Clearing up the Misleading and Multi-faceted World of Leads
To fully explain a qualified lead, let’s first talk about leads in general. A lead is someone who has provided their contact information and expressed interest in your company or content. Two common examples of leads include someone entering their contact information on a webform in order to download a white paper, or when someone gives their information while visiting your booth at a tradeshow or event. However a lead is obtained, it is critical to be aware of the difference between a “regular” lead and a lead that is “qualified”.
For this blog, we’ll be focusing on Marketing Qualified vs Sales Qualified leads and the basic approach to defining a qualified lead.
First Things First, Know Your Target Audience
As a marketer, you know the importance of customer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs). When you expand into lead generation, many of the same criteria identified for these profiles determine if a future lead is qualified or not.
Buyer Personas: A buyer persona is a fictional character that communicates the primary characteristics of a group of users, identified and selected as a key target through use of segmentation data, across the company in a usable and effective manner. In B2B, personas often segment potential buyers by Department, Role, Seniority, and Job Titles. These same fields can be used in your lead gen strategy to identify qualified leads that have the potential to buy.
Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): An ICP is the description of the company (not the individual buyer or end user) that is a perfect fit for your solution. Similar to personas, ICPs segment potential customer targets based on specific characteristics. These can often include Industry, Company Size, Annual Revenue, Location, Current Tech Stack and more. They are also useful for determining lead quality.
The more clearly you define your target market as a company, by program and by campaign, the more effective you can be with your strategy and the better you can be at identifying leads that are a good fit and thus more likely to result in a sale.
Moving from Target Audience to Lead Fields
Once you’ve identified your audience, you should then understand what fields you will use to qualify leads. The more clearly you can define which fields are required and any standards associated with those fields, the easier it will be to qualify your leads.
Basic Lead Requirements:
In B2B, many companies have the same minimum requirements, essentially wanting a lead to be accurate and contactable. Exact requirements can vary by channel with lower lead requirements to enter lead nurture, but it is rare for a marketing lead to not contain an email address.
- First Name
- Last Name
When qualifying a lead based on personas, you will want to understand what fields in your tech stack contain role-based data. Job titles are almost universal in B2B, but can have many possible variations making it difficult to manually qualify leads at scale. Alternatively, you can use picklists to capture department, role or seniority which are more easily segmented.
These fields can help you understand if your marketing campaigns are converting the right people or if you need to adjust your strategy.
With ICP fields, it’s important to understand the key company criteria of potential customers and again, to understand any standards established in your marketing automation platform or CRM.
Common examples include country formatting (full spelling vs abbreviations), industries (banking vs banking & financial vs financial services) and company size (501-1000 vs 500 to 999). Beyond confirming if a lead meets the set criteria, it will also be important that they are correctly entered into your systems or a qualified lead may never get engaged.
- Company Size
Defining a Qualified Lead by Channel or Campaign
Once you’ve defined your audience and which fields you’ll use to qualify leads, you can move into how you qualify leads by a specific channel or campaign. While you’ll look at many of the same data fields (ex: job title or industry), some demand strategies may set a higher standard for leads.
Broader awareness campaigns and channels generally have fewer requirements and higher lead acceptance with leads progressing into a specific marketing program or nurture campaign. With these channels quality still matters and a qualified lead still needs to fit your persona and ICP, but you’re also likely focused on quantity with the goal of building a database of marketing qualified leads that can be nurtured into future sales leads.
Website Lead Requirements Can Vary by Form and CTA
Your website can be a great lead generator, but not all leads will be created equal. As a marketer, it’s important to not only weed out any bad leads (fake information or bots), but to also separate top-of-the-funnel leads for nurture, and leads that qualify as sales-ready.
A Content Form may only require:
A Demo or Sales Request can also require:
- First and Last Name
You may see company name or job title as well, but many marketers aim to reduce fields to increase completions and build a more comprehensive profile over time.
- First and Last Name
Additional fields may include BANT questions, company firmographics, or text fields to capture more information for sale engagement.
Most web leads will be accepted unless they are clearly invalid, and more effort can be made to determine if they are marketing qualified or sales qualified. By aligning your form fields with your lead profiles and data fields, you can effectively move leads into the appropriate sales or marketing program to quickly move them further down the funnel.
Tradeshow or Event Leads Often Need Cleaning and Formatting
With live events, you have less control over the lead data you receive than you would have using a web form. Lead lists captured during live events can include leads outside of your target market and often need to be cleaned in order to be considered “qualified”.
Example: Event marketers may need to clean attendee records by removing the following:
- Records without email addresses (or incorrect emails)
- Event speakers or other exhibitors that entered your drawing
- Records with irrelevant job titles (such as interns, or sales reps working other booths)
The remaining leads may also need formatting for the country or phone number to be compatible with your marketing automation platform and considered marketing qualified.
Other campaigns can be more targeted and have much stricter requirements for what’s considered a “qualified” lead. Many of these campaigns also have a CPL (Cost Per Lead) component, making it critical that you’ve defined what leads you will accept and what data fields you will use to qualify those leads.
Content Syndication or CPL-based Campaign
When you move into a CPL-based campaign, many publishers and lead providers commit to delivering leads that meet a certain set of requirements, but it will be up to the campaign manager to ensure the leads they receive meet those requirements.
With these campaigns, it’s important to identify what criteria within your personas & ICP are required for the initial campaign scope, and then review those leads to ensure they meet those requirements considered “qualified”.
Best practices to consider when setting content syndication requirements in B2B:
- Job title validation: Create a validation list of all acceptable job titles and gain up-front commitments from your vendors to only submit leads with those titles
- Industry validation: Be specific on your target industry, but also how you need the data provided. For example, a specific campaign may be targeting Management Consulting firms, but your CRM may categorize these companies under Business Services and Consulting
- Company size or revenue: Provide your CRM standards to your vendor along with your requirements. If your leads are formatted as “1-50” instead of “1 to 50”, you’ll be left to fix this yourself.
- Company acceptance or suppression: We recommend creating a list using company domain instead of company name for a better match rate.
Like Real Estate & Comedy…Timing is Everything
Another key point to remember is that the entire lead cycle is time-sensitive, particularly lead validation. In smaller demand programs, manually reviewing and cleaning leads to remove bad records or fix formatting may not seem like a big task, but as programs and lead volumes grow, these manual processes can delay the time in which leads are contacted, sometimes by days or even weeks. This delay results in lower engagement and lost sales opportunities.
Automating lead validation and formatting on a lead management platform can remove this burden from the marketing team to meet both lead quality metrics and ensure efficient lead delivery. Better lead quality can also help sales & marketing stay aligned on lead metrics and revenue impact.
Why Qualifying Leads is a Win-Win-Win
Properly defining qualified leads isn’t just about finding potential customers or increasing sales, it’s about understanding and making a connection with your customers, reaching out to leads who are interested in what you have to offer, making the most of your marketing team’s efforts, and allowing your sales team to focus on what they do best, evangelizing your amazing product or service and converting interested leads into valued customers.
Learn more about how Convertr can automatically validate leads against your campaign and data standards and provide powerful tools to maximize your lead quality.