Sellers know all about leads. You know the difference between marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). You know you need more of the former in order to get more of the latter.
That’s great. You can see the destination. But what about the traffic that's on your website? How can you identify MQLs in your sales pipeline and, more importantly, how can you offer effective nurturing that turns them into SQLs? Let's break down the basic steps.
Understand That Not All MQLs Will Become SQLs
MQLs are potential prospects who may become customers down the line — but they haven’t yet shown any signs of initiating a purchase. According to studies, only 5% to 15% of leads are sales-ready at the outset, while 60% of the people who browse your product pages and read blogs will be marketing-qualified leads. The rest will be idlers who never do business with you.
For MQLs to transition to SQLs, they must get the right messages and offers at the right time. Your communications must speak directly to their needs, challenges, and goals.
But even the best marketing strategy in the world can’t guarantee 100% conversion. It’s important to embrace this uncertainty. Also, keep in mind that industrial marketers involved in manufacturing lead gen will inevitably face long sales cycles.
This means an effective nurturing initiative can not only work to close more deals, it can also close them faster.
Related Resource: Marketing Goal vs Marketing Strategy
The Four-Step Framework for Converting Industrial MQLs Into SQLs
Step #1: Determine What Makes An MQL An SQL
This is a no-brainer. Go through your existing funnel and, with the help of tools like Google Analytics, dive deep into data to identify actions that leads take when the emotional and practical needle moves in your favor and a purchase is in the cards.
- What content do MQLs consume before turning into SQLs?
- How does their browsing pattern change when on your site?
- Do they take any special social actions, like sharing your posts?
- Do they fill out forms or request product demos?
Once you have a list of potential tipping points, document them, sort them by impact, assign points, and create lead-scoring rules within your marketing automation solution or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
This will allow SQLs to be quantified. You no longer have to rely on the intuition of your sales reps and your marketers. Plus, with the ambiguity gone, sales won’t complain about receiving unqualified leads. And marketing is less likely to complain about poor close rates, since the team knows exactly how many MQLs have converted to SQLs.
Step #2: Break Down Your Current Nurturing Process
Even if you aren’t aware of it, your MQLs are being nurtured in some way. Are they receiving newsletters? Maybe they have been contacted by sales representatives who try to gauge receptivity by following up after events like webinars.
Based on what you uncover, you may need to revise, upgrade, or streamline your technology stack. Some solutions may no longer serve your needs, and some may just be eating up your budget — so dig a little deeper.
A robust nurturing blueprint contains the following information and answers the following questions:
- What kind of impression of your brand does the MQL need to have in order to become sales-ready or an SQL? This will depend on the values you embody, the products you offer, and the most dominant pain point of your buyers.
- What tactics should this strategy utilize? Do you employ a drip campaign interspersed with relevant webinars? How frequently do you email your MQLs? When do you stop?
- Is this nurturing premeditated, or a knee jerk reaction to prospect actions?
- How effective is this nurturing? How many touchpoints and channels (e.g., email, retargeting, social) are being leveraged?
- Who will own which tactic or touchpoint? Will it be marketing, with no assistance from sales, or will there be involvement from your sales team as well?
- How will the handoff happen? Larger companies tend to have sales development reps who handle MQL nurturing. The content may be created by marketing, but it is the responsibility of the sales reps to ensure that the content is consumed and has the desired effect.
- Sales reps can unobtrusively loop in account executives (AEs) into email threads to gradually shift the conversation from education to purchase. Or the nurturing can be automated and overseen by marketing, with a hard handoff once the MQL hits the SQL threshold points within the system.
- How will you determine the efficacy of nurturing? What metrics will you capture?
Step #3: Align Your Sales And Marketing Teams
As you break down your current nurturing process, you may uncover gaps between your marketing and sales team. The marketing and sales tug of war has been going on for a while now! This engaging SlideShare by LinkedIn and HubSpot paints an accurate picture of this phenomenon. It also reinforces the importance of sales and marketing alignment.
Businesses can start by ensuring sales reps and marketers are on the same page through weekly meetings; allowing for shared celebration of wins; and implementing cross-training, in which marketing discusses buyer personas and sales talks about the actual bottlenecks reps face when closing a lead. This paves the way for the creation of content that both parties find valuable and can share unreservedly across all platforms.
The digital transformation of sales and marketing has been a challenge in the manufacturing industry — we discuss more on those manufacturing challenges here. What's clear is that buying habits will continue to shift, and if manufacturers and industrial companies want to stay top-of-mind in new generation workforces, they need to adopt new digital strategies and keep their teams aligned.
Step #4: Nurture Your Leads Better With Content Marketing
Getting quality traffic to your website is one of the first steps to increasing business opportunities, but once they’re on the site, they’ll need some direction on what to do from there. Chances are, these visitors are looking for information and helpful resources, so you’ll want to make those available to them. BUT — there’s a catch— you also want to learn more about who’s visiting your site. That’s where offers come in.
An offer is a downloadable piece of content that users can access after they submit a form on your site. You control how much information they’ll need to enter, so you can quickly gather their names, job titles, email addresses, companies, and more. In exchange, they’ll get whichever piece of content they’re interested in.
If you simply had this content available to everyone on your homepage, you would have no idea who was visiting or what they were interested in. By “gating” this information as an offer, you’ll have valuable insight to use in nurturing campaigns that move individuals through the buying cycle. Even something as simple as a product e-catalog can generate 30% more conversions.
The content that you display to site visitors should be different depending where they are in the marketing funnel. MQLs are going to need to be nurtured with more top of the funnel content, while SQLs need to be served lower funnel content that will help close them as a customer.
So what kind of content should you be serving to MQLs?
- Targeted emails campaigns that touch on a prospects pain points, business problems, while also showing how you can help solve their problem.
- eBooks can be a great addition to your email campaigns and typically offer prospects educational value.
- Long form blog posts will show the authority and expertise you have in your industry while providing the prospect value.
And lastly, what kind of content should you be serving to SQLs?
- Spec sheets provide the technical aspects of your product or machine.
- Case studies will provide social proof of your products or services.
- White papers will prove your industry knowledge.
- Testimonials are a great way to show social proof at a lower level. This type of content reassures prospects that doing business with you is the right decision. Bonus: Check out our video testimonials for inspiration.
Learn How To Get Better Quality Leads
MQL-to-SQL nurturing isn’t hit-or-miss. There must be a tried and tested method in place to achieve the results you’re looking for — but it takes time to investigate what's currently working (or not!) and care to maintain and improve. Need some help building out your process? Contact Team Thomas for a personal consultation and to discuss your overall goals.
If you feel you have the right process in place, but just need some help filling the pipeline and hitting your lead generation goals, check out our eBook, 30 Industrial Lead Generation Tips, Tricks & Ideas.
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