A lead is a lead, right?

Nope.

Some provide greater value and a higher opportunity to convert than others. If you own a small business and are brand new to digital marketing, it pays to know how to differentiate between lead quality.

For instance, some people make the mistake of thinking that marketing is simply a numbers game. To some extent it is, but the value of leads varies a great deal based upon where they’re at in your sales funnel.

In some instances, a handful of leads primed to take action can be worth thousands of leads who have little interest in your product or service. In the old days when print media was the primary advertising channel, marketers had little control over refining who saw their ads. Today however, marketers have the unprecedented opportunity to target highly specific groups of users.

But be aware that digital marketing isn’t as simple as presenting a member of a target audience with an ad and then expecting the user to click on it and make a purchase. There are many levels to the types of leads that encounter your business online, and it’s your (or your marketer’s) job to make multiple attempts to reach out to the lead in hope of creating a conversion.

So, let’s get started with the first type of lead: information qualified leads.

1. Information Qualified Lead (IQL)

An information qualified lead is any prospect that has not already engaged with your website, content, and marketing tools. Typically, these types of leads have a low degree of likelihood of converting – at least, more so than other types. For instance, a user who exchanges their email address for access to your mailing list, a user who downloaded a free ebook or checklist, or a user who signed up on a web form are all marketing qualified leads (more about them in a minute).

Generally speaking, information qualified leads are the most difficult to convert. In fact, in the context of a marketing funnel, they represent the very first and largest portion of the funnel. The goal isn’t necessarily to convert all of the IQL’s you gather (doing so is practically impossible), but rather to cultivate higher-quality leads by moving the IQL’s on through to the next stage of your marketing funnel.

Many information qualified leads have absolutely no intention of doing business, although it’s usually possible to weed them out with negative keywords. Whether you’re doing organic keyword research or refining a PPC campaign, some keywords practically shout out the users’ intentions. For example, negative keywords like free and torrent indicate red flags that these leads just want the freebies.

2. Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Marketing qualified leads, on the other hand, are already aware of your business. It could be that they came across your business while hunting for a solution to their problems, or had already been exposed to your business via Facebook interactions, content marketing, lead magnets, and other similar forms of digital marketing. The main point is that you’ve piqued the leads’ interest and curiosity regarding how your business can solve their problem.

For instance, anyone who has given their email address in exchange for a free ebook would qualify as marketing qualified lead. Nevertheless, these types of leads are still spying out the landscape to determine whether or not your business really is a good solution to their problems. Just because someone signs up for a free consultation doesn’t mean they’re going to commit to doing business.

Be aware, however, that MQL’s won’t always convert – it takes more than mere awareness of your business to cause a lad to take action. Some MQL’s will “take the money and run,” so to speak when engaging with marketing materials, and not take further action even after having consumed your lead magnets and content – even if they genuinely found it helpful. MQL’s have prior knowledge of your business’s existence, brand, or identity. In order to guide these leads through your funnel, it’s best to follow multiple times after they first took action to prompt further action taking.

This can also be the most frustrating group of leads, at least in my experience. A lot of them just want the free or low priced offerings, and never plan on going any further with your business. Picking the good out from the bad can be a tough task!

3. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Sales qualified leads are the highest quality, easiest to convert, and most likely to take action. These types of leads can come from two sources. The first is via organic pathways, such as your organic rankings at the top of Google. However, sales qualified leads can also be identified and collected by a sales and marketing department through outreach methods.

The primary quality that defines this type of lead isn’t that they show interest in your business, product or service, but rather that show interest in taking action. That interest can be displayed in any number of ways. For example, one way a sales qualified lead might be identified on a real estate website is by using a payment calculator to determine the monthly mortgage rate for a particular property.

Another example of a sales qualified lead would be an individual who contacts a law firm for a free consultation. Sales qualified leads represent the last stage in a marketing funnel and should be prompted to engage with your business with strong calls to action.

Treat Each Lead Accordingly

Automating a sales funnel is no easy task, and it shouldn’t be underestimated. Without understanding different types of leads, what they know, and what motivates them, you’re going to be pitching calls to action to leads that aren’t yet primed to do so, and losing some leads that were already prepared to take action.

If you don’t know how to setup a marketing funnel or how to identify different types of leads and drive traffic to your site, your digital marketing campaign is costing you revenue. Instead of letting prospective customers slip through your fingers, it’s better to reach out for the help of a qualified professional (like us!).