If we’re all actively listening to our customers, why is lead quality so low? Why is it so difficult to get Sales fully committed to helping us improve lead quality? How can Marketing improve lead quality without Sales follow-up and feedback?

Maybe if we provided Sales with the type of Buyer insight that they could immediately use in their selling process, we could increase lead quality and earn increased Sales participation.

When A Good Marketing Campaign Goes Bad

Let me start by sharing a recent Sales experience. Late one evening I discovered and downloaded a research study on high performance sales teams.

Creating The Best Marketing Leads ImageI immediately received an email from a sales rep.

The next morning he followed up again with another email, and then he tried to call the bogus number I had left in their website download form, and then he went to our website to leave a voicemail for me on our main number, and then he sent another email saying he was trying to contact me by phone.

This was all within 12 hours of me downloading the study; now that’s Sales persistence with a sense of urgency!

I felt badly that this hard working sales rep was wasting his time chasing a bad lead, so I reached out and explained that I was glad to learn of their company’s product details from his email, but I wasn’t a potential lead. He very much appreciated receiving a response.

Then I started wondering, how many other poor quality leads were generated by this campaign? How many other Sales Reps would be spinning their wheels on bad leads as a result of this particular marketing campaign? How many of these Reps would be resistant to quickly jumping on leads from the next Marketing campaign?

Isolating The Root Cause Of Poor Quality Marketing Leads

Marketing spent a chunk of money to generate a professional study, actively promoted the study online, and immediately thanked me via email for downloading the study. The company mobilized their sales force to support the campaign; a sales rep jumped on the Marketing lead immediately and professionally persisted via email and phone.

Buyer Purchasing Process Image

So what went wrong?

Why did they think I was a Marketing Qualified Lead, ready to work one-on-one with a Sales rep? Hopefully it wasn’t because I persevered through their 11 field download form!

The opening line of the automated thank you message offered a clue: “Not sure what lead you to the study, but if ….”. I’ll discuss a quick fix for this marketing campaign at the end of this post. First, let’s look at our current Marketing process for lead generation.

Aligning Our Lead Generation Process To The Buyer

B2B buyers can complete 50%- 70% of their purchasing process by self-educating online.

Unlike Consumer customer journeys which can become very unpredictable, B2B Customer journeys are generally pretty straight forward: Buyers are not likely to purchase $20,000+ “solutions” for their employer on impulse, nor are they likely to spend time learning about a “solution” that is not somehow related to their business need.

Lead Generation Not Aligned To Buyer

The typical Marketing Lead Generation Process currently has 3 stages: Attract, Engage/Nurture, and Decision/MQL.

The Marketing stages are focused on what Marketing does, and not what the Buyer does.

With today’s self-educating B2B Buyer, Marketing has an opportunity to go beyond just engagement and nurturing.

If we align our marketing process with the Buyer process and actions, we can influence the buyer journey and give Sales higher quality information about the Marketing lead.

Designing The Best Lead Generation Campaigns

If we are listening closely to our customer, we will be able to help the self-educating customer become a self-qualifying lead:

  • Provide the Attracted visitor with self-qualifying content choices. Are they more interested in Product A, Product B or Service C content? More interested in a solution for 10 person company or a 10,000 person company?
  • Provide the prospect with content specifically designed for their purchase stage. For example, if they download content discussing the various marketplace approaches for revenue acceleration they are probably in the Awareness stage, if they download content related to sales rep performance software they are probably in the Problem/Opportunity stage, and if they download content related to CRMs they are probably in the Solutions/Options stage.
  • Provide the prospect with content specifically designed to facilitate and shorten their purchasing journey. Is the prospect more interested in technical information (like Persona A) or more interested in business information (like Persona B)?

Delivering The Best Marketing Leads For Increased

A buyer-qualified lead with detailed qualification information is the best Marketing lead for Sales.

The best lead is based upon the information that the buyer is telling us in the context of their purchasing journey, not what we are doing in Marketing or Sales.

Here’s a simple email-only campaign to illustrate the power of the above approach for any size of company. It can scale from small firms using manual methods, medium companies using inexpensive email auto-responder service, to larger firms using feature-rich Marketing automation,

Crowe Horwath, a consulting and accounting firm, implemented their first lead nurturing program and achieved 133% ROI in 7 months. A detailed case study was published by MarketingSherpa.

Here’s how they generated high quality, Buyer self-qualified leads.

  • Set a narrow, target market segment for the initial campaign: C-suite executives at financial institutions with at least $1 billion in assets.
  • Offered buyers insight to a choice of 4 different industry challenges that the target market cares about: e.g. Dodd-Frank regulation impact, Anti-money laundering regulation impact, Process Improvement, or Core Systems
  • Buyer self-qualified themselves by choosing content for the topic they were most interested: e.g. Dodd-Frank.
  • Buyer further self-qualified themselves by the subsequent type of content they downloaded regarding the topic. Each of the 4 topic areas had 12 separate pieces of purpose-built content that the buyer could consume to help the buyer move from Awareness, to Problem/Opportunity, to Solution Options.
    • Awareness stage – Buyer downloads content to better understand the industry challenge and benefits to them of solving it.
    • Problem/Opportunity stage – Buyer downloads content to better understand available approaches or considerations for solving the problem.
    • Solution Options – Buyer learns about Crowe Horath services for the first time within the campaign and how they are the right solution provider for addressing Dodd-Frank challenges.
  • Progressive Profiling techniques helped further qualify the buyers. Rather than filling out a lengthy download form, each time the buyer downloaded content, the buyer just had to answer a single question that was designed to help both Sales and Marketing judge the quality of the lead. The more content the buyer consumed, the richer the buyer qualification profile became.

Improving The Lead Quality From Existing Marketing Campaigns

With the benefit of the above knowledge, let’s revisit the campaign that I referenced at the start of this article. Although the research study that I had downloaded was somewhat related to the company’s market, it was not directly related to the conclusions from the study. By downloading the study, I signaled that I was in the Awareness stage, but definitely not a sales ready lead for their products.

One download without context is generally not enough buyer insight to commit the company’s limited Sales resources. To quickly improve this particular campaign, after the research study is downloaded, they should offer a choice of content that will help the buyer self-qualify, or in my case, help me self-disqualify as a sales-ready lead.

Demonstrating Marketing Leadership

By listening more carefully to our customers, we will accomplish the following:

  • dramatically improve lead quality,
  • offer Sales some exciting and highly valuable insight into the buyer that they will use,
  • take Marketing and Sales teamwork up a few notches, and
  • generate significant revenue for the company.

It’s within our control; we don’t have to wait for additional Sales input to start aligning our lead generation efforts to our buyer’s purchasing journey.

You can start today by bringing in a Marketing leader, who also has functional Sales experience, to help you evolve your Lead Generation process.

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Read more: Marketing Needs to Drastically Improve