Collin Sparling

Lead qualification can save you time and marketing dollars by basing your efforts on customers who are actually interested in purchasing your products or services. Beyond that, it can help you find quality leads that are willing to have a long-term business relationship.

From lead scoring to customizing your messaging, here are four ways to identify the best marketing leads.

1. Build Your Lead Qualification Framework

You may be asking, “What is lead qualification?” Great question.

Lead qualification is the process of identifying potential customers who are most likely to make a purchase. Why is this important? Because it determines where you should center your marketing efforts. Focused marketing efforts mean more meaningful leads on a smaller budget, and potentially bigger ROI.

Sounds good, right? But how do you get there? Let’s dive right in.

Online Engagement

Think about your presence online. That could be channels like social media, email newsletters or your website.

Do you know where your traffic is coming from?

Where do links to your products or services get the most clicks?

How many of these leads turn into conversions?

There are several ways to track the performance of your online presence. So many, in fact, that it can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. That doesn’t mean you need to understand every stat and graph on Google Analytics right from the offset, but there are a few metrics you can monitor to help you get a jump on lead conversion:

  • Conversion rate.
  • Visitors by traffic source.
  • First-time visitor conversions.
  • Return visitor conversions.
  • Cost per conversion.
  • Landing page bounce rate.
  • Exit pages.

Google Analytics will lay out all of these metrics for you so you can make more informed decisions with your marketing strategy.

The Sales Funnel

The dreaded funnel. It’s a visual you often see when talking about marketing and sales, usually starting broad with leads, trickling down into prospects, then whirlpooling into sales.

It’s the jump that goes from “lead” to “prospect” that we want to focus on. We don’t want just any leads to become prospects, though. We want quality leads that are in need of our product or service, and are capable of committing to a mutually beneficial, and in some cases long-term, working relationship.

It should be no surprise that the strongest leads for your business are going to be within your target audience. You’ve probably spent a lot of time and money determining who they are and the best way to market toward them.

The next step is to determine who is worthy of becoming a conversion out of said audience.

Lead Generation

You know about lead qualification, but what’s lead generation? Well, it’s the process of converting strangers and prospects who are interested in your product or service. It can be done a myriad of ways, but here are a few examples:

  • Be active on social media.
  • Email marketing.
  • Pay-per-click (PPC) campaign optimization.
  • Building out the blog section of your website.
  • Strong Calls To Action (CTA).

It’s these sorts of inbound marketing strategies that can be powerful tools for finding a good sales lead. Lead generation is an accurate reflection of the performance of your marketing program.

If you’re unsure of how to create a marketing program that best suits your business, having a thorough understanding of your company’s value proposition is a great place to start. If you’d like to learn more about how to build a strategic marketing plan, you can start here.

2. Qualify and Disqualify Leads Based on Sales Goals

If you’ve built an effective marketing strategy, you should be in a place where you’re generating a ton of leads, maybe more than you know what to do with. This can be a great problem to have.

Now you have an entire hypothetical phonebook of leads to choose from, meaning it’s time to comb through them and figure out which leads are worth pursuing.

But before we figure out how to determine which leads are worth pursuing, we need to go over a couple of terms first:


Marketing qualified lead is a lead that the marketing team has decided is worth pursuing, because they believe that this one lead is more likely to become a conversion than other leads. This lead is then forwarded to the sales team to begin the pursuit.

There are several actions a lead can take to indicate that they may be interested in buying, and it’s up to the marketing department to determine if they’re indicators in the first place. That could be anything from signing up for your mailing list, to contacting your business for additional information.

It’s worth noting, however, that these indicators don’t necessarily mean the lead is going to make a purchase. It can simply mean interest, consideration of purchase or just awareness of a product or service.

Who your MQL is is wholly dependent on the leads currently within your sales funnel. For instance, you may be hitting the slow season for your service meaning there’s less demand, therefore the expectations for an MQL may be lowered. The definition of who your MQL is should be fluid, changing depending on your business’ needs.


Sales qualified lead (SQL) is the sequel to MQL (sort of), essentially being another term for the “prospect” section of the sales funnel. After an MQL is forwarded to the sales team, it becomes a SQL.

SQLs can also have specific indicators, like asking you to help them solve a problem or intending to purchase something from you. On the flip side, the sales team could determine that a lead isn’t ready to buy, meaning it would be sent back to the marketing team.

How to Qualify and Disqualify Leads

To understand when a regular lead becomes an MQL, you need to define “lead” as it pertains to your specific sales funnel.

A marketing target doesn’t automatically become an MQL. They start out as an unqualified lead, meaning they need more “nurturing” from the marketing team in order to become an MQL. Unqualified leads show some level of interest in your brand by signing up for your newsletter or viewing marketing assets like an eBook or infographic, though this doesn’t mean they’re ready to hit the buy button. These are sometimes known as micro-conversions.

Even if a lead is interested in purchasing your product or service, that doesn’t mean they’re a qualified lead. Depending on the needs of your company, a lead may not be asking for enough of your service to justify a business relationship. Or in some cases, they may not be willing or able to pay what your services are worth. You want to be able to catch this early to prevent wasting time that could otherwise be spent on more promising leads.

3. Inbound Lead Generation

Many businesses have largely left outbound marketing behind in favor of inbound content marketing. Inbound marketing brings in higher quality leads—and more leads in general.

Creating Buyer Personas

Creating a buyer persona may sound simple, but it’s no small task. It requires understanding your company’s product and its value proposition, then figuring out who could benefit most from using your product. This is the key to having a marketing strategy that is effective at giving you quality leads while saving time and money.

The Inbound Sales Funnel

Didn’t think you’d have to hear about the funnel again, did you? Well they’re just too darn useful. So much so, that there are multiple types of funnels. We even made our own. Our sales funnel stages are:

  • Awareness.
  • Interest.
  • Consideration.
  • Decision.

The great thing about this funnel is it appeals to both B2B and B2C markets, and it accounts for inbound content marketing data by looking at traffic sources. Funnels aren’t completely perfect, because what they don’t account for is return customers. But they are more than helpful with converting leads into prospects.

4. Automating Lead Generation

Your marketing strategy doesn’t need to consist of hammering out unique message after unique message to generate leads. When you know you’re in the nurturing phase with a lead, you can automate part of the process so you can move on to other leads that may require more attention.

Marketing Automation

So, what is marketing automation? Marketing automation is technology that manages marketing processes and multifunctional campaigns across multiple channels, automatically. Marketing automation comprises a set of tools built to streamline marketing responsibilities.

In other words, marketing automation lets you send out all of those emails, messages and posts without having to manually hit send on each and every one. This means you can save time and resources while getting the most out of your business’s digital strategy.

Automation Tools

There are several tools out there to help you automate marketing for your company, a lot of them intuitive and easy to use. Here are just a few examples:

  • HubSpot Marketing Hub – Puts all your marketing tools and data in one place. Hubspot’s easy-to-use platform keeps data at the center, as it’s integrated into HubSpot’s CRM software.
  • Klaviyo – Helps you deliver a more personalized experience across your marketing channels, such as email, SMS and on the web.
  • Mailchimp – Mailchimp provides AI-powered, user-friendly tools that put your audience at the center. Send marketing emails and automated messages, and create targeted ad campaigns with ease. You can even send postcards!
  • Salesforce Pardot – Align marketing and sales to generate strong leads and keep them engaged. Keep track of your ROI with custom dashboards and data, and follow how prospects are engaging with your content.
  • ActiveCampaign – This platform gives businesses access to over 500 pre-built automations that combine email marketing, marketing automation and CRM. It gives you the ability to add channels as your business grows, allowing you to give your customers a personalized experience at scale.

Choosing the right automation tool for your business can be a difficult decision with so many options out there. Just be mindful of the scale of your company, where its growth trajectory is heading and the budget you’ve put in place for marketing.

Marketing Automation Tactics

Marketing automation boils down to creating personalized messaging across different channels. Things like social media, SMS and especially email marketing.

Contrary to what you might have heard, email marketing is still a powerful avenue for lead generation. In fact, 93% of B2B marketers distribute content via email campaigns. Why? Because email marketing campaigns can be lead generating machines.

Email marketing lets you nurture leads with personalized messages, and after it’s automated, it can essentially run itself. It can let prospects know of promotions you’re running if they visited your site, remind them they have items in their cart and even manage drip campaigns, which sends out content to recipients based on their interactions with your website.

If email marketing automation is done correctly, you’ll be raking in leads left and right.

Now go give a swift kick to those lead generators, and get to work!