It also means that if you’ve been using four or five platforms to manage your email, your ad campaigns, and your contacts, you now have one, free solution to handle them all.
For small to mid-size businesses, this is a huge deal.
Constantly navigating between MailChimp, Salesforce, and whatever other tools you’ve been using to keep costs low, still costs you time. Your team has to log in to many different platforms, and they have to reconcile information from one platform to the next, which is frustrating, and can hog up precious work hours.
With these new extensions to the HubSpot CRM, you get some of the most important tools to grow your business, all in one platform, and all for free.
What’s the Catch?
Obviously, HubSpot is hoping that when you see how great their tools are, you might be interested to upgrade as your company grows. But, there’s no pressure to do so, especially if your company is small and just not quite ready to upgrade.
The HubSpot CRM is always offered for free, for the lifetime of your subscription. There’s no free trial or expiration date on the CRM or any of the tools that HubSpot offers for free along with it.
Okay, So How Does it Work?
Whether you have the HubSpot CRM already or not, you’re probably wondering about the specifics of these new tools. So, what exactly do you get with their new email marketing and ad management tools?
HubSpot has long been known for its intuitive email marketing platform. In the email editor, you can easily make edits right in the email template, changing text, adding images, buttons, and CTAs.
It also gives you the opportunity to preview your email on a variety of different devices, and lets you send unlimited test emails to yourself and your team before you’re really ready to schedule out the post.
There are a ton of features to take advantage of just in the email editor, from their handy optimization guide to their A/B testing tool. But what’s really key about this new, free offering from HubSpot is the post-send analytics.
Now, once you send an email, you can see who opened it, how many people clicked through to your website, and much, much more. These metrics are what make this free tool such a boon to companies starting to grow.
With the email editor and post-send analytics, you can easily see which messages are resonating with your audience, and which aren’t quite hitting the mark, yet. You can also see which contacts continue to engage with your content as the move further down the buyer’s journey, closer to a sale.
Best of all, every contact’s interactions with your emails are saved in the CRM, on the same platform. There’s no jumping back and forth between your email manager and your contact list; everything you need to know about every contact, whether it’s related to email or an ad they clicked on is saved and logged in the CRM for you, and updated in real-time.
In the past, the free HubSpot CRM has only included support for Facebook lead ads. With this new upgrade, the CRM comes free with ad management and tracking tools for up to $1,000 per month of ad spend across Facebook, Google, and Linkedin. Users are able to connect a maximum of two accounts, so you can measure performance across platforms to see which channel is best for your message.
The bottom-line benefit of these new additions to the free HubSpot CRM is that you can have all data from your email and ad campaigns filter through one central system. This allows you to track the long-term performance of your ads and email marketing campaigns, showing you the concrete ROI you’re seeing from both efforts, right from your CRM.
The HubSpot CRM is helping eliminate the hassle that comes with using multiple tools from multiple providers.
They’re offering a full suite of seriously powerful marketing tools plus a CRM that helps you track the results of your efforts in real-time, and makes it easy to reach out to those contacts who are responding best to your marketing campaigns.
In the end, the HubSpot CRM, with these new free email marketing and ad management tools, are great for any company who is looking to expand their marketing and growth capabilities but doesn’t yet have the trust or the budget to go all-in on an expensive platform.
This expansion of the HubSpot CRM is big news for us in the inbound and growth marketing community, and for any small businesses out there who are working hard to get ahead. If you’re interested in learning more about HubSpot’s free tools, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The goal of every business is to sell something to someone. Whether it’s a product, service, or information, the business has something that it provides to its customers, for a price. For that reason, it seems like the point of sales strategies and marketing strategies are the same—to sell that thing. But in reality, the purposes, goals, and methods of sales and marketing strategies differ, by necessity.What is the difference between sales and marketing strategies, and why does that matter to your company?
What is the purpose of marketing strategies?
Marketing is what you do to reach potential future customers. It can be outbound marketing, which entails pushing your product/service/message to your audience through things like advertising, or inbound marketing, which includes bringing people in through content strategy and search engine ranking. At any rate, marketing’s purpose is to get your information in front of possible clients. To accomplish those things, marketing teams strive to:
Reach target audiences through various forms of marketing, including social media, PPC, content, and more, tailored to those audiences’ unique needs.
Provide visitors and prospects with information about your company’s products and services that is tailored to their stage of the buyer’s journey, their goals and challenges, and their specific pain points.
Provide the sales team with marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
Analyze and evaluate marketing efforts for effectiveness and return on investment (ROI).
Provide reports and analytics on the ROI of marketing efforts to relevant stakeholders.
What are the goals of marketing strategies?
As you can see, the goal of the marketing strategy isn’t to make sales. Particularly in the B2B world, there aren’t many cases of a person seeing an ad and deciding then and there to buy. Instead, it’s to reach potential customers and raise their awareness of your products, services, and company, and the benefits of all of those to them.
They’re not going to answer calls or email, and they’re going to (pun very much intended) lead you on. Good marketing filters out those bad prospects and provides the sales team with leads that are vetted, a.k.a, MQLs.
What is the purpose of sales strategies?
It seems like the goal of any sales strategy is pretty straightforward: make sales. While that is a goal, sales strategies are so much more complicated than that. Sales teams are tasked with managing relationships with prospective customers and guiding them to a purchase decision. In order to do that, sales teams must:
Connect with leads and prospects through various sales practices, including quote requests, pitches, demos, etc.
Provide prospects and leads with information relevant to their pain points and needs that helps them make a decision about purchasing your company’s products or services.
Determine whether marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are ready or eligible to become sales qualified leads (SQLs).
Guide new clients through the purchase process.
Why do sales and marketing strategies need to align?
Because if they don’t, you’re wasting time, money, and resources. You’re going to have a low ROI on both your sales and marketing efforts, and you’re going to be missing out on potential leads, sales, and revenue.
How do sales and marketing strategies work together?
How exactly your sales and marketing teams begin working together and collaborating on strategy is going to be unique to your situation.
Sales and marketing alignment looks different for a company with already established in-house sales and marketing teams than for a company with no marketing team at all (or no marketing team, yet—we can help with that!) or for a company with sales and marketing teams spread out across various locations.
To align your sales and marketing efforts, communication between your sales and marketing teams is crucial. This ensures that sales has input on the kinds of marketing content that will be useful, that common goals are created, and that everyone is speaking the same language and understanding each other’s terminology.
How can a CRM help sales and marketing strategies align?
Something else that’s necessary for cohesion between sales and marketing is that both teams are using the same tools and technologies effectively. Customer relationship management software (CRM) is one of the best ways to facilitate easy communication between sales and marketing teams and to move leads through the marketing/sales funnel.
Sales and marketing strategies have different goals, but when you put quality strategies from both teams together, you can see some seriously positive results for business growth. If you’re looking for help building quality sales and marketing strategies we can help.
Even if you don’t know what the term inbound marketing KPIs means, you probably already know what they are. Here in the inbound marketing world, KPI is short for Key Performance Indicators. You might just know them as metrics. Tomato, tomahto.
Just kidding — it doesn’t really matter what you call them, so long as you use them.
Inbound marketing KPIs, or metrics, provide your best estimate of success. They tell you how well your marketing efforts are working and what results they’re producing. They can also tell you where your marketing strategy could use work.
While there are dozens of KPIs to measure depending on what your marketing, sales, and growth goals are, here are a few of the KPIs that every team with an inbound marketing strategy should be keeping track of:
#1 Qualified Leads
You want leads. Who doesn’t?
But, not all leads are created equal. There are leads you’re actually interested in — leads who are a great fit for your product or service. And there are leads you’re not interested in — leads who aren’t a good price fit, don’t really need your product, or who aren’t ready to buy.
The qualified leads KPI tells you exactly how many qualified leads you’re getting. Sounds basic, but qualified leads vs. plain ol’ leads is key.
Even if your campaign is seeing a relatively low number of leads, but all of those leads are highly qualified and likely to close, then you know you’re doing something right.
That’s a much better sign of an effective campaign than one that delivers a ton of leads who never convert into prospects or sales.
#2 Organic Traffic
Inbound marketing is built (loosely) on an “if you build it, they will come” mindset. At its core, the inbound marketing methodology believes that if you are putting out the right, helpful content that speaks to your target audience and that is optimized for the way your consumers search, then you will draw in the right leads.
Organic traffic is one of the best inbound marketing KPIs to measure your website’s success in drawing in the right people.
The organic traffic KPI is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s been around for a while because it’s relatively easy to track, it’s straightforward, and it can tell you a lot. The higher your organic traffic rate, the more your content is resonating with the right people. When you have a high organic traffic number, you know that your content marketing strategy is working to 1) place you ahead of the competition in search rankings, and 2) speak to your ideal audience.
And when you’re drawing in big numbers of organic traffic, it means you’re getting a whole bunch of leads without paying for them. Major win.
#3 Social Media Traffic
Social media traffic is also a great inbound marketing KPI to watch because it can help you figure out which platforms are best to focus your efforts on.
These days, there are tons of social media platforms. They’re all great for engaging new potential clients and keeping your existing clients in your inbound marketing flywheel. But, not every social media channel works for every company or industry.
By monitoring the traffic coming to your website from social media, you can determine:
Which channels are driving the most traffic and the most leads to your site
How many conversions you’re seeing through social media channels
How much website traffic is coming to your website from social media
This inbound marketing KPI helps you determine which channels are delivering the most qualified visitors who stick around and tend to read your content or convert into leads. And when you know that Facebook is the one delivering you 15 new leads every month, while Pinterest has delivered none, you can invest more money in your Facebook strategy, and forget about Pinterest for now. That’s marketing optimization at its finest.
If inbound marketing is your focus, the time-on-site KPI is an important one to keep track of. Again, the point of inbound marketing is to teach and engage new potential clients and qualified leads with content that solves their pain points and answers their questions.
The time-on-site KPI tells you how much engagement your content is getting.
If you have a long average time-on-site, then your visitors are browsing around. They’re reading your content and navigating deeper into your website.
A short time-on-site is a good indication that it’s time to change something up. Consider adding a different image or a different content offer on your front page. Change up your calls-to-action and make sure you’re really working to answer the questions your ideal buyer is asking the most.
Time-on-page is just as important as time-on-site. Though it might sound obvious, the time-on-page metric measures how long a site visitor spends on a particular page of your website.
This is an especially useful metric if you’ve been working to incorporate pillar pages, or are working on developing longer-form content.
It’s not easy to get readers in the digital age to stick around for long, so when you start to see pages with lengthy time-on-page metrics, you’ll know your content marketing strategy is working.
#6 Bounce Rate
On the opposite side of the time-on-page coin, you have bounce rate. As an inbound marketing KPI, bounce rate means what percentage of people make it to a page on your site and bounce right off, or navigate away immediately.
The bounce rate metric is useful for everything from a web design standpoint to understanding if your landing pages are working properly.
If you have a high bounce rate, your visitors probably aren’t resonating with the particular page they’re being sent to.
Are they bouncing off of a landing page? Consider taking out some of the required fields on your form. Maybe tighten up the content a little, and take away the navigation bar.
High bounce rate on a piece of content? Your hook might not be strong enough, or your content might not seem like it’s offering enough information. Add in an exciting first paragraph, make sure you have plenty of eye-grabbing, but informational headers, and check to make sure that your content is actually saying something.
High bounce rate on your home page? Maybe you’re not being clear enough about what you do. Consider changing up your headers, adding in new visual elements like images or video, and see if that KPI starts to improve.
#7 Conversion Rate
Conversion rate is one of those KPIs you hear about all. the. time.
That’s because it can tell you quite a lot about your inbound marketing strategy.
Like bounce rate, conversion rate is used in a variety of contexts. It can be used when talking about a landing page, about an ad, or even about how many site visitors convert into leads.
That could be downloading a content offer, clicking over to your site from an ad, or even closing on a sale.
No matter what version of the conversion rate metric we’re talking about, it’s always important to track, because it tells you how effective your campaign is.
If your weekly newsletter has a high number of content offer conversions, for example, that shows that you’re doing a great job of nurturing those email subscribers closer to a sale.
If your landing page has a low conversion rate, that might be a sign that what you’re offering isn’t attractive enough, or that you’re asking too much in return for what you’re offering.
Conversion rates are always important to follow because they tell you more than just how many people are seeing an ad or a page or a content offer. They tell you how many people are actually interacting with that item. And engaged visitors are leads.
#8 Customer Acquisition Cost
Your customer acquisition cost KPI is a measurement of how much it actually costs your company to acquire a new customer. For most companies, it’s more expensive to pick up a new client than it is to retain an old one. But your customer acquisition cost (CAC) can tell you more than that.
It can also tell you if your marketing strategy is effective. If you’re spending thousands of dollars on Facebook and Google Ads, but you’re only bringing in one or two new customers, then you’ve got a pretty high CAC, and it’s probably time to change something up.
For example, if your outbound marketing strategy isn’t converting at the right CAC, you might want to invest more heavily in inbound marketing.
Your CAC can also be used to help calculate the overall ROI of your marketing campaign. We’ll talk more about that later, but read this blog about Calculating Marketing ROI for more info.
#9 Lifetime Value of A Customer
Just as your CAC tells you how much it costs to acquire a customer, the Lifetime Value of a Customer tells you how much you earn from a customer over the term of their engagement with you. To figure out the overall value of a customer, check out the following equation:
(Amount of average sale per customer) x (Average number of times a customer buys per year) x (Average retention time for a typical customer (whether that’s a year, a month, or more))
Typically, the lifetime value of the customer shows you how important it is to keep nurturing leads, even after they’ve closed on a sale. On average, most companies find that it’s more expensive to acquire a new client than it is to retain consistent business with an existing client.
#10 Return on Investment
Return on Investment (ROI) is the KPI that everyone wants to know. We probably don’t have to tell you that you need to be tracking it, because who isn’t?
But, we do have to include it on this list because it truly is one of the most telling inbound marketing KPIs that exists.
This is an important metric if you’re trying to convince your boss that inbound marketing is legit, but it’s equally important after you start using inbound marketing.
The ROI metric tells you when your efforts are paying off, and when you might be spending too much on an effort that’s not performing.
Let’s say, for example, you still take out a Yellow Pages ad. That costs you a few hundred dollars each time you place the ad. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you never get any referrals from that Yellow Pages ad. In this situation, there is virtually no ROI. You’re spending money on a marketing effort that isn’t returning any revenue.
So, you see that your Yellow Pages ad isn’t working out. You decide to take the money you would’ve spent on that ad, and use it to hire a content writer to start your blog. After a few months, you have a ton of leads calling in, and they’re all referencing information they saw on your blog.
When you close on some of those sales, for more than you spent on the content writer, you have a positive ROI.
In the end, if you’ve got a great ROI percentage, then you know your marketing strategy is working. If you’re spending more than you’re making, or if you’re not seeing a great return on your marketing strategy, it’s probably time for a change.
As you probably know, there are way more than just 10 inbound marketing KPIs to track. But, if you’re just getting started with the inbound methodology, these 10 are some of the most important, and the easiest to make sense of.
If you’d like to learn about more inbound marketing KPIs you can track to better optimize your marketing strategy, or if you’re interested in an inbound marketing agency, let us know. We can help you determine which KPIs make the most sense for your goals, and we’d be happy to explain a little bit more about the inbound marketing methodology, too.
So you’re thinking about hiring a digital marketing agency?
Great! A digital marketing agency can do wonders for your company, from helping you develop a website that works for you to building a strategic inbound marketing strategy that will draw in and convert the leads you want most.
When you hire a digital marketing agency, you’re partnering with a team of experts who are all focused on growing your business. That’s a pretty cool partnership, but it’s also one that takes a lot of work.
If you’re considering hiring a digital marketing agency, or if you’re in the process of hiring a digital marketing agency but aren’t sure how to make a final decision, this blog should help. Here are 8 questions you should ask a digital marketing agency before you sign on and hire them:
Can You Show Me Case Studies or Examples of Previous Work?
When you’re looking at digital marketing agencies, your first step should always be to ask for references, case studies, and examples of previous work.
It’s important to see what they’ve done so you can gauge if they have enough experience in your industry and if their strategy can deliver the results you’re looking for.
Digital marketing agencies are everywhere, and no two are exactly the same. Some just design websites. Others focus specifically on social media or PPC. Still others offer a comprehensive marketing strategy that can tie your website, email marketing, paid advertising and inbound and content marketing strategies all together into one.
But all of these digital marketing agencies will tell you they can get you the leads you want, for less. Make sure you’re hiring an agency that walks the walk. Ask to take a look at some of their previous work through case studies, or see if they’ll walk you through some of the projects they’ve done in the past.
The more you know, the more comfortable you’ll be making a decision to sign a contract with that agency.
What Tools Do You Use?
Digital marketing is a tool-centric industry. Even the best marketers rely on third-party optimization tools to improve campaigns and ensure their strategies are delivering the very best results possible.
Before you hire a digital agency, ask what tools they’re using and what tools they plan to use to develop your digital marketing strategy further. Then ask yourself if those tools make sense for your overall digital marketing goals.
For example: If your goal in working with a digital marketing agency is to align your sales and marketing teams, and your digital marketing agency doesn’t use a CRM, isn’t familiar with CRMs, or doesn’t plan to teach your team how to better use a CRM, they might not have the best tools to achieve your specific digital marketing goals.
If you’re looking for SEO help, your digital marketing agency should have a team of Google Ads, Keyword Planner, and Bing Ads professionals, who also use supplementary third-party tools like SEMRush, Moz, Buzzsumo, Ubersuggest, or Infinite Suggest to build quality campaigns.
Even if you’re not familiar with some of the tools that the agency mentions, it’s still important to ask. You can always look them up later to make sure they’re legit. It’s more important to know that your digital marketing agency isn’t flying by the seat of their pants than it is to admit that you’re not familiar with every tool on their list.
Can You Get Me On the First Page of Google?
This is an important question for one reason — any agency who answers “yes” to this question is one you might want to step away from.
No matter how good your digital marketing agency is, only Google understands how Google’s algorithm works, which means a first-page ranking isn’t something a digital marketing agency can guarantee.
If they respond with an answer like, “well, this is what we’re going to do to try and get you on the first page,” and go on to give you specific strategies they’ll use to boost your company’s ranking potential, you’re probably in good hands.
No one can guarantee a first-page ranking, but there are a lot of quality digital marketing agencies who have strategies that will certainly try. It’s just good to know that any agency who promises you a first-page ranking is starting your relationship with a promise they can’t keep.
What Goals Are You Setting for My Project?
There’s nothing more telling about a digital marketing agency than their goals for your project. What you’re looking for are SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
Here at HA Digital Marketing, we like to break our client’s goals down based on thorough research we’ve completed by analyzing their site, their site traffic, and their industry. We look at existing traffic, existing conversion rates, and more, to determine how much we can reasonably improve in a specific period of time.
One of our SMART goals for a client might sound something like this:
Increase organic site traffic to 2,000 monthly visits by 2020
Specific: we want to increase organic site traffic, specifically.
Measurable: our goal is set at a number of at least 2,000 monthly visits. It’s easy to tell when we reach and when we pass that goal.
Attainable: the attainability of a goal will change depending on the client’s existing site traffic. If this client was averaging 1,000 to 1,500 monthly organic site visits, then 2,000 is definitely an attainable goal.
Relevant: If the client’s overall goal is to increase web conversions and leads, then a boost in site traffic is how we can make that goal achievable. That makes it a relevant goal.
Timely: We’ve specified exactly when we’d like to achieve this goal.
When you’re talking to digital marketing agencies, these are the types of goals you want to see.
Any company who says, “we’ll grow your traffic and get you qualified leads”, might do that, but without SMART goals, it’s hard to say if they’ll actually deliver the quantity and quality results that you’re looking for. To effectively measure your progress and theirs, you need SMART goals.
When Can I Expect to See Results?
This is another question where the way an agency answers the question is more important than how they answer it.
If you’re hiring a digital marketing agency to do any kind of content marketing or SEO work to boost your organic ranking, you have to remember that you’re not going to see immediate results. If you’re working with a digital marketing agency who advises otherwise, you might want to take another close look at their strategies.
Because of the way that organic search results work, there’s no way to guarantee quick results. Search engines need time to crawl your site, and then index it based on the information they find. That means your organic search results can take weeks and even months to seriously improve.
That said, if you’re hiring a digital marketing agency to handle both organic and paid search efforts, they can leverage paid search and social media advertising campaigns to deliver you more qualified traffic immediately. But it’s important to remember that these are different results than organic search results.
Bottom Line: Ask the digital marketing agencies you’re considering hiring how soon you can expect to see results. If they say “immediately”, ask what they mean by that, and also consider walking away.
If your digital marketing agency takes the time to explain how exactly you’ll see results, and why your organic search results will take a little time to come to fruition, you’re probably in pretty good hands.
What KPIs Do You Track, And What Reporting Will You Offer?
A digital marketing agency is a business partner. They’re not a set and forget solution. Since you’re going to keep sending them money for a monthly retainer, you want to know where your money is going, and what it is doing for you.
Most quality digital marketing agencies track a variety of KPIs ranging from metrics on your site to your search engine rankings to your PPC campaign’s overall performance. The metrics they measure will depend on your company’s unique goals, but you have to make sure, before you hire them on, that they’ll be measuring KPIs that are relevant to those goals.
For example: Let’s say your biggest goal is conversions. You already have the traffic you need, but you’re not seeing the conversion rates you want.
While your digital marketing agency will still be tracking your site traffic, they should place a higher priority on monitoring KPIs like click-through-rate, landing page traffic, content offer downloads, and, of course, your conversion rate.
If they’re focusing on things like your social media engagement and awareness, while those are important metrics, they aren’t the most relevant KPIs for your specific goals.
The second part of this question is what reporting will you offer?
You need to see your results regularly, so you understand what’s happening, what wins you’re seeing with your new digital marketing agency, and what challenges your agency and your strategy might still be facing.
In most cases, a regular monthly report is best. It gives you a clear picture of how your strategy is performing without overwhelming you with daily traffic stats of a year’s worth of data. A great digital marketing agency will also include suggestions and insights for moving forward in your reports, too. Regular reports keep all teams on the same page, which is a huge part of partnering with a digital marketing agency. Speaking of, here’s your next question:
Who Will I Be Working With?
No matter what digital marketing agency you’re working with, you need to have at least one contact person for your digital marketing project, and it’s probably not going to be the salesperson you’ve been working with so far.
Every digital marketing agency is different. Some will have account managers, some will have project managers, and some favor a more all-hands-on-deck approach where you have a direct and immediate line to most of the team members working on your project.
No matter what digital marketing agency you’re considering hiring, you can ask to meet with, or at least get an introduction to, all of the people who will be working on your project.
This question does a few key things: it gives you a better idea about the type of company you’re working with, it establishes a relationship with the team handling your project going forward, and it gives your digital marketing agency’s team a better idea of what you and your business are all about.
If for some reason an agency doesn’t want you to meet the team or seems cagey about who exactly will be working on your project, you might want to dig a little deeper. Transparency is the key to hiring a successful digital marketing partner.
What Will You Need From Me?
We’ve made it to the final question. “What will you need from me?”
This is far and away one of the most important questions to ask before you hire a digital marketing agency. It gives you and the agency a better picture of what working on this project will like for both parties.
A great digital marketing agency will tell you that they’ll need your feedback. They’ll need to know that they’ve correctly identified your target buyers, they’ll need to know that the content they write for your website is right for you, and ultimately, they’ll want your participation.
A digital marketing agency that says you can totally forget about marketing for the rest of your engagement isn’t a digital marketing agency.
Your feedback is essential to the success of your newly implemented marketing strategy, and without open communication between both teams, you won’t be able to optimize your strategy and positioning to reach those goals you set at the beginning of your engagement.
If you’re looking for a hands-off digital marketing agency, that’s awesome. It’s just good to remember that no agency can function completely without your input and feedback. And if a digital marketing agency says you won’t hear from them again after you sign the contract, you might want to dig a little deeper.
A digital marketing agency, on the whole, wants to partner with your company to help you grow. Their goals are your goals — they want to increase the number of qualified leads you’re getting, so you can increase conversions, make more sales, and increase your revenue.
If you’re having trouble finding an agency who will work with you to achieve these goals, let’s talk. Evenbound is a true digital marketing agency — we handle everything from web design, SEO and content marketing to paid advertising, email marketing, and social media. If you’re looking for a partner who will work on your behalf to grow your company strategically, we can help.
An MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) is a reasonably qualified lead who has downloaded a content offer or interacted with your marketing team, but who hasn’t yet entered into your sales funnel. An SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is a lead your sales team has qualified as a potential customer. SQLs are in your sales funnel, and your team is actively working to move them closer to a deal.
Leads. Everybody wants ’em, but not everyone knows what to do with them once they have them.
That’s where the inbound methodology comes in. Designed to help both marketing and sales teams nurture leads all the way through to a sale in the world of the modern, digital consumer, the inbound sales process puts a huge focus on MQLs and SQLs.
But what are they, how are they different, and how do you deal with both MQLs and SQLs to boost the ROI of your inbound sales process?
Here’s a breakdown of the MQL vs. SQL question, complete with tips on how to define them and how to use those definitions to optimize your sales and marketing process to close more reliably and more efficiently. Let’s start with the basics.
What’s an MQL?
A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is a site visitor that your marketing team has deemed likely to eventually turn into a sale. MQLs are qualified prospects: they fit your buyer persona.
That said, they’re missing a few qualifications that would make them the perfect fit for your sales team.
Maybe they’re working on a seriously long buyer’s journey. Or, they’re in the right industry, and they have the decision making power, but they don’t have the right budget, or realistic budget expectations yet.
In short, an MQL is a reasonably qualified lead who matches one or more of your buyer personas, but who isn’t quite ready to buy yet.
What’s an SQL?
A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a lead who your sales team has decided is worth pursuing. They’re at the end of the consideration stage and are moving into the decision-making stage of their buyer’s journey where they’ll appreciate sales-focused content and support.
Typically, a sales qualified lead is confirmed after an initial outreach call with someone on your sales team, who can determine how serious the lead is about your product, and how motivated they are to buy.
An SQL is a lead who has intent to buy and who seems interested in your company as a contender to make that purchase.
MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?
The most important difference between MQLs and SQLs is the intent to buy. While there are other factors that will affect whether a lead is categorized as marketing or sales-ready, the biggest tip-off for marketers when deciding whether or not to pass a lead on to sales is the intent to purchase. That’s a surefire sign that they’re ready to talk to sales and tells you that passing them onto sales is the best way to serve that lead.
Since MQLs and SQLs can look different for every industry, and even individual companies, let’s look at a couple of examples of what qualifies an MQL vs. SQL:
First-Time Site Visitor vs. Returning Visitor
A first time visitor is a good example of a potential MQL. They’re just starting the buyer’s journey, and are working on gathering the information that will ultimately help them make a purchasing decision down the road.
A returning visitor, on the other hand, who has been to your site a few times, and is browsing key pages and downloading bottom-of-funnel content offers, is an SQL. They like the information you’re putting out enough to keep coming back. And if they keep coming back, they’re probably ready to talk to your sales team.
Top of Funnel vs. Bottom of Funnel Content Offers
An MQL is a lead who is downloading and converting on top-of-funnel content offers. They’re interested in information that teaches and educates about the general product you sell.
Let’s say you sell cars. An MQL will be downloading content that offers information like, “How to Know When To Buy A New Car,” “Is it Better to Lease, Buy Used, or Buy New,” and “Safest Sedans of 2019.”
So, they’re asking those research questions that solve their beginning-of-the-buyer’s-cycle problems. They’re not ready to buy yet, but they’re definitely thinking about it, and they fit your target buyer persona well enough that your marketing team recognizes them as a great potential fit for your company in the future.
An SQL, on the other hand, is going to download bottom-of-the-funnel content offers. With that same car sales example in mind, an SQL will download content that sounds like this: “How to Finance a New Car Purchase,” “5 Steps to Buy A New Car,” and “5 Things to Know Before Purchasing a New Car.”
SQLs are at the bottom of the funnel — they’ve already done the research, they already know they want a car, and they know which car they want. Now, they just have to figure out how to make the purchase.
Just knowing which content offers a lead is downloading can give you great insight into whether they are marketing or sales qualified. And making that distinction is what puts you ahead of the competition in closing new sales efficiently.
Why Differentiating Between MQLs and SQLs is Important
It’s one thing to know the difference between an MQL and an SQL. It’s another thing to know why correctly categorizing each lead is so important.
The difference between an MQL and SQL is crucial in offering up the right content, and the right lead nurturing experience. If a lead has already made up their mind on what product is right for them, you don’t want to be sending them basic content that outlines all of your products — it’s not relevant to their buyer’s journey anymore.
In the same vein, if you have a lead who is still learning what your product does, how it works, and why they might need it, you don’t want to send them on a sales call.
They’re not ready to make a purchasing decision yet, and probably don’t have company approval to make the decision. At this point in their journey, a sales call would seem pushy, and would ultimately be a waste of your sales team’s time.
Correctly identifying whether a lead is marketing or sales qualified has a huge impact on the success of your overall inbound marketing and sales strategy. Knowing whether a lead is an MQL or an SQL tightens up your lead nurturing process to deliver the best possible results with the least amount of work.
When you have a foolproof way to correctly categorize leads, you know exactly what content to deliver, and when. That goes a long way in helping those leads convert, and it saves your marketing and sales teams a lot of wasted time delivering content that wasn’t relevant or reaching out to a lead who wasn’t ready to convert.
Consistent definitions will make the MQL to SQL handoff a little easier, but there’s still a little work that goes into it. Here are 5 general steps to guide you through the handoff process.
Once your marketing department identifies an MQL, they should be entered into a few lead nurturing campaigns, whether that’s through targeted email marketing campaigns or a casual, helpful marketing outreach campaign.
Ideally, that MQL will continue making qualifying actions — they will download more content offers, they might ask your marketing team a few questions, and they might subscribe for your newsletter.
From there, the sales team can reach out, ideally within 24 hours of the lead’s last conversion action, to connect and qualify that lead as an SQL.
It is possible that on their qualifying call, the sales team find the lead is not quite ready for the decision-making stage. At this point, your marketing team should have a set of steps in place to kick that lead back down to an MQL and continue nurturing them until they’re ready to convert again back up to an SQL.
With these five steps, and clear, identifiable definitions of MQLs and SQLs that both sales and marketing agree on, your handoff process should start to go a little more smoothly. It’s a tough process, no matter how you look at it, and the best way to make sure your handoffs are successful is to have regular meetings with both sales and marketing teams to identify any problem areas and implement solutions that fix those issues.
No Matter Your Industry, You Need MQLs and SQLs
It’s easy to get stuck in an MQL vs. SQL mindset. It’s easy to say, “oh, I’m not dealing with that lead, they’re for sales” and vice versa for marketing. And it’s true that for the most part, you want your sales team interacting with the sales leads, and your marketing team interacting with those marketing leads.
But the bottom line is, for any company both MQLS and SQLs are an integral part of the sales pipeline. You can’t have one without the other, so it’s important that your marketing and sales teams work together to develop content and lead nurturing strategies that benefit both MQLs and SQLs.
MQLs, when nurtured properly, become SQLs, who become customers and promoters of your brand.
So, when done right, all of the work you’ve done to develop a quality inbound marketing and sales plan comes full circle to help you close more sales and grow your company.
Identifying MQLs and SQLs isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If you’re struggling to nurture leads through the buyer’s journey, Evenbound can help. Inbound marketing and sales is what we do every day, and we’d love to help you troubleshoot your lead nurturing process to help grow your company. Get in touch to see how we can help, or click the link below to schedule time to chat about your challenges with our president, John Heritage.
Email workflows are an excellent tool for pulling qualified leads through your sales cycle. When you set up an email workflow, you already know who you’re talking to, you have an idea of what they’re looking for, and you have a solution to their greatest pain points. One of the best lead nurturing tools in an inbound marketer’s toolbox, email workflows allow you to speak directly to qualified leads and offer them helpful, relevant content that draws them closer to making a purchasing decision.
We’re going to look at a few key email workflow best practices you should be implementing convert leads and close sales as best possible. But before we do, let’s start with the two most important rules of the email workflow:
The Golden Rule of Email Workflows
The golden rule of email marketing, whether you’re creating a workflow or just sending out an email to your subscribers is this: Don’t be annoying.
Seriously. I know this sounds simple, but it’s more tempting than you’d think. The, “oh, I’ll just send out one more email” feels are real. Try not to give in to them, and for the love of everything, please don’t spam people.
Try to limit your emailing to just two or three emails per contact a week, tops.
And if someone unsubscribes, let them. Embrace your inner Shania Twain and remember you’re better of without them. Do not. Repeat. Do Not. Continue to email them.
The only thing that will do is earn you angry people who are definitely no longer customers, and who now have a bad taste in their mouth about your company.
Not sure if you’re emailing too much? Imagine you were receiving all of the emails you are sending. If you’d be frustrated at getting yet another email from a peppy sales rep who doesn’t actually know that much about your company, it’s probably time to lay off.
The Silver Rule of Email Workflows
We’re not sure if “silver rule” is a thing, but if it is, always be offering something, would be it for email workflows.
If you take just one thing away from this blog, it should be to always offer something in every workflow email you send.
Whether it’s a relevant content offer, a chance to meet with a sales rep, or a free trial of your software, every email you send, especially in a workflow, should offer up something that keeps your prospective clients moving through your sales cycle.
With those two very important rules of email workflows in mind, let’s move on to some of the ultimate email workflow best practices that can help you convert leads and close sales:
Set a Goal for your Workflow
Before can get started developing a workflow, you have to know what your goal for the workflow is. Do you want to:
Set up a phone call?
Encourage another content offer download?
Get a lead started on a free trial?
Every workflow has an end goal. Before you can write your content, and even decide who you’re talking to, you have to have that goal in mind.
Define Your Qualified Lead
Most email workflows are triggered by an action that indicates a site visitor is a qualified lead. You need to define what that action is, and what a qualified lead looks like before you can launch that workflow effectively.
Let’s say the goal of your workflow is to set up a call or meeting with a prospect. Actions that might qualify a lead for this workflow could be:
They’ve downloaded multiple content offers that speak to consideration stage questions
They’re halfway through their free trial of your product
They’ve already talked to your marketing department
They’ve visited specific pages of your website multiple times, and for consistent periods of time.
Each of these actions tells you that the lead is already slightly invested in your company. They might like your content, they’re possibly enjoying aspects of your product, and they could even already be familiar with your marketing team. When they’re invested in what you’re offering, and know a little bit about you and your company, they’re a qualified lead. You just have to decide what that looks like. For more help defining your qualified leads, check out this blog on email marketing segmentation.
When you’ve defined what a qualified lead means to you for this specific workflow, you can get to actually writing and building out the email workflow directly for that qualified lead.
Identify Relevant Content
Now you know why you’re writing an email workflow, and you know who to write your workflow to. Let’s figure out what you’ll write about.
A traditional email workflow is about three emails long. You can always make them longer if you need, and if a lead converts right away, the workflow will bail on them.
I find that the easiest way to start writing an email workflow is to work backward. Look first at what you’re offering in each email before you start writing the content. (You are offering the lead something in every email, right? If not, see above for the Silver Rule of Email Workflows.)
For example, you know that your last email is going to offer up your schedule for your lead to set up a time to chat. The content of that email should lead up to that last call-to-action, and could look something like this:
I hope you’ve found our Complete Guide to Opening Coconuts helpful! If you have any questions about the guide please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I know you’ve had a great deal of interest in coconut cracking lately, and I think our Extreme Coconut Machete might make the perfect tool to help improve efficiency at your coconut water bar. Would you like to learn a little more about it?
To set up a time for a brief chat with me, please feel free to add a meeting to my schedule.
I look forward to connecting with you soon!
All the best,
Toucan Sam VP of Sales EZ-Open Coconuts, Inc
Every aspect of this email is leading up to that final call-to-action. Let’s take a closer look at how this workflow is working specifically to convert that lead.
Keep Emails Short & Include Questions
The above email from Toucan Sam is an excellent example of a workflow that is short and to the point, but that still entices a lead to continue moving through the sales cycle.
The email opened with a line that reminded the prospect why Sam was emailing.
Then, it offered a bit of helpful information that was specific to the prospect. John has a coconut water bar, and Sam’s product could help him improve his business’ efficiency.
It’s important to keep workflow emails short — definitely no longer than a page, but preferably no more than a few very short, one to two sentence paragraphs.
Remember: Design Counts
It’s also good to think about the design of your workflow emails.
They should be relatively minimalistic — you don’t want too many pictures or too much information distracting your prospect from the message — but they should include basic things like your logo and possibly your social media buttons.
The email should be clean and clearly laid out so the prospect can scan through quickly, without missing too much of your message. Put the most important messaging at the very beginning and very end of the email, where people are sure to see it. Bolding and bullet-pointing key callouts can also help draw attention to the content you want prospects to see most.
It is also good to personalize emails for the recipient, as well. Most email workflow services, like HubSpot or MailChimp, will auto-fill names and company names, along with a bit of other information for you. It’s a simple step that can make a big difference, so don’t forget!
Send Test Emails
Always, always, send test emails. And open them. And click all of the links.
You’d be amazed at how easy it is to forget to add in a link or to accidentally link to the wrong page.
You’ve spent a lot of time finessing your email, and you only get one shot to send it out. Make sure everything works the way it should before you hit that send button.
Send First Workflow Email Within 24 Hours of Qualifying Action
Set your workflows to go out as soon as possible after a lead completes a qualifying action. If they sign up for your newsletter, make sure your follow-up email goes out as immediately as possible.
If your sales team is working to follow-up after potential clients download a specific offer, try to have that first workflow email go out within an hour of their download. That way, your company is still fresh on the prospect’s mind and they’re more likely to respond.
Give People Time Between Emails
You want your first email to go out quickly, but that’s it. The other emails should take a little bit of time, in respect for the Golden Rule (see the top of this blog if you’re skimming). Don’t send any more than one email in a 24 hour period. And if you can wait a day or two between emails, that’s even better.
Every industry and every company will see different results from different tactics, so you will have to do a bit of testing to see how often and how quickly to send your follow-up emails for best results.
That said, a good rule of thumb is the less spammy, the better. You want to remain top-of-mind, but not at the expense of your lead’s experience with your company.
Make It Easy to Unsubscribe
As we mentioned in the Golden Rule at the very top of this blog, your goal with an email workflow is not to trap an unwitting consumer. Rather, you’re working to offer up relevant, helpful content that solves their pain points, and shows them of your authority in your industry. If they don’t want your help, you have to allow them to unsubscribe.
Not only is this ethical, but it’s better for you. If you have a bunch of dud leads who qualified accidentally, or who aren’t quite ready for your services, it’s better to let them go than have them skew your email metrics to show that your messages aren’t performing.
All of that goes to say — make it easy to unsubscribe.
You don’t want to waste your time on unqualified prospects, and they don’t want to hear what you have to say. Let them go.
Don’t Use Attachments
This last point is truly an email workflow best practice: don’t attach content to your workflow emails. Nearly every company tells employees not to open emails with attachments from strangers, for the very real reason that it could be a hacker or a virus. When you attach your content offers and additional relevant content to emails before someone has asked for it, you seem fishy. (Phishy? See what we did there? 😉)
Instead, offer links to a landing page where prospects can download your content offers or digital links to content offer PDFs. This will help increase your open rate, and likely your response rate, too. You always want to be offering something, in every workflow email, but it has to seem legit if you want people to open it.
Whew. That was a lot.
There’s a lot going on with email workflows. They seem like such simple pieces of content, but there’s a great deal of work that goes into them, from deciding what you’ll offer to crafting a series of emails that will work to pull your ideal prospects all the way through the sales cycle. Hopefully, these email workflow best practices will help you put together a workflow that converts leads and closes sales.
Still struggling with your email workflows? We get it. Let us know how we can help!
From cleaning up your contacts to developing workflow content that speaks directly to your target audience we’re email workflow pros and we’d love to help you beef up your email marketing strategy for overall business growth.