How to Improve B2B Lead Quality and Drive More Sales
For B2B companies, high-quality leads generated by your company’s digital marketing programs are critical to growing your organization. But to the chagrin of some sales and marketing leaders, their marketing campaigns and tactics fail to deliver high-quality leads and engage prospects. Many say the best leads come directly from their sales reps and point to a bevy of reasons why web-generated leads aren’t converting visitors into customers:
- The sales team doesn’t want to follow up website leads because they’re considered low quality.
- Too many unqualified website leads take valuable staff time to sort through to determine which are within their target market and have a high probability of converting into a customer. These leads may have budgets that are too low or don’t fit the company’s ideal customer profile.
- Most website submissions come from vendor inquiries, not prospects or customers.
- Many leads coming from the website’s contact form are considered spam submissions. So many, in fact, that some businesses have considered removing the site’s contact form.
The Art & Science of Lead Scoring
Today, marketing automation software is the nexus of your company’s sales and marketing functions — following how your prospects engage your digital assets like your website, landing pages or PPC advertising. Combined with your sales enablement processes, marketing automation can help you fine-tune lead quality.
Closed loop reporting through marketing automation provides constant feedback on lead quality, such as which leads resulted in new sales, and total revenue generated. When you continually analyze your leads and fine-tune digital marketing tactics to drive quality, you’ll improve business results over time. For instance, you’ll see which website pages produce each lead, and identify which pages may be driving poor fit prospects. Armed with information around what’s working and what’s not, you can then double down on the tactics that are working well, and discontinue or modify the ones that aren’t.
If your sales team is rejecting the marketing qualified leads (MQL) originating from your marketing channels, then analyze the rejected leads to pinpoint weaknesses. Can you improve lead quality by adjusting marketing messaging or tactics, or does your sales team have to fine-tune how it engages prospects?
The good news is you can solve your lead quality problems through numerous avenues. Explore the topics below to better understand how messaging, user flow, content, contact forms, and digital marketing strategy each have a symbiotic impact on lead quality.
Messaging & User Flow
If your website’s messaging is clear on who you are, what you offer, and to whom, your prospects can quickly conclude if they’re in the right place. In other words, your home page should include a clear and concise positioning statement, which states what you sell and to whom. Here’s an example of a well-articulated positioning statement:
“Windmill Strategy guides marketers through digital transformations that result in strong lead generation and organizational growth. We help companies with technical products or complex services through the modern and ever-evolving web and digital marketing landscape.”
Additionally, it helps to incorporate detailed reassurance statements in your messaging (two or three sentences) that clarify your offerings and how they produce business results. The statements can be specific to the individual verticals, markets, or applications that you serve. Here’s an example:
“We help industrial automation companies identify and engage technical buyers with persuasive and effective marketing tactics that help position you as a leading supplier in your industry segment. The result: you’ll stand apart from your competitors, generate more leads and proposals, and close more business.”
The messaging on your site should attract your ideal prospects, and signal unqualified leads that you’re not a fit for them. Clear messaging should attract prospects who you want to work with, and turn away those you don’t. (In the most professional way, of course.)
Compelling Content Helps You Stand Apart
Content that positions your business as a leader in its industry will separate you from your competitors. Focus on populating your website with well-written and thoroughly-researched educational and informative content such as long-form blog posts, white papers and e-books. This content resonates well with engineers and technical buyers — increasing the likelihood they will become a high-quality lead by completing a contact form.
You’ll also want to ensure your content and information architecture is intuitive enough that it naturally leads your visitors through a user flow or path that takes them from a surface level to more in-depth information. Make it easy for your website visitors to quickly determine if your company is a good fit for them. Sometimes, unqualified leads are filling out the contact form simply because they weren’t able to deduce whether you’re right for them based on website content.
Contact Form Best Practices
Even if you’ve nailed your messaging, user flow, and packed your website with compelling content, you still need to nudge your visitors “Past Go” by encouraging them to complete a contact form. At the same time, unless your online form is designed with appropriate safeguards, it can also turn into an irritating source of spam leads.
Thankfully, Google’s reCAPTCHA is a free service that protects your website from spam and abuse. It uses an advanced risk analysis engine and adaptive challenges to keep automated software from engaging in abusive activities on your site. It accomplishes this while letting your valid users pass through with ease. The tool is easy to implement and easy for users.
It’s also possible to remove the contact form from view for visitors coming from outside the United States, even a specific region or country. These visitors would still be shown contact information, but wouldn’t see the quick and easy form to complete.
Brevity Helps; Optimize Through Trial & Error
Additionally, incremental changes to your contact or get-a-quote form can help you optimize it through trial and error. The key is to keep the form short. Research shows forms with too many fields will drive down conversion rates, yet brevity must also be weighed against the need to gather sufficient background to qualify the respondent. Once more, by asking the prospect to provide “Required Information” in some form fields helps the respondent think through whether or not your offerings are what they need — a type of self-qualification. These additional fields could include a minimum order quantity, for example, which sends the message you don’t accept low volume orders.
Moreover, if you receive numerous requests for materials or products and services that you don’t offer, consider listing materials (or groupings) on the form as a specific selection. For instance, you can add a few checkboxes or other fields that don’t prevent a prospect from completing the form, but allow you to sort and score leads aided by marketing automation tools. A statement like “We find our best customers have some things in common; please check the items that apply to you,” is helpful.
✓ I’m interested in growing my company.
✓ We’ve been in existence for two years or more.
✓ We’re actively acquiring new equipment and automating facilities.
Also note that there will always be website visitors who aren’t ready to buy, but could be shortly. Provide these prospects with a means to connect with you other than their contact information going directly to your sales team. Here, you could use a chat function or leverage webinars and offer these prospects high-value educational content such as articles, case studies, white papers and e-books. Additionally, you’ll want to nurture this group over time via a drip email campaign, which is an effective method for staying connected with prospects without becoming obtrusive.
Digital Marketing Strategy
Are you prioritizing sending traffic to your website over sending the right traffic? If your digital marketing is a one-size-fits-all strategy, tighten your focus on users who you believe have the highest probability of becoming your customers. To narrow your focus, create highly-specific keyword lists and negative keyword lists for PPC campaigns while reviewing and segmenting your email marketing list. Always emphasize quality over quantity.
Use frequent reviews to determine which web pages, campaigns and keywords are driving the most conversions. Over time, you can further optimize pages and lists — and pivot to tactics and strategies that deliver the best results.
How to Optimize Your PPC Marketing
When planning your PPC marketing, capitalize on Google’s Keyword Planner, or other keyword tools to discover phrases that potential prospects are using when looking for your products and services. Focus on finding phrases with the correct search intent. Overly broad phrases can drive a lot of unqualified traffic to your site. Write your ad copy to encourage qualified clicks. Clear messaging helps your prospects self-qualify before they click.
Moreover, pay attention to keyword match types. Google’s default match type, broad match, results in the search engine providing too many options to be helpful. For example, the phrase “manufacturing website” would display your ad with queries showing widely different search intents such as “websites for manufacturers,” “manufacturing website design,” “coffee maker manufacturer website” and “manufactured homes websites.” Although you might logically conclude that people who are served irrelevant ads would read them before clicking, you’re mistaken. Clicks by unqualified prospects can quickly send PPC budgets sky high and crush overall campaign effectiveness. (cliff notes — many unqualified prospects click before reading).
Instead, use “phrase”, “exact” and possibly “modified broad” match to better target phrases to the intended user. But keep in mind that Google says 15 percent of its queries are for brand new phrases that have never before been searched. Modified broad and broad match phrases used sparingly can be a good avenue for finding new prospects. Make sure to monitor Google’s Search Terms report regularly and add unrelated phrases to your negative keyword list.
Additionally, use geotargeting to ensure your ads are showing to users in the right locations. If most of your business happens in a particular region, or perhaps most of your clients are in large metropolitan areas, displaying ads to users outside of those areas may be a waste of money.
Beyond PPC marketing, you can also use landing pages and display advertising to amplify your communications and engage prospects:
- Landing pages should closely match the user’s search query. When a user lands on your site, they shouldn’t have to search to find the information they’re looking for. Send them to the most relevant page with strong visuals and a strong call to action. To accomplish this, you may need several landing pages.
- Display advertising through Google’s network, LinkedIn, or other ad networks can be an excellent way to raise awareness to the specific niche you’re targeting.
Here are a handful of options you can explore to find the right audiences for your display ads:
- Retargeting ads will show exclusively to users who have already visited your website. You also could segment your retargeting further by showing specific ads to users who’ve taken some action on your website, such as visited a particular page, filled out a form, or spent some time on the site.
- Custom affinity audiences, in-market audiences and custom intent audiences are great methods to raise awareness with users who express interest in specific topics, URLs, and products or who are in the market for particular products or services. With Custom Affinity audiences, you can target users based on their visits to industry-specific or topic-specific websites anywhere on the web. In-market audiences will help you find users who are looking specifically to purchase the goods or services that you offer. Custom Intent Audiences allow you to specify keywords and URLs related to your products or services and Google will build an audience matching that user intent. Each of these targeting options, used separately or in combination with each other, offer powerful tools for generating awareness while staying targeted to your potential customers.
- Similar audience lists (also referred to as lookalike audiences) can use information about your current website visitors to create an audience of additional users with similar characteristics. You can accomplish this through a remarketing list, by tagging your website, or by uploading data from your existing client list. Similar audiences are created using machine learning that examines the online activity of your current users and finds new users who display similar interests and characteristics. Look for this option in Google (customer match) and LinkedIn (matched audience).
- Social networks, such as LinkedIn, offer you even greater targeting options. Here, you can target users who work in a particular industry or even at a specific company. If you know your decision-makers, you can target them by job title; and, a combination of these options can help you display your content to the people most likely to be looking for your products or services. You can also target followers of specific industry publications, and other tactics to find the right people.
- Overall, closely monitor your display advertising and continuously refine your targeting by demographics, location and audiences. Additionally, observe the websites, devices and apps where your ads are displayed. If mobile devices are driving clicks but little engagement, consider limiting your reach on those devices (or improving your mobile landing pages). You may also want to restrict impressions on mobile apps, games and other unrelated websites.
Continuous Improvement Leads to Higher Quality Leads
No doubt, sales and marketing leaders will continue to debate lead quality for years to come, and in the process hurl blame at each other for declining quality. Today, however, the modern marketing-sales team has more tools, technologies, and knowledge than ever to improve lead quality. Through continuous improvement, fine-tuning, experimenting, and working together, you’ll generate higher quality leads and better business results.
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