As marketers, we tend to put a lot of emphasis at the top of the funnel. Get those leads in, and sales will do the rest, or get the leads in and let your marketing automation system churn out content to them and
hope and pray that they become “sales ready.” Both strategies are flawed because they put too much stress on the sales and marketing teams and technology that are not working well together. The key to getting these assets to work together is a well-planned lead nurturing program. This utilizes the strength of sales, marketing and technology to make the difference between closing a significant percentage of those leads and letting them languish.
Lead nurturing, also known as lead incubation or lead development, is the key to keeping the prospects fresh by engaging and informing those inquirers until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. The secrets to success are: quality leads, relevant content and a multi-channel approach that develops momentum toward conversion.
Four things you need to know in order to get your leads moving through the funnel:
- The Rule of 45 – 45 percent of all leads will close SOMEWHERE
According to the SLMA, the Rule of 45 is the idea that 45 percent of B2B leads close somewhere within a year of being generated. Some websites place the B2C rate even higher at 55 percent, with a shorter time to closing. With such a high rate of success among these qualified leads, don’t you want your company to capture the business rather then your competitor? Lead nurturing builds trust and awareness, while enabling customers to buy from you when they are ready. Studies show that the best lead nurturing practices achieve higher sales revenue and better campaign response than those without a structured plan for nurturing leads.
- Timeliness – Discovery period under 10 days
Traditional lead nurturing programs have been relying on email as a single (and in most cases, only) platform to stay in contact with prospects. The typical schedule: acquire lead; follow up with an email introducing the company and service within 14 days; then another in two weeks offering white papers; then another; etc. Because of the long gaps between communications (ironically, spaced this way to be less “pushy”), open and click-through rates tend to drop off after each round of email.
Buying behavior has changed with an availability of seemingly infinite resources to educate consumers before a purchase, necessitating better nurturing from day one — when the lead is captured. Multi-channel nurturing is a must, from the first instance of discovery. Our research indicates that the discovery period ends within the first 10 days. Customers shop online, consult peers and research the Internet for solutions early in the process. Individual research happens faster though, so early communication should be prioritized.
- Relevant content at the right stage
Nurturing is not selling or self-promoting; it is an offshoot of the classic content marketing model, providing real value to prospects during the consideration phase. Develop a content strategy that maps buyers’ needs to where they are along the buyer journey. Establish thought leadership, brand awareness and trust, so that your company has effectively become the trusted advisor when the prospects are ready to purchase.
This is a good time to take inventory of your existing assets and fill in the gaps of information that your customers are seeking. Early in the buyer journey, provide educational overviews in the form of a white paper, eBook or webinar. Mid-funnel leads will respond positively to more specialized information, such as a live demo, seminar or technical white paper that will serve their need for advanced research. Later on, provide product comparisons, free trials, case studies and of course, pricing.
- Leads get stuck in the middle of the funnel – nurture them consistently
Email marketing alone will lead
to attrition. Leads often do not respond to emails, so marketing automation systems ignore them. Rather, a multi-platform engagement approach has the power to keep your company top-of-mind during the buy cycle.
A successful multi-platform campaign aims to:
– Deliver relevant, data-driven display and contextual ads.
– Provide multiple content offerings through diverse touch points.
– Create landing pages that speak to the specific interests of your targets.
– Use smart, intent-driven technology to keep those landing pages relevant to the user experience.
– Track responses and interactions, including: clicks, open rate, page visits, time spent and downloads. Doing so will help you craft appropriate and actionable outbound messages to your customers.
Lead nurturing enables your company to engage in conversation with potential buyers and provide the information they need, when they need it. Begin early and communicate directly with relevant, non-sales content to inform purchasing decisions. Nurtured leads provide greater visibility, healthier customer data, efficiency to the sales force and marketing accountability. Which ultimately will help you close that deal.
This article was originally featured on Business2Community.com