In a time when searchers are often inundated with digital brand messaging, it can be hard to assess who is truly a ready and eager quality lead, and who casually stumbled onto your business website and will likely wash out of the sales process.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to quickly gauge which channels you are likely to find quality leads in, how to assess what makes a qualified lead, and how to nurture these quality leads all the way to the conversion stage. In this article, we spoke with some highly knowledgeable agency professionals who were willing to share their best tips and tricks to securing quality leads. Let’s see what they had to say!
What Is a Quality (or Qualified) Lead?
A quality lead, or qualified lead, is a potential customer or client that meets certain criteria that your business sets for all its prospective customers. Every business sets different criteria. These criteria are also sometimes referred to as a lead generation strategy.
What’s important to know now is that by setting these criteria and sticking to them for all potential clients, you can deduce very early on in the contracting process which prospects are most likely to convert and work with your business.
Some companies believe that all leads are good leads. However, this isn’t necessarily always the case. By creating an inbound marketing strategy that attracts specifically qualified leads, you won’t waste time and resources chasing the wrong individuals and businesses.
This can make some decision makers nervous — after all — doesn’t a smaller prospect pool mean less business? Not necessarily! We’ll talk about how you can leverage rich acquisition channels to gather the most qualified leads possible, next.
A quality lead is someone who understands what agencies are and do, and knows what they need, though we can walk them through some of that. Also, they should have a budget in mind coming through the door.
What Lead Acquisition Channels Are Most Effective for Agencies?
There are a few major acquisition channels that you should consider for your inbound marketing strategy, in order to capture the attention of the audiences you want to reach and do business with:
- Referrals + social media marketing — Word-of-mouth referrals might seem old school, but they continue to bring a lot of new business to many agencies with the help of valued clients. One way to leverage referrals is through social media marketing. According to one study, customers acquired through referrals have a 37% greater chance of retention than other channels. Using social media to spread brand awareness increases the likelihood that an existing customer will share your posts and capture the attention of their followers.
- Email marketing — Email marketing is perhaps the reigning champion of acquisition channels. It’s a tried and true method of reaching and maintaining connections with the people you want to reach. That said, if you aren’t already using SEO to optimize your website, you might alienate prospects by directing them via email to confusing, poorly targeted, and designed web properties. When done correctly, email marketing allows you to speak at length about how your agency solves client issues. It gives you page real estate to reel prospective clients and it gives them the opportunity to decide, quickly, if your agency is a good fit for them.
- Website optimization — Like with SEO, having an optimized website is foundational. If potential clients can navigate to important pages about your services, they are likely going to turn themselves away. Making your solutions clear and readily available to anyone browsing your site, is essential.
- SEO — Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is at the heart of any good inbound marketing strategy. The most authentic connections with prospects come when that potential client does a search (because they have a problem they are trying to solve) and they find your business. SEO elevates every acquisition channel and stretches your marketing efforts and budget so that you can reach a broader, yet highly targeted audience. Keyword targeting your content, optimizing your website, and writing for people and search engines, give you the best chance at catching the eyes of truly interested prospective clients.
- Conferences, speaking engagements, and warm leads — Sharing your brand at conferences where attendees actually pay to come increases the likelihood that qualified prospects will be open to talking with your agency, one-on-one. Another great way to get warm, eager leads is by listing your agency through an agency directory. This brings business owners and marketing specialists who are looking for solutions that your agency offers, right to your front door.
Referrals 100%. We've run ads ... and we've done email campaigns, but referrals and speaking at local events like WordCamp bring us WAY more business.
How Do Agencies Select and Nurture Qualified Leads?
The ultimate goal of setting criteria for qualified leads is to assess how ready and how eager a person is to commit to your business. Ideally, this selection should happen as soon as possible in the customer journey.
Many agencies start by doing paid advertising and keyword-targeting their content (through SEO and organic search) to a very specific audience. If this is done correctly, your pool of applicants should already be promising. From there, agencies often set up some parameters like only working with clients who:
- Have been in business for a certain number of years
- Net a certain amount of profit
- Have a specific budget or are willing to work on a retainer
- Have steady, engaged leadership
- Are open with their company history and provide certain details upfront
You can get this information by offering a pre-qualifying meeting on Zoom or Google Meet-Up, by having them submit a survey with specific information, by asking test questions, or by setting an in-person meeting. If you do this upfront, you filter out disqualified prospects early and lower your cost-of-acquisition.
When you nurture a lead, you supply them with just enough information at just the right time to get them to move along in the sales process. Some agencies have very quick nurturing processes. Others, however, have longer qualifying stages that a lead must go through in order to work with their agency.
A few ways you can nurture a qualified lead include:
- Email drip campaigns — Send out multiple informative, targeted emails that speak to your prospective clients’ pain points. Selecting the number of emails a client receives can and should be individualized to the client, or at the very least their industry.
- Offer a portfolio — if the client is looking to optimize their site or boost their marketing, offer a portfolio that they can access that showcases your agency’s skillset. Be sure to include industry-specific examples.
- Offer a knowledge hub — Keeping a knowledge base on your website of enticing information that only your prospective clients (and existing clients) can access, offers them a reason to come back again and again to your business. Knowledge bases can include surveys, white papers, reports, data, thought leadership on industry trends, and more.
What Should You Do with Unqualified Leads?
Sometimes, it becomes clear that a lead won’t work out in the long run. Maybe they aren’t a good fit altogether, or maybe they just aren’t ready to commit to working with your agency at this time but may be ready later. It’s important to be as candid with these prospects as possible. Not only will this help you lower your cost-per-acquisition, but you may also be able to gather information that will help you convert them at a later date.
Maybe a prospect has a tight budget this year, something you could learn from interviewing them or sending a survey at the first point of contact. It’s possible that next year they’ll have more budgetary discretion and be eager to work with you. This is a great example of why it’s important to be careful in selecting which unqualified prospects you write off completely, and those that you select for a long-term drip campaign.
If you need to completely disqualify a lead, you might be able to build in some networking by placing them with a more ideal agency. There’s always a chance that if you do this, you might receive some reciprocal referrals from the other agency at another time.
We explain why we are not a good fit and provide possible referral options to other providers.
Tips and Tricks to Getting More Qualified Leads
We asked some top agencies for their tips and tricks to gather more quality leads. Here’s what a few had to offer:
- “Agencies should experiment and find what works best for them to generate more leads and qualify them so that the client will be a good fit. There is no one solution that fits all agencies.” — Vineeth Vankara, Vice President — Strategic Accounts at ThoughtFolks Digital
- “Make it tough for them for the first contact. If they are not willing to complete a detailed intake form, then they won’t be willing to go the rest of the journey for the project.” — Ben Bradley, Director of Cosmik Carrot
- “The key to successful lead generation is connecting the audience who understands your services' long-term value with your service.” — Rich Stivala, Founder of worldwideRiches Web Design and SEO
- “... Being a local and regional subject matter expert on your focus areas definitely helps — and if you're not, become it.” — Kevin Kresge, Digital Marketing Director at Visual Impact Group
At Semrush, we love to connect with talented agencies through our Agency Partners Platform. Our Agency Partners platform allows you to list your business where eager marketing specialists or business owners are looking for marketing services based on their specific marketing services needs, budget, region, etc. These users are also registered (filtering out spam contacts from the start), they know what they want and are eager to get started, and partnering with Semrush creates a level of trust that makes closing a contract that much easier.