The B2B Marketer's Guide to Qualifying Inbound Leads

Introduction

Let’s be honest: for many B2B marketers who support sales organizations, dealing with inbound leads is a new ballgame. Before getting started with inbound marketing, many marketing organizations have only one kind of online sourced inbound lead: a prospect filling out a “Contact Us” form.

That’s it.

The Contact Us form—one conversion point that is VERY bottom of funnel. And sure, these leads are great, but part of building an inbound marketing engine that delivers is getting to the leads that are further up funnel and working proactively to nurture them to being sales-ready.

As you get your inbound marketing strategy underway and begin promoting top of funnel content, you’ll notice something about these new inbound leads right away: they’re different. Someone who downloads an ebook is at a very different place in their decision process than someone filling out a Contact Us form, so we need to deal with these types of leads differently. Simply kicking the lead off to sales isn’t enough. Neither is marketing automation.

If you’re currently seeing more than 100 contacts per month on your site, you’ll need to take a customized approach; one that incorporates strategies like persona-based workflows coupled with automated lead scoring. However, if you haven’t reached that point, here are the 5 bare minimum steps that you should have in place as a sales-driven B2B organization to deal with anything less than 100 contacts per month:

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1. Don't Rely Exclusively on a Workflow

Yes, you should definitely set up a lead nurturing workflow. Eventually, you should have detailed nurturing workflows for every buyer persona. But when you’re getting started, especially if you’re dealing with fewer than 100 new contacts per month, there’s no reason why you cannot quickly assess the quality of every prospect and action accordingly. For those who do not pass the test for direct follow-up, your standard lead nurturing workflow will remain your go-to.

2. Assess Prospect Fit

One person from your marketing team should be responsible for vetting new contacts entering your HubSpot hub in a timely manner. Assessing prospect fit is easy if you have thoroughly worked through your buyer personas and have a tool like HubSpot at hand to quickly give you a sense of things. Until you get formal buyer personas in place, a one-pager detailing the consistent characteristics of your top clients will suffice. These characteristics may include: 

  • Industry
  • Employee count
  • Annual revenue
  • Contact position

Anything that helps you paint a clear portrait of the clients you want to focus on will help. Once completed, this one-pager gives you the information needed to qualify leads and determine which contacts meet your specific definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL).

The inbound method of prospecting fit works differently than traditional fit prospecting. This is because inbound prospecting not only seeks to determine whether or not a prospect is a good fit for your organization—it also seeks to determine whether or not they are currently interested in your company. The best way to determine something like this is buy using the Prospecting Tool inside HubSpot Sales Pro. This tool lets you view which companies have been visiting your website, and how often.

If a prospect has visited multiple pages on your website over a given period of time, it’s safe to say they may be more interested in your company than a prospect who visited, downloaded a resource and returned once. By considering interest alongside fit, you’re better able to determine who is a qualified MQL. 

 

3. Do Your Research

For those contacts who meet your MQL status, it’s time to do a little research before you try to connect with them. Between a company’s website, their LinkedIn profile, and Twitter presence, you can generally get enough additional information about your prospect to give your first outreach to them a little more texture and context.

For example, we recently launched a new site for one of Canada’s largest providers of office furniture and technology. Let’s assume that the office manager of a law firm is visiting their website and has decided to download their office trends guide. A few minutes of online research would provide their marketing team with quite a bit of information about this prospect, as well as their firm. With this information, you’ll be able to reach out with a targeted, tactical message that is sprinkled with tidbits that show you’ve done your homework.

Of course, you can also dig a little deeper by taking a look at their contact record on HubSpot. Here you can see if your contact has checked out any other resources and get a better idea of what they may already know. This information can help ensure you’re not providing them with information they already have. It can also help you further tailor your initial outreach.

4. Make the Connection

For most businesses, it’s best to keep your first connection via email reasonably short and to the point. Introduce yourself, demonstrate an understanding of your audience, and provide some specifics that make it clear that you’re not simply providing another canned response.

Anatomy of an Introductory Email

Returning to our earlier example of an office furniture and technology provider reaching out to a law firm after they downloaded their office trends guide, an introductory email should look something like this:

1

Hey Michael,
 
It’s Kevin from the Office Specialists here.
 
Thanks again for downloading our Guide to Outfitting Your Modern Office earlier today.
 
I’ve had the chance to take a look at your website and learn more about your firm.

This initial greeting quickly clarifies who you are and why you’re getting in touch with the MQL.

2

It looks like you’re growing. Congratulations! Based on your job postings it looks like you’ll soon be in need of additional office furniture to meet your demands. Have you been thinking about the furniture that would best suit your needs?
 
More people doesn’t have to mean less space. In fact, there are many ways to maximize existing office space so you can ensure your employees are productive while staying comfortable.

This demonstrates that you’ve researched your MQL’s organization and have an understanding of why they may be accessing your resources. It also reassures your MQL that they are not receiving a generic, templated response.

3

Would you be open to connect for a 10-15 minute call to discuss your needs and how we can help?

Encouraging your MQL to get in touch helps reassure them that you are both approachable and have a solution that will work for them.

4

Thanks for reading this. Let’s talk soon!
 
Cheers,
Kevin

After a quick sign off, hit send! With an effective introductory email, you’ll be able to make contact with your MQL, demonstrate knowledge of their organization and how you can help, and quickly let them get on with their day without taking up much of their time.

5. Forward Sales Qualified Leads to the Sales Team

If your introductory email receives a positive response, you likely have a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) on your hands. Only now is it time for your sales team to get involved. At this point, you’ve established that your SQL is interested in your services and that they are a good potential fit for your company. You also have some information about the SQL, including potential pain points and triggers that your sales team can address.

Timing is everything for your sales team. If they get involved too quickly, a lot of time and effort can be wasted on a prospect who may not have any intentions of converting further. There’s also the potential for scaring off prospects by pushing them through the funnel instead of acting as a helpful guide every step of the way. On the other hand, coming in too late can result in missed opportunities and your prospect being scooped up by a competitor.

Coordination between your marketing team and sales team is essential here, and can be the difference between landing new business and having to start over from scratch.