In the traditional marketing funnel, leads get marked as MQLs after meeting a certain set of criteria — usually based in how they've interacted with your content and website. From there, your sales team kicks into overdrive scheduling phone calls, product demos and email followups while intently focusing on how to nurture this qualified lead into making a purchase. But what if I told you there's a much easier way to make all of this happen? A frictionless way?
Using the MQL model, your sales team is bogged down by this cycle of high-touch nurturing. These high-touch leads are expensive, eating away at valuable sales calories that could be redirected toward leads who already understand the value of your offering. And do you know which leads already know this? Ones who are already using your product on a free trial or freemium version. By targeting these PQLs, or product-qualified leads, you can start to create a frictionless funnel for your sales representatives and buyers. Here are four ways to start leveraging your PQLs for a frictionless sales experience:
Source: OpenView and Brian Halligan
In this first group, you have all of the contacts who downloaded a free version of your software or started a free trial. They've just started exploring your company as a solution and might not be ready for a full purchase yet, but you can still create a more frictionless experience for them — and your sales team.
Start with a high-level nurture campaign that offers advice on how to get started with your product, case studies on other clients who have seen success, and any other content to highlight benefits of staying with your tool. Depending on contacts' interaction with that campaign, target users to follow up with on a phone call, engage in personal conversation about their use of your software, and help make them make the most of their free version.
By targeting these free users rather than traditional MQLs, your sales team can have more productive conversations with leads who actually understand your product.
In-Product Hand Raisers
After a free user gets onboarded and starts playing around in your product, they may come across a "gated" feature. A gated feature is something not yet accessible to them in the free version or is an add-on or upgrade from their current version. In many cases, they can request additional information about this feature right in their portal by submitting a form or otherwise raising their hand.
This action signals to your sales team that the lead is ready for an additional conversation and may be ready for another purchase. Because the prospect has self-identified their interest while actually using your product, your sales team can have a much easier, lower-touch conversation with these leads.
Very engaged, freemium users will eventually exceed the limits of your software's free version. In this case, users have already been experiencing your product and are aware of its benefits to their organization. This prior use may increase their conversion rate to your full, paid software to over 50%! They're already "bought" in to the free version, and now need to convert into paying customers in order to continue reaping the benefits you offer.
Again, this action almost self-identifies them as someone who is ready to talk with your sales team, and enables a frictionless experience for both parties. Your sales team isn't wasting time on uninterested leads and these engaged users are immediately offered help and additional resources.
Finally, after using the free version of your product long enough, incredibly happy users may turn into touchless purchasers without a single discussion with your sales team. In this situation, it's likely this is a small purchase — upgrading a feature on their own or purchasing an add-on — but in true frictionless fashion, they've done it on their own. However, in order to make touchless purchases successful, it's recommended you have a pricing page available on your website, and an in-platform checkout process. Without them, users would still have to go through your sales team to learn more about your pricing model and to actually make the purchase.
After purchase, utilize small, followup touch points with your new customers to ensure their success and begin the up-sell or cross-sell process. While these conversion points will happen the least, these users will be the most engaged and eat up fewer of your sales calories as you continue working with them. However, keep in mind that in the SaaS industry, touchless purchases lose their effectiveness as purchase amount increases. After a point, your sales team will have to step in — or your business growth will plateau as touchless purchases drop off.
Scaling a SaaS business can take tremendous effort. If you need guidance on what to tackle next, download your copy of the Definitive Guide to SaaS Marketing. This guide will take you through a number of comprehensible and actionable strategies you can use to grow your SaaS business, all the way from goal setting to customer success and retention.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.