In today’s crazily competitive world of digital marketing, it’s not enough to know about  search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing. Crafting inbound and outbound strategies is vital but conversion is king. It’s most important to learn how to nudge and nurture visitors to your site so they are pursuing the same goals you are: Get them to buy something! Marketing qualified leads (MQL) are a tipping point in the conversion wherein a contact or sales lead is ready to buy.

We use the word buy loosely here. Surely, making sales is important as that pays the rent. Conversely, it makes sense to look at these concepts metaphorically so we can apply them in different places and learn from different markets. Sometimes a conversion can have little to do with money; e.g., calling someone and getting them to sign up as a volunteer or inviting friends to a dinner party. If we succeed, we have converted some into volunteers and others into party guests. Furthermore, we now have two groups of marketing qualified leads: one may become members of the organization and the other may bite into the coq au vin.

With this in mind, we can see the need for a clear definition; something that can apply to all sorts of conversions…

Software and business giant IBM identifies marketing qualified leads this way:

Yep…an acronym! BANT – who could have guessed?

  • Budget – What is the prospect’s budget?
  • Authority – Does the prospect have decision-making authority; are they an influencer?
  • Need – What is the prospect’s business need?
  • Time frame – In what time frame will the prospect be implementing a solution?

But this is IBM. The men with the black ties and blue logo. How can this equate with volunteers and dinner parties or bedazzled t-shirts and trucker caps? For the two groups above, it’s like this: Both groups can probably afford to make the date. It costs no more than gas money and proper attire so budget is covered. If they are bringing family or friends, they may need more authority but a solo visit implies ample interest. For needs: In one case, they may need some volunteer time as college credit and the other may be hungry or missing France. They both may just need to be with like minded people. Defining time frame seems easy enough. Just ask..right?

Importantly, the indicators are all interconnected. Time is money, after all…and authority implies one need as greater than the others. That is the reason we need a yes for all the qualifying questions. We can see a no for any of the questions can break a deal so we can agree that four yeses are needed to convert a lead.

Great! So we know what an MQL is. Now, how do we make them?

Define a qualification process. IBM’s BANT may work fine but we all need to define our own rules. Every company and product has its own requirements and special needs. We should always be on the lookout for ineffective business practices and ready to modify them. The longer we stay with any recipe for success gives it a better chance to generate rhythm or predictability. However, in a rapidly changing world it pays to think on our feet.

Create high-quality content and targeted ads. Make sure we are delivering value and entertainment to the right people. This is an art-form and science unto itself. We could follow this field through the ancient markets into pre-history if there were time. We like marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab, Jab, Jab,…Right Hook! as a brief but thorough primer to this wacky, noisy, complicated game. Simply, it is all about reaching future customers before someone else does and providing engagement and an attractive product; i.e., getting them to like you. Thus, a contact becomes qualified through a nurturing process that mirrors their tastes or needs.

Answer questions before they’re asked. We do this a lot at List57. We find out what questions people are asking and incorporate the answers into our product descriptions and ad-copy. Why include a FAQ page or send someone off-site to a forum? Why not just place the information right where people are looking? At one time, it made sense to create traffic on a website by bouncing visitors around or making a heavily visited FAQ page which drove Google search stats. Now, it just gets in the way of conversion. Furthermore, making critical buying information available engenders trust. Make the path straight you will get a square deal.

Nurture, nurture, nurture…

Provide value to the customer. Vaynerchuck can’t say enough about this subject. It is so important to place your products and your company in a field of value. You can do this by being generous and with the beauty in your presentation. Make things easy on the eyes and ears then people will look and listen. Value can mean dollars too. It’s not just about discounts or free offers. Those may work fine but it could also be a chance to buy before a price increase or a simple description that makes a product more valuable. Be creative and be generous and your clients will thank you and reward you.

And the secret is…

Hard work? Yeah, something like that. There is no replacement for the above tips and tricks but we have a couple ways to circumvent them. Simply we can let others do the work for us. By nature, most of our opt-in lead lists are pre-qualified. The contacts have shown a certain amount of authority, need and time by filling out a form. But that’s a low grade lead compared to what we are talking about here.

As an example of truly qualified leads, we have surveyed leads and live transfers. Our surveyed leads are bizopps leads that have filled out a form indicating they have money, time and interest in being self-employed. That checks off IBM’s BANT boxes. The live transfers employ AI chatbots asking questions and nurturing prospects until they are handed off to skilled salespeople. They cull one out of 1000 from over 500,000 leads so quickly a 10 person call center is needed to handle the traffic.

So that’s the secret. It is still the same game and always will be. It takes careful effort to create contacts and bring them to fruition. The secret is to use the incredible power and interactivity of modern internet technology to do some of your legwork. Your salespeople and your bottom line will thank you.