What is Google’s Product Review Algorithm Update?

Google has introduced a new algorithm update that’s meant to target a specific type of online content. Here’s what that means for content creators and businesses.

Google’s “Product Reviews” algorithm update has a lot of implications for review articles/blogs that are meant to compare or review products online. The good news though is that with the new update also comes some information on best practices for just how to create that kind of content. We’ve decided to unpack it a little here so that businesses can know how to get the best traffic growth.

What exactly is the Google product reviews update, and how does it change the world of product review SEO?

Read on to see what it means for your online marketing strategy.

The Basics of the Google Product Review Algorithm

First announced on Google’s Search Central Blog, they explain that the main goal of the new update is to address online product review content and to make sure that the best, most helpful reviews show up in search results.

Their main motivation is to make sure that Google search provides the most accurate, and high-quality content for users that rely on them to research products, make purchases, and navigate through eCommerce decisions.

According to Google the purpose of the product reviews update is to focus on:

“…reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products. That’s why we’re sharing an improvement to our ranking systems, which we call the product reviews update, that’s designed to better reward such content.

Although this is separate from our regular core updates, the advice that we provide about producing quality content for those is also relevant here. The overall focus is on providing users with content that provides insightful analysis and original research, and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.

It is more website-focused, and not just URL-focused. Meaning that it might be more likely to affect websites as a whole, or sections of a site. Google claims the changes to the algorithm are meant for broader “parts of sites, or the site overall.”

Since the algorithm is not a core algorithm update. That means it only affects rankings for certain types of content in their search index, so non-reviewing brands and businesses that do not publish “product reviews” will not be affected by this update.

  also gives some extra explanation, that this update will control the SEO rankings of not just regular product reviews, but all types of reviews including service business reviews, single product reviews, product “round-ups,” and more.

How Businesses Can Optimize Their Content for the Product Reviews Update

For online business owners, content creators, and marketers, Google has come right out and provided guidance about how to create good content for this product review algorithm update!

There’s no information on how the algorithm works on a technical level, what sort of on-page SEO ranking factors are used as signals, or what sort of writing guidelines for SEO are at play. Obviously, well-known strategies like keyword research, meta-data optimization, and technical SEO are still important, but it’s best to approach this update by making sure that content is written for users first and foremost.

Google’s goal is to float expert and insightful analysis to the top of search results in favor of thin or vague content. It’s meant to promote original research, content written by “experts or enthusiasts” who know the topic well.

Content and Quality Questions That Businesses Can Ask Themselves

In fact, with the announcement of the product reviews update, Google provided 9 questions can marketers use as guidance for their product review SEO. Does your content…

  • Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
  • Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
  • Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?

To better optimize content for the Google product reviews update, these questions can help content creators ensure they can meet user needs, and not just provide empty words.

How Content Creators Can Protect Against Negative Impact

What do you do if your site has been negatively impacted by the update?

As is often the case with algorithmic changes, and fluctuations in rankings, there isn’t one exact answer. The main thing is to make sure that content is accurate, honest, and is high-quality. That means, that in addition to the trouble-shooting questions above, websites can rely on Google’s Search Central documents on steps for building high-quality sites and avoiding algorithmic penalties.

Their advice: focus on delivering the best possible user experience, ask yourself if you’d trust the information presented on your site the way it’s presented, avoid duplicate/redundant content. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience – and then pre-emptively create content that makes their journey through your site as satisfactory as possible.

After that, it might be best to audit the technical SEO of your site, or to get in touch with experts in SEO management to see if under-optimized content could be hurting your website’s growth.

It’s Not A Core Algorithm Update

The Google product reviews algorithm is not a core update, meaning that it does not affect all rankings/pages in the Google search index.

This means that for many brands, businesses, eCommerce sellers, and publishers there’s nothing to worry about. That is unless they also publish reviews, such as in the form of blogs. Other than that – there’s no information from Google about what ranking signals are used in the algorithm.

Best-Practices for Product-Related Marketing Content

With this update, Google is reminding business across the web about the number one rule: content is king! That means high-quality, user-focused content across your total digital-marketing campaign.

Here’s what brands need for SEO-rich content:

  • Providing product information for shoppers is still as important as ever. Google relies on accurate and trusted product data to precisely identify products that are available for shoppers – that means elements like SKU numbers or GTIN information.
  • Clear information.
  • Exact product names.
  • High-quality photos
  • Be careful with sponsored content. Don’t rely on sponsored content to give/get backlinks. Website owners can notify Google about sponsored content by using the sponsored content HTML meta-tag on their site, and by properly utilizing robots HTML commands. It’s not known if the product reviews algorithm cares about sponsored content – generally Google understands the existence of affiliate marketing/sponsored content and offers the above elements to handle it.

Why Content is So Important for Shopper Marketing

When it comes to better product-review content, and better digital marketing online, it’s important to remember that users come first!

According to research data from Think With Google, 47% of global purchases are made online, plus nearly 1/2 of all shoppers use Google to discover new items or products, and in 2019 retail eCommerce alone brought in $3.5 trillion in the U.S. Data compiled by BrightEdge claims that search engine traffic (referred to as “organic” traffic) makes up 51% of all website traffic – meaning that the search engine is crucial to the way people begin their shopping journey.

Internet shopping and browsing is the new normal for the way people buy stuff for their daily lives, and even for how they discover new brands.

Before looking at technical ways to enhance your content, businesses should first be sure that website content is high quality and provides value to their intended audience. When writing content, address the questions and concerns of your target audience in order to provide the most value.

All the page #1 keyword rankings in the world mean nothing if visitors don’t find value in your content.

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for Content

We’ve already emphasized how one of the single best things online businesses can do is to focus on high-quality content. Fortunately, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines provide clear instructions on creating high-quality content which content creators and business marketers can rely on.

Here are few of the main things to keep in mind when strategizing how to engage with your audiences using product reviews:

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
  • Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
  • Ensure that your <title> elements and alt attributes are descriptive, specific, and accurate.
  • Avoid spammy, manipulative, or misleading content.
  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Content for User “Needs Met”

There’s another thing that should be the starting point for all the content on a site – especially for improving product review SEO in the long term. And that is something that Google’s quality evaluator guidelines define as “needs met.”

Will visitors find their “needs met” when they visit your page?

This concept means that everyone who reads or visits your site should hopefully come away from it with the feeling that their needs were fully met.

When creating content for both your website (and even for off-site marketing channels like social) it’s important to make sure that you use product-review SEO keywords that match with the content’s subject matter, and to provide a UX that will help visitors get to their ultimate goal. Whether that’s making a purchase, researching information, navigating somewhere, filling out a form, etc.

This means understanding search intent marketing – what the intent, or the actual individual’s goal is when they use Google – and creating content that actually matches that intent and meets their needs.

So let’s say for example that someone makes a search for “GoPro Hero 9 camera quality review” or “Sony wireless earbuds battery review.” Even for brands that are already using traditional SEO to target these keywords, Google will use the product reviews update to rank the results.

Understanding how “searcher intent” is now core to being able to provide better content, and to improving modern eCommerce marketing. For brands and reviewers that want to appear for these types of searches, and capture people in the shopping funnel, it’s best to consider “what do people searching these things actually want” and to try to create content that meets those needs (a.k.a. “needs met”).

Product Marketing That is E-A-T

Since the Google product reviews update is all about quality content it’s good practice to look at other ways to get good SEO content.

Businesses that want their website to score well on Google have to consider EAT. So what is EAT? It refers to the “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness” of the webpage, the main content, and the webpage’s creator. Websites that demonstrate lots of EAT feature content that is not only useful, but is built on their overall expertise, authority, and trusted reputation for a certain subject matter or their industry.

The idea comes from their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines which outline the concept of EAT for the search giant’s human reviewers. It’s what they use to evaluate how well their search algorithms perform – and it can be used as a guide for what Google actually considers good content (even for product review update SEO).

Go over what these guidelines are in our post about 13 search quality items that Google’s raters are looking at!

EAT isn’t a part of the search algorithm, but it compels marketers to consider certain signals on their site that can improve SEO. It also emphasizes how “UX” is the primary point of content. After all, what’s the purpose of content if shoppers don’t get what they’re looking for – or worse – only find low-quality, weak content?

Google’s guidance on EAT content works as a guide for inbound marketers using SEO and content strategies. They claim that a “high-quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well.”

Your on-page content should have:

  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • A satisfying amount of high-quality main content, including a descriptive or helpful title.
  • Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. If the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions, then it should have satisfying customer service information.
  • A positive website reputation for the site that is responsible for the main content on the page.
  • Positive reputation of the creator of the main content, if different from that of the website.

With this in mind, it’s important that you start optimizing your web pages right away. The above suggestions are some of the best ways to make sure your target customers actually get what they need – and are the best starting points for better product review SEO.

Want to learn more about growing your online traffic? Feel free to reach out to us here… we’d love to chat!

 

 

Define Your Ideal Customer Profile Like a Pro

A campaign is only as good as its targeting, and targeting is only as good as your Ideal Customer Profile. Do you know your ICP? Here’s how to find it.

Eliminate Outbound Guesswork with Ideal Customer Profiles

Remember when we looked at the difference between cold email prospecting and marketing emails?

We’ll save you the time of reading that post.

(Though you might want to check it out just so you can get to know Ray Tomlinson better. Yeah, that’s right, the Ray Tomlinson. We’ll give you a hint – he invented email.)

In short, the difference between cold email prospecting and marketing emails boils down to one being outbound (cold emails) and the other inbound (marketing emails).

That’s pretty much it.

Yet, that one, simple directional switch makes a world of difference in business communication.

It’s not uncommon for companies to assume outbound marketing costs more than inbound marketing (more time, more money, and more resources).

And that may be true in some regard; however, outbound marketing can also be cost-effective (not to mention a significant revenue stream) too.

So let the other companies slander outbound marketing’s good name. Because all that besmirching lets you buck popular opinion to your benefit.

Which is one of the reasons why we’re such big fans of email prospecting.

Some people think cold email prospecting is guesswork. Nothing more than a tactic to bother random unvetted contacts with impersonal, mass messaging in hopes that something will stick.

And, sure, that’s the typical approach.

But when done right, cold email prospecting is a pearly white hat tactic to engage pre-vetted contacts with relatable, personalized messaging that brings value, insight, and joy to all.

What sets these two types of cold emailing apart is the type of contact they target.

Which brings us to today’s topic: Targeting the right audience.

Or, as we marketers like to call it, targeting your Ideal Customer Profile.

Using Ideal Customer Profiles to Target the Right People

Effective email prospecting (cold, warm, or otherwise) depends on two things to survive and thrive:

  1. Valid email addresses
  2. Great messaging

The second is only as good as the first. Because, as any experienced digital marketer knows, email outreach lives and dies by its contact list.

Which is why it’s crucial that we use valid email addresses in our campaigns.

Emphasis on the word valid.

To deem an email address is valid, it must:

  • Be legit (e.g., won’t bounce)
  • Belong to prospects most likely to buy what you’re selling (aka SQLs)

Every company has different criteria for defining an SQL (sales qualified lead). Sometimes different departments will even have different definitions. So determining validity can get tricky for your outreach, and not doing so correctly, or at all, can spell disaster.

So before any marketing campaign can succeed, we first need to comprehensively identify the criteria used to measure SQLs and validate email addresses.

That’s where an ideal customer profile comes in.

Which begs the question…

What is an Ideal Customer Profile?

An ideal customer profile (also known as your “ideal customer persona” or ICP, for short) defines your most valuable customers. It is a clear, standard, objective definition of who your product’s preeminent buyers and users are. The ones that are a perfect fit for your solution and would benefit the most from what you offer.

In other words, they are the ideal buyer.

They are your sales qualified target market.

In B2B, this means a target company and its decision-makers.

Overall, an ICP is structured around a combination of qualitative and quantitative characteristics, all of which are data-driven.

This data constitutes the firmographics of your ICP.

That’s right: firmographics.

As in, demographics for firms.

Firmographics are to businesses what regular demographics are to people.

They are a set of characteristics used to aggregate individual firms (or organizations) into meaningful segments, forming a profile of your ideal customers that you can easily cross-reference when building out your contact lists.

To put it in more attractive terms: Identifying your ICP helps you target customers possessing the highest purchase intent, greatest retention rate, and strongest affinity for your brand.

How to Create Your Ideal Customer Profile Using Firmographics

An ideal customer profile can be collated by looking at:

  • Your previous and current “best” customers
  • Customers of competitors
  • Engaged visitors on your site
  • Industry trends

The latter three are typically reserved for startups and early-stage businesses that haven’t yet built up a healthy customer list. (If this is you, in the next section, we’ll share some tools to aid in your ICP quest.)

For the companies who have been around a while, your “best” customers will be your greatest resource. They are a compilation of closed-won opportunities (i.e., sales qualified leads which converted into customers).

We say “best” in quotations because this won’t be the same for everyone.

Is the best customer one who makes a single purchase or one who makes ten purchases? Is the best customer one who buys in one vertical or one that buys in all your verticals?

There’s no right answer here.

It is something your team needs to decide based on your business model and customer data collectively.

Just remember, this isn’t a good customer or even a great customer.

It is your BEST customer.

As in:

Once you determine who your best customer is, you can create a profile composed of firmographic attributes.

We’re going to use “firmographics” as an umbrella term that also includes employee demographics and business technographics. While these are technically separate segmentation methods, in this context, they all help to create a full profile of your ideal customer covering every level of your customer’s business.

These levels include:

  1. Company-Level Data
  2. Employee-Level Data
  3. Technology-Level Data

Company Firmographics

First, you want to look at your best customer by understanding their company as a whole.

This is what traditional firmographics look like.

Company-level data includes:

  • Industry – What products or services does this customer provide? How does what you offer enhance their business?
  • Location – Where is this customer located? A specific type of city or region? Are they international? Do they have one location or multiple? Take into consideration the weather, tourist traffic, local demographics, and other factors specific to that location.
  • Company Structure – Are they a startup, small business, or larger, well-established company?
  • Employee Size – How many employees do they currently have? Are they growing? Downsizing? Segment your best customers according to their number of employees.
  • Company Revenue – What is their level of income? Has their revenue increased or decreased? Segment your best customers accordingly.

Employee Firmographics

Next, you want to understand the decision-makers and influencers who will make the purchase happen, also known as buyer personas. These are the people you will be communicating with directly.

Depending on the company structure and size, there could be one or several decision-makers. In some cases, you may only be able to gain access to those decision-makers by first communicating with influencers, like supervisors or lower-level colleagues.

By looking at your best decision-makers’ demographics and those that influence them, you can better prepare your marketing strategy.

This employee-level data includes:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race
  • Position Type
    • C Level
    • VP
    • Manager
    • Non-Manager
  • Job Details – What are their responsibilities? What does their day-to-day look like? What time of the day, month, or year are they most busy? Least busy?
  • Pain Points – Which parts of their job are the most challenging? Which parts would they change if they could? Are they a cash-strapped startup owner looking for more money? A tech analyst in search of more valuable data? How can your offering help?
  • Lifestage – What stage of life are they in? Are they a recent grad? Are they single? Married? A parent of young children? A parent of teens? Empty-nester? New hire or just promoted?
  • Interests – What do they enjoy most, career or otherwise? Do they like surfing? Are they an animal lover? A health nut? Are they an early adopter tech geek?
  • Industry Sources – Where do they get information about their business and role? What blogs and industry reports do they read? What sites do they visit? Who do they follow on social media?
  • Buying Process – How long does it take them to make a decision? How much nurturing do they need throughout the process?
  • Most Common Questions & Objections – What are their biggest concerns? What are the best answers you can provide?
  • LinkedIn Profile

Technology Firmographics

Finally, you want to understand what resources they are using and how they relate to what you offer.

These are also known as technographics.

This tech-level data includes:

  • Website URL
  • Website Structure – What kind of CMS do they use? Is it a custom backend or pre-built, like WordPress?
  • CRM – Do they use customer relationship management software?
  • Analytics – Where are they getting their business insight from? Do they have a dedicated statistical team? Do they use third-party tools, like Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Hubspot, SEMRush, etc.
  • Automation – How automated is their marketing? What automation tools are they using?
  • Tech Spend – How much do they spend on tech, software, and services?
  • Marketing Spend – How much are they spending on marketing platforms such as Google Ads, LinkedIn Ads, and Facebook Ads?
  • Other Technology – Are they using any industry or company-specific tech?

The end result of all this data-gathering should look something like this example from HubSpot.

As you can see, a lot goes into forming the firmographics of your best customer.

Even still, this is not an exhaustive list.

There are countless different criteria for segmenting your best customers using firmographics. Above are some of the most common.

A more simplified but also helpful method can be outlined using a BANT framework to ascertain a snapshot of their budget, authority, needs, and timing.

Similarly, the following framework created by Rick Wong, author of Winning Lifelong Customers, can help segment:

But those are only for quick reference.

Ideally, the more data you have, the better when creating an ideal customer profile.

Though getting that data is easier said than done.

Tools to Help Find Your Ideal Customer Profile

As we saw above, ascertaining ICP data requires answering a lot of questions, some of which contain info that is not so easy to find.

To make it easier, let’s take a look at some helpful resources.

If you want to identify customers of competitors, try tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and NerdyData.

If you want to identify engaged visitors on your site, try tools like LeadFeeder.

If you want to identify industry trends, try tools like Google Alerts and Google Trends.

If you want to identify your best customers, some helpful data-collection methods include:

  • Digital analytics tools
  • Existing customer surveys and focus groups
  • Your CRM database
  • Interviewing customer service and sales team members

As for online analytics tools, here are several that can provide valuable insight into companies and their employees:

 

Remember, sometimes the best way to find your best customer is also to know who your worst is. So be sure not just to analyze your current top-performers, but also search for your poor-performing customers so you can highlight their shared attributes as ones that shouldn’t go into your ICP.

Finally, it’s also important to note that not every one of your best customers shares the same attributes. So the task becomes segmenting your customers according to shared attributes and seeing which segment comprises the majority of your best customers.

The sweet spot will be your Ideal Customer Profile.

An Example of an Ideal Customer Profile Definition

Ideally, your Ideal Customer Profile will be very detailed, composed of a ton of attributes. Enough to paint an incredibly clear picture and pinpoint your target audience with exactitude.

However, it’s also useful when all is said and compiled to come up with a short and straightforward definition, summarizing all that data. Or to select the main attributes that comprise an ideal customer.

This ICP definition will make it easier for your entire team, across different departments, to get on the same page quickly.

It’s okay for a business to have multiple ICPs. In fact, it will likely be a necessity if you offer multiple, uniquely distinct services or products.

Next Steps: From ICP to ABM

We’ve come a long way since the start of this post.

Remember, in the beginning, the two things we said all effective email outreach needs to survive and thrive?

They were:

  1. Valid email addresses
  2. Great messaging

And remember how we defined a valid email address as being one that is both legit and belonging to your SQLs? Well, we just took care of the latter —- finding your target audience.

That’s no small thing.

Finding your target audience is probably the biggest and best step in developing a winning marketing strategy.

So you are now well-equipped to build a contact list, stock full of legit email addresses.

All you need to do is use your ICP to build a high-converting contact list from scratch.

But that’s not all you get from finding your ICP!

You’re also in a prime position to succeed at the second requirement above — great messaging.

That’s because an ICP is a necessity for account-based marketing (ABM). ABM puts the customer at the center of your marketing efforts. It is the end-all, be-all of strategies – omnichannel marketing at its best.

But like we said, we’ve just come a long way and covered a lot of important information.

Reading what to do is one thing.

Doing it is something entirely different.

So if you want some help defining your ICP and implementing it for some account-based marketing with your brand, we’re here to help.

Just get in touch, buckle up, and we’ll buck trends, together.

Master the Sales Follow-Up: Close Deals Like a Sweet Talking Ninja

Are you a quitter?

When the going gets tough, and the leads get reluctant, do you give up? When a sale wavers, and it’s nearing five do you go home? When they say, “I have to think about it,” do you believe them? When someone can’t talk right now because it’s their kid’s 5th birthday and they’re about to serve the cake, do you let them go?

Do YOU!?

Because you shouldn’t. That’s what a quitter would do. Not a seller. A seller would make that kid wait to get their cake.

Okay, we may be a bit too aggressive here, but the point is, most people give up too soon.

It’s rare for a prospect to respond to a salesperson’s first outreach. So what’s a sales rep to do?

Well, they would follow-up, and then follow up on their follow-ups.

But how many times should you follow-up before moving on, so you’re not a quitter but rather a seller who knows they’ve hit a dead-end?

Here’s a better way of putting that…

How Many Touchpoints Does it Take to Make a Sale?

It can take an average 8 touches to get an initial meeting with a new prospect.

Not make a sale. Just get an initial response.

It takes an estimated 7-13+ touchpoints to build a sales qualified lead.

Not buy something. Just get interested in buying something.

To actually make a sale? That typically takes a lot of touching. We’ve seen it take anywhere from 10 to 60+ touchpoints from start to finish.

Now that’s ridiculous. Trying to get a prospect to convert over 60 different times? Who has time for that? Not us. Or your prospects. After all, there’s cake to be eaten.

So your goal should be to make a sale in as few touchpoints as possible.

To do that takes a true artist.

There is no exact sales follow-up formula. It’s something that is practiced, honed, and perfected through honest handiwork and creative cunning, like a well-trained artist.

Or a well-trained ninja… that paints.

If you take away one piece of advice from our discussion here today, it should be this: Follow-up like Bob Ross paints. Artfully.

So shake off your losses, mix up your outreach, grab your brushes, and hold onto your afros. We’re about to master the art of the sales follow-up.

Always Be Closing

The best place to start any lesson on following up is with our ABCs.

If you don’t know the ABCs of selling, we recommend you head on over to your local Blockbuster and pick up a VHS copy of Glengarry Glen Ross — the classic 90s film about selling real estate.

In it, Alec Baldwin artfully (if not somewhat offensively) motivates a roomful of salesmen to sell better by offering sage wisdom. His advice?

Always Be Closing.”

 This motivational sales mantra is the regimen of winners.

For our purposes here, the ABCs can roughly be translated to “Always Be Following Up.” Or ABFU, for short. As in, Always Be FUing.

No, wait. That’s not appropriate.

What we’re trying to say is don’t quit. That’s the point. When you stop following up, you stop closing, and if you don’t close, there is no sale.

That’s just math.

The First Goal of Following Up: Make Contact

Does the following sound like you: You’ve reached out to a potential customer. Maybe you sent an email. Maybe you called and left a message. Maybe you pinged them on LinkedIn. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself. You’ve done your job. Now you sit back, pop open a bag of Cheetos, take a swig of Yoohoo, and wait for them to respond.

Because the ball is in their court now.

Right?

Wrong!

The ball is ALWAYS in your court.

Here’s a common outbound B2B outreach sequence:

  1. Initial Cold Email: No response.
  2. Follow-Up Email #1: No response.
  3. Cold Call: No one there. Leave message.
  4. Follow-Up Email #2: No response.
  5. Follow-Up Call: Response, but contact not a decision-maker. Get referred to the decision-maker. Start over.
  6. Cold Call Decision Maker: No one there. Leave message.
  7. Follow-Up Email: No response.
  8. Follow-Up Call: Response, but the decision-maker can’t talk now, so schedule an appointment.
  9. Follow-Up Email: Confirm appointment day and time.
  10. Meeting Call: Contact made. Warm lead generated.

 

That sequence took nine touchpoints to just talk to a lead, with one cold email, two cold calls, and six follow-ups.

That’s what it takes to make contact — the first stage of lead generation. The next stage? Qualifying your lead so you can re-initiate contact… over and over and over again until you close.

The Second Goal of Following Up: Qualify Your Leads

Okay, you’ve implemented the 5 surefire strategies to drive leads. So you have some leads. Nice.

But what do you do with them now?

Look at them fondly, trade them with friends, and attach them to your bike spokes?

Nope.

The sole goal of following up isn’t just to initiate a conversation; it’s also to qualify (or disqualify) your leads and send them through your marketing drip and sales funnel.

The end result being where you close.

To successfully get there, you first need to know which type of lead you’re dealing with.

The Difference Between Leads: MQL vs. SQL vs. SAL

There are two types of lead qualification systems.

 

  1. The Subjective Temperature-Based System
  2. The Objective Category-Based System

 

The former is what most people outside your sales department like to use. It essentially involves putting your hand to the forehead of your leads to determine whether they are:

 

  • Hot – Seem very interested in doing business.
  • Warm – Might be interested in doing business.
  • Cold – Not interested in doing business, or don’t even know you exist.

 

But these are really vague qualifiers.

One person’s consideration of a warm lead may be another person’s absolutely freezing.

Just ask someone from Michigan and someone from California how they feel about 50-degree weather.

A far more relevant and effective system is the latter systematic approach based on metrics that track the steps along the customer journey and sorts leads into distinct categories.

These categories are:

 

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)
  • Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

MQL

A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is someone who likely isn’t ready to buy yet, but shows potential. They demonstrate interest beyond inbound leads by taking certain actions on your site like viewing pricing pages, reading multiple blog posts, or checking out your About Us page. The likelihood of their becoming a customer is looking good, with the right nurturing.

They are also considered a warm lead.

SAL

A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) is an MQL that has been researched and vetted and is ready to be handed off from marketing to sales. They have expressed interest in what you offer by reaching milestones set by marketing analytics, like certain site engagements, social media interactions, or micro conversions. They also meet specific sales criteria.

They are considered a hot lead.

SQL

A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is someone who has shown definite interest and is ready to buy. This is displayed by their asking certain, high-value questions or seeking one-on-one interactions.

They are considered very hot leads.

A SQL is closely linked to a SAL. The difference is that a SAL has been accepted by sales for follow up actions, while a SQL has already engaged with sales, such as via a phone call or form request.

At this point, the lead is considered to have converted into an opportunity. From there, they can either become:

 

  • An opportunity in-progress
  • A closed-lost opportunity (i.e., failed to convert into a customer)
  • A closed-won opportunity (i.e., converted into a customer)

 

You’re probably getting bored right about now. Reading about lead qualifications will do that. But, trust us, it’s really important.

Why are these qualifications really important?

Because any true follow-up artist knows that the lead needs to be qualified properly if there is any chance of closing. To get from one category to the next and make a sale, you will need to follow-up repeatedly every step of the way. But to do so effectively, you will want to know what kind of lead they are which will dictate how you talk to them.

How Often Should You Follow-Up

More than you think.

The more you attempt to make contact, the higher the probability that you will make contact.

Our rule of thumb is to follow up as many times as needed until you get a response.

Maybe they’re ignoring you because they’re not interested. Maybe not. The only thing you know for sure is you don’t know until you get a response. So the only outcomes you should settle for are “Yes” or “No.”

Just be aware that sometimes silence can equate to a response. It’s probably safe to assume that after eight follow-ups without a reply, the answer is “No.”

Your follow-up rate should be based on whether you’ve had any previous interaction with the lead — i.e., are they cold, warm, or hot.

If your outreach is completely cold, and you have never interacted with the other person, follow up a maximum of eight times. If no response, they need more nurturing from your marketing team.

If your outreach is warmer, and you have had some form of interaction that was NOT a definitive “no,” then follow up as long as it takes to get a response. Any response. Even if it’s a “no.” Don’t give up until then.

What’s the Right Frequency for Following Up

In terms of frequency, start strong, and decrease over time. Here’s a general outline for timing your follow-ups:

Day 0: Initial Outreach

Day 1: 1st Follow-up

Day 3: 2nd Follow-up

Day 7: 3rd Follow-up

Day 14: 4th Follow-up

Day 28: 5th Follow-up

From There: Once a month

Rember, attitudes change. If someone doesn’t show immediate interest right now, they could change their mind down the road. So play the long game.

Which Follow-Up Method Should You Use: Manual vs. Automatic

Ah yes, the classic scenario of what came first: the ninja or the robot.

Should you manually engage like a disarmingly friendly ninja or blast out automated messages like a stoic robot?

To manually follow up is pretty straightforward.

  1. Pick a lead.
  2. Research their interests and past interactions.
  3. Use that research to tailor your communication to them.
  4. Send it out.
  5. Pick another lead, and do it all over.

 

The manual follow-up emphasizes personalization, sincerity, and legitimacy. But it takes a lot of time and effort. Not to mention managing reminders to follow up on a cadence.

That’s why teams turn to automation.

The automated follow is as follows:

 

  1. Build a follow-up sequence.
  2. Have it automatically sent out to leads as they roll in or meet specific trigger criteria.

 

The automated follow-up emphasizes outreach at scale, optimizing time and resources. But it foregoes some of that personal touch.

So which is right for you?

Luckily, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Add manual best practices to automated sequences, and you’re left with the ultimate follow-up method: a ninja robot… that paints.

(For initial reach-outs, we do recommend highly customized manual outreach)

Not being ninja-like is one of the main reasons why automated cold email prospecting fails. Another is not properly configuring CRMs — like SalesForce and HubSpot — to generate automated sequences tailored to each lead.

There’s also a third reason and it is….

Don’t Rely Just on Email for Following Up

Email is the bedrock of outreach. But it’s not the only game in town.

There is a reason why multichannel marketing is so important. Targeting multiple channels provides multiple touchpoints for closing multiple customers. After all, out of sight, out of mind. So never be out of sight, and you will always be on their mind.

Be sure to implement as many channels as possible into your follow-up strategy. For example:

 

  • Email – A long-term play that leaves the prospect in control of when and how they respond (if at all). Ideal for nurturing MQLs into SQLs.
  • Phone Call – A more direct approach that’s a little more intrusive but can get a faster response than an email. Ideal for turning SALs into SQLs.
  • SMS – A more informal approach that is less intrusive than a call but more direct than an email. It can be borderline stalking unless you’ve previously built-up a relationship—ideal for SQLs.
  • Social Media – A short-term “soft contact” that opens the door for more direct contact. Also known as social selling. Ideal for nurturing leads into MQLs and MQLs into SQLs.
  • Direct Mail – A more personal touch that supersedes digital clutter, like a handwritten note or creative mailer. Best if only performed once. Ideal for turning Unqualified Leads and MQLs into SQLs.
  • In-Person Visit – This is the most direct approach that forces an answer. Tricky to pull-off but provides the most personal touch. Works with any type of lead when there’s nothing left to lose.

As you can see, there’s more than one way to sell a lead.

Diversify Your Touchpoints and Be Consistent

Most people will contact someone once on one channel and call it a day. That’s leaving opportunity on the table.

If you figure it will take eight touchpoints to make contact with a prospect, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Approach them from multiple channels, interspersed with one another. Remember, multichannel marketing is the key.

For example:

 

  • 3 Emails
  • 2 Calls (and Voicemails)
  • 2 LinkedIn Messages
  • 1 Direct Mail

 

A multichannel follow-up approach like this helps prevent “banner blindness” and keeps your messaging fresh.

We get it.

You don’t want to be a pain in the a$$.

No one wants to run the risk of scaring off potential customers by being annoying. But this fear is unfounded. If someone is that sick of your follow-ups, they will tell you or unsubscribe. That’s the absolute worst thing that will happen. We promise. And it’s actually a good thing. Because now you can move on to the next prospect.

 So, we ask you, are you reaching out to your leads enough?

Basho Them Over the Head With Awesome Sales Emails

The ‘BASHO email’ is a highly personalized email directed at decision-makers with the purpose of setting up a meeting. It was developed by world-renowned sales trainer and entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman while working with the BASHO brand, hence the name.

Although BASHO is typically used in cold email outreach, its methodologies can be applied to all forms of business communication, including follow-ups.

BASHO outreach can be seen as a three-step process:

 

  1. Research – The first and most important step. Know thy lead. Scan blogs, company About pages, and social profiles (like LinkedIn and Twitter) to find out what you can about the lead.
  2. Pinpoint Talking Points – Highlight anything that stands out as either a lead’s personal interest or achievement that you can reference.
  3. Reach Out with Referencing – Craft a communication (email, social post, call, handwritten letter, whatever) using what you’ve found. Convey what you know in an authentic, approachable way.

 

Additionally, your communication should have a relatable subject line, strong hook, and clear CTA. Oh yeah, and keep your follow-ups short and sweet.

Here’s an example of BASHO email in action:

Subject: I heard you need a clean up on aisle 5

Dear Mr. Scott,

I read your book ‘Somehow I Manage’ and found it very compelling. I couldn’t agree more that toxic work culture is the worst. After finishing, I had to reach out. I called your office yesterday but wanted to follow-up via email in case that was easier.

While reading your book, I couldn’t help but notice how much you enjoy eating bacon in bed—me too! So much so I started a company that makes pillows that also grill food. We call it My Grillow.

If you’re interested, I would love to show you how My Grillow can improve your bed’n’bacon needs.

Do you have time this week for a 15-minute phone call to discuss?

Sincerely,

Danny

Short. Sweet. BASHO-y.

Conclusion: Don’t Give Up, Follow-Up

You don’t look like a quitter.

You look like a seller.

A seller who closes deals.

You’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, so that alone tells us you don’t quit easily.

It was a test—this entire post.

And you passed.

Congratulations! You are now a certified master of the follow-up arts. A graduate of MFU, if you will. Now, go forth and peddle.

Just remember our advice in the beginning about Bob Ross and being artful and remember to keep the following in mind when following up:

Ninja hard. Personalize often. Qualify properly. And, above all else, always be FUing.

Want more help with your outreach? Let’s talk.