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Hot or Not? Tips for Building a Lead Qualification Program

By Ethan Kalkwarf

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A few months ago, the heater in my car went out. It had one temperature: hot. My needs or the actual temperature in the car didn’t matter. The heating system knew how to do one thing well: blow hot air.

Don’t get me wrong. This was really nice during the cold winter months. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. I simply turned on my car and it got warm quickly. But as the temperatures changed and spring arrived, I needed my car’s heating system to adapt and respond appropriately.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketing programs work like that faulty heater. As marketers, we build out a robust digital campaign, complete with landing pages, webinars, eBooks and infographics, but we lack any ability to respond to the unique “temperature” of each lead.

That’s where lead scoring comes into play.

Lead scoring is a great way to measure the interest, relevance, and intent of your prospects. It’s an objective system for automatically ranking and prioritizing leads according to your specific goals and parameters. Consider these three steps when building out your framework:


1. Lead definition

First things first. What is a lead?

Marketo defines a lead as “a qualified prospect that is starting to exhibit buying behavior.”

That helps. But what does “qualified” exactly mean? Well, it varies by use case, company, or even product group. Moreover, the criteria for a sales-qualified lead will be even more stringent than a marketing-qualified lead. It’s important to understand what this looks like for your specific needs.

Sales teams are busy, and there is nothing more frustrating than burning time with unqualified prospects. Your sales and marketing teams need to be in full alignment in order to build content and score leads based on relevant metrics. If you haven’t yet clearly defined what a lead is for your organization, consider these tips to get started:

Consider your target market, who’s in your database already, and what kind of buyers are currently closing deals. You’ll want to build out your target profile prior to kicking off a campaign – not once the leads (qualified or not) are already in your system.


2. Lead scoring

With a lead-scoring system, you can assign values to prospects based on actions they take, behaviors they exhibit, and more. This will help you rank leads to determine which prospects are ripe for nurturing and which are ready to engage with your sales team.

There are two main components of an effective lead scoring system: prospect interest and prospect relevance.

Prospect interest measures how individuals interact with your content. Are they downloading your eBooks, watching your webinars, viewing your pricing page? By assigning varying point values for different behaviors, such as opening an email or viewing the pricing page, you can better understand your prospect’s interest and readiness to buy.

Prospect relevance measures an individual’s qualification to make a purchasing decision. Are they in a geo you serve, an industry you specialize in, or, at the very least, are they at the right place in the organization to have purchasing authority?

Neither interest nor relevance can be siloed. Instead, they should be considered together to help turn a general lead into a marketing-qualified lead ready for the sales team. 


3. Lead optimization

Like most things in marketing, your lead-qualification efforts shouldn’t grow idle. Consistent monitoring, testing, and optimizing are crucial.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement is more than A/B testing email subject lines. It requires top-to-bottom scrutiny of every piece of your content journey. It requires you to continually ask, “How are prospects engaging with our content?” Is webinar attendance a strong indicator of intent to purchase? Do prospects respond better to shorter emails? These questions will help you create and refine a more accurate scoring system.

Your job as a marketer is to provide a satisfying customer experience, all the while doing so in a way that measures your prospects’ interest, relevance, and intent to purchase. To continually offer an engaging-yet-measurable experience, you need to routinely reevaluate and reoptimize the entire content journey.

Consider how prospects are responding to these:

    • Your social media posts
    • Gated content on your website (e-books, webinars, infographics)
    • Email campaigns
    • Materials in your videos

By fostering continuous improvement, your marketing team will be positioned to turn qualified leads into surefire customers.

Investing in lead generation, marketing automation, and content marketing is a given for the modern marketer. But too many marketing organizations fail to consider optimization strategies critically.

Bridge Partners has worked with some of the world’s leading brands to develop marketing programs that pack pipelines with qualified, sales-ready leads. To learn more about our QuickStart Lead Gen packages, click here

About the Author

Ethan Kalkwarf

Ethan Kalkwarf

Ethan is the marketing coordinator at Bridge Partners. He is a data-driven, growth-focused, marketing automation expert, working to support the firm's go-to-market efforts.


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