Written by Elise Dopson

February 14, 2022

There’s no way around it: To grow and thrive, your business needs a constant stream of leads. But generating leads is only half the battle. 

The real difficulty lies in finding and nurturing leads that turn into customers because customers and clients are the key to a successful business — they’re how you generate revenue. And yet only a fraction of your leads will actually become paying customers (between 10% and 15% in most cases).

One way to improve your lead-to-customer conversion rate is through lead optimization. 

This guide shares what lead optimization is, complete with five tips on how to nurture your leads so they turn into paying customers in as little time possible. 

What is lead optimization?

Lead optimization refers to the techniques used to move leads through your sales funnel, from prospect to marketing qualified lead (MQL) to sales qualified lead (SQL) to customer. You might see it called “sales optimization” for this reason.

Lead optimization vs. lead generation: What’s the difference?

Lead generation and lead optimization are very different but are closely linked.

Lead generation is the process of actually acquiring leads. There are dozens of techniques you can use to generate leads — from producing lead magnets to coupon code incentives.

Lead optimization, on the other hand, refers to the techniques you apply to those leads once they’ve been generated. If you have leads rolling in but you’re not doing anything with them, you’re unlikely to convert them into customers. And that’s when you have a problem.

Lead gen and optimization go hand-in-hand. The key difference is that lead optimization is all about what you do with those leads once you’ve gathered their details.

How to optimize leads 

Once you’ve got a lead, the hard work is just beginning. It’s now time to ensure they’re effectively engaged to turn them from just a lead into a paying customer. But how exactly do you do that?

Here are five ways to optimize your leads and nudge them closer to your end goal: converting them into a customer.

  1. Know your normal.
  2. Understand a lead’s pain points.
  3. Prompt engagement via social media.
  4. Use lead scoring.
  5. Nurture leads with email or SMS.

1. Know your normal

A huge part of lead qualification is knowing who to prioritize. After all, your sales team has finite hours in the day. Identifying those most on the edge of converting is a better way to spend your time than the first ones you see appear in your CRM.

Some products or services naturally have a longer sales cycle than others, so it’s hard to give generic advice. Start piecing together what an at-risk lead looks like for your business by understanding your normal. That includes answers to questions like:

  • How many days does a lead spend in your nurturing funnel?
  • How long does it take for the average person to move from MQL to SQL?
  • What content does a lead engage with immediately before converting?

Use Google Analytics goals and conversion tracking to see this on a macro level, though CRMs have more advanced sales analytics. HubSpot, for example, has a “deal time spent in each stage” report that shows average timelines for sales-related activities.

hubspot lead optimization metrics

Benchmark any new leads against this baseline. Those spending too much time in any stage of your sales cycle should be prioritized. Reach out to them as a matter of urgency; the longer they’re stuck in the lurch, the more time they have to change their mind. 

Pro tip: ManyChat integrates with popular CRMs so leads generated through your Chat Marketing campaigns automatically feed through to your dashboard for targeting and nurturing.

2. Understand a lead’s pain points

Understanding the pain points and challenges that your target customer suffers from will allow you to use your expertise to warm up your leads. 

Survey existing clients/customers and engage with new subscribers and leads to understand what their biggest challenges are. This will give you ammunition for creating content that helps solve their challenges. 

Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, asks every lead who signs up via his site what they need help with. Answers help him fine-tune his content and lead optimization efforts.

lead optimization example

Next, speak to your sales team to identify the biggest barriers to purchase. Your sales team likely has recurring reasons why leads don’t convert into sales, so get them to share those reasons with you. It might be pricing, that potential clients don’t understand the product, or simply that the lead isn’t quite ready to make an investment, but you won’t know unless you ask. 

Customer service or success teams also have a wealth of information on recurring issues your customers struggle with, too. These challenges are likely barriers that prevent leads from converting, so understanding and addressing them may help reduce friction through your sales funnel. 

Use the information and data you’ve gathered to create targeted content that helps solve these challenges. Be sure to incorporate your services or products into the mix to drive your leads further down your sales funnel toward making a purchase. 

“Content is critical, and one of our most successful approaches has been to use existing customer feedback to generate content. We collate information on existing customer issues and opinions; this then feeds into the content we create so we know we are directly addressing our customer’s questions and providing the solutions they are looking for.”

James Parkinson, digital marketing specialist at Personnel Checks

3. Prompt engagement via social media

When a lead signs up for your email list, it’s important that you gather enough relevant information about them to nurture them effectively. Failing to do so could result in mismatched marketing campaigns that don’t convince them to convert — which is a waste of everyone’s time. 

But you’re busy. You want to focus on gaining leads and converting them into customers. Do you really have time to spend optimizing those leads, too? 

Social media automation exists so you can sit back while tech takes care of much of the optimization for you. Facebook and Instagram chatbots are both powerful tools that allow you to engage and interact with new leads without having to lift a finger.

Use ManyChat’s automated replies feature to respond to DMs (direct messages) and instantly build a rapport with your lead, or offer instant answers to their questions. Not only do leads get immediate answers to their questions, but you’re left with more time to communicate with high-priority leads who need human assistance.

manychat lead optimization

4. Use lead scoring 

Not all leads are equal. Some people are closer to a purchase and, in some cases, certain leads are more in line with your ideal customer than others.

Identify which leads are more likely to buy from you (and therefore focus more heavily on converting) with lead scoring — an automated process offered by email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp, CRM platforms like HubSpot, and social media automation tools like ManyChat. Lead scoring works by assigning scores to a contact in your database (i.e., your lead) based on positive or negative actions they take. 

The higher the score, the more likely your lead is to purchase. For example, a lead’s score will increase if they download something from your site, click through from an email, or attend a webinar. However, their score could go down if they don’t open your emails, don’t show up to a webinar after registering, or answer negatively to a poll provided by your chatbot.

Prioritize leads who score high. They’ll move along your sales pipeline quickly so you can hand them over to your sales reps to follow up on the lead and close the sale.

5. Nurture leads with email or SMS campaigns

Leads aren’t always ready to purchase right away. In fact, it can take as many as eight touches or interactions with a company before a salesperson can arrange a meeting or a call.

A lead might come through via a sign-up form on your website (perhaps they’ve downloaded a resource or attended a webinar). At this point, they may not be ready to buy from you, but they’ve trusted you enough to give you their details,which means they’re open to hearing from you. Grab the opportunity with both hands.

Enroll new leads in an email sequence that educates them, earns their trust, and moves them through your funnel. Set up automated workflows that trigger once a lead signs up or takes an action on your site. This type of lead nurturing activity is super effective; studies suggest it can improve conversion rates by up to 50%.

One way to do this is with an SMS nurture campaign. Some 90% of users open messages within three minutes of receiving them, and 85% of customers prefer to receive a text message over a call or email, making text a powerful way to connect to and build a relationship with your leads.

Let’s put that into practice and say you work for a marketing agency using automation to nurture subscribers on its email list. You use ManyChat’s SMS marketing tool to build this flow:

  • Immediately: A welcome text sharing what to expect now that they’re on your list.
  • Day 3: A testimonial from a previous happy client. 
  • Day 7: A link to a case study where you achieved 5,000% ROI for a previous client.
  • Day 10: A final CTA to purchase your service with a special, time-based coupon or incentive.

If a lead doesn’t convert following a lead nurture campaign, don’t just drop them from your CRM platform. Instead, set up an automated rule that moves them into another sequence or a catch-all list, and continue to engage with them until they’re (hopefully) in a better position to convert further down the line.

Are your sales leads fully optimized?

Every business knows leads are important, but it’s about quality rather than quantity. By using the lead optimization techniques outlined in this guide, you can greatly improve the quality of your leads and dramatically improve conversion rates.

Start nurturing your sales pipeline and optimize your leads to improve your chance of converting them into customers. A little time up front results in more conversions, more sales, and more revenue for your business. 

Need help nurturing your leads? Try ManyChat’s suite of Chat Marketing tools to convert leads on autopilot. 

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The contents of this blog were independently prepared and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ManyChat or any other party. Individual results may vary.