Lead Nurturing: How To Go From "I'm Interested" To "I'm Buying"

You 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. So now is the time to roll out the roadmap and check out your plans for execution.

How can you identify MQLs in your sales pipeline and, more importantly, how can you offer effective nurturing that turns them into SQLs?

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Here’s how to get started:

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.

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.

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Step #2: Break Down Your Current Nurturing Process.

Even if you aren’t aware of it, your MQLs are being nurtured in some way. They are receiving newsletters. Maybe they have been contacted by sales representatives who try to gauge receptivity by following up after events like webinars.

So, it’s crucial to answer the following questions:

  • How are you nurturing MQLs?
  • Is this nurturing premeditated, or a kneejerk reaction to prospect actions?
  • How effective is this nurturing?
  • How many touchpoints and channels (e.g., email, retargeting, social) are being leveraged?
  • Who is responsible for determining, and then executing, the nurturing strategy?
  • How does the handoff from marketing to sales work when an MQL becomes an SQL?

Based on the answers, you may need to revise, upgrade, or streamline your tech stack. Some solutions may no longer serve your needs, and some may just be eating up your budget.

Step #3: Determine Your Future Nurturing Framework.

A robust nurturing blueprint contains the following information and answers the following questions:

  • What is the overall strategy for nurturing? 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?
  • 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
  • How will you get an accurate MQL:SQL ratio? (Tools like Geckoboard help!) If the numbers do indicate that your strategy isn’t working, how will you optimize the framework and bring in results?

Step #4: Embrace “Smarketing.”

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 — or “smarketing.”

Companies in the manufacturing sphere should welcome smarketing wholeheartedly if they want to increase their leads and better connect with the target audience. 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.

Smarketing also:

  • Helps marketers realize that not all MQLs can turn into SQLs — This isn’t a shortcoming of sales, and generating more and better-quality leads is always the target.
  • Helps sales reps realize that not all MQLs can turn into SQLs — This isn’t the result of half-hearted attempts on the part of the marketing team. Also, keep in mind that working through sales qualification methodologies like BANT is crucial and should always be done before investing time and resources into leads.

Learn More

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.

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 Thomas’ MQL Lead Generation solution.

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