It's indisputable that generating leads for your business is mission-critical, but if you don’t learn how to qualify leads, your conversion rate will suffer. And with a low conversion rate, you can be sure that you are getting far less bang for your marketing buck.
So how can you guarantee that the people who visit your website or opt in to your funnel are the right ones for your business? Knowing how to qualify leads helps you sell to the right people - the ones who will actually buy.
There are several ways to determine whether or not a lead is a good fit, each requiring a different amount of effort on your part.
If you have nothing but time on your hands and a mountain of cash to burn through, you could spend all of your time and money on the phone, or writing endless personalized emails. As soon as a contact opts in, you could jump at the chance to start selling them on your product or service.
But is this the best way to go about your conversion strategy? Surely not.
You’ll see a much greater return on investment if you instead focus on developing a comprehensive content marketing strategy that nurtures leads through your sales funnel. According to Hubspot, “Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.” This double-whammy of cost reduction and time saved will make your sales and marketing teams look like absolute superstars.
Learning how to qualify leads through content marketing is a great strategy. Leads who engage with your content will decide over time whether or not your product or service would be a good fit for them. They're learning about your product or service through your content (such as informative blog posts), and deciding if what you're offering fulfills their needs. This process of self-selection could save you hundreds of hours down the road, all from simply making an up-front investment in your content.
Before diving into the specifics of how content marketing can help with lead qualification, let’s first go over why traditional marketing methods fall short in a B2B setting.
Conventional marketing wisdom dictates that, as a business owner, you should cast a wide net in your marketing efforts.
After all, the more eyes you have on your brand, the more likely you are to make a sale, right? Advertise to a large audience, get your brand in front of them as often as possible, and you will eventually win them over to your side.
On one hand, this is indeed an effective strategy for many B2C products. Consumer goods manufacturers don’t need to be too choosy about their customer base. After all, if you’re selling toothpaste, you’re happy to sell to anyone with teeth.
If you’re in the B2B space however, this strategy is a great way to waste your time and money.
Instead guide your leads through an automated qualification process, by providing them with timely, relevant information.
In other words, use a comprehensive content marketing strategy.
To illustrate how this works, let’s use the time-tested BANT sales qualification method, which determines the viability of a lead using the following factors:
When it comes to qualifying leads through your content, there isn’t much that can be done about determining their budget. That duty should still fall to your sales professionals.
Instead, you should steer your content toward the other three qualifiers - Needs (what you can do to help), Timeline (when they need help), and Authority (who decides whether or not to buy).
The first way content marketing can help you separate the wheat from the chaff is through educating your leads on exactly what your company does best. If you want to know how to qualify leads through your content, it's largely by using your content to educate your leads on exactly what you're offering. You must be clear about what you are offering in a way your readers will understand.
By default, a good content marketing strategy will revolve around your company’s strengths. Specifically, your content should tell engaging, compelling stories about the value you add to your customers.
Do you have testimonials or case studies you can bring to the table? If so, you already have an advantage in developing content that calls out your target audience.
The stories you tell should paint a clear picture of the biggest problems you solve for your clients. By addressing the specific pain points that you alleviate, you immediately call out the members of your audience that have that specific pain.
By the same token, you also tell potential clients what your company is not.
For example, if your company’s biggest strength is helping small businesses grow their customer base, then it is natural for many of your blog posts, videos, etc. to focus on customer acquisition.
If a lead sifts through your blog looking for, say, “how to write a business plan” and finds nothing, they will quickly excuse themselves from the conversation and keep looking elsewhere.
Remember - this isn’t a problem, it’s a solution.
The real problem is too many leads entering your funnel that aren’t a good fit. You might be wondering how to qualify leads when you suddenly have an influx of leads to sift through. It's true that many might be unqualified to buy your product or service.
However, just because a prospect isn’t a good fit right now doesn’t mean that they won’t be qualified in the future. As their business evolves, they may eventually need exactly what you have to offer.
And if you build credibility with them through your content, guess who they will think of first?
The likelihood that your prospect will be ready to buy as soon as they discover your brand is pretty slim.
Catching them at the exact right time in their business cycle is like parachuting onto a moving speedboat - it looks great in action movies, but in real life, you’re more likely to end up all wet.
However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t need your services in 6 months or a year - they simply aren’t ready right at this moment.
So how can you work around this problem most effectively? The answer is through a combination of constant contact and building brand authority.
Constant contact through content marketing doesn’t mean spamming your prospect with factoids about why they should buy from you. Rather, it means delivering valuable, timely information which nurtures them through the buyer’s journey.
Do do this most effectively, you need to start by meeting them where they are at. From there, you can provide them with the information that best suits their needs.
Neil Patel put it this way in a blog post on lead qualification:
“By determining your prospect’s ideal timeline, you can then get a better idea of where they are in the buyer’s journey. The more you know about when they’re looking to buy, the more specific content you can provide them with.”
By providing content which is relevant to their stage of the buyer’s journey, your leads will immediately assume that you understand them better than your competition. This tends to build brand authority in their mind, which will pay dividends in the future, once they are ready to buy.
The final way that content marketing helps with lead qualification is by providing information aimed at those most qualified to make the purchasing decision. But how do you ensure that your content targets those with buying authority? It's important to know how to qualify leads that are decision-makers and can afford your product or service.
According to Hubspot, “True decision makers will have intimate knowledge of company goals, challenges, and needs. A contact who doesn’t have access to this information likely isn’t going to be valuable in the sales process.”
Ultimately, your target prospect is going to have the final say in purchasing, or else be one of a small group who has to sign off on the purchase. By curating content around how you help your clients achieve goals, overcome challenges, and fulfill needs, you will speak directly to the person most familiar with those issues.
Even if a lead who encounters your brand’s content doesn’t have the final say, they will quickly be able to pass along a valuable piece of content such as an article or video you posted, to someone who does have authority to buy. That is, assuming you have done all of the groundwork of strategic content generation.
Having a comprehensive content marketing strategy in place not only builds brand authority but also helps your leads self-select through engagement with your content.
Keep in mind that, instead of sending the message that you can help anyone and everyone, your content should fulfill the purpose of attracting your ideal prospects.
By creating content with this goal in mind, you will naturally call out your ideal audience based on their needs, timeline, and purchasing authority. The prospects who make their way through your funnel are therefore more likely to become happy customers.
And the more happy customers you have, the more likely your brand will grow through word of mouth, which is “the most valuable form of marketing,” according to Forbes.
So what are you waiting for? If you think your company could benefit from a content marketing strategy, you will need to do your research to learn as much as you can.
Of course, it isn’t enough to simply know about content strategy, customer personas, or the buyer’s journey. As Dale Carnegie said,
“Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”
You’re also going to need to generate a lot of content and know how to deliver it to the right people at the right time. To do this, you’ll need a content strategist, as well as one or more dedicated content writers, depending on how quickly you want to grow.
If you’re in a hurry to implement this effective strategy, and you want to keep your team as agile as possible, you might consider hiring a freelance copywriter to do the job. Why? Because copywriters are excellent at creating content such as blog posts.
Book a consultation with a copywriter today and find out how our team of expert content writers can help you increase the quality of your leads from day one, with strategic lead-qualifying content.
Ian Pettit is a sales copywriter and content writer from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Ian brings a diverse background to all his writing, including experience in manufacturing and design, music production, psychology, personal development, entrepreneurship, and green technology. He specializes in writing compelling, insightful copy with a personal feel, aimed at both educating and entertaining the reader at the same time.Hire Ian