From Cold Calling to MQLs: The Evolution of Your Demand Generation Engine
You’ve seen some growth in your business thanks to referrals, networking, and, of course, some persistent cold calling. It’s a great start, but what can you do next?
Outbound selling can bring a lot of success to a company, but exploring other avenues of lead generation will ensure your growth doesn’t stagnate.
This is where marketing comes in—integrating marketing into your strategy allows you to evolve from generating leads to generating demand.
When you pair outbound sales development with inbound marketing, you can achieve more efficient sales cycles, lower cost per lead, and overall higher quality leads with stronger purchase intent.
What is demand generation?
Demand generation is the combination of digital marketing and sales development activities. These efforts work together to attract, convert, and nurture leads more efficiently.
Sales development efforts are a great short-term solution to bolster your sales pipeline by driving 1:1 outreach and delivering your value proposition to your target audience.
It is the best way to make a direct, immediate impact on your pipeline. In fact, in an interview we conducted with 10 sales experts, everyone agreed that cold calling is still a very effective way to get your foot in the door.
However, there is a ceiling of what you can accomplish on a per SDR basis because of the cold nature of the outreach. Cold outreach typically has a high cost per lead and longer sales cycles.
We suggest building a large SDR team initially, with the idea of pairing it down and optimizing once your flow of marketing-qualified leads increases.
Once you have a steady flow of inbound leads, your SDR team can spend more time following up on those warmer leads and less time searching for new cold ones.
The goal of your demand generation strategy then would be to capture the eyes of those who are looking for a solution such as yours. Building organic lead flow from marketing is a long-term strategy and takes time to build momentum. However, it can help you achieve exponential growth.
What is a marketing-qualified lead?
A marketing-qualified lead (MQL) is a lead who has interacted with one of your marketing assets and provided your company their contact information.
Different companies have varying definitions of what makes a lead “marketing-qualified.” There is often some system in place, such as lead scoring, with an established threshold a lead must pass before converting to an MQL and entering the SDR team’s queue.
Some of the most common MQL conversion points include:
- The “contact us” form on a company’s website
- A sign-up form for a product demo or service consultation
- A form visitors can fill out to download educational gated content
- External forms (on social media, directory or partner sites, and through events)
Different conversion points show different levels of purchase intent: how likely the lead is to ultimately buy your solution and become a customer. For example, an MQL who downloaded content might just want information on a topic, while an MQL who asked for more information about your solution is likely closer to purchasing.
However, because an MQL has had some interaction or has some knowledge of your brand, an MQL from any lead source likely has stronger purchase intent (and is therefore more qualified) than a cold lead identified through other means.
How to generate marketing-qualified leads
In short, you can generate MQLs by creating content that aligns with buyer psychology and identifies buyer intent. Understanding how prospects hear about or search for a solution like yours is the first step, but your approach should be tweaked and refined as you further develop the strategy.
A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Identifying your buyers
It’s crucial that marketing and sales are completely aligned when it comes to identifying your target audience. Together, they should create comprehensive buyer personas based on existing customers and market feedback.
Accurate buyer personas ensure your marketing team targets relevant decision makers, distributes content through the right channels, and creates messaging that resonates.
Your marketing efforts should be hyper-targeted toward the people who are most likely to buy. This allows you to be more confident that the MQLs entering your pipeline are highly qualified—these more qualified leads require less time and effort for nurturing.
2. Attracting new prospects
Marketing attracts new prospects by getting your brand in front of people who are looking for a solution akin to yours.
With an inbound strategy, prospects initiate the first touchpoint through your digital channels. For example, they might find your website in search or click on a paid social media ad.
Prospects initiating the relationship with your brand themselves is further evidence that these types of leads are more qualified. They have demonstrated some level of interest in a solution like yours just by discovering your company.
To get to this point, your business needs a strong web presence to showcase your solution, your expertise in your industry, and messaging that resonates with your ideal buyers.
You can then work toward attracting more traffic to your website and profiles across the web through content marketing, search engine optimization, and social platforms.
We recently wrote about different kinds of marketing content and how they generate leads on the EBQ blog. It’s an excellent starting point for companies looking to develop a lead generating content strategy.
3. Qualification through lead scoring
Lead scoring allows you to quantify qualification of your marketing leads and establish a threshold MQLs must meet before sales follows up with them.
This can be implemented through a marketing automation platform, which funnels MQLs to your CRM once a new lead converts.
For example, we use Pardot marketing automation by Salesforce to score leads. Pardot tracks our website visitors, scores them based on pages they visit and actions they take, then sends MQLs to Salesforce once a visitor meets our point threshold. You can learn more about setting up a strategic lead scoring system in our B2B Guide to Pardot Lead Scoring.
Many automation platforms also offer lead grading features, which determine how well a particular lead matches your ideal buyer persona. This can be especially useful if you have a large database and well-defined parameters of your ideal buyers.
Lead scoring and grading systems differ from company to company because each has different needs and criteria they look for in their ideal buyers.
However, having some sort of automated qualification system is vital to the productivity of both your marketing and sales teams because it drastically reduces the time they spend on unqualified leads.
Scoring and grading allow you to vet out leads who are not likely to convert to sales-qualified. It also gives your SDR team visibility into how a particular lead converts, so your reps can have more targeted conversations.
4. Nurturing through marketing automation
- Retargeting ads that display specific messaging to people who have already visited your website
- Dynamic website content that changes based on information about identified prospects
- Highly targeted email drip campaigns that can be segmented by different buyer personas
Email marketing is one of our favorite methods of lead nurturing, and it’s one of the most effective. According to Hubspot, email marketing generates 3,800% ROI on average, meaning that you get $38 back for every $1 spent.
Marketers use email campaigns to send information about a product or service as well as educational content on relevant topics.
These campaigns are logic-based—messages can be triggered when a prospect takes a specific action, and wait times between emails can be adjusted based on how a prospect interacts with them.
Better yet, email automation lets you segment campaigns by buyer persona, so you can send messages tailored to characteristics such as industry or job title.
You may have leads who have not achieved “marketing-qualified” status yet or MQLs who have already spoken with an SDR but need more nurturing before they’re ready to buy. Automating lead nurturing helps keep your brand top-of-mind in a hands-off manner that allows your SDR team to focus on warmer leads.
Generate demand with an allbound strategy.
If you want to get past those initial growing pains, your team needs to take both an outbound and inbound approach to pipeline growth. Stop doing all the chasing and start generating demand with an allbound strategy.
With a well-planned digital marketing strategy, you can fill your pipeline with high-quality, high-intent MQLs and bring alignment between sales and marketing.
Creating a consistent flow of marketing-qualified leads for your SDR team to call on takes time, but the benefits of time and cost savings are more than worth it.