I was recently walking through the mall, doing some early scouting for the upcoming Christmas season. As I was turned a corner, I saw two employees tea shop employees standing in the entry way to their store, calling to oncoming customers. “Care to try some of our tea?” “Free samples.” Being a tea lover myself and seeing that the shop may be able to offer me a few quick and easy gifts for stockings, I walked over to one of the employees and opted in on the tea tasting. 

This was a mistake.

Before I could take my first sip of tea I was trapped smack dab in the middle of an extravagant sales pitch. And I don’t use the word extravagant to signify that the sales pitch provided some kind of entertaining spectacle, I use extravagant as an indicator of how long and rehearsed this pitch was. I found myself being toted around the store, receiving information on every possible item I passed.

The tea was not worth the pitch.

We recently wrote an article entitled “The Importance of Quality Over Quantity in Digital Marketing.” My experience with this tea shop lead me to immediately sit down and reiterate one of the points made in this article: When it comes to lead generation. Quality trumps quantity every time.  All leads are not equal. 

You see, the strategy this tea shop used was undeniable similar to Inbound strategy, let’s break it down. Shall we? 

  1. Tea Shop : The tea shop employees sat on the edge of their shop calling to potential customers
    Inbound: A business publishes blog and social media posts to “call out” to potential customers online.
  2. Tea  Shop: Once these visitors make it to the tea shop, the employees offer them something they might value—different kinds of tea.
    Inbound: Once these visitors make it to a businesses website, they are offered something of value in the form of a content offer.
  3. Tea Shop: When visitors accept the tea, they are seen as “leads.” The shop employees see this as their chance to start nurturing these leads into customers via a sales pitch on high-quality items in the store.
    Inbound: Once visitors fill out a form (giving their email address) the business sees them as leads. The business views this as its chance to start nurturing these leads via personalized email campaigns and social content. 

See the similarities?

The problem is this. Just because someone walks over to the tea shop and decides to have some tea, that doesn’t mean that they have any interest in purchasing tea or tea accessories. And just because someone visits your website and decides to download your content offer, that doesn’t mean they have any interest in doing business with you.

Why am I telling you all of this? While planning your Inbound strategy, it is important to realize the differences between a lead, a marketing qualified lead, and a sales qualified lead. 

  •  LeadSomeone who has shown interest in your business/products (most likely through the submission of a form)
  • Marketing Qualified Lead: Someone who has shown repeated interest in your business/products and explored your website 
  • Sales Qualified Lead: Someone who has shown repeated interest in your business/products, explored your website at length, and is ready to buy (qualifications for a sales qualified lead are normally set by a sales team)

Why is this important? 

Deciding where your leads fit allows you to generate a specific, strategic plan for each type of lead. Let’s head back to the tea shop. What do we know about individuals who decide to grab some free tea? Well, we know they like tea. How can we use this information to segment our leads? We could offer our visitors a coupon and instead of jumping right into a sales pitch, we could say something along the lines of “feel free to take a look around the store.”

If an individual accepts the tea and the coupon, they are leads. They have accepted our offer and we know they like tea, but they don’t appear very interested in what we have to offer ( perhaps they will be back to use their coupon). 

If an individual accepts the tea and the coupon and decides to take look around the store, they are marketing qualified leads. With a little more nurturing (information on products and other deals) they may be willing to buy, but they probably aren’t just yet.

If an individual accepts the tea and the coupon, looks around the store and inquires about a product (or takes special interest in a product), they are sales qualified leads. They are interested and ready to buy.

How can we apply this to Inbound? 

Be aware of where your buyers are in the sales funnel. Set specific parameters for each qualification and consider the following:

  • What does a lead specifically have to do to become a marketing qualified lead?
  • What action must a marketing qualified lead perform to be deemed sales qualified by the sales team?
  • What actions are you to take when a lead reaches a different point in the sales funnel, and how do you market to each group differently?

Answering these questions and defining your strategy will help you convert on a whole new level. 

Final Thoughts

Don’t be the tea shop. Don’t waste your time and energy nurturing the wrong people in the wrong way. Instead nurture each group individually. Continue to tempt leads with valuable offers, provide your marketing qualified leads with helpful information, and help your sales-qualified leads make their decision (which is hopefully to do business with your company). 

Want to learn more about targeting your potential buyers? Download our target profile work sheet and ge to know your buyer personas in a whole new way.