5 min read
Working in B2B lead generation, I often get asked about what makes a good lead. I say, it depends!
Generally, your best leads are going to look like your best customers. Of all your customers, who are the easiest for you to service and provide the best return for your efforts? What do they have in common?
Qualifying and Scoring Leads
Once you identify the similarities, you'll understand what demographic qualities your best leads should have.
Some types of demographic attributes include:
It's up to you to decide whether you'll treat these qualifiers as binary – either a lead is in target or out of target based on their demography – or with a scoring model, where each quality gets a point value.
But demographics are only part of the equation. For a lead to be considered "marketing qualified" and ready to be passed over to sales for follow-up, there should be behavioral qualifiers as well. You can think of this as their "digital body language."
Some types of behavioral attributes include:
Opening or clicking in emails
Registering for webinars
Filling out contact or demo forms
Visiting certain webpages, like products or pricing
Each type of activity is usually given a lead scoring point value, with lower point values for lower levels of engagement, like email clicks and page visits, and higher point values for higher levels of engagement, like filling out forms.
Note that certain behaviors, like filling out a contact form, would qualify as a hot lead – as in, someone who has raised their hand and specifically asked to be contacted. These types of leads should be followed up with regardless of their demographics, even if they eventually get qualified out by the sales team.
Anything other than that would be considered a warm lead– someone who has expressed interest but hasn't explicitly asked to be contacted. Warm leads should meet your pre-set standards for marketing qualified: a popular model is to score leads on behaviors until they reach 100 points, and then if they meet all your demographic qualifiers, pass them to sales.
The Hand-Off to Sales
Once a lead meets the standard of marketing-qualified (MQL), it's time to pass them over to inside sales or your field sales team to follow up. For hot leads, it's important to set service level agreements (SLAs) for following up, the quicker the better. For warm leads, a super-fast SLA isn't as important but sales should jump on it – warm calls are a better use of their time than cold calls.
With any kind of MQL, your sales team should be prepared to follow up multiple times. And it's best that they avoid direct mention of the lead's online behavior, i.e. by saying "I saw you downloaded our whitepaper..." – most people find it creepy and will go so far as to deny it. Instead, sales should use the lead's behavioral history to inform their approach.
If sales is able to connect with the MQL and set an appointment for a further conversation, we'd call that a "sales accepted lead," or SAL. The next step would be to further qualify the lead using a model called BANT:
Budget: Does the lead's company have the budget to pursue the project? Note that just because the company might not have a line item with your product's name on it doesn't mean they can't find the money, if the business value is there.
Authority: Does the lead have the authority to make this decision? If not, can they connect you to the person who can? Can you turn this lead into your internal champion?
Needs (or Fit): Does the lead need your product or service? In other words, are you a good fit for their business need?
Timing: When are they looking to make a decision? Next month, next year? This will help determine your sales strategy.
Note, BANT is only one model of many. And some companies choose to allow leads to move forward without all the BANT criteria.
If the lead meets your defined BANT qualifications, they would become a "sales qualified lead," or SQL. At this point, the lead is a true sales opportunity and should be worked as such. From here, it's in your sellers' hands - which is not to say that you can't support and enable them along the way!
Getting More Good Leads
Ah, the crux of lead gen! How to get more of the right leads?
The challenge with organic lead gen strategies is you have limited control over who comes to your site and engages in qualifying behaviors. We often end up with leads who are behaviorally but not demographically qualified. Sometimes, these leads are worth pursuing. Remember, a hot lead should be followed up with no matter what. But even though you can create content that is relevant to your desired targets, you can't really prevent non-demographically-qualified people from engaging with you – with SEO, a rising tide lifts all boats. The best you could do is not send over warm leads if they don't meet your desired demographics.
Paid lead gen gives you more control over demographics, since pay-per-lead programs allow you to choose the exact criteria you're looking for in a lead. I recommend an approach that combines organic and paid lead gen to get the best results and return on investment.
How do you define and attract good leads for your business?