Finding qualified leads is a challenge that all B2B marketers face. Passing only the warmest, most sales-ready leads on to your sales team is an even bigger challenge.

In today’s marketing arena, prospects can appear very early in the sales process, oftentimes when they are still in the research phase and nowhere near ready to make a purchase decision. Ignoring these leads means they could turn to your competitors, while passing them over to your sales team too early is a waste of time.

There are several things you can do to help grade your leads and segment them accordingly, ensuring that you hit them with the most targeted message at the most opportune time. Each segment should be set up with a drip campaign that caters to their specific wants and needs. Tailored messages focused on particular ‘personas’ in your sales cycle are a surefire way to improve your email response rates.

Defining the Perfect Lead

The first step to determining your grading strategy, is defining your perfect lead. You can define your most qualified leads in any number of ways – according to demographic, company size, job title, type of company, even company location. You probably already have an idea of what your perfect lead looks like, but officially defining it will help your organization align goals and expectations.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s think of an education analogy for 3 unique personas that are in different stages of the sales cycle:

The Freshman is brand new to your industry and product line. He or she may have found you through one of your marketing or lead gen campaigns, but isn’t quite sure what your product offers. The best messages to this persona would start with softer introductory emails that are informative but general — without being burdensome. Industry white papers, helpful blog posts, and articles are great content ideas for this level of interest.

The Junior is familiar with your company and industry but isn’t quite warm enough to get passed over to your sales team. He or she is experienced enough to know the right questions to ask, and is ready to be nudged in your product’s direction. This is a great time to separate yourself from your competitors and remind your prospect why you are the industry leader with powerful information about your product’s strengths (your client services response time, your latest features, ways your product can make their lives easier, etc.)

The Senior is ready to actually buy. Seniors have done their homework, are finished with exams and ready to graduate into a full-fledged customer. The best content for this segment is content that offers pricing information, free trials and demos and compares your product with what competitors offer. These are the leads that your sales team really want, and are most likely to close.

Tim Niziak

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