At the end of the day, marketing departments exist for one reason and one reason only: to deliver marketing qualified leads (MQLs), which in turn should become more converted sales. This is no revelation, and is Day One stuff in Marketing 101.

Actually executing on this principle is a slightly more complex proposition. That’s why we’ve created our 4 Best Tips for Delivering More MQLs into Your Sales Funnel. Let’s jump in!

1. Properly Identify Your Target Personas

At their core, qualifying leads is about connecting with your buyer. That’s why it’s of paramount importance to take the time to properly identify whom, exactly, your buyer is. Or in this case, what your probable buyers persona looks like.

Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening my axe.” This same notion of investing in preparation applies to securing more MQLs. Think of identifying your target persona as sharpening your axe.

Creating a clear and effective persona is about placing yourself in your buyer’s shoes. What specific pain points is your product or offering intended to alleviate? Great, now: what does that pain point actually look like in your buyer’s organization? If you are targeting HR directors in medium-to-large medical corporations on the west coast of the United States, consider their actual, low-level, day-to-day duties and work flows, and how very different in actuality they will be from those of an HR manager at a small medical office in Toronto. This level of persona specificity is crucial, and a thousand times each day it represents the difference between an MQL and an irrelevant, unopened email.

Be sure to consider the classic quandary: What’s in it for them? What does a successful job performance look like for, say, a business leader compared to an IT manager? For the former, cost and return on investment will be the big drivers. For the latter, functionality will be the highlights. These sorts of questions are the absolutely necessary bread and butter of persona targeting.

Then, identify an actual list of targets. This information can be gathered via database purchases from market intelligence providers, or it can be gleaned via clever marketing techniques like tracking and analytics. Once you know to whom you’re talking, you can begin to actually talk.

2. Create Content to Guide Your Buyer’s Journey

The buying journey, like a transatlantic voyage, is not a one-moment decision to be pounced upon. It is an ongoing, dynamic process, with different needs and desires flowing in and out of importance from step to step. That’s why creating continuous, high-quality content that enables you to engage in an ongoing conversation with your buyer is everything.

The number one challenge marketers face today is creating enough content, and the second is creating high quality content. By the time the average marketer makes first contact with a potential lead, that buyer is typically more than 50% complete with their buying journey. From bare discovery, to realization of pain points, to shopping for solutions, each of these moments is driven by a different impulse, a different need, and a different kind of content will resonate best.

This is the reason that a Content as a Service (CaaS) model is so effective. When it comes to creating content for each step of the buyer’s journey, “writing with a quill” won’t cut it. It’s slow, ineffective, and reactionary. You need a high-octane content factory, an engine; you need to plug in to great content. CaaS gives you the flexibility – both financially, and chronologically – to tailor-make great, relevant content that your buyer cares about. It empowers you to keep up a continuous dialogue, an ongoing and uninterrupted conversation, that gives you opportunity after opportunity to demonstrate your ability to add value for your customer.

Giving your buyer a one-time push in the behind at the beginning of their journey isn’t enough anymore; you need to hold their hand and guide them, each step of the way. The way you do that is with content.

3. Test and Analyze Your Results

Marketing is a show-me proposition, and return on investment is the name of the game. How can you know if you’re singing out of tune if no one tells you how you sound? This is where metrics change the game, and your marketing automation software’s analytics become your best friend.

Testing and analytics are the difference between continuing to do the wrong thing, and innovating for success. Imagine content marketing to be like taking a child – your buyer – to an ice cream shop. Traditional marketers tell the child, “Behold our many types of vanilla you can have! Here, try this one next.” Properly analyzed testing, on the other hand, gives the child the opportunity to tell you what flavor they like best.

That’s why some of the best content marketers split test, and why we recommend it, too. Split testing is the process of creating two parallel campaign designs with the same call-to-action and the same target personas, and deploying each to a small sample audience for the purposes of testing both. Perhaps the “flavor” that resonates best is a blue header with short, snappy, red copy. Maybe it’s a more buttoned-down, black and white, no-frills affair. By testing both across several key performance indicators (KPIs) like click-throughs, conversions, open rates, and so forth, the guesswork is eliminated from marketing, and you can go forward confident in the knowledge that your content is the best, most fine-tuned it can possibly be.

And we aren’t just making this up, either. Data shows that marketing campaigns that combine proper target segmentation (Tip #1) with split-tested analytics (Tip #3) see an increased response rate of 44-84% across the board.

Students get report cards. Employees get performance reviews. Doesn’t your content marketing deserve the same attention?

4. Follow Up With a Human Touch

Marketing automation software has come a long way in taking the tedium and headaches out of qualifying leads, but – despite what the Terminator might tell you – there’s just no substitute for actual human interaction.

Prospect relationship management is a too-often overlooked flourish that is far more essential to success than people realize. Personal follow-ups with targeted prospects via telephone calls and emails increase conversions-to-forecast by over 60%, and are an integral part of continuing the ongoing “dialogue” with your buyer that we spoke about above. Personal follow-ups give your buyer an opportunity to ask questions, clear up any possible confusion, learn a bit more, and in general, feel more confident and comfortable with your company and its product going forward. It gives an undeniably human face to what is otherwise a somewhat anonymous enterprise, and very often, is the difference between a qualified lead and needlessly missed opportunity.