, told Forbes he tracks his most loyal followers, what they engage with and what they don’t, and then he uses the information to target them with special incentives, inviting them to purchase.

Brendan Dubbels, Director of Client Experience at ONTRAPORT, says, “By comparing page visit data, email activity, phone calls, and incoming communication like emails or chats, you can effectively prioritize your list based on interest.”

Tracking these behaviors helps you gather information on your prospects, segment and target them properly, and determine if they’re sales-ready. For example, if prospects are reading blog articles about a certain topic, you know what interests them the most at that time and what they’re looking for help on. If they click on your ads more than once, you can assume they are interested in your content. If they visit your pricing page or leave an item in their shopping cart, you can assume they are interested in buying from you but might have a few qualms that need to be addressed.

When leads are simply browsing your blog for short periods of time, they may not be ready to purchase. You can use this information to determine the best place to put them in your sales funnel, eventually converting them to customers.

STRATEGY 3: GATHER DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION ON YOUR CONTACTS

You can gather demographic information on your prospects without having to outright ask for it. One way to determine demographics on prospects, or people who engage with your content, is by looking at your advertising platform statistics. For example, if you use Facebook advertising, you can look at the stats of your ads to see how many people from the United States liked your post, how many people from London shared it, or what percentage of likers were male.

Further, you can find out specific attributes such as their industry, job title, or income. Distinguishing whether you’re speaking with a CEO or an intern will help determine how you’ll communicate. Aside from advertising platforms, you can also gather demographics and attributes on your customers after they purchase your entry-level or main products by customizing your order form fields.

Adam Heitzman at Search Engine Journal explains how he collected build buyer personas. Using Google Analytics, market research, social media, reviews sites and forums, you can gather information for individual prospects, but you can also understand your clientele as a whole.

Dubbels explains, “With a system like ONTRAPORT, you can view all of the communication that’s been sent, including inbound emails from the lead to the sales rep, notes from your sales people, page visits, marketing UTM sources, phone calls, and sales data, rather than logging in to four different places that don’t really talk to each other.”

STRATEGY 4: ASK COMPANY-SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

You can use opt-in forms, quizzes, and surveys to get a better understanding of your prospects and their needs.

The questions you ask should be as specific as possible. For example, again, if you are selling dog food, asking leads if they have any pets will not help you determine if they have a need for your product. Instead, ask them if they have any dogs, if they are thinking about getting a dog, and, perhaps, what the most important thing is they look at when determining which dog food to purchase.

These questions will help you understand your lead and determine if they have use for your product in the first place and, further, if they are ready to buy from you.

STRATEGY 5: THE BANT METHOD

According to Sales Hacker, “BANT is a sales qualification framework used to identify and pursue the most qualified prospects based on their Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline.” Does your prospect have the budget to spend money on what you are offering? Do they have a position of authority to make the purchase? Do they have a need for what you’re offering? Is your client ready to use your product or service now?

In Entrepreneur’s guide to effective lead generation, “developing a complete customer profile” is listed number one and included BANT as a straightforward, easy-to-implement method for doing so.

BANT is a methodology for getting a quick snapshot of your prospect. If you can answer yes to all of the BANT questions, then your lead is qualified and ready to be sent to the sales team to be converted into a customer.

Implementing Lead Qualification Strategies in Your Business

These strategies can be used throughout all steps of the sales funnel but should be initiated at the beginning stages, allowing your sales team to become more efficient at identifying ideal customers.

“By qualifying leads, we’re able to make sure that our best (and most expensive) closers are only spending their time with the most valuable opportunities,” Dubbels said.

You can continue to qualify, or unqualify, leads throughout the relationship as you gather more behavioral and demographic data about them. When leads are qualified through your marketing, the marketing team can send them to the sales team to pitch your product or service. If it doesn’t work out, you can continue to market to the lead and follow up until they’re ready to buy  from you.

A New Generation in Lead Generation

The world of marketing is constantly adapting as new technologies, social and advertising platforms, and human needs and desires change.

As Joe Polish explains in his “I Love Marketing” Podcast, he first started marketing his carpet cleaning business using postcards and snail mail, the available techniques for gathering information on his customers were limited. Today, however, technology can help us define specific targets to market to and gather information on each person who expresses interest in what we show them. This allows business owners to pick out the viable prospects and target them more closely.

Choosing to incorporate just one or all of these tactics will grow your prospect and customer database while exponentially creating an easier path for finding your ideal customer.



About Aslan Williams

Aslan Williams grew up in a small, southern town, tailgating at football games and watching sunsets over the Mississippi Delta. Since leaving her southern roots four years ago, she has lived in five countries, practicing yoga, teaching English and honing her marketing skills at various International internships. In her final year at UCSB, Aslan is applying her degrees in Communications and English in her marketing internship at ONTRAPORT.