A 4-Step Process to Improve the Quality of B2B Leads

Joshua Robitaille on B2B Marketing Strategy

According to a survey, 53% of B2B marketers allocate at least half of their budget towards lead generation activities. While cold calling is not dead, it is increasingly challenging for SaaS businesses to approach potential clients directly, without first qualifying their needs, budget capacities, and product expectations.

Unfortunately, “lead quantity and quality” is reported to be the number one challenge for B2B sales reps. Given marketers’ KPIs tend to be set around their lead generation campaigns, today we will look into ways to improve the quality of leads that get passed on to the sales floor.

What Are the Sources of Leads?

First, let’s go over some of the most common channels and methods for lead generation. If your marketing is not utilizing them, you might be missing out. The top five sources of leads for B2B companies are:

  • Events/conferences/trade shows
  • Company website
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Email marketing
  • Webinars

For SaaS marketers, two additional sources of leads that seem to work quite well are SEM/PPC advertising and word of mouth referrals.

Why Are Marketers Struggling with Lead Quality?

80% of marketers describe their lead generation efforts as only slightly or somewhat effective. Why is it so? There are a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

  • Lack of resources, be it staffing, budget, or time
  • Lack of high-quality lists to drive campaigns
  • Insufficient insights on target audiences
  • Misalignment of sales and marketing
  • Limited ability to develop content
  • Inadequate or inconsistent strategy and value proposition

Marketers are increasingly put in charge of driving growth. In fact, according to the CMO Survey, 30% of organizations actively put this responsibility on their marketing teams. At the same time, marketing budgets do not necessarily keep up with the rising expectations. Though its share of the overall company budget grew by 3.3% in the last six years, it is still only at 11.4%.

Are marketers allocated insufficient budgets because they do not deliver the ROI or is the ROI not there because of poorly funded campaigns? It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. For the purpose of today’s article, we will operate under the ‘limited budget’ paradigm and look at the lead quality improvement strategies that do not push the budgetary limitations of marketers.

How to Improve Lead Quality?

Targeting

Barely a quarter of organizations (24%) have a unified view of target segments and accounts. Such lack of consistency within a business leads to costly internal misalignments in terms of KPIs, expectations, messaging, and infrastructure. It comes as no surprise that sales representatives are left dissatisfied with the quality of leads generated by their colleagues in marketing. The two departments have completely different notions of what constitutes a “quality lead”.

Developing a unified vision of a buying persona is a must. Furthermore, this vision should be frequently revisited and updated. The buying process is a subject to constant change – stakeholders get reorganized, budgets reallocated, and needs reevaluated. Sales and marketing should work hand in hand in order to keep up.

Read: Sales & Marketing Alignment 101: The Why’s and The How’s [hyperlink to the article]

However, the issue of targeting goes beyond internal alignments. It requires an in-depth analysis of past sales and marketing activities in order to identify patterns and segment the target market into high- and low-yielding categories.

Setting broad targets can work well for brand awareness campaigns. Quality lead generation, on the other hand, is about laser-like precision in targeting. Use past data to narrow down your target, run tests to optimize your messaging and ads, and use this gathered data to develop predictive models.

Qualification

Just because someone chose to share his/her email address in order to gain access to an ebook or register for a webinar, doesn’t automatically mean that this person is a relevant prospect.

The three most popular form fields for gated content are email, name, and company. Many marketers shy away from longer forms, fearing they may result in a lower number of leads. However, not only is it not necessarily the case, but prioritizing quantity often times leads to compromised quality.

Adding custom fields to your forms – be it a job title, location, or B2B need – allows you to collect valuable additional information on a prospect, further qualifying this user. You can drastically improve your lead scoring by expanding the scope of explicit information you gather and apply.

Furthermore, do not rush your leads down marketing funnels or pluck them out of it before they are ready. There are many reasons a user may be interested in your white paper. Buying your product is only one of them. It is essential that you create a strong filtering system that would separate users who are ready, willing, and capable of buying your product from the rest.

You must connect various engagement data points as you qualify your lead and move it down the funnel. They include:

  • Number of downloads
  • Number of website visits
  • Email open and click-through rates
  • Duration of their stay (be it for a webinar or on your landing page)
  • Response rate and duration

Lead Nurture and Tracking

CMI’s annual research into B2B content marketing trends shows that an overwhelming majority of marketers (70%) can demonstrate how content marketing has increased both the number of leads and audience engagement. Yet, the same report states that only 51% can show how it increased sales.

It seems that as a lead moves down a funnel, marketers tend to get less effective in engaging and tracking their leads. Nurturing a lead relies on a timely delivery of relevant content, which is based on a user’s initial point of interest, slowly shifting engagement towards sales signals. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Personalization should drive your lead nurturing campaigns.

Furthermore, in order to get a complete picture on the performance of your campaigns, you must be able to track your leads throughout their entire lifecycle, which includes their eventual conversion by your sales team and subsequent retention.

Online and Offline Integration

Finally, let’s look at the ways to improve the quality of leads generated via trade shows and conferences. This channel has seen a resurgence as a lead generation tactic in recent years. Yet, only 4% of B2B companies are “completely satisfied” with their ability to measure ROI on participation.

Here are the three most common mistakes made in event marketing:

  • Lack of a clear strategy: what are your goals, who are you targeting, what is your sales process, etc.,
  • Fragmented customer journey: how is a target engaged with before, during, and after an event,
  • Insufficient on-site engagement: how is your product promoted, what is the qualification process of audience participants, etc.

Event marketing must follow the same rules of lead generation as the rest of your campaigns. It requires a carefully designed and executed funnel, which begins long before an event and seamlessly transitions users from online to offline engagement with your brand and product.

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Run a pre-event campaign that would generate interest in your product
  • Engage these leads via personalized online campaigns
  • Pre-schedule on-site meetings with prospects
  • Qualify leads on the spot
  • Categorize people you engage with into ‘prospects’ and ‘qualified leads’ and design a separate engagement strategy for each
  • Follow up immediately after the event and do not limit the number of attempts to a single post-event email

Read: How SaaS Marketers Can Increase ROI at an Industry Event

The tips in this article are meant to help you improve the quality of your leads. However, all of these points are mute if you lack a metrics framework that allows you to evaluate your efforts and the quality of leads generated. Therefore, before you spend a single dollar on lead generation, identify which metrics you will use to measure your success. Cost per lead? Cost of customer acquisition? Lifetime customer value? Stage progression?

Most likely, it will be all of the above and then some. If you are unsure about which metrics are best suited for your SaaS marketing activities, stay tuned. That’s exactly what we will be discussing in our next article.