Even with the help of the latest advancements in marketing automation technology, lead generation can still seem fruitless if your leads aren’t actually converting. An important step before nurturing a lead through your customer buying journey funnel toward a sale for your business is to effectively differentiate between a qualified vs. unqualified lead.

Understanding qualified leads vs. unqualified leads

It’s important to know the difference between prospects that are your ideal customer and are interested in your company’s offerings and ones that are not a fit for your company or not ready to consider your company’s offerings. Knowing the differences will help you focus all of your marketing and sales efforts on strategies and campaigns that will help you gain more customers and sales.

What is a qualified lead?

Qualified leads are prospects with a problem that can be solved by the solution you’re offering. These leads have either interacted with your marketing content, social media, paid ads, or website — or a mix of a few of those channels — they fit your ideal customer profile, and they are ready to consider becoming a customer or ready to become a customer. 

You can start determining which leads are worth pursuing by creating a guideline of who your ideal customers are and what problems they face. Target those prospects as your qualified leads. These prospects have control over their budget and the authority to make a decision. And they tend to have lower churn rates as customers because they are in control of the closing terms. 

What is an unqualified lead?

The definition of an unqualified lead is a prospect who may have a need or problem that is poorly defined or cannot be properly addressed using your solution. Unqualified prospects are typically not in control of their budget, nor do they have the authority to make purchasing decisions. Differences and similarities between qualified leads and unqualified leads

You can spot the differences and similarities between both types by looking at the characteristics below. 

Your qualified leads may be prospects that have:

  • Filled out a form on your website to get a downloadable resource (ebook, white paper, case study, etc.)
  • Signed up for your email newsletter
  • Interacted with your website’s chatbot to ask questions about your company or product.

Some examples of prospects that are unqualified leads are ones that:

  • An intern or entry-level employee researching options for their team
  • A prospect that does not have the budget to make purchases 
  • A website visitor that does not have a current need for your product

What happens after a lead is qualified?

After a lead takes action to show interest in potentially purchasing your product, they become a marketing-qualified lead or MQL. When a lead is qualified, you want to continue providing value while also sharing why your product is a solution for their needs — nurturing your lead to a sale

Your ideal customer visits your website and becomes a lead. Once they begin interacting with your content, provide their contact information, and show interest in buying your product, they move through the lead-to-sales conversion funnel.

What is a marketing qualified lead (MQL) vs a sales qualified lead (SQL)?

An MQL is a lead that has been qualified based on the criteria of your ideal customer profile. And while marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are great to generate for your business, What you really want are sales-qualified leads or SQLs.

An SQL is a marketing qualified lead (MQL) that is ready to consider making a purchase or ready to make a purchase. An SQL is ready to talk to your sales team, get a demo of your product, or make a purchase, and you want to reach out to an SQL quickly and efficiently, so you do not miss out on a sales opportunity. 

How to nurture a qualified lead

A few ways you can nurture qualified prospects are by sharing valuable lead magnets like insights on trends in your industry, tips on how to use your product, case studies, webinars, and customer testimonials. 

Get inspiration from these industry-specific examples:

Real estate

For a real estate business, lead nurturing for real estate lead conversion can look like creating a real estate email newsletter for your leads to subscribe to and get information about all things real estate and your business.

General contractor

One way lead nurturing for a general contractor business can be achieved is by sharing a customer testimonial video on how the business took the customer’s project from planning through to project completion. Showing a real-life example of how their business takes care of customers’ needs and solves their problems through their product is a great way to showcase why they are a top choice for their contractor leads.

Healthcare provider

An example of lead nurturing for a healthcare provider is sharing a blog post about the newest healthcare products or technologies that are helping patients. Take your healthcare advertising up a level and share your blog post in an email newsletter.

Tech support 

In the tech support industry, creating guides for prospective and current customers will build brand loyalty because they will gain trust in your business to provide great support. A guide is a great resource to share with your tech support leads as a part of your email marketing campaign

Can you turn an unqualified lead into a qualified lead?

Yes, it is possible! If you’re looking for a lead generation strategy to convert unqualified prospects, first ensure that you have content that will generate leads and nurture them through every step of the buying process. Sometimes turning an unqualified lead into a qualified lead is as simple as helping them to identify their problem.

Remember that not every unqualified lead can potentially become a qualified lead or convert. If an unqualified lead is not in control of the closing terms, they will most likely never become a qualified lead. And, it is always more viable to follow quality leads than to spend time creating content in pursuit of leads that may never actually convert.

How to find qualified leads

Each of your current and previous customers was a qualified lead before they converted. Try reaching out to past clients to see if they would be interested in purchasing from your company again or if they know others who might.

If you’re trying to reach new qualified prospects, before even approaching your lead lists, align your marketing and sales teams with regard to your target audience. The message that the marketing team sends out about your product or service should directly align with the solution you offer. Optimize content across lead generation tools so that leads are fully aware of and interested in the solution you offer.

Another way to align sales and marketing is to create buyer personas. Based on past customer data and independent research, teams can create a profile for their ideal customer. Both teams should reference the buyer persona when they update lead generation tools, like the website and social media pages.

Getting started on defining your qualified leads vs. unqualified leads

With the knowledge of the differences and similarities between qualified and unqualified leads, you can now generate leads and create a lead-nurturing campaign that will drive sales for your business. 

Get started by defining your buyer persona. Then, have your marketing and sales teams work together to outline your business goals and align on creating an efficient lead generation process that will grow your business with more qualified leads and improved sales.

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