How B2B Marketers Can Generate High-Quality Leads

October 21, 2021
Contributor: Amita Jain

B2B marketers should improve their lead qualification process to capture high-quality leads that boost conversion.

Marketers often deliver a huge number of leads to their sales team to avoid missing out on high-quality prospects. But a high volume of undesirable contacts can force sales reps to spend time filtering out low-quality leads from marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and building relationships with prospects that don’t fit the ideal customer profile. 

In fact, only 44% of MQLs pass through sales as a potential good fit (full report available to Gartner clients). 

Generating high-quality leads requires marketing to work alongside sales to collectively identify what qualifies as a lead in the first place, and tuning their demand generation strategy with the most important buyer characteristics.

What are high-quality leads?

High-quality leads are ideal prospects that have a high propensity for conversion. The better the quality of a lead, the more likely that a buyer is well informed about your product or service and is ready to make a purchase.

A good way to classify leads as high quality is by attributing values to the characteristics or actions taken by them, such as job title, budget authority, interest in marketing content, and match to your ideal buyer persona.

Here are five ways B2B marketers can ensure their leads turn into high-potential prospects who understand the business problem, the possible solutions and the products you offer. 

1. Map your ideal buyer profile (lead characterization)

Who should you target? This is the first question you should ask in order to determine your ideal buyer. Recognizing your ideal buyer personas will take you a step closer to defining a high-quality lead for your business. 

Lay out the characteristics of your ideal customers by describing the most relevant attributes for your business, such as job title and decision-making authority, and implicit attributes that describe the desired online behavior. The former establishes the qualifying factors to assess the basic fit of your leads, and the latter sets up certain thresholds that a prospect must reach in the buying journey to qualify as a high-quality lead that's ready to become a paying customer. 

You can also build out your ideal buyer profiles from previous conversion data or check your newly defined attributes against past sales records to ensure you are not off the mark. 

Attributes to identify your ideal buyers:
 

Profile fit

  • Demographic: Information about an individual such as job level, experience and purchase authority
  • Firmographic: Information about the company such as revenue, location and existing customers
  • Technographic: Information about a company’s technological maturity, such as technologies used and decisional authority with their IT department

Engagement

  • Interaction with content: Information on a prospect’s online behavior such as site visits, frequency of visits, and engagement with sales reps (on social media or email)
  • Buyer activity: Information about how far the prospect is in the buying journey, indicated by downloading content closer to the path to purchase

2. Determine ideal content types and channels that convert

Next is to identify which types of content and marketing channels have a high correlation with your previously completed purchases. 

Organizations that prioritize content pieces that correlate with previous sales have a 12% higher sales acceptance rate (full report available for Gartner clients). In fact, organizations that don’t prioritize lead engagement by content type experience a 10% lower sales acceptance rate of MQLs. 

Content downloads alone aren’t enough to qualify a contact as a high-value lead. B2B marketers must identify high-performing content types and place them where their ideal buyers are likely to find them. 

Tips to use content for better conversion rates:
 

1. Create targeted content in clear, task-focused language. 

Resist the temptation to add broad content and instead break it down into smaller content pieces specific to buying tasks, such as requirement building or supplier selection.

2. Increase content touchpoints.

There are typically over 20 touches with a client before a prospect becomes a qualifying lead for sales (full content available for Gartner clients). 

3. Make content that challenges widely held beliefs.

Creating content on a disruptive idea that teaches buyers about their industry or business is most likely to attract attention. When a prospect engages with content that questions current practices and presents a solution, it indicates buyers’ openness to change.

Finally, find marketing channels that have the best chance of capturing high-quality leads. These are usually the websites your target buyers spend the most time on when completing buying tasks, from identifying a problem and researching the solutions to reading software reviews.

Learning which channels your buyers use and sourcing your leads from there is an easy way to increase lead quality. A software review site, for instance, is a better marketing channel than Facebook to engage with B2B software and SaaS buyers.

3. Tap into buyer intent data to improve lead quality (lead scoring)

Once you have answered the above questions, leverage buyer intent data to prioritize your leads and add more information to your ideal buyer, content and channel benchmarks. Intent data captures behavioral information of an individual or company such as the sites or pages they visit, reviews they read on third-party platforms or the content they spend time browsing.

By collecting intent data, marketers can target buyers when they are actively looking for your solutions and map if a lead has reached a point in the buying journey to qualify as a quality prospect.

Three ways to leverage intent data for generating quality leads:

  • Use intent data to create an effective account-based marketing (ABM) strategy and ensure the accounts you target are of high quality.
  • Leverage intent data to identify which information your prospects find most engaging and target your ideal customers with a personalized stream of resonating content.
  • Use buyer intent data to rank your leads by priority. Lead scoring determines how well a lead satisfies your target buyer persona by assigning measurable values to the desired attributes. 

B2B businesses can complement their first-party data sources (emails, website, social media) with proprietary third-party buyer intent data to target high-value, in-market buyers and convert them into high-quality leads.

4. Establish continuous collaboration between sales and marketing

Even with well-defined buyer characteristics and lead scoring strategies, B2B marketers can struggle with poor conversion rates if they aren’t aligned with sales. Over 60% of B2B sales reps are more likely to follow up on MQLs if the qualification criteria is agreed on in advance, according to Gartner (full report available to Gartner clients).

Effective lead generation begins with marketing and sales co-developing lead qualification strategies, straight from defining a high-quality lead to determining lead scoring strategies and making iterative improvements.

To enable collaboration between marketing and sales:

  • Solicit feedback from sales on lead quality. Also, take their suggestions on your ideal buyer personas and the attributes and characteristics you deem necessary. 
  • Agree on what a high-quality lead looks like. This process will also involve examining the causes behind rejections of marketing leads or nonconversion of MQLs.  
  • Review and update lead scoring criteria with sales teams based on evolving buyer behaviors, the intent data or lead quality feedback.

5. Measure the effectiveness of quality-based lead generation 

Increasing the quality of your leads means rejecting the objective of delivering as many leads as possible. Since the goal is to limit leads to just high-quality ones, with higher conversions, your metrics for measuring and reporting should also focus on that. 

Track these conversion metrics to measure success for quality lead generation. You can connect the data from sales and marketing in customer relationship management (CRM) software to measure conversions holistically.

  • Visitor to leads: Indicates the quality of visitors to your site, landing pages or other digital touchpoints by measuring the proportion of visitors who became qualified leads.
  • Leads to opportunities: Measures the number of inquiries that qualify to become a potentially good fit for sales (also known as sales-qualified leads or opportunities).
  • Time to conversions: This calculates the number of days it takes for an inquiry to turn into a sale. It measures the marketing effort and time it took to convert a prospect into a paying customer.

Curating a quality lead generation plan can take some time, during which there will be much trial and error. As you learn the ins and outs of defining high-quality leads for your business, categorize your marketing campaigns that have best resonated with your target audience and led to conversions.

You can classify these campaigns under different monikers based on ideal buyer profiles, high-performing content or best-converting marketing channels to refer to them in the future. Wherever your best customers came from, there are many more you can reach in the same way.

Amita Jain

Amita Jain covers B2B content creation and strategy to help businesses reach their marketing goals. She received her master’s degree from King’s College London, United Kingdom. Exploring the world of art and reading fiction are some of her usual happy distractions outside of work. Connect with Amita on LinkedIn.

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