Industry experts state that 70 percent of your company’s sales potential comes from long-term prospects who are not ready to buy when they are first introduced to your company. That may seem like a huge percentage, but it makes sense if you think about it: you wouldn’t commit to a long-term relationship with someone after first meeting them.
If you equate generating the initial lead to the first meeting, then you can understand why new leads may not be ready to immediately buy from your company—despite the aggressive tactics some companies deploy to new leads.
Although a new lead has expressed interest in your company, products or services, they may not be ready to buy for any number of reasons. Their need may not be fully defined or immediate. They may not know if your company has the right product or service to meet their needs. They may not have budget approved yet. They may need to get multiple decision makers on the same page. The B2B buying cycle tends to be a long, deliberate and complex process. There are few “easy” sales.
For these reasons, lead nurturing is an important marketing strategy:
- Nurturing leads makes a good impression on your prospects and will help keep your company top of mind with them. This way, they are likely to come back to you when ready to buy.
- Nurturing leads will prevent leads from being discarded or forgotten or otherwise falling through the cracks.
- Nurturing leads will help you increase your return on investment in marketing by helping you be more efficient and effective in turning the leads you do have into customers—in other words, tapping into that 70 percent of potential sales.
A lead nurturing program is simply a targeted, two-way communications campaign to stay in touch with leads until they signal they are ready for your sales team. Here are the key tasks you must perform:
Evaluate leads as they come in the door
Working with your sales team, your company should develop a simple lead scoring system that classifies leads as either “sales ready” or not. A sales ready lead may have expressed interest in a specific product, announced a buying time frame, and confirmed their budget. The criteria of a sales ready lead is subjective. The important thing is to agree upon its definition with your sales team. Then, put all leads that aren’t sales ready into your lead nurturing program.
Develop a library of valuable content for lead nurturing
Many lead nurturing initiatives start out strong and then lose momentum because you run out of content to send to leads. Maintaining a good library of content that is relevant and helpful to your audience can be challenging. Start by creating an inventory of everything you have: white papers, presentations, Web pages, case studies, articles, podcasts, videos, Webinars and anything else that can help educate your prospects. Determine what you need and devote resources to developing it. You can also use third-party content such as industry articles and analyst reports.
Create a content delivery schedule and add your nurtured leads to the process
Organize your content and schedule it for delivery to your nurtured leads. E-mail is a great way to stay in touch because you can provide links to content or add attachments, then track what your prospect does in terms of clicking on links or taking other action. Invite prospects to Webinars or virtual events where you will be present. Ask them to watch a short video of your product in action. Offer case studies of customers in similar industries. Send links to interesting articles. Send poll questions or short surveys to get their feedback and learn more about them. Also, don’t forget traditional methods of staying in touch such as making phone calls or writing a personalized letter on company stationery to a prospect.
Always give prospects an opportunity to declare themselves “ready to buy”
In all of your lead nurturing communications with prospects, you should ask if they would like to speak to a salesperson. Provide e-mail links and phone numbers to make it easy for prospects to take the next step if they are ready. This isn’t a high-pressure tactic. If they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready, and will simply pass on the opportunity. But if they are ready, you will hear from them. You might also consider providing content that is targeted toward the prospect who is considered closer to being sales ready, such as an interactive calculator that helps them determine ROI on their investment.
Keep track of leads coming and going
Whether you use a sophisticated sales force automation solution or a simple spreadsheet, you should track all prospects in your lead nurturing program. Keep track of dates, content delivered, action taken on their part and any other metrics that will help you move prospects through the sales funnel. Also, develop a process to track any nurtured lead that gets turned over to sales. They won’t all become customers, and if they don’t, you may want to put them back into the lead nurturing program.
Remember, up to 70 percent of your company’s sales potential is from long-term leads already in your system. Nurture those leads and watch your sales grow.