How SEO Can Help Nurture Your MQLs and Turn Them Into SQLs
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Sales funnels are tricky in even the most fine-tuned lead-generating marketing engines. Consumer behaviors can be easily tracked, but anticipating their next move or knowing when they are truly ready to make a sale is another story altogether. But it’s a goal that we as marketers strive for in constructing the intricate and personalized buyer’s journeys.
In fact, one of the most challenging pain points in marketing to address is how to reduce the time a lead spends interacting with marketing material as a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and becomes ready for a direct call from sales, shifting them in status to a sales qualified lead (SQL).
The challenge is that 79% of MQLs never transition and are lost, primarily because businesses don’t take time to groom and nurture the client relationship in the MQL phase and either stop following up or push them upon the sales staff too quickly.
What research has shown is that during the MQL phase, brands need to leverage search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that influence buyer behavior in order to nurture that relationship and ensure they become comfortable enough with your brand as a solution for their business needs that talking to the sales team becomes the logical next step.
How Do We Nurture Our Leads Effectively?
The challenge that we’re facing as marketers is finding a just-right approach in our buyer journey that effectively engages and encourages potential customers to learn enough about our products or services and consequently decide that we’re the right fit for their needs.
What often happens is that we’ll engage with potential clients to the point that they are more actively seeking out our content and brand, making them marketing qualified leads. It’s at this point they’ve been validated and that a more personalized marketing engagement strategy should kick in and begin the process of conversion.
This process requires the use of an effective customer relationship management (CRM) platform, which is used to segment and track our leads and from this segmentation, we can then initiate the necessary tools and strategies to properly groom and nurture them until they are prepared for the sales team to make contact. One of the ways we can do this is by building up their trust through our search engine optimization systems, designed to put the right content in front of the right users.
Building Trust Through an SEO Marketing Strategy
The last thing consumers today need is another pushy email in their inbox inviting them to join another newsletter or an invasive ad campaign filling up their social media feeds seconds after they look at an ad for more than five seconds. Aggressive and flashy outbound marketing campaigns are the fastest way to lose a lead, as they are the most likely type of campaigns to be blocked and ignored—in fact, 58% of US consumers don’t trust online advertising, even when they’ve opted in to receiving it in the form of newsletters.
You know what 70% of consumers do trust? Recommendations from other clients online. So in order to get those recommendations in front of potential clients and build trust over time, you have to take some very clever steps with content in order to provide relevant and meaningful information to them in the right places at the right time.
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Targeted Emails for Lead Nurturing
By the time a lead is considered an MQL, they’ve already exhibited an interest in your brand beyond the average consumer, so it is ok to be a little more upfront and straightforward in communicating what your brand can do for them. The trick is to do so in a way that doesn’t feel like a pushy sales campaign. That’s where targeted email campaigns are extremely useful—and at an average ROI of roughly 3,800%, extremely lucrative.
The key is that at this point we as marketers have the data knowing what pain points visitors are experiencing. Creating segmented email campaigns that address each MQL’s specific pain points is a great way to let them know that we understand their needs and we’re ready to help them solve those problems with the services or products we have available.
We talked about how much MQLs trust reviews about your product from other consumers. Case studies provide that level of messaging by highlighting how some of your more successful clients addressed specific business problems and challenges using your services. A full analysis of a project or campaign helps an MQL relate more precisely by seeing another customer with the same challenges and day-to-day operating needs as themselves, and then to see your service or product in action making that client’s day go a little more smoothly.
There is a lot of power in clients sharing via case studies how you’ve helped them, and it creates a desire in MQLs to be part of that same process. Case studies are considered one of the most effective incentivizing types of content to move MQLs further through the funnel in an organic way that will better ensure their transition to an SQL.
Informational Blog Posts and White Papers
Building trust means that you’re showing an MQL your organization is a source of authority and expertise when it comes to the services or products you offer. While short, punchy content is good to generate site traffic, marketers have found that content around 2,000 words in length provides enough room on the page to not only show expertise in your field, but also to address consumer pain points and answers to common queries. This is the type of content that will over time convince an MQL that your brand is the solution they need.
Similarly, whitepapers take on a more persuasive, solution-based format by presenting a list of common problems faced by your MQLs and how your specific services and products solve those challenges. When it comes to content types, white papers are 62% successful in converting leads, outperform blogs and case studies on conversion rates by a margin of almost 20 percent.
Local SEO Listings
Registering, maintaining, and updating your directory listings on Google and other platforms keeps them relevant and showing up in top local searches. Use the listings to educate visitors on your products and services with appropriate calls to action, direct them to your online content and social media pages, and post reviews as well as invite current clients to leave their own reviews.
Use the Right Language in Your Calls to Action At Every Step
It’s important to remember that the difference between an MQL and an SQL is intent to buy. The slightest misstep in crafting the buyer’s journey for your MQLs can create a negative experience or cause them to feel too pressured by the process and cause them to drop out of the sales funnel altogether. Your goal within the MQL journey should be to avoid overly aggressive calls to action.
Rather than, “Buy now!” you should stick to calls for them to become more informed or to learn about a service. “Learn more now!” and “Check out this helpful guide!” are more in line with the tone and energy at this stage that will keep them engaged and active in the inbound portion of the funnel. The landing pages behind these calls to action should follow suit and be geared towards informational and educational to show what problems can be solved—let the client make the hard sell to themselves.
Nurturing Through Education—The SEO Path to Conversion
If you’re having problems converting MQLs into SQLs, don’t make the mistake of increasing pressure through your outbound channels, as this can do more damage to your inbound lead pipeline. Instead, work with your marketing team to restructure your inbound lead generation strategy, with a focus on building trust and engagement through content and targeted emails.
These SEO-based tactics will do more to attract, engage, and retain leads within your sales funnels, making it easier to give your MQLs the nudge they need to decide for themselves that they’re ready to commit and buy.