For any start-up to survive it needs to be able to generate a continuous stream of sales leads. But more than a sharp strategy between marketing and sales, the “commercial machine” only works when there’s a constant flow of sales qualified leads to be converted into customers.
A key is to respond quickly to inbound inquiries to increase the rate of qualifying leads. You are 22 times more likely to enter a lead into the pipeline by calling them within the first 5 minutes after they leave an inquiry.
This article will reveal and discuss five of the best ways you can generate sales qualified leads for your business at a low cost. From lead-generation to SEO, inbound to outbound, how to steal a big audience – I have plenty of ways to help you generate these essential leads.
But before we dive into generating leads and help you skyrocket those sales numbers, let’s look at some definitions. I’ll give you the complete overview of the topic, and make you an expert by the time you’re finished reading this article.
Marketing qualified lead vs sales qualified lead generation
Before we continue, we need to define the differences between a common contact or sign-up, and a qualified lead.
Interacting with your website and published content, allows a lead to fill different forms, landing pages and sign-up requests. During this process, they’ll provide precious information that helps us determine if it’s a good sales opportunity. Conventionally, this evaluation is made by both marketing and sales teams:
- The marketing team analyses the lead’s browsing information, such as visited pages, what content is downloaded and read, opened emails, clicked links and general lead scoring according to your pre-determined requirements.
If the lead fits these criteria, it means it can be classified as a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and must be delivered to sales;
- The sales team (typically the sales development rep or SDR) receives the lead and analyses their business information to define if they fit with the pre-determined sales criteria. Criteria that makes up your ideal customer profile (ICP) is usually looked at.
If the lead gets accepted, the sales team will consider it an opportunity and make the approach. Now the lead has been upgraded to a ‘sales qualified lead’ (SQL), and the team’s objective is now to close the deal.
As you can read above, MQLs differ to SQLs. SQLs usually indicate an immediate or acknowledged interest in your company’s products or services. MQLs on the contrary show that the lead could fit into your overall sales leads, but neither the interest, nor the ICP is confirmed.
Many consider it a best practice for your SDRs to act on all SQLs within the first 24 hours of discovery. However, at Accordium we have discovered that acting within a five-minute period will give you the best results of conversion.
Some of the lead generation methods mentioned in this article will lead to sign-ups or MQLs. It is up to you to ensure that your sales teams qualify the leads and turn them into SQLs.
The temperature of sales leads
Across the sales floor, you will often hear your colleagues refer to leads as hot, warm or cold. The process of lead conversion was famously depicted in the 2000 sales film Boiler Room. Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribsi) acted as the SDR whose job was to qualify potentially interested people (MQLs) for the deal closers.
After qualifying the MQL, getting confirmed interest and thus turning it into an SQL – He shouted “reco!!” and the character Chris Varick (Vin Diesel) rushed over to close the deal.
That would be considered a hot lead. Let’s clarify what the individual definitions generally mean:
- Hot – The lead is ready to buy to fulfil an immediate pain. Available budget is confirmed and there’s nothing preventing either of you from closing the deal.
- Warm – The lead wishes to purchase and has possibly trialed your product or service. They may be actively looking at your competition to compare pricing and features. They may also be locked into another’s contract.
- Cold – May never heard of you or could be looking for information that defines them as a lead, but not ready to buy something now.
Here are my top five ways to get qualified leads without paying over the odds:
1. Industry Expert Interviews
If you’re part of an early stage start-up or a company looking to cement your brand, getting outside validation is paramount. I often see startups spending an absurd amount of time trying to get into TechCrunch or another major publication, and it’s simply not paying off.
Targeting industry experts for video or phone interviews is a much more effective solution to the same problem. Experts bring credibility and a built-in audience, and will most certainly waste no time in promoting your interview.
Think about it, wouldn’t you share an interview with yourself? Of course, you would. It adds credibility to your persona, and let’s face it – feeds your ego. The same can be said for others.
By making interviews with people who have large audiences, you essentially borrow their audience to build your brand’s credibility and fame.
2. Write & host guest blogs
Just like point number one, writing or hosting guest blogs is another very effective way of tapping in to someone else’s audience. It’s so important to do because it’s a proven method to achieve critical brand awareness in your target group – For free!
Being able to put yourself in your target audiences mind is a learned skill that requires time to perfect. For start-ups with few funds to pay their way to your consumer, you must rely on your tenacity.
Everyone wants exposure, remember that!
During Accordium’s early days, our COO & Co-founder Alexander Brix guest blogged for CPHFTW. In an article, he was discussing our personal journey and why we left Denmark the moment we received funding.
It ended up being one of their most read blog post, and gave us a tremendous boost. Why? A lot of our potential customers, partners and resellers are avid followers of that blog. We dumped ourselves right in the middle of our target audience – and the plan worked perfectly.
Other blogs and publications started reposting the article and our exposure accelerated from there.
- Research publications or blogs your audience would read – and solicit them for guest blogging.
- Identify companies who offer products or services adjacent to yours; get in touch with the leaders and propose guest blogging on either side – Everyone wants exposure!
- Offer your own audience in return (host their bloggers).
3. App Directories
Inbound marketing is about more than just advertising. In laments terms, it’s the totality of your company: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place.
This point is specifically dedicated to the Place (distribution). But placing your app on every available app directory or list, is not a complete strategy to generate sales leads. But why not ensure that your business is listed in every directory and recommendation engine or service?
Some of directories are free and some have specific criteria. Some cost money, some are big, some are small, others are useful to you and some might not be… Get to your own conclusion.
Here’s a few cautions to this method of promoting your business:
- You must get your marketing right or mass distribution of your business won’t help. It could in fact hurt by attracting the wrong audience.
- You must make these directories help you by ensuring your readiness, a good call to action, and the ability to exploit it on the back-end.
- Get to know the leaders of the directories and explore if there are methods to make your product stand-out from the rest.
- Getting “found” means nothing if you are unable to convert.
- This isn’t a replacement strategy in any way. Moreover, it’s a subset of one set of procedures of your total marketing plan.
Spend some time on researching your industry specific directories, and start placing your app in every single one of them. During this process, chances are you’ll also learn a lot more about your placement in the market.
4. Video Marketing
Video marketing has become one of the most popular digital strategies around. Over the past 4 years, we’ve seen a big push in video usage from pretty much all social media. Instagram started with stories and now IGTV, and joined Facebook in focusing more and more on live content.
Of course, we know that Google loves YouTube – They own them! YouTube has become the third largest search engine in the world. It has become much more than learning how to tie a tie or watching the latest Miley Cyrus music video.
Furthermore, consumers remember video about 50% better than text. People remember companies with product videos a lot better, and more accurately than the text equivalent. On top of that, 60% of people say they prefer video over text!
So, here’s an opportunity for you to create a lot of awesome sharable content that search engines love. It’ll make it easier for your customers to find you, but also help you stand out and win the attention of the consumer both with regards to your product, but also with all other marketing material.
- Do a video overview for every blog post
- Use relevant keywords in your videos
- Include link in description
- Make a product video – Even if it’s a screencast version
5. Be the bonus
As a newly established business, it can be hard to convince new visitors of your credibility. In fact, this can be one of the top reasons for your low conversion rates, or lack of users. But there’s a unique method to avoid this undesired pitfall.
Research products that are adjacent to yours and connect with the leaders of that business. Make sure they fit the overall picture of your ICP too! Whilst the product might be adjacent, if it is based in a completely different market or with a different target group, it is useless.
After connecting and building appropriate rapport by understanding them, their goals and their business model – You strike. Offer your product as a bonus incentive for their prospects to sign up. Deliver your product for free for a period of three to six months.
Assuming your product provides value, you can really ride the wave of the more established company in this case. The kind of company that already has built a sustainable sales lead generation machine.
Furthermore, if you manage to master this sort of partnership, you will not only be receiving leads or trials, but actual customers! Payment just comes a little further down the line.
These are my top five growth hacks for sales leads – Do you have any other great alternative methods?