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4 Lead Categories to Know for a Successful Inbound Marketing Strategy

Inbound marketing is a proven strategy to generate highly qualified leads from around the web. It focuses on the needs of a target audience and utilizes a variety of tools to reach that audience such as social media, e-mail marketing and content marketing. 

While inbound marketing can attract visitors to your website, how do you differentiate between leads that are ready to make a purchase and others who are merely curious about your products or wish to subscribe to your email list?

To assist you, here is a quick guide to classify the various types of leads and how you can sort them into your CRM. 

Coordinated Strategy

Preliminarily, it is crucial that you use the same terminology across your entire sales/marketing team. You need to ensure that everyone is clear on the goals and terminology. This makes your strategy clear and concise without any confusion. When there are several different names for leads, it's easy for your messaging to become jumbled and confusing. 


There are two types of “contacts” that access your web page:

  • Visitors
  • Subscribers

Visitors are people that stumble across your website or are led there from another source, i.e. Yelp or Google search. Subscribers are people who willingly shared personal contact information with your business to receive more information about your company. Keep in mind that not all visitors are leads. It is up to your inbound marketing strategy to convert the right people into leads.


There are four types of leads, depending on where you are in the inbound sales funnel:

  • Lead: a visitor that gives you their contact information pursuant to an inbound conversion technique (they are in your CRM database).
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): once a lead is in your CRM, you and your team can determine what type of lead they are based on their actions. An MQL is a lead who visits a variety of your products or services, indicating that they are interested in your products but are not yet ready to buy.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): a lead who has expressed interest in your product. The SQL is prepared to purchase a product and has a need for the product either now or soon.
  • Opportunity: an SQL which is engaged and determined to buy a product. An SQL converts into an opportunity when they enter into sales discussions.

Once an opportunity is sold a product, they become a customer.


The marketing effort does not end at the sale. After a customer purchases a good, it is crucial that you get feedback from them regarding their experience with the product and your company. Through this information, you can measure how likely they are to recommend your company to their friends and family.

The net promoter score is a technique that measures a customer’s happiness and loyalty. The simplest way to calculate this score is through a simple survey by rating their experience from 0 to 10. Based on the response, you can classify the customer into one of three buckets:

  • Detractors are people who pick a number between zero and six. These people who unimpressed with your company and/or product.
  • Passives are individuals who respond between seven and eight. They are neutral on your brand, you neither impressed or upset them.
  • Promoters/Evangelists write glowing reviews, answer nine and above and are the most likely to recommend your company to a friend or family member.

None of the Above

If a lead fails to fall into any of the above categories, then they were disqualified at some point during the conversion. Either they determined they did not need your product or they remain interested but unable to purchase your product. Either way, you will need to remove them from your more active CRM.

Keep in mind that email lists are subject to an average annual decay of 22.5 percent. Thus, email-based leads will naturally filter out of your qualified lists. There are times when you may want to reach out to these people, but it depends on your inbound marketing strategy and goals.

Clear Communication

Almost every relationship problem on T.V. and in the movies is solvable with clear communication. This is also true for your sales and marketing team. Focus on establishing a clear criterion to classify leads that your sales/marketing teams can easily follow. Unify your teams with clear terms, goals, and language. The more efficient your sales and marketing teams operate, the more leads they can generate and convert into customers.

With a clear marketing strategy that classifies visitors, leads, and customers, you can craft an inbound marketing strategy that addresses the needs of each group. An organized CRM is the most efficient way to generate new, good quality customers.

Want to learn more about how inbound marketing can revolutionize your business? Sign up for a free consultation:

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About the Author: Samantha Anderson

Samantha Anderson

Samantha is the COO and co-founder of 41 Orange, inc, a marketing agency. She is also currently a member of the Board of Directors for San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Balboa Park’s resident classical ballet school since 1945. Hailing from the agency world, Sam has worked with Fortune 500 tech, financial, and consumer brands, including Intel, Petco and LPL Financial, to shape their online presence and reach their target audiences more effectively through social media and beyond. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, emphasis in public relations from San Diego State University.