The customer lifecycle is a useful guide to help you gauge a lead’s readiness to purchase. This is important because the status of your lead should affect your lead nurturing strategy, so your interactions with your leads must vary depending on what life cycle stage they are in.
For example, discussing details of a product or service might not be appropriate for a customer who has been identified as a “subscriber” in the life cycle because these types of leads are only in the initial stages of learning about your brand.
In this case, product-specific content might come off as too salesy, which might deter a potential customer from moving forward. Enter MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) and SQLs (sales-qualified leads).
However, a customer who has been tagged under the “Sales Qualified Lead” stage is likely to be ready to hear about the finer points of your product offer such as pricing and other areas of personalization.
These types of leads might even welcome a more upfront approach to selling because they’re weighing their options and need very specific information to make an educated buying decision.
Here’s a video from John Arnott to freshen up on the basics of MQL and SQL:
- Different strategies are more effective for different parts of the MQL->SQL funnel
- Getting down to the details too early can drive away prospective clients
- This funnel is most effective when the marketing team and the sales team are on the same page
It should go without saying that you should have a good grasp of each stage of the customer lifecycle. It’s critical for you to identify where a potential client lies so that you can adjust and tailor your message accordingly.
Adequate preparation is key to improving your chances of successfully nurturing a prospect towards the ultimate goal that is a sales conversion.
Optimizing the Qualification Process
In order to be called a marketing qualified lead, there has to have been some interaction or automated score that identifes an MQL as being more likely to convert to a customer than an unqualified or less qualified lead. But this does not mean they are ready to buy right now. One of the factors in lead scoring is the timing of when the lead will be ready to buy and any systematic way you can use to make that determination should be used whenever possible.
Some organizations even have additional layers of specificity within MQL and SQL levels. For example, at SAP, we used the Sirius Decision framework of lead level 1-5:
- Level 1: Named contact
- Level 2: Verified contact
- Level 3: Marketing qualified as having budget, authority and need to buy
- Level 4: Marketing qualified as also having a defined timeframe of making a purchase decision in the next 60-90 days and agrees to a sales call
- Levels 5: Sales qualified the lead and confirmed the above details
But every organization should define their own lead stages after discussions with the sales team on what kind of leads they want as well as what filters should be used to graduate a lead to marketing qualified and sales qualified.
Visitor to Lead:
Visitors to your site become leads once they have given you contact information. This is the start of the qualification process and is accomplished through good digital and content marketing.
Lead to MQL:
Your lead makes the transition from lead to MQL once they have engaged with your content. Things like commenting and sharing your blog posts put a target on their back for your sales team to focus up and hone in.
There’s levels to being an MQL, and you’ll have to draw your own lines as to when a prospect is ready to hear about your offers and bigger product details.
MQL to SQL:
The truth is, for most organizations an MQL becomes an SQL when you gather enough relevant information about them:
- Who they are
- Who they work for
- What their role is
- Their Context
- Their Challenges & Pain Points
- Their Needs & Motivations
This criteria is also subjective and needs to be agreed upon between your sales and marketing teams. It is critical for marketing and sales teams to forge a strong partnership to create a seamless lifecycle that effectively drives sales conversions.
This allows both teams to be well-versed in who their target market is and be alert on what types of behaviors to watch out for. They are able to identify which leads need to be nurtured first, or which ones are ready for a sales call based on potential opportunity.
When the sales and marketing teams are in alignment, the chance of identifying better leads and closing them increases. Ultimately, this results in higher revenue, improved ROI, and a healthy bottom line.
Aligning Sales and Marketing
This process only works when the sales team and marketing team are on the same page. Oftentimes, these departments work separately from each other with the marketing team expected to generate as many leads as possible as the sales team is under pressure to turn those leads into paying customers.
In reality, this process shouldn’t be a hand off, it should be a team effort.
Here’s a few quick tips on getting your marketing and sales team aligned to maximize your lead generation and conversion efforts:
1. Agree on a Single Customer View
Both teams must take the time to define their exact target audience. There must be a clear picture of the ideal customer, which can be achieved by sharing both teams’ unique knowledge.
Sharing the ideal customer persona leads to better content and appropriate marketing during the qualification process. Understanding what kind of customer you’re looking for can help determine the right verbiage and CTA’s to give you the best chance at moving them along in the funnel.
Familiarize yourselves with each customer touchpoint until you come up with a well-rounded picture based on mutual insight and common goals. Customer profiles are necessary for defining your KPIs and overall goals as a business.
2. Hold Regular Meetings
It may sound obvious, but it can be a challenge to set aside time for regular meetings especially when there are deadlines to meet and time becomes a scarce resource.
The only way to share goals and benchmarks is to be on the same page.
You should always make time to catch up because these knowledge sharing sessions play a significant role in the alignment process. Make the most of these meetings by having a clear agenda to share processes, resources, and best practices on both ends.
Marketers must be kept updated on the sales team’s progress when it comes to meeting their quotas and goals because it allows marketing to offer specific support when needed.
3. Marketing Should Keep Sales Updated on Upcoming Campaigns
Make an effort to ensure that any new digital marketing campaign or content marketing launched has been shared with the sales team. This promotes a seamless front so that the sales team can directly engage the leads who have consumed these new marketing materials.
Make sure that marketing is coordinating with sales whenever a new email blast is sent out, or any new leads have been acquired. This will not only give additional insight into a customer’s interests, but it will also provide sales reps with an idea of what motivates leads to take the next step.
4. Use a Closed-Loop Feedback System
Source: Bain & Company
The sales team communicates with leads or prospects regularly, so they are in the best position to tell you what your customers need. However, they don’t always have the time to record these insights, which can lead to a breakdown in communications.
One way to address this issue is to use shared documents to collect ideas and references. Holding regular brainstorming sessions where the sales team can share what they know about attracting leads or what types of content would resonate the most with prospects.
A closed-loop feedback system will ensure open communication and that all opportunities to leverage customer data are being taken advantage of.
The qualification process is pretty subjective and means different things to different businesses. The trick is to utilize cooperation between your sales and marketing teams to find the right set of definitions for your business.
With a good communication system and the right targets, you can convert more visitors into SQL’s than ever before.
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