Don't Leave Lead Qualification in Your Customers' Hands
I was on a call with a MECLABS conversion marketing services client recently, and discovered that he could actually serve a lot more customers than I assumed from our initial conversation. We were working on website copy, and his response was, “Oh don’t worry about addressing it on the website, we’ll just discuss it on the first consultation call.” But that's not how lead qualification should be set up, and and that is exactly how you lose potential customers, folks. Because customers will disqualify themselves before they ever talk to your sales team or get to your product page.
Humans Ache to Belong
Look, I’m an introvert. I’m perfectly happy spending a day at my house just reading the newspaper and magazines. Jacksonville is too hot to call this behavior Hygge, but whatever coziness and comfortable conviviality is in a warm climate – that’s me.
But even I have hit my social distancing limit.
Why? It’s part of the human condition. Even an avowed, proud introvert like myself has a human ache to belong to a group. We want to know which ingroups we are part of, and outgroups we are not.
The same is true when customers are on a buyer’s journey. There is a strong, pressing question in customer minds before they are even willing to talk to your sales team, get to your product page, or leave their house and visit your retail store (remember when that was a thing?). That question is: Is this right for someone like me?
Before you can do anything in life – from buying a car to becoming a leading scientist – you have to envision yourself as the type of person that can do it.
In life, we need role models and mentors (whether informal or formal) to help open our mind to what our potential path could be.
For customers, they need clarity in your advertising, marketing, and other communications so they can understand they are a potential fit to be your customer, so they can envision it.
Lead Qualification Works Both Ways
When companies talk about lead qualification, their focus is often on evaluating someone who had contacted their company to see if they are a right fit to buy.
But before you even try to weed out customers, they are doing it to themselves. You don’t have the luxury of waiting until your marketing automation platform or inside sales rep determines that someone could be a potential customer. Because they are doing it to you.
And if at any moment their ability to belong with your brand is unclear, they are far more likely to disqualify themselves and fall into the arms of another brand (or make no decision at all) than they are to assume they could be a fit.
All the Conversations Your Sales Force Isn’t Having
These are the conversations your sales force isn’t having, the prospects that could have benefited from your company’s value but never get to experience it because they disqualified themselves too early in the buying cycle.
That is why you can’t wait until they get to your sales reps or into your store to let customers know they belong. You should use your advertising, marketing, public relations, and websites to clearly help them overcome these self-disqualifiers:
- Monetary cost – You should have a pretty robust pricing strategy for your product, including when to present price, contract length, the order of different price levels, etc. But even if you decide to wait until a sales call, quote form, or final shopping cart to reveal price, you should give some signals to let people know they can afford your product.For example, we were in a Quick Win Intensive with a tax attorney and enrolled agent group. Fortunately, I am not the ideal customer for this group because I don’t have tax problems, but if I did, I would assume I couldn’t afford their help. I would have disqualified myself and thought that their solution wasn’t for someone like me due to monetary cost. But it was much more affordable than I assumed, and the website just wasn’t communicating that affordability.
- Nonmonetary cost – Your customers pay more than just money for your product. How easy is it to do business with your company and purchase your product?For example, my dentist is not on my new Florida Blue dental insurance. But I haven’t switched; I have disqualified myself after visiting a few websites of dentists in Jacksonville because the perceived switching costs are too high. These aren’t monetary (I would actually save money because the in-network dentist would be totally covered). If a dentist’s website had a credible Easy Switch package that reduced the friction for me (in addition to relieving my anxiety that the new dentist would be trustworthy), I likely would not have disqualified myself.
- The ability to do it – Do your customers self-assemble or self-install your product? Do you offer travel packages that include a hike across the Negev Desert in Israel? Do you sell online language training?Many products require the customer to play a part as well. Show them that they have the ability to do it before they disqualify themselves. Even better, show how someone like them was able to do it (i.e., virtual role models). If your hike across the Negev is aimed at recently retired seniors, show the story of a couple in their 60s, and what the average day looked like for them on the multi-day hike.
- Uncertainty about product basics – I’ve often come across landing pages or advertisements for brands that overlook some basic functionality of the product. Instead, they are only focused on the “wow” factor of making bold and audacious claims or putting out snazzy creative.
We call the basics “table stakes” – they aren’t the reason an ideal customer would choose your product over the competition – but they are basic functionality that the customer expects.
All too often as marketers we assume the customer will understand these basics about our product. We all have the marketer’s blind spot. We are so familiar with our products, we assume the customer will have the same understanding. Never assume!
For example, a DIY home security system that isn’t clear it offers 24/7 professional monitoring. Or a software-based game that doesn’t communicate that it can be played on computers, in addition to mobile phone apps.
If customers don’t understand that the product meets their basic needs, they will disqualify themselves.
- Public embarrassment – Customers may never seek a solution because they are embarrassed to admit publicly that they have a problem. A great case study here is Viagra leveraging former Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole as its spokesperson, to make it publicly acceptable to discuss erectile dysfunction.
- COVID-19 related anxiety – And right now, customers might disqualify themselves because of buyer anxiety related to the coronavirus pandemic. Until we get through the current crisis, you can’t assume that what knew about the customer is still true.
Smart companies are pivoting hard and fast to make sure customers don’t disqualify themselves.
For example, when I bought a Casper mattress in the beginning of March 2020, the website promoted “Free delivery.” By the end of March 2020, that copy has been updated to “Free, no-contact delivery.”
Even my morning newspaper has adapted, making sure customers don’t disqualify themselves from a newspaper subscription or newsstand purchase (for those who can leave their homes). The Wall Street Journal has placed this message on its front page every day for the past few weeks:
“The World Health Organization has said it is safe to handle newspapers during the coronavirus pandemic. The Wall Street Journal’s printing plants and delivery services, though, are taking precautions, frequently cleaning equipment and facilities while reducing human contact with the newspaper. A digital version of the print edition also can be viewed at [URL].”
To help your team better understand your company’s customers, download the free Intro Guide to Developing Your Customer Theory.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.