Companies don’t sell products and services to everyone – we all maintain a target audience of ideal customers. The lead qualification process is designed to separate ill-fitting prospects from target customers, and a successful business knows how to spot prospects they can convert into paying customers.

While most sales and marketing organizations designate lead qualification representatives to vet the best leads, lead qualification should start in the marketing department. Before you throw 5,000 unqualified leads over the fence to sales, make sure you’ve snagged the right prospects in your hunting traps.

We’ve put together 4 inbound marketing tips to help you ensure that you’re marketing nets attract leads the leads for which your sales reps are hungry.

Target Practice
We’re pretty sure none of us can boast a 100% conversion rate, so none of us should aim to gather every lead of every shape and size in our marketing barrels. We need to practice our aim and preserve our ammunition. Start by collecting data on all the deals you’ve won, and all the deals you’ve lost. Look at lead origination, time to maturity, length of sales cycle, company size and industry, trigger events, and titles of key contacts. Find the patterns. Recreate the scenario from which your perfect leads originate with your marketing campaigns. For example, if you see very high conversion rates from events with a high attendance of marketing professionals, invest significantly in similar events. Find out which leads perform best, and target your campaigns to them. In a short while, the golden leads will flock to you.

Build Market Credibility
Once you determine the promising prospects, you need to build a strategy to convince them to buy your products and services. What can you do to draw prospects to your business? How can you present your products/services as exceptional and reliable solutions? Building credibility relies significantly on your marketing department. If your target prospects typically interact with your brand to find answers to a specific question, tune up the volume of promotions around that question. Buyers today do more research than ever before. They won’t ask your sales reps for answers – they’ll find them on their own. Your marketing message should align directly with the interactions your sales reps have with prospects. When your prospects get off the phone with your sales reps, they should be able to find additional information about the topics they discusses on the phone, and you should be the one to provide it. Become a thought leading organization, and your prospects will trust your sales reps.

Solution Presentation
Solution presentation can be especially tricky when your inbound marketing centers around thought leadership. How can you present your products and services in a thought leadership context without turning off prospects that don’t want to be sold to? The solution presentation stage requires a special breed of creativity.

  • Become a thought leader. If you are the industry expert in water irrigation systems, and you build the marketing content and credibility to prove it, people will associate your brand with water irrigation systems, and they’ll come to you when they need one, or they’ll refer business when they hear their peers need one.
  • Employ trigger event marketing. Prospects living in status quo will not likely buy new products and services; they’re happy with the way things are. But as soon as something triggers dissatisfaction, you need to be positioned as the solution. Build marketing campaigns to attract prospects when or before they encounter a trigger event that will change their business needs. If you specialize in water-saving irrigation systems, create content around droughts.
  • Build a rapport on social media. If your prospects ask questions in forums about topics related to your products, offer answers. If they tweet about something, engage. If they post a discussion on LinkedIn, join. Build a helpful reputation and grow relationships, and your prospects will trust you as a friend rather than ignore you as another buzz in their already full ears.

Automate
Ideally, the best pull apart from the rest all on their own. You don’t have time to treat every lead with care and detail, so you need to determine which ones are worth spending energy on, and which belong on automated marketing campaigns or deserve to be booted from your system. No matter how wide your market, you’ll always have best customers.

Score all your leads based on how they entered your system, and on the type of activity they performed.  Businesses use several different platforms to interact with their market: phone calls, social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., online ads, events, etc.  Beyond just the platform, determine why a lead is interacting with you in the first place. Are they searching for an answer to a problem they’ve encountered? Does your business provide a solution to the problem? Are they doing background research on a topic, or are they looking to purchase solutions?

Assessing a business opportunity is very much akin to strapping a shotgun on your shoulder for a hunting expedition. You’re not going to run into the forest and shoot everything in sight, so why would you do the same with your marketing campaigns? You’ll do your research, earn the hunting credentials required in your region, choose a specific time of year to hunt a specific breed, and carry the right gun.

Save your marketing and sales organization the trouble of sorting through a vast quantity of unwanted leads. Target effectively, and the fattest bird will fly into your shot.