We know the age-old process: the marketing team delivers a bunch of leads to sales team and pats themselves on the back for hitting their leads goals. The sales team follows up, but only closes a small percentage of the leads they received. Marketing says Sales dropped the ball, while Sales blames Marketing for delivering unqualified leads.
However, with the knowledge and technologies available to marketers today, it shouldn’t be this way. Through research, targeting, and communication, the marketing team can align with the sales team to deliver high quality leads that improve Sales’ close rates and increase the bottom line for the organization.
Below, are five strategies to help marketers delight their sales team with high-quality leads.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
The first step to providing better leads is alignment with the sales team. The marketing and sales teams have to work together to define funnel stages like MQL, SQL, opportunity, and so on. That way, as leads become qualified, based on how they’re labled, everyone in the organization knows what funnel stage they are in and what engagements they’d had to earn those labels.
At this point, Marketing knows not to pass leads on until they’ve engaged enough with the brand to be qualified for a discussion with Sales. And since both teams agreed on these terms, Sales should be happy to follow up with the qualified leads they receive.
Create a Lead Grading System
The easiest way to organize leads is to give them a score based on how qualified they are. You can name them however you want, but make sure it’s clearly defined so all teams understand the meaning. At Bizible, we go with a simple A, B, C, D or F. Again, alignment is necessary here to make sure everyone agrees and understands what each letter grade means.
The score does not correspond to how deep the prospect is in the funnel, but rather how closely they mimic your target customer. For example, if your ideal customer is a marketer who uses marketing automation and a CRM, a lead who comes in and matches each of those could be an A grade.
Above all else, a lead scoring system helps determine which leads should be prioritized over others. Sales can begin outreach with the A grades, then B and C grades. The D and F grades can be monitored, but until they become an A, B or C, it’s probably a waste of effort and spend to be actively trying to engage with them.
The grading system is also a great way to manage email lists and how content is distributed within that channel. For example, if you’re running a webinar about marketing automation, you probably don’t want to send an email about it to the D or F grades who aren’t using MA. Sure, they might sign up for the webinar, but that signup could trigger outreach from the sales team and it’s not worth their time to reach out to prospects who won’t buy your product. If you segment the email list by grade, you ensure the right leads get the right content.
Build Account-Based Marketing Lists
By now you’ve probably heard of account-based marketing and its many benefits, one of which is lead quality. Instead of putting content out into the world and waiting for a flood of leads to engage, ABM is the process of targeting the account you want (which include those A, B, C leads we discussed earlier) and creating content and outreach efforts specifically to engage them. Meaning that all engagement will be from qualified leads and none of the sales team’s efforts will be wasted following up with leads who will never convert.
Marketing and Sales should meet and build the target account list together. Which types of companies are your ideal customer? Answer this by asking questions like, how many employees do these companies have? What is their annual revenue? What industry are they in?
The team can answer these questions as generally or specifically as they want, depending on how large you want the list to be (i.e. are they using marketing automation vs. are they using Marketo).
Account-based marketing insures that Marketing is only delivering qualified leads that Sales has the potential to close.
Additionally, since ABM focuses on accounts, it’s important to track which personas within an account have interactions with your brand before a purchase is made. If you recognize that CMOs, CEOs and Directors of Demand Gen are usually involved in the buying process, but your sales team has only interacted with the Director of Demand Gen and the CMO, you know it’s time to target the CEO. This could be the final effort needed to close that big account your company has had its eyes on for months.
Use Advanced Targeting on LinkedIn
Due to its background as a job-seeking site and its subsequent growth as a social network, LinkedIn provides an array of valuable business information on its users. Because of this, it is a wonderful B2B marketing platform.
Now that you have lead grades and ABM lists, you can use LinkedIn’s targeting features to direct content and sponsored updates to individuals who fit your buyer profile. For example, we recently did a marketing operations educational series that spanned multiple weeks and was followed by a webinar. To narrow the field of marketers who would see the content, we used LInkedIn’s targeting parameters to only pay to show that content to individuals who had marketing operations as a skill or job function on their profile.
Not only did this help drive more qualified engagement, it saved us money on ads by only showing to individuals in our target market. Meaning when someone clicked the ad, they were more likely to download our content and/or attend the webinar, than if we had just blasted content out to all marketers on LinkedIn.
That’s just one of many examples. LinkedIn allows targeting based on location, job title, company size, skills and so on, making it possible for the marketing team to get creative and drive more qualified leads over to the sales team.
Optimize the Process with Attribution
Now that you’re aligned with Sales, doing some form of account-based marketing, grading leads and using LinkedIn targeting capabilities, how do you know if your efforts are working? This is where marketing attribution comes in.
Marketing attribution takes all of your online and offline marketing efforts and ties them to revenue. That way, instead of basing “what’s working?” on clicks or leads, it can now be based on what is driving actual business value. The sales team speaks in terms of revenue, now it’s time for the marketing team to as well.
Did that event you sponsored last month lead to any closed deals? Did the revenue from those customers outweigh the cost of attendance? Are Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter ads driving clicks that turn into customers? Did that ABM direct mailer help speed up deal velocity or close an account?
When these questions are answered with attribution, you know which efforts are driving the best leads for Sales to close. You can reallocate budget to the efforts that are driving customers and cut spending in the areas that aren’t.