Welcome to Digital Homesteading.

This collection of resources from 9 Clouds helps you build your business and community.


Less fishing, more catching: How to qualify your digital leads in 2015

how to qualify digital leads

Fishing too hard.

When I was 14, my buddy Lance and I were catching perch through the ice on Lake Madison here in South Dakota. In terms of quantity, it was one of the most successful fishing trips I’ve ever experienced. In the course of just a few hours, we had so many bites that we couldn’t keep bait on our lines. It was the only time in my life when I had worn myself out from fishing too hard.

Our trip to Lake Madison was a blast, but there was one problem: Most of the fish were tiny. We spent most of our time reeling in, taking off our gloves in the freezing cold, releasing the tiny fish, re-baiting our hooks and re-casting our lines in hopes for something bigger.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m never going to complain about catching too many fish, but after running out of worms and getting significant amount of frostbite on our hands, Lance and I wondered if we should have tried a different approach.

Qualified leads are the big fish. They’re fewer and further between, and require a different strategy to catch.

As a marketer, you just have to use the right lure. Sure, you might know where your personified prospects spend their time on the web, which ads they click, which posts they like, and which pages they convert on, but do you really know if they’re serious?

Here in 2015, things happen fast, and your sales funnel has to produce only the most worthwhile leads. Whether your business has a sales team of one or 100, lead qualification saves time and money. Instead of constantly “catching and releasing” tiny perch, you spend more time with the big, hungry fish.

So, you’ve been rocking your blog, engaging your tribe, bringing in visitors and presenting your most relevant content in all the right places. Now it’s time to reel in the big one.

Injured minnows.

In the early 20th century – in the time long before selfie sticks and twerking – a 31-year-old Finnish fisherman named Lauri Rapala made a breakthrough that would change his industry forever. He was fed up with the tedious, messy task of baiting his hooks and wasting so much live bait. Instead of complaining about it, he put his mind to work.

So one day, alone in his boat, Lauri made an observation that helped him form a strategy to catch only the bigger fish. According to Rapala’s company history:

What [Lauri] saw was how hungry predator fish would dart into a school of minnows and attack the one that swam with a slightly off-center wobble. Over and over again.

So, Lauri grabbed a cork and a scrap of tinfoil and built a synthetic lure which wobbled like an injured minnow. It drew the larger fish out of the school, and it was an instant success.

Today, Rapala’s company sells about 20 million lures each year in more than 140 countries. Here in South Dakota, it’s hard to find a fishing boat without a Rapala lure. But the success of his company isn’t the point here – it’s the technique of his product.

The Rapala lure brings in the big, hungry fish just like a good inbound marketing strategy qualifies new leads.

Bigger fish. Less time.

Here at 9 Clouds, we use and recommend two main methods for qualifying leads: Nurturing and self-segmenting.

1. Drip campaign analytics

While not every person is a “big fish” in your book, that doesn’t mean they won’t grow into one. That’s why we like to stay in touch with our contacts using marketing automation techniques. With dripping, a business can automatically email the most relevant content – blog posts, case studies, ebooks or the like – in front of the people who need them the most.

This process of showing your most relevant content requires a good process, but it’s a process that can be completely automated. When your leads reach the finish line, you’ll know which ones are ready for a phone call, consultation or presentation.

2. Self-segmenting

Your leads know who they are and what they want, so it’s up to you to simply ask them. The easiest way to self-segment your visitors is to include a segmentation question on your forms. In addition to the essential contact information such as first name and email address, the form is a great place to gather some valuable lead intel. Whether they’re downloading an ebook, signing up for a webinar or subscribing to your blog, the form should include a multiple-choice question similar to these:

  • What is your biggest challenge with [your industry]?
  • When do you plan to choose your next [your product]?
  • How large is your sales team? (For B2B businesses.)
  • Why are you interested in [ebook topic]?
  • Or, to be more direct: Would you like to learn more about [your product]?

This form of “hand raising” allows leads to choose their own path – either back into the school of smaller fish or further down the sales funnel with the larger fish.

While both of these tactics are effective at qualifying leads for your sales team, you can also look at historical data to see how your current customers ended up in your portfolio. What did they experience on the way down your sales funnel? How many emails did they click? How many ebooks did they download? What do they look at on your site? These are all questions that can bring some insight into your lead qualification strategy.

Cast your line.

I wish Lance and I would have tried a Rapala instead of worms back on Lake Madison. We might have reeled in some bigger fish with less frostbite. The same applies to your sales leads. Your competitors are probably fishing with worms, so tie on a Rapala. You’ll never know what’s beneath the surface until you cast a line.

What’s on your hook?

Attracting qualified leads requires great marketing content with a quality distribution strategy. That’s why you should download our Content Distribution Tips and Tricks eBook. You’ll learn everything you need to know to get started on this marketing platform today.

Download Content Distribution eBook

Image: gordon.milligan on Flickr