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The Executive’s Guide to Effective Lead Nurturing Programs


Let’s start with some scary stats. According to SiriusDecisions 98% of MQLs never result in closed business. Additionally, 54% of sales reps won’t make quota. All this despite record investments in marketing automation and sales enablement tools.

Now consider that the top priority among B2B marketers is increasing the number of contacts/leads generated (Source, State of Inbound 2015). Of course, a close second priority is converting contacts/leads into customers. Over the last five years, I’ve seen the focus on lead generation increase significantly among small and mid-market businesses (SMEs). As recently as 2013, I would regularly engage executives who had reached out to me to discuss a sales problem in an effort to teach them that the cause of their sales problem was how they were (or more accurately weren’t) generating leads. Today I get to do much less teaching as more and more executives have increased their focus on lead generation.

While the focus on lead generation is great, there’s a huge difference between generating leads and creating bona fide sales ready leads that predictably turn into profitable customers. Simply look at the search difference between “lead generation” and “lead nurturing” and you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. 

So, while lead generation is certainly important, investing in generating more leads without building an effective lead management process is simply, well, foolish.

What Is Lead Nurturing & Why Is It So Important

Now let’s look at some exciting stats:

I could go on.

Lead nurturing is the purposeful process of engaging a defined target group by providing relevant information at each stage of the buyer’s journey, positioning your company as the best (and safest) choice to enable them to achieve their objectives.

An effective nurturing process actively moves the prospects you’ve created through your marketing and lead generation efforts, through a sales development process to the point where they become paying customers. Lead nurturing utilizes both marketing and sales tactics to increase the predictability and velocity of revenue growth.


It should be noted that nurturing is far more involved than sending blast emails or monthly (or weekly) newsletters. Nurturing is more purposeful, following a clearly delineated process.

  • Educate: In the beginning, a lead nurturing process focuses on educating customers and delivering your commercial teaching point-of-view.
  • Inform: Teach your prospects how to make better decisions and advance their initiatives.
  • Engage: By sharing relevant content, gain the engagement of your prospect and begin the conversation.
  • Convert: Be clear about how your prospects can engage with you and how to start.

Types of Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. There are many types of nurturing programs geared to fit your prospects’ situations and your objectives. We’ve identified three types of programs that apply to the vast majority of situations.

  1. Engagement programs work to keep your leads engaged with your business by offering credible, straight-forward and uncomplicated content that is relevant to them and keeps their interest.
  2. Education programs challenge your leads to consider the benefits of your products or services and provide unique insights to how they can do their job better and more effectively.
  3. Active funnel programs are focused on leads that have actively entered their buyer’s journey. These campaigns are where the rubber meets the road…where marketing and sales must work in complete alignment to bring your work to the final goal – a paying customer.

Each of these programs have various types of campaigns that should be developed to meet the various objectives you have and to align with the context of your prospects.

How to Create Effective Campaigns

Here is the step-by-step process we use when creating lead nurturing programs for our clients:

Define buyer personas.

Understanding who it is you’re trying to reach provides a tremendous marketing and sales advantage. Creating buyer personas takes time, but once complete they focus and leverage your efforts. You simply cannot have consistently effective nurturing programs without clearly defined personas.

Progressive profiling.

The ability to gather information about the people visiting your website and downloading your content has never been easier. Through progressive profiling, your business is able to gather the right information about your leads to further focus your message and increase qualified conversation rates.

Create relevant content.

According to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 70% of companies are producing more content than they were a year ago. Creating content isn’t enough. You must create relevant content. Here are some tips to make that a reality.

  • Know your audience
  • Consider the buyer’s journey
  • Set a conversational tone
  • Keep it simple
  • Personalize your content

Decide what programs to implement.

As you decide, consider these questions.

  • Which lead nurturing campaign(s) best fit your business needs?
  • Do you have the “people” capabilities to effectively execute the campaign?
  • What is still needed to make the campaign successful?
  • Do you have the appropriate systems in place to support the chosen campaign(s)?

Establish clear goals.

Before you begin any lead nurturing campaign you need to clearly define goals so you know what is considered “success”. Without clear objectives of what you are trying to accomplish with your lead nurturing campaigns you will never know if you’re seeing success are not. Goals can be as simple as “X% open rate and X% click-through-rate” or “X% conversion”. These are completely up to you but need to be established up front.

Test, measure and adjust.

Never stop testing and learning what resonates best with your buyer persona. Use every touch point as an opportunity to A/B test, whether it be emails or landing pages, or something else entirely. You want to test items such as image or headline, positioning of the form on the page, or email subject line. By doing so you can see what brings you closer to your established goals.

Bringing it all Together

Effective lead nurturing can have a lasting and profound effect of your business’ success. The ability to create and manage a successful program requires dedicated people, a powerful and strategic approach, solid technology and a good process that aligns actions from the beginning to the end.

While the effort is certainly significant, the reward is well worth it.

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6 Essential Nurturing Workflows For Every B2B Company

ThinkstockPhotos-483426432-655592-edited.jpgNot everyone is ready to buy your product or service the first time they come to your site and that’s okay. With the right amount of time and information they will warm up to your brand, assuming they’re the right persona for your product or service, of course.

Nurturing campaigns are essential for keeping these people who visit your site but aren’t ready to immediately buy engaged with your brand. Essentially these campaigns are a series of emails aimed at keeping you top of mind while building trust and moving your lead further along in the buyer’s journey.

There are various types of nurturing workflows based on who you are targeting and the length of each work flow (both in terms of numbers of emails and total days in between sends). Regardless of who you are targeting or the length of your workflow, there are four basic goals you want to accomplish with each nurturing campaign:

  • Create brand awareness and establish a sense of trust through helpful content.
  • Address one of their pain points and offer content that may help them solve this problem either through blog posts or an ungated piece of content.
  • Offer a longer, gated piece of content, like an ebook or a guide, that relates specifically to you and your brand
  • Get the lead to contact you to inquire more about your services/product or make the purchase online.

For companies in the B2B space, there 6 workflows that are essential for them to be using.

1) Subscriber Workflows

A subscriber workflow is when recent subscribers to your blog/newsletter recieve an emails which provides additional information about your brand or shares recent updates with them. This type of workflow is important because it makes subscribers feel welcomed to your brand, defines what to expect from you, and may even contain a piece of content that converts them to a lead.

This workflow is typically just one email, the ‘welcome email’ which should include a number of different components. First and foremost, it should thank subscribers for their interest and show them that they’re valued. It should also let them know what to expect from your company such as how many times will you email them? Will they be emailed every time your company publishes a new blog, or will it be in a weekly or monthly roundup? Let them know so they can update their preferences if they’d like.

Including a relevant CTA is useful- just make sure it’s subtle and not salesy. You already got them to subscribe to your blog where they’ll see plenty of your content; you don’t want to them to feel like the email is too promotional.  

2) Lead Nurturing Workflows

A lead nurturing workflow functions with the end goal of converting leads into marketing qualified leads (or MQLs), which in turn brings them further down the sales funnel, and one step closer to becoming a customer. It’s important to have this be an automated email string because people want to know more about you and build trust before making a decision to purchase. You can set this workflow up to look something like the following once a website visitor becomes a lead:

  • Email 1, TOFU Offer: Delay 3 days. Promote an offer that relates to the one that they became a lead from. Maybe they downloaded an infographic on Growth-Driven Design, so you would then want to send them another TOFU offer, such as a blog post. This should be a more high-level offer for someone just at the beginning stages of the buyer’s journey.
  • Email 2, MOFU Offer: Delay 3 days. You should promote an, such as an ebook or case study, related to what they originally downloaded. This offer can get more specific as to the products and services you offer.
  • Email 3, BOFU Offer: Delay 3 days. The last email to the workflow would be a BOFU offer such as a free Growth-Driven Design Consultation, or something that gets them talking to sales.

This simple workflow will help leads move naturally through the sales cycle without looking to salesy or pushy on your end and leading to the dreaded “unsubscribe”.

3) Hot Leads Workflows

A ‘hot lead’ is someone who is frequently visiting your website, opening your emails and engaging with you on social media which indicates that you’ve clearly got their interest. Hold onto that interset by keeping them engaged with your company. 

A workflow for someone who is actively viewing and sharing your content could be:

  • Email 1: BOFU offer like a case study. This is a great offer to send someone who is almost-ready to make a sale and should be related to the topics they’ve been viewing most on your site
  • Email 2: Offer your lead a free service, such as a consultation, demo or review for what they need help with.
  • Email 3: If they took advantage of the free service, the next and final email should aim to get the lead on a call with your sales team.

4) Cold Leads Workflows

So, maybe your lead fell asleep on you… wake them up with a workflow! Maybe earlier in the process they weren’t in the condition to buy, but things have changed and now they’re ready but you haven’t followed up with them in a while.

Creating a workflow to remind them you’re still there and on their side is a great way to engage them again. To respark their interest you can send them some company updates or special offers, as listed below.

  • Option 1: What’s new with your business? Is there an exclusive offer you can send them that’ll get them excited about your brand? 
  • Option 2: Email them a survey. What kind of experience did they have with your company the last time they interacted?
  • Option 3: We’re thinking abot you.. are you thinking about us? You can get fun with this email. Talk to your leads like they’re people- believe me, they’ll respond better to this. Tell them about a product/service they may be interested in based off of their prior page views and downloads.

5) Customer Workflows

They’ve become a customer, but you’re not done with them yet! You want to encourage them to continue to interact with your brand. It’s an important workflow to use because it keeps customers thinking about your brand in hopes that they become repeat customers and evangelists. A simple customer workflow could resemble the following:

  • Email 1: Delay one day after becoming customer. The first email in the workflow should thank customers for making their purchase. Be sure to include company news to keep readers in the loop about what’s going on. Invite them to add your company on social media. This will also encourage engagement.
  • Email 2: Delay three weeks. In this email, you can ask your customer how their product/service they purchased from you is going. This makes sure you’re delighting them and keeping customers happy. If they aren’t happy, this allows you to fix it and make it right. Your customers will really feel taken care of if you include an email or phone number they can send questions or concerns to.
  • Email 3: Delay 2-3 months. Use this as an opportunity to promote making an upgrade or another purchase. You can push this through promo specials and discounts.

6) Industry/specific Topics Workflows

If you know what industry one of your prospects is from- that’s a golden piece of information. By knowing this, you can send them content specifically for them. By sending the right content to the right people, you’re more likely to convert. Check out where this lead came from. Was it for an offer specific to a certain industry? What kind of tradeshow did you meet them at? Answer these questions to segment them for this workflow.

After discovering what industry a prospect is in, send them workflows in this progression:

  • Email 1: Send them relevant blogs.
  • Email 2: White papers, videos, checklists, guides, etc.
  • Email 3: Webinars, case studies, ebooks, how-to videos, etc.
  • Email 4: Demo, assessments, consultation, reviews, etc.

By basing these emails off of industry or specific topics of interest, you will provide your leads with valuable and relevant information.

The Key Takeaway

You know they’re interested in you; now it’s time to capitalize on it. By sending your contacts workflows based on their buyer persona and life cycle stage, you’ll decrease your sales cycle by 23% according to Market2Lead. That’s right– 23%! So start segmenting your contacts into lists and target them with those workflows!

Want to learn from BluLeadz? Download their guide on Email Marketing.

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4 Strategies to Help Maintain Lead Quality in Your Database


When you first implemented inbound marketing for your business, you knew that you were building a system that utilized high quality content to help generate high quality leads from your website. Flashes of the film Field of Dreams probably kept running through your head as you optimized your website for conversions and started pumping out blogs and offers at a regular basis.

If you build it, they will come.

And boy did they! Inbound marketing has proven time and time again to be an extremely successful philosophy that can help generate leads for businesses through online sources. Sadly, though, few people will tell you that not all of those leads are quality.

Alongside your actual business prospects who will fill out forms on your website are vendors looking to sell you something, competitors looking to read your content and foreign marketers just looking to read what you have to offer, among others. None of these people will ever become customers yet they will take up as much, if not more space in your database doing absolutely nothing for you, and that might be more of a problem than you think.

The Cost of Bad Leads

Depending on what type of marketing database, sales CRM or email marketing tools you’re using, you could be paying a premium to house and market to these contacts. Database limits and cost-per-send rates aren’t to be taken lightly, as they can lead to a business throwing away thousands of dollars a year.

Outside of cost, a database filled with suspect leads can also skew marketing metrics and negatively affect sales follow up to actual qualified leads. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 4 different tricks I continue to use in my campaigns to help maintain a clean database filled with only qualified leads.

1) Have Your Forms be the First Line of Defense

The first and probably best way to ensure a clean database is to establish rules and triggers connected to your forms to help you either keep low quality leads out altogether or sort them after the fact. Email form field rules and additional form fields asking for qualifying information are some great options.

Email Form Fields

Often times in B2B campaigns, you can tell if a lead is legitimate or not based on what kind of email address they provide. Competitors may use their personal email addresses to mask their true identity while vendors and others might use blacklisted addresses linked heavily with spam. If you face this regularly, block them from submitting your forms by comparing their email domains against a list of free, spammy email providers alongside your own list of providers. Not only will this help collect relevant email addresses from qualified leads for your sales team but it will also keep out the unqualified people who may be unwilling or unable to provide their real email addresses.

Database Lead Quality Management - Email Form Fields

Additional Form Fields

Not all forms can be set up to automatically determine if a lead is qualified and has the right intentions on the same page and that’s ok. People are smart and will often times do whatever it takes to submit a form on your website for one reason or another.

When it comes to dealing with these people, don’t fight them too hard with multiple safeguards like CAPTCHA fields (not always a bad idea though) and other filtering mechanisms, but instead looks to collect seemingly generic information that only you know to be a qualifier or disqualifier for your business.

Items such as geographic information, company size and industry can help you quickly understand if the person submitting the form is qualified as a potential sales prospect quickly based on where and who your company is looking to work with.

Database Lead Quality Management - Additional Form Fields

2) Corral the Ones That Slip Through

As I alluded to above, people are smart and are sooner or later going to successfully submit a form on your website to read your content and that’s ok. You haven’t lost just because someone was able to provide a real email and select the right form field.

In fact, they have played straight into your hands! Now that you’ve collected their information and have stored it (temporarily) in your database, it will be easy to quickly review if they are or are not meant to take up your precious storage space both using automated and manual techniques.

List Creation

When it comes to keeping a clean database, establishing smart lists to uncover and track unqualified leads in your database is key. Based on who your business is targeting and where you are looking to do business, there are a number of simple rules you can establish to quickly pull in a list of potentially unqualified leads currently in your database.

Database Lead Quality Management - Smart List Creaiton

If you are an American business looking to only work within the states, establishing a list that tracks any and all leads with known IP addresses outside the US can quickly show you foreign contacts who you will never do business with.

If you collected qualifying information in your forms, you can create lists to track any answers that disqualify a lead as well. Once you’ve established a list or lists that track all of these disqualifying factors, you can easily clean your database with a simple click (after reviewing the list thoroughly, of course).

Manual Trimming

While smart lists will help you quickly wrangle and delete any contacts with measurable values, there are others still that may require more of a manual process when it comes to keeping a clean database. Form submissions with names (Test Test) and phone numbers (123456789) are solid indicators that a lead in unqualified and not work the space to house their obviously fake information.

While you may be able to set up rules to catch some of this, there are too many different ways that people can submit false information to effectively automate the review process so instead, rely on your experience and eye for these submissions as they come into your database. Set yourself up to receive email notifications once a form is submitted and spend time daily or weekly reviewing them to see if any are clearly fake. From there, you can manually delete them from your database without much effort.

3) Monitor Engagement

While it can be very easy to tell the difference between a potential business opportunity and a vendor or competitor, it can be much more difficult to tell whether or not a seemingly qualified lead is actively engaged with your content in a positive manner. Whether through engagement with your emails or through specific, negative actions on your website, there are signs that can be monitored to tell if leads are truly qualified.

Email Marketing Review

While marketers always crave engagement with their emails, not all actions are always a good thing. Contacts looking to unsubscribe from your lists still must open and click through the original email, so keeping an eye on what links are being clicked on a regular basis is always a good idea. Identify those that are unsubscribing from your communications, placing your emails in their junk folders, or are having your emails bounce on a regular basis. This information can be used to establish a list of people no longer engaging with your content.

After reviewing this list (potentially with your sales team), delete those who you believe are no longer qualified to be in your database before then establishing a plan of attack to legally target those who your sales team still believes to be opportunities.

Database Lead Quality Management - Email Churn Review

Negative Website Activities

While normally connected with an unqualified or fake submission, there are some cases where a seemingly qualified lead can perform specific actions on your website that may raise some red flags. Multiple conversions on any and all offers on your website, while not always a bad thing, can often point to a contact trying to collect anything and everything you’ve written for less than noble purposes.

Tracking people who convert on multiple forms via a smart list or keeping an eye on any large amounts of conversions at one time via notification emails should allow you to see when someone is going on a “download spree” and give you the opportunity to remove them from your system once they’ve stopped.

4) Stay Connected with Your Sales Team’s Funnel

Even truly qualified leads will need to leave your marketing database at one point or another. Either they go through the entire sales process and become a customer (and are added to the CRM), speak with your sales team but decide to go elsewhere (and are then sent to the CRM for future contact) or they “go dark.”

For those who do go dark, it can be tough to know where to put them within your marketing database and sales CRM. On one hand, your sales team can’t be wasting their time trying to continually contact people who won’t respond, but on the other hand you can’t necessarily market to these people in the same way you would a new prospect.

When faced with this dilemma, work with your sales team to create a custom nurturing campaign that can take these “recycled” leads who have gone dark and slowly send them customized content to bring them back into the sales cycle. If successful, you can bring back old prospects who may have just needed more time. If unsuccessful, you have a list of people who have shown to be disengaged and not worth keeping as a contact.

Now of course, this strategy can differ depending on your sales team’s philosophy on when to give up on leads, but it still allows you to at least start the conversation around how long is too long for a disengaged lead to stay in a full database.

Database Lead Quality Management - Recycle Bin

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a mature inbound campaign or just implementing your first blog post and offer, a clean and consistently scrubbed database is paramount to the overall success of a campaign when it comes to providing ROI. The benefits of keeping that database clean go far beyond keeping your superior sane– they can help your campaign save money on software and storage while improving overall lead to customer conversion rates.

While not the easiest (or sexiest) job within digital marketing, if you use any or all of the four steps listed above, your “cleaning time” can be significantly shortened and made smarter. That’s a movement that you, your sales team and your company can get behind.

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It’s Not You, It’s Them: 7 Signs Your Lead Is a Terrible Fit

There’s a really big difference between passing off leads to your sales team, and passing off qualified leads to your sales team. 

While a mixed bag of leads will often leave them tied up on calls that won’t translate to much for the business, a list of qualified leads will set them on a path that might actually result in a sale. 

What’s the best way to separate the good from the bad? Start by defining what a quality lead means to your business. This is a definition that should be agreed upon by both marketing and sales, and it will probably require a little trial and error. 

In fact, you may want to start with what an unqualified lead looks like for your business and use that as a basis for the people you’re ultimately looking to bring in. To help you get started, check out this list of red flags that signal your lead isn’t a great fit.

7 Signs Your Lead Is a Terrible Fit

1) They don’t have the budget.

If a lead simply doesn’t have the budget for your product or service, there’s really not much you can do to save the situation. Trouble is, determine a lead’s financial standing before you pass them on to your sales team is sort of a double-edged sword. If you ask too soon, you run the risk of scaring them away. However, if you don’t ask at all, your sales team might end up wasting time trying to pry this information from them.

What’s a marketer to do?

We recommend sitting down with your sales team to discuss the importance of this qualifying criteria. Depending on your business, you may find that it’s entirely okay to wait until the lead gets on the phone with a sales rep before budget becomes a factor. If not, it’s important that you’re extremely careful in your information collection approach. 

Rather than blatantly asking for budget insight on the first form a visitor fills out, save this question for a bottom-of-the-funnel form. This will help ensure that your lead has had a chance to engage with some of your content and is beginning to establish a sense of trust. If and when you do include this field on a form, consider using a drop-down of choices that provide a range rather than an exact amount. This positioning is less invasive and aims to avoid pigeonholing a lead based on financials when there could be an opportunity for your sales rep to negotiate.

2) They don’t have the power to make decisions.

What’s their job title? While a new hire at company XYZ may have been interested in that ebook your business published last month, that doesn’t mean they’re in a position to call up budget and actually purchase your product or service. Even their boss’ boss might not have the authority to call the shots. Then what?

To help set your sales reps on the right path, you want to connect them with actual decision makers like senior executives or someone who works directly with the company’s c-suite. If you find that you’re having a hard time attracting these types of people, you may want to reevaluate your marketing strategy to better align with their wants and needs as content consumers. Maybe you try creating more snackable content that lends itself to their relentless schedules, or refocus your distribution efforts to focus on more professional platforms like LinkedIn.  

3) They don’t have a need for your product or service.

Do you have a rough concept of what this lead is looking to accomplish? Why are they seeking your solution in the first place? 

There are a number of things that could signal that a lead doesn’t have a need for your product or service. Maybe they’ve expressed that they aren’t experiencing the challenges in which your product or service solves for. Or perhaps they’ve noted that they are already using a vendor that offers what you do and don’t have intentions of switching. Probably not worth your time, right?

At HubSpot, we use our top-of-the-funnel landing page form as an opportunity to get to know our visitors better. This includes asking them about their biggest marketing or sales challenge. While this isn’t a required form field, it does present our visitors with a chance to explain what they’re currently struggling with to give us a better sense of if and how we can help.

4) Their company is too big / too small for your solution.

For many businesses, company size can make or break the quality of a lead. Maybe your solution is designed for SMBs, yet you seem to be attracting a lot of enterprise leads. While enterprise leads often have more budget to allocate, you simply can’t sell what you can’t support, right?

To simplify the way you size up your leads, ask how big they are upfront. This is an easy — and often expected — question to ask on a form. In doing so, it’ll be much easier to distinguish workable leads from ones that your solution can’t do much for.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you need to throw these leads away and never look back. If you have plans to expand your product or service to meet the needs of all different sized businesses, you can revisit this list when you’re ready. 

5) They’re located outside of your selling territory. 

The beautiful thing about the internet is that it makes it easy for people all over the world to come across our business’ websites. It’s likely that you’ll have leads coming in from far and wide. While it’s exciting to see your reach growing, not all locations are going to be a fit for your company. 

Depending on what you’re selling, you might have some geographic restrictions that prevent you from doing business with people or businesses in certain territories. Passing those outliers off to your sales reps won’t do them much good, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for where your leads are coming from. 

If your business is interested in global leads, keep in mind that you can move them closer to a sale by creating tailored experiences for different locations. If you’re a HubSpot customer, Smart Content will enable you to alter the content displayed on any given page based on the person’s location. The best part? They don’t even have to be a lead yet for it work.

6) They’re not engaging with your content. 

In a perfect world, leads would open every single lead nurturing email that came their way. They’d be flocking to our last blog articles and offers, waiting on any and every opportunity to tweet a quote. 

While it’s our job as marketers to leverage content to move leads further down the funnel, some efforts are bound to be more receptive than others. Your leads’ engagement — or lack thereof — often serves as a strong indicator of whether or not they’re going to be a good fit for your product or service. 

In other words, if you find that your emails are going unopened and your links aren’t getting clicked, it’s likely that they aren’t ready to take next steps. But if they continue to pick up what you’re putting down, they’ll probably be more willing to get on the phone.

Our advice? Prioritize the most engaged leads first, and save the unresponsive ones for a reengagement campaign in the future. 

7) They used fake contact information. 

Did your lead listed their number as 555-5555? Do they really expect you to believe the best email address to reach them at is 

Let’s face it … they’re just not that into you. 

When a visitor uses fake contact information to covert into a lead, it signals that they aren’t really interested in connecting with a member of your team. This isn’t to say they aren’t ever going to be interested, but false information isn’t going to get you very far in the here and now, right? 

When (and if) they are ready, they’ll give up the real stuff. For now, let misinformation serve as a red flag for leads who simply aren’t a good fit. 

How to Deliver Higher Quality Leads to Sales

While having a clear sense of who you do and don’t want to work with is important for both marketing and sales departments to understand, manually sorting through leads can be extremely challenging. 

You might feel like you and your sales team are on the same page, but when it comes down to making the final call, it’s easy for conflicting interpretations to muddy up the process. 

So how do you make this process scalable as your company grows? Lead scoring

This technique leverages a strategic scoring system that forces you to “grade” your leads based on specific properties and behaviors in an effort to surface the most qualified ones.

However, if you want to take things a step further, you may want to consider predictive lead scoring. Using an algorithm to predict who in your database is qualified or not qualified, this approach eliminates the need to identify what properties you should be prioritizing or how you should be weighing them. While both solutions make it easier to weed out leads who don’t make sense for your business, predictive lead scoring aims to ensure accuracy while requiring less heavy lifting.

Want to know more about how it works? Check out this article from my colleague Rachel Sprung for more on the difference between traditional and predictive lead scoring, as well as how to determine whether or not it’s a good fit for your business. 

How does your business qualify (and unqualify) leads? Let us know more about your process in the comments section below.

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13 Email Workflows You Should Be Using in Your Marketing Automation


Are your contacts going with the flow, or are they just sitting dormant in your marketing database? If you don’t have any automated email workflows set up, your answer is probably the latter — which means you’re missing out on some major opportunities to nurture and engage your existing contacts.

Did you know that B2B marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales pipeline contribution by an average of 10% according to a report by Forrester? But wait … there’s more.

Lead nurturing campaigns aren’t the only type of email marketing automation you can use to get more out of your contacts database. Think about the contacts who are already your customers. Email automation can not only help you convert leads into customers, but it can also help you delight your existing customers and encourage activity like greater product adoption, upsells, evangelism, and additional purchases. 

If you want to get more out of your contacts database, this post will give you some ideas for automated email workflows you can set up to engage and activate all different types of contacts in your database.

To learn more about how to use automated email workflows, download our free guide here.

Setting Up Email Marketing Automation Workflows

If you hadn’t already guessed, email workflows need to be set up using marketing automation software. Different software providers will have different features and functionality, but the concept of marketing automation is pretty universal. 

If you’re using HubSpot’s Workflows App, for example, you can create personalized, automated email workflows that can get triggered in a number of different ways — when a contact gets added to a list, submits a form on your website, clicks a link in an email, views a page on your blog, clicks on one of your AdWords ads, or becomes a marketing qualified lead. 

You can also set up email workflows based on any information you have about the contacts in your marketing database, such a page views, email or social media clicks, content downloads, contact properties, or any combination of these and more. That’s some pretty powerful stuff! 

And that’s just the beginning of what you can do with workflows. Workflows can also enable you to automate other actions besides email, such as setting or clearing a contact property value, updating a contact’s lifecycle stage, adding/removing a contact from a list, and other administrative tasks that allow for more targeted, effective marketing to your prospects and customers. But we’ll save all that for another post. 😉

Now let’s walk through some examples of automated email workflows you can set up to start getting more out of your contacts database and marketing automation tools.

13 Examples of Email Marketing Automation Workflows You Should Try

1) Topic Workflows

Main Triggers: Page Views or Content Offer Downloads

Create a workflow for each of the industry-related topics you create content about. So if, hypothetically, you’re a unicorn breeder whose main content topics include unicorn diets, unicorn gear, and unicorn boarding, you could bucket your content marketing offers (e.g. ebooks, webinars, kits, etc.) and blog posts by these topics, create an email workflow for each topic, and trigger the appropriate workflow when one of your contacts views a page or downloads an offer centered around that topic.

So if a contact downloaded your ebook called 10 Tips for a Balanced Unicorn Diet, your “unicorn diet” workflow would be triggered, sending that contact other helpful content, like blog posts about unicorn dietary tips.

2) Blog Subscriber Welcome Workflow 

Main Trigger: Subscription to Your Blog

Give your brand new blog subscribers a nice, warm welcome with a blog welcome email. You can use this email to thank contacts for subscribing, remind them what they’ll get out of reading your blog, review their subscription settings (and allow them to make adjustments), and promote your blog’s best-performing articles or other offers.

Get tips for creating a successful blog welcome email here, and learn more about optimizing welcome emails here.

3) New Customer Welcome/Training Workflow

Main Trigger: Lifecycle Stage

While we’re on the subject of warm welcomes, consider setting up a series of welcome emails when a contact converts into a paying customer, which you can trigger when a contact’s lifecycle stage gets updated to “customer.”

Not only is this a great way to kick off your new customer relationship on a positive note, but it can also keep your customers engaged after they buy. And if your product or service requires a little training on your customers’ part, use this workflow as an opportunity to introduce helpful training materials on an incremental basis.

4) Engaged Contact/Evangelist Workflow

Main Triggers: Visits, Clicks, or Form Submissions

Create a dynamic list (we call these Smart Lists in HubSpot’s Marketing Platform) that automatically updates to include contacts who are really engaged with you. To create this list, use trigger criteria such as a high threshold of visits to your website, clicks on your emails or social media posts, or form submissions. Then create an email workflow to leverage this list as a way to encourage evangelism of your top content in social media.

Because these contacts are highly engaged with you already, they’re more apt to share your top content. You can also consider adding list criteria to pull in contacts with a certain number of Twitter followers so you can leverage the power of those social media influencers in your database. 

5) Lead Nurturing Workflow

Main Trigger: Multiple Top-of-the-Funnel Conversion Events 

If a contact has downloaded several of your top-of-the-funnel marketing offers like ebooks and webinars, it might be a good sign they’re ready for a little bit more. Set up workflows that help to advance these contacts further down the funnel.

If the contact is a lead, try sending them emails containing more middle-of-the-funnel content that might upgrade them to a marketing qualified lead (MQL) or an opportunity in your sales process. This workflow could include content and web pages you’ve identified from an attribution report analysis as influential in converting leads into customers — perhaps content like customer success stories/case studies, free trial offers, or product demos. 

(Bonus: If you’re using HubSpot’s Workflows, you could set up a condition that automatically upgrades these leads to a new lifecycle stage as a result!)

6) Internal Sales Rep Notification Workflow

Main Triggers: Bottom-of-the-Funnel Page Views/Conversion Events

On any given website, there are certain page visits and conversion events that indicate product interest more so than others. First, identify these pages and conversion events using an attribution reporting tool like HubSpot’s. You’ll notice that, more often than not, the pages you unearth will be your pricing page, your product pages, etc. — pages contacts view when they’re truly evaluating your products or services.

Use workflows here to trigger an internal email notification to your sales rep informing them of these high-value activities. Using personalization, give the rep all the information they need about the lead in question, including relevant mid- and bottom-of-the-funnel content that they can send to the lead in their outreach email. This allows you to connect sales reps with the best possible leads at the right time.

7) Re-Engagement Workflow

Main Trigger: Inactive Contacts

Reawaken inactive contacts with a re-engagement workflow, enrolling contacts once they’ve met certain list criteria. For example, you could set conditions such as the length of time since their last form submission, website visit, or email click, triggering the email when it’s been a while since a contact last engaged with you.

In your workflow, try sending them an exclusive offer or coupon to get them excited about your company again. For more tips about launching an effective email re-engagement campaign, check out this post.

8) Event Workflow

Main Trigger: Registration or Attendance

Hosting a live, in-person event? Or maybe an online event, like a webinar? Use email workflows to automate your communication to event registrants and attendees before, during, and after the event.

For example, create a workflow that delivers important information registrants should know leading up to the event, such as hotel accommodations and agenda information for live events, or webinar log-in information for online events. When the event ends, set up a workflow that gives attendees online access to session slides and continues to nurture them with additional content or promotion for future events. 

9) Abandoned Shopping Cart Workflow

Main Trigger: Shopping Cart Abandonment

If you’re an ecommerce business, you’ll likely benefit from an abandoned shopping cart workflow. The concept here is simple: When someone adds an item to their online shopping cart but leaves your site without completing the purchase, you can trigger an email workflow that reminds them of their forgotten purchase and motivates them to complete the transaction by offering a special discount code or some other incentive to buy.

10) Upsell Workflow

Main Trigger: Past Purchases

Communication with your customers shouldn’t stop after they make a purchase. This is especially true if you sell a variety of different products and/or services. Use workflows as an opportunity to upgrade or upsell your existing customers, or sell them complementary products and services depending on what they’ve already purchased.

Create dynamically updating lists of contacts who purchase a certain productor combination of products — and create workflows aimed at recommending other products/services or encouraging upsells or add-ons.

11) Customer Happiness Workflow

Main Trigger: High or Low NPS Scores

If you administer regular Net Promoter surveys of your customer base, you can use customers’ Net Promoter Scores as a property to trigger workflows.

Simply determine what your ideal customer happiness score is, and use that as the threshold for your dynamic list of happy customers. Then trigger a workflow for customers with “happy” scores and reward them with exclusive content, offers, or discounts.

Trigger a different workflow for your “unhappy” customers that includes content/offers aimed at helping to improve their happiness. We’ll give you a few bonus points if you segment those unhappy customers by the reasons they’re unhappy, and send them even more targeted workflows aimed at addressing the issues that are making them so grumpy.

12) Customer Success/Engagement Workflow

Main Triggers: Success Metrics or Product Usage

If you keep track of customer success metrics, you have a prime workflow opportunity on your hands. For example, if you’re trying to build up your arsenal of customer case studies, you could automatically trigger an email that asks customers if they’d be interesting in being featured as a success story once certain customer success metrics were met.

Furthermore, if you keep track of customers’ product adoption or feature usage, you could trigger a workflow for users who are exhibiting low product engagement, providing resources that educate and train them on how to use the product features they’re not taking advantage of.

13) Upcoming Purchase Reminder Workflow

Main Trigger: Purchases Made on a Cycle

Does your contacts database include customers who typically purchase on a cycle? Enter those people into a workflow that gets triggered when they make a purchase.

For instance, let’s say you sell eye care products, and a customer purchases a six-month supply of prescription contacts. Enroll that customer into a workflow that sends them an automated email five months later as a reminder that their six-month supply is about to run out, and it might be time to order a new batch of contacts.

What other automated email workflow ideas would you add to this list?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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Traditional vs. Predictive Lead Scoring: What’s the Difference?

What separates a qualified lead from an unqualified one? That’s the burning question we all have.

We want to make sure we know the key factors that make someone qualified so we can focus on the creating and delivering the right content through the promotional channels that make these most sense. Once we establish that framework, we can then help our sales teams make the most of their time by providing them with the means to prioritize leads.

And while that sequence of events is ideal, it’s often easier said than done. 

That’s where lead scoring comes in.

Lead scoring aims to simplify the way businesses identify the best leads for their salespeople to connect with through the use of a strategic scoring system. Wondering if leading scoring makes sense for your business? And if it does, where do you start? For answers to these crucial questions, keep reading. 

Is Lead Scoring Right for You?

Lead scoring is a great way to handle growth at your company. As your business grows and you generate more leads, it doesn’t always make sense to get in touch with every single one. You want to make sure sales is prioritizing their time based on the most qualified leads. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before you implement lead scoring.

  1. Do I have enough leads? – If you are a new business starting out and you’re not generating many leads, it’s likely that you don’t need to implement lead scoring just yet. At this point, you’re probably still figuring out what makes a lead qualified, and part of doing that is talking to your leads to figure out what the most qualified ones have in common. Focus on this first. 
  2. Does my sales team call the leads I send them? – Implementing lead scoring is not always a quick and easy process. There is a lot that goes into figuring out what properties to include in your lead score and how many points to assign them. Before you spend time doing that, you need to find out if your sales team is actually calling the leads you send them. If they aren’t, you may have a sales-marketing alignment issue on your hands that needs to be solved before implementing a scoring process.
  3. Do I have enough data to implement lead scoring? – There are a few components that you must have in order to start lead scoring. First, you need to make sure you have a lot of data. You need data about your leads that didn’t close, and you need data about your leads that did close. This will help you figure out what properties will serve as a good indicator that someone is qualified (or vice versa). That said, if you’re just starting out, give yourself time to generate more detailed contact insights before you consider lead scoring.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional and Predictive Lead Scoring?

Traditional Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is a tool that marketers use to figure out which qualified leads they should send to their sales team. The way it works is the marketer will identify a series of qualifying factors that aim to indicate whether or not a lead makes sense for their business to pursue.

For example, if you are a B2B business, you may know that if someone fills out your form with an email that ends in or, it’s likely that they aren’t qualified. On the flip side, you may find that leads in the software or technology industry serve as a better fit for your product or service. These are examples of the properties that need to be identified to run lead scoring.

The second part to lead scoring is assigning a value to how important or unimportant these properties are. For example, if someone has an email address, you may want to deduct five points from their lead score. But if someone belongs to the software industry, you may want to add 10 points to their lead score because that shows that they are more likely to close.

As you add and deduct values based on the information you collect about your leads, you will find that some have a higher score than others. Those are your most qualified leads based on the information you laid out and should be prioritized by your sales team.

Predictive Lead Scoring

Predictive lead scoring is a tool that uses an algorithm to predict who in your database is qualified or not qualified. Different providers take different information into account when predicting your score, including but not limited to: property information your leads fill out on your website, behavioral data, social information, demographics, and media written about your company.

The beauty of predictive lead scoring is you do not have to figure out what properties should be included or how much to weigh each property. Nailing down a consistent formula for this can be really difficult for many marketers, and often comes down to a “try and check” process. However, with predictive lead scoring, the algorithm looks at what information your customers have in common, as well as what information your leads that did not close have in common. From there, the lead scoring algorithm then comes up with a formula that will automatically bucket your leads for you so you can easily identify the most qualified ones.

How can I use HubSpot’s predictive lead scoring app?

HubSpot’s Predictive Lead Scoring App is available to all Enterprise customers (you can learn more about it in our upcoming webinar here). Here are some guidelines to run your custom Predictive Lead Score:

 You have been storing both engaged and unengaged contacts in HubSpot.
 You have been marking contacts as customers for at least three months.
 You have at least 500 contacts in HubSpot that are marked as customers.
 You have at least twice as many contacts that are marked as non-customers.

Please note: These are general guidelines and may differ between HubSpot accounts.

If you do not fit into the criteria above, we will provide a default model based on patterns we have identified from running the tailored predictive lead scores across customers with good data. Though it won’t use personalized account information such as IP country, state, or business type, it will give you a head start to using lead scoring.

To access your lead score, go to Contacts > Lead Scoring. You will then see a Predictive Lead Scoring tab. Once you are in there you can begin to run your model.


Do you plan on implementing predictive lead scoring? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Lead Scoring 101: How to Use Data to Calculate a Basic Lead Score

When most people start implementing inbound marketing, they’re primarily worried about getting enough new leads in the funnel. 

But once you have a lot of leads, you need to figure out who’s really interested in your product and who’s just starting to look around.

That’s where lead scoring comes in. Lead scoring lets you assign a value (a certain number of points) to each lead based on the professional information they’ve given you and how they’ve engaged with your website and brand across the internet. It helps sales and marketing teams prioritize leads and increase efficiency.

Every company has a different model for assigning points to score their leads, but one of the most common ways is using data from past leads to create the value system. 

How? First, you’ll take a look at your contacts who became customers to see what they have in common. Next, you’ll look at the attributes of your contacts who didn’t become customers. Once you’ve looked at the historical data from both sides, you can decide which attributes should be weighted heavily based on how likely they are to indicate someone’s a good fit for your product.

Sounds easy, right? Depending on your business model and the leads in your database, this can quickly become complicated. To make this process a little easier on you, we’re going to walk you through the basics of creating a lead score, including what data you should look at, how to find the most important attributes, and the process for actually calculating a basic score.

6 Types of Data You Can Use for Lead Scoring

1) Demographic Information

Are you only selling to people of a certain demographic, like parents of young children or CIOs? Ask demographic questions in the forms on your landing pages, and you can use your leads’ answers to see how well they fit in with your target audience.

One thing you can do with this information is remove outliers from your sales team’s queue by subtracting points for people who fall into a category you don’t sell to. For example, if you only sell to a certain geographic location, you might give a negative score to any lead who falls outside the proper city, state, zip code, country, and so on.

If some of your form fields are optional (like a phone number, for instance), then you also might award extra points to leads who provide that option information anyway.

2) Company Information

If you’re a B2B organization, are you more interested in selling to organizations of a certain size, type, or industry? Are you more interested in B2B organizations or B2C organizations? You can ask questions like these on your landing page forms, too, so you can give points to leads who fit in with your target audience and take points away from leads who aren’t at all what you’re looking for.

3) Online Behavior

How a lead interacts with your website can tell you a lot about how interested they are in buying from you. Take a look at your leads who eventually become customers: Which offers did they download? How many offers did they download? Which pages — and how many pages — did they visit on your site before becoming a customer?

Both the number and types of forms and pages are important. You might give higher lead scores to leads who visited high-value pages (like pricing pages) or filled out high-value forms (like a demo request). Similarly, you might give higher scores to leads who had 30 page views on your site, as opposed to three.

What about leads who have changed their behavior over time? If a lead has stopped visiting your website or downloading your offers, they may not be interested anymore. You might take points away from leads who’ve stopped engaging with your website after a certain period of time. How long — 10 days, 30 days, 90 days — depends on your typical sales cycle. 

4) Email Engagement

If someone’s opted in to receive emails from your company, you’re not sure how interested that person is in buying from you. Open and clickthrough rates, on the other hand, will give you a much better idea of their interest level. Your sales team will want to know who opened every email in your lead nurturing series, or who always clicked through your offer promotion emails. That way, they can focus on the ones who seem most engaged. You might also give a higher lead score to leads who click through on high-value emails, like demo offers.

5) Social Engagement

How engaged a lead is with your brand on social networks can also give you an idea of how interested they are. How many times did they click through on your company’s tweets and Facebook posts? How many times did they retweet or share those posts? If your target buyers are active on social networks, then you might consider awarding points to leads with certain Klout scores or numbers of followers.

6) Spam Detection

Last but not least, you might want to give negative scores to leads who filled out landing page forms in ways that could indicate they’re spam. For example, were first name, last name, and/or company name not capitalized? Did the lead complete any form fields by typing four or more letters in the traditional “QWERTY” keyword side-by-side?

You might also want to think about which types of email addresses leads are using compared with the email addresses of your customer base. If you’re selling to businesses, for example, you might take points away from leads who use a Gmail or Yahoo! email address.

How Do You Know What Matters Most?

That’s a lot of data to weed through — how do you know which data matters most? Should you find out from your sales team? Should you interview your customers? Should you dive into your analytics and run a few reports?

Actually, we recommend a combination of all three. Your sales team, your customers, and your analytics reports will all help you piece together what content is most valuable for converting leads into customers, which will help you attach certain points to certain offers, emails, and so on.

Talk to your sales team.

Sales reps are the ones on the ground, communicating directly with both leads who turned into customers and those who didn’t. They tend to have a pretty good idea of which pieces of marketing material helps encourage conversion.

Which blog posts and offers do your sales reps like to send leads? You might find some of them telling you, “Every time I send people this certain piece of collateral, it’s easier to close them.” This is valuable information. Find out what those pieces of collateral are, and assign points accordingly.

Talk to your customers.

While your sales team might claim certain content converts customers, you might find that the people who actually went through the sales process have different opinions. That’s okay: You want to hear it from both sides.

Conduct a few customer interviews to learn what they think was responsible for their decision to buy from you. Be sure you’re interviewing customers who had both short and long sales cycles so you get diverse perspectives. 

Turn to the analytics.

You should also complement all this in-person research with hard data from your marketing analytics.

Run an attribution report to figure out which marketing efforts lead to conversions throughout the funnel. Don’t only look at the content that converts leads to customers — what about the content people view before they become a lead? You might award a certain number of points to people who download content that’s historically converted people into leads, and a higher number of points to people who download content that’s historically converted people into customers. (HubSpot customers: Click here to learn more about running attribution reports in HubSpot.)

Another way to help you piece together valuable pieces of content on your site is to run a contacts report. A contacts report will show you how many contacts — and how much revenue — has been generated as a result of certain, specific marketing activities. Marketing activities might include certain offer downloads, email campaign clickthroughs, and so on. Take note of which activities tend to be first-touch conversions, last-touch conversions, and so on, and assign points accordingly. (HubSpot customers: Click here to learn more about creating a contacts report in HubSpot.)

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How to Calculate a Basic Lead Score

There are many different ways to calculate a lead score. The simplest way to do it is this:

Step 1: Calculate the lead-to-customer conversion rate of all of your leads.

That’s the number of new customers you acquire, divided by the number of leads you generate. Use this conversion rate as your benchmark.

Step 2: Pick and choose different attributes customers who you believe were higher quality leads.

Attributes could be customers who requested a free trial at some point, or customers in the finance industry, or customers with 10-20 employees.

There’s a kind of art to choosing which attributes to include in your model. You’ll choose attributes based on those conversations you had with your sales team, your analytics, and so on, but overall, it’s a judgment call. You could have five different people do the same exercise, and they could come up with five different models. But that’s okay as long as your scoring is based on the data we mentioned previously.

Step 3: Calculate the individual close rates of each of those attributes.

Step 4: Compare the close rates of each attribute with your overall close rate, and assign point values accordingly.

Look for the attributes with close rates that are significantly higher than your overall close rate. Then, choose which attributes you’ll assign points to, and if so, how many points. Base the point values of each attribute on the magnitude of their individual close rates.

The actual point values will be a little arbitrary, but try to be as consistent as possible. For example, if your overall close rate is 1% and your “requested demo” close rate is 20%, then the close rate of the “requested demo” attribute is 20X your overall close rate — so you could, for example, award 20 points to leads with those attributes.

The More Advanced Method

This simple method of calculating a lead score is a great start. Note, though, that the most mathematically sound method is one that employs a data mining technique, such as logistic linear regression.

Data mining techniques are more complicated. Logistic linear regression involves building a formula in Excel that’ll spit out the probability that a lead will close into a customer. It’s more accurate than the technique we’ve outlined above since it’s a holistic approach that takes into account how all of the customer attributes — like industry, company size, and whether or not someone requested a trial — interact with one another.

If you’d like to explore logistic linear regression in Excel, check out this resource. In the meantime, the simplified approach is a great way to get started.

What are other ways to use historical data for lead scoring? Share your tips in the comment section.

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5 Ways Marketing Can Help Sales Through a Tough Month


A company won’t survive if it doesn’t meet its revenue goals. That’s why revenue isn’t just the sales team’s problem — it’s every department’s problem. An effective marketing team will set up the sales team for success by generating valuable leads and nurturing them until they’re ready to be passed to sales reps.

But the partnership doesn’t end there. When the sales team is struggling to make its goal towards the close of a tough month, marketers shouldn’t just stand around and twiddle their thumbs. They should get in the trenches and help their colleagues any way they can.

When the going gets rough, Marketing should have Sales’ back. Not sure how marketers can support salespeople when it gets down to the wire? Here are five ideas for how to support reps during crunch time.

5 Ways Marketing Can Help Sales

1) Jump on a call.

Are you a product expert? Get on a call. An industry veteran? Get on a call. An influential executive? Get on a call.

Depending on a prospect’s needs, one of the best ways you can help a rep struggling to close a deal is by joining a call and sharing your perspective. Consider setting up a system that allows sales reps to book people in the marketing organization or other departments based on their expertise. Sometimes all it takes to get a contract signed is 10 minutes with a subject-matter expert.

2) Do a demo.

Towards the end of the month, a rep might be so swamped that they can’t keep up with all their prospects. In this case, volunteering to give a demo is akin to a godsend.

Conducting a demo is also helpful if a prospect has technical questions that surpass the sales rep’s knowledge. If you’re a product expert, guiding or joining a demo can significantly accelerate the decision process. (Read this post for tips on how to give a great demo.)

3) Introduce prospects to customer references.

Maybe a prospect just needs to check your references before signing on. If Marketing sets up a shared document or calendar listing customers who are available to chat, sales reps can easily connect prospects with references. If Marketing does the legwork in identifying customers and managing their schedules, Sales can bring in the deals.

4) Crowdsource answers.

Occasionally, a prospect will have a question that the sales rep can’t answer. In these scenarios, it’s very helpful for a marketer to track down the correct response on the rep’s behalf so they can keep selling. A smart way to do this is to set up a dedicated email address sales reps can send their toughest questions to, monitored by someone from the marketing team.

5) Show love on social.

Who doesn’t like getting a shoutout on social? If a deal wavering in the balance might benefit from a little public recognition, implore your social media manager to send some love the prospect’s way. Highlight a recent company accomplishment, or help get the word out about a new initiative. Any way you can use your social reach to help your prospect achieve their objectives will be much appreciated. In addition, a social shoutout demonstrates the level of support and care the prospect can expect if they become a customer.

Growth is a team sport. At the end of the month, it doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing or sales: Everyone is on the same team working towards the same goal. Make sure your sales organization knows they can count on Marketing when the going gets tough, and they’ll have your back when the situation is inevitably reversed.

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5 Attributes of an Effective Lead Management Process


Inbound marketing is a powerful strategy. When we implement it for a company here at Imagine Business Development, we will typically see a 2 to 7 times increase in lead generation in the first year and a 5 to 10 times increase in future years.

A 2013 study identified generating high quality leads as the number one challenge for B2B marketers. It’s no surprise that Inbound Marketing, with it’s proven track record, is exploding in use. While Inbound Marketing will certainly increase the generation of quality leads, it will also generate more low-quality leads. 

In our experience, of the leads created by an effective Inbound Marketing approach between 50% and 90% of leads will never become qualified in any fashion.  This rate is highly dependent upon the industry you’re in, how clearly you’ve segmented your market and how effective your process and strategy is.

It’s important to note that generating low quality leads is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. For companies whose message (and offers) appeals to a broad marketplace, and yet whose actual products and services appeal to a small percentage of that market, will experience a fairly high low-quality lead percentage. 

At Imagine Business Development, for example, we typically run between a 12% and 16% quality lead rate (meaning as many as 88% of the leads we generate are low quality and never enter any type of nurturing or pipeline process).

While at first blush this seems bad (it certainly did to me), our lead velocity growth rate of qualified leads (which at the end of the day is what we care about) is actually quite healthy.

What’s interesting is that when generating leads is among your biggest barriers to growth, you tend not to consider what you have to do when your lead velocity increases. We see this everyday, as oftentimes our clients are initially stuck once the leads start to develop. As I shared in an earlier post, inbound leads don’t behave like traditional outbound leads, and must be handled differently.

As you embark upon, or enhance, your Inbound Marketing efforts the development of an effective lead management process is crucial to maximize the ROI of your lead generation efforts.

From our experience, here are the 5 attributes of an effective lead management process:

1) Clear Definitions for Each Stage of the Funnel

It is important that you clearly define each stage of your funnel. For purposes of illustration, I will highlight the minimal areas of classification and share with you a baseline definition:

  • Visits – we define a visit simply as a unique visitor to our website. We have clients that weave in offline measurements (like trade show visits, ad impressions, etc.) to this metric.  The point here is that there’s no right or wrong definition, so long as there is a clear one.
  • Lead – we consider a lead simply a lead.  There’s no qualification.  The measurement we use for this is names that are added to our database. This could either be the result of someone downloading something online, leaving a business card at a trade show, a referral, etc.  An important point here is we measure leads as individuals, not companies.
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) – these are companies that have identified themselves as being more engaged, have the pain that you solve, and meet initial criteria that indicate they could be a fit.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) – these are companies who not only have the pain we solve, but meet a deeper fit analysis that indicates a potential match. Additionally, these are companies where we’ve connected with the proper authority level, they demonstrate a defined need/pain and are open to conversation.

In our programs we define categories within each level of the funnel and provide a more detailed explanation that ensures a single definition that is understood and followed by all.

2) Clearly Articulated High Probability Indicators (HPI)

Spend the time before prospecting to identify the HPI that connect to the 3-5 causes that lead a prospect to buy from you. From there, you can build your story, challenge their thinking and create a stronger impression that will lead to action.

Clear HPIs provide focus for your marketing and sales efforts, which allow for greater alignment and more effective action.

3) Lead Triage or Lead Scoring Process

I’ve written much about lead triage vs. lead scoring (and for those that don’t want to read that post, only a small percentage of companies should actually be doing lead scoring, most should be doing triage).  For purposes of space, I won’t repeat all that I’ve written here.

Suffice it to say that a clear process for assessing both the company and the contact needs to be in place.

4) Service Level Agreement (SLA) Between Marketing, Sales (and if Necessary, Sales Development)

An effective service level agreement, at a minimum, meets three criteria

  1. Provide clear definitions for each stage of the funnel (as mentioned in the first point).
  2. Clearly lays out the protocols of who (marketing, sales development, sales) does what (connect, email, call, voice mail) when and how often.
  3. Lays out clear targets and measurements that will be used to assess progress and create accountability.

SLAs can certainly be deeper than these three criteria, and for those more advanced or looking to scale bigger and faster it certainly should be.  However, if you don’t have an SLA (and the majority of companies with marketing budgets under $1 million don’t), start with these three criteria and evolve from there.

5) A Defined Nurturing Process

The power of building out a full funnel is that it builds predictability and scalability into your growth efforts. The frustrating part is that just because someone is a “qualified lead” doesn’t mean that they’re ready to buy or talk to a salesperson. According to Gleanster Research, that applies to 50% of your qualified leads, and I’ve seen stats that indicate it could be as high as 80%.


  • Leads who are nurtured with targeted content produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities (source: DemandGen)
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost (source: Forrester Research)

The bottom line is that effective nurturing is a requirement if you want to see the returns from your marketing and lead generation investments.

Want to learn more about lead management? Download our guide on how to effectively manage inbound leads.

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How an A/B Test of Landing Page Form Copy Improved Lead Quality

clean_dataWhen most people talk about getting quality lead information from forms, they usually talk about one tactic: changing the length of the form. The longer the form, the better quality the leads will be … right?

Truthfully, it’s not always that simple. For most businesses, changing the form length is a great way to get started with increasing lead quality — but at a certain point, you’re going to need to experiment with other form conversion optimization tactics to get better information about the people filling the form out. 

At HubSpot, we’ve had a long lead generation form on our website for a while, but it wasn’t quite getting us the best results we needed to effciently rotate the right leads to Sales. Below is what we tested to help improve the quality of our form submission data — all without adding a single form field.

The Problem

Like we mentioned above, we’ve always had a long lead generation form on our landing pages — we’ve wanted a decent amount of information to properly qualify incoming leads for Sales. Here’s the type of information we typically ask for:

  • Your name
  • Your email
  • Your company name
  • The number of employees at your company
  • The URL of your company’s website 
  • Your role
  • Your department
  • Which CRM you use
  • Your biggest Marketing and Sales challenge
  • Whether your company is a marketing agency (or sells marketing services)

The last bullet is one of the most crucial to ask. We sell HubSpot both directly to businesses and through our Partner program, so we use this question to route new Partner leads to a certain team in Sales. To make sure that sales team is always getting the right type of leads, if someone says that they are a marketing agency, they go into a special queue. In that queue, the website is manually checked to confirm the lead is actually an agency, and if so, is sent on to our Partner sales team. 

About a year ago, we realized that our manual checkers had to still do a ton of filtering to get the proper leads to the proper teams. We discovered that of those people who said “Yes” (they could be a Partner agency), 60% of them were in reality not an agency. So if 10 people said “Yes” on the form, only 4 of them would be a marketing agency. As you can imagine, that manual data scrubbing takes time, and isn’t an efficient way to scale. So we decided to run a test on the form to see if we help people better identify themselves as a partner agency from the get-go.

The Methodology

The test all revolved around testing the form copy. Here’s what the original question said:



In our experiment, we ran an A/B test on one of our landing pages comparing Treatment A and Treatment B against the control — the only difference between the landing page versions was this question. You can see below that we played with copy changes as well as visual presentation in the form field.

Treatment A


Treatment B


Next up is what we found.

What We Found

Both treatments had a huge improvement in data accuracy from our original 60% error rate. Treatment A had a 26% false positive rate (meaning of 100 people saying “Yes” on the form, 26 of those people were NOT an agency) while Form B had a 22% false positive rate. After testing for statistical significance, we decided to replace this question on all our forms with Form B’s field format. Since replacing this form field, the false positive rate has gone down even further. 

While this may seem like a trivial test, it’s had a huge impact on our business. Now, instead of getting caught in this data-scrubbing bottleneck, more leads are going to the right sales reps faster. And the faster they can respond to a qualified lead, the more relevant conversation they can have with the lead. So this didn’t just help us get cleaner data at scale — it helped make our sales process more lovable. Talk about a win-win!

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