What is a quality lead? I mean … really?

The portrait of a perfect lead is different for your organization than mine or the next marketer’s, but we can all agree that those who are most likely to convert into paying customers in the shortest amount of time are, generally, the highest quality leads.

But truth be told, the presence of these leads who fit the perfect profile, have also shown significant willingness to purchase, and are at just the right moment in their decision making process to convert is … well not particularly common. And seeking out these types of leads exclusively is likely to leave you a little ‘high and dry’.

I like to liken a typical lead pool to a bag of popcorn and your marketing and sales activities to the microwaves. Once you turn on the microwave, some of those kernels were just so plump to begin with that they were just begging to pop. Others need 30-60 more seconds, and still others may need to be shaken around inside bag and shoved back into the microwave. Then there’s those crummy kernels who never popped and never will. Hey, you didn’t need them anyway. If all of our popcorn bags were filled with the anxious, plump kernels, we would have a lot quicker prep times on popcorn, for one, but we’d also have significantly less popcorn available to consume since those kernels are so rare. And so, to satisfy the nation’s desire for these buttery snacks, we need some sub-optimal kernels and need to give them time to pop.

Am I sounding a little fixated on popped corn yet?

We Need More Different-Quality Leads

Back to reality and real-life leads … it’s clear that not every lead in your database is going to be ‘ready to pop’, so-to-speak. What we need is an ample flow of leads at different qualities – some will be ready to send to sales right away and others will need persuading.

That’s why the multi-stage qualification model was created, after all:

Lead Qualification Funnel

Source: HiP

You need to be fuelling this funnel for leads along the entire spectrum.

And remember, you can personally have an impact on lead quality. A lead that comes in as qualified on profile-based characteristics, but not intent or timing or other indicators has the potential to become highly qualified. As you well know, that’s the beauty of lead nurturing. Educate a lead on your industry, the pain points they’re facing, and the necessity of your product and all of sudden you have a ‘quality lead’. This is a critical component to the different-quality approach and an opportunity for marketers, generally. In fact, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales due to a lack of lead nurturing (MarketingSherpa), but companies that establish a system for nurturing their leads on average produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities (DemandGen Report) versus non-nurtured leads.

It’s Not Lower Quality, it’s just Different

It’s very important to get smart about what qualifications a lead has at these different stages. We’re not looking for leads that are just lower quality leads than our picture-perfect lead. We want to find those who will morph into the ideal over time. So what qualities or activities do long-term leads produce at these different stages to indicate they will ultimately make the jump?

That’s the beauty of lead-scoring, and a refined art and science, really. Assign different weights to activities and lead characteristics based on their indication of likelihood to convert. Then pass them to the next lead stage once they’ve hit a predefined threshold. Here are some of our favorite resources on lead scoring to browse while you’re perfecting this craft:

The Risk of Moving Towards a Different-Quality Approach

As with any decision, there is a risk in focusing on this approach (although I’d argue all day that the gains outweigh the risks). In this case, since you’re moving somewhat away from the ideal lead, you can risk moving toward the “Lead Quota Death Spiral” where quantity increases and quality decreases.

MQL Death-spiral

Source: Beachhead

It is imperative that you are being methodical about your selection of earlier-stage leads. Evaluate the success of your model frequently and make sure that these lower quality leads today are turning into higher quality leads (or better yet, sales!) tomorrow.

At the end of the day, we need some of the medium with the great. It balances things out and keeps things chugging. The medium help to keep the pipe alive and stirring.

Kimbe MacMaster