January 26, 2022
By Chantel Hall, Marketing Content Specialist, and Lauren Lyons, Senior Analyst and Research Writer
Before you can begin attracting better leads, you need to have a solid definition of what makes a lead “good.” Relying on salespeople to review and analyze every lead to determine if it’s worth pursuing burns up a lot of time that could be used engaging with qualified leads and can even result in good leads being scrapped. Using this strategy also means that marketing isn’t building campaigns around an ideal customer profile (ICP), which any successful B2B marketing campaign needs.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to identify your ideal customers and go beyond “good leads” to identify which leads your marketing and sales teams should be pursuing.
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Successful B2B marketers operate with their buyer’s needs at the center of everything they do. Without ICPs, which include buyer’s pain points, guiding your marketing team, any initiative you launch will be unfocused and likely unsuccessful.
When you set out to create your ICPs, the goal is to identify which accounts are the most likely to become high-value customers. Sales and marketing must work together while developing ICPs. Each team has a unique understanding of who interacts with your marketing and who ultimately converts, so creating ICPs should be a shared exercise. Read the previous blog in this series to learn more about how sales and marketing can align with the buyer.
To build out your ICPs, first look at your current customers:
When analyzing your current customers, you should keep in mind that all of them might not necessarily be your ideal customer. Your ICPs should identify the accounts that will benefit most from your solution and are likely to become happy customers. Those are the accounts you should be focusing on.
“Good leads” is such a vague and nebulous category, and calling a lead “good” does very little to communicate what makes them worth your team’s time. Have they expressed interest in your product? Are they in the industry your product serves? Are they interacting with your social media posts or blogs? With your ICPs in place, you need to develop more concrete criteria for what makes a lead worth pursuing with targeted marketing and lead nurturing.
“Good leads” can be broken down into two categories: marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). Just like your ICP, these two categories should be well-defined and based on data about your current customers and who you know is likely to convert.
MQLs are leads that are most likely to become customers with the right lead nurturing. They’re leads that you want to continue focusing on with your marketing efforts because 1) they meet some basic demographic requirements for your customers and 2) they have interacted with your business’ marketing in a way that indicates interest or intent to purchase.
Again, looking at the data of current customers and their path to purchase is a good starting point. For example, someone who visits your website once and bounces from the home page is not indicating much interest. On the other hand, a lead that visits your website more than once on multiple occasions and downloads a few content offers is likely interested in learning more, and you can create a process for nurturing them using what you’ve learned from your current customers.
SQLs are leads that are qualified and ready to be contacted by a salesperson. This category of leads matches your ICP and meets the threshold for a salesperson reaching out to them. As with MQLs, the details of what makes a lead sales qualified will be unique to your company and depend on what you know about the path to conversion your current customers took. Your marketing and sales teams will have to work together to determine what criteria a lead must meet before being categorized as an SQL and handed off to sales.
Focusing on good leads might seem counter-intuitive when you’re trying to address bad leads, but it’s an essential step toward improving the quality of your leads. Developing a shared understanding of what makes a qualified lead is crucial in creating a marketing process that fills your funnel with good leads and weeds out the bad ones.
In the next post in our series, we’ll cover how your marketing and sales teams can use your combined knowledge about which leads are likely to convert to create marketing campaigns that will attract qualified leads and weed out bad leads.
Read the next installment in our series here: Why Do My Leads Suck? Because You're Not Focusing on Qualified Leads
Gartner, The Framework for Ideal Customer Profile Development, July 10, 2019
Leadfeeder, MQL vs. SQL: How Marketers Should Define and Qualify Leads, July 19, 2021
HubSpot, SQL vs. MQL: What They Are and How They Differ, July 26, 2021
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