Lead nurturing is the process of keeping prospects interested in your company, products, and services until they are qualified enough to be classified as sales-ready leads. Many companies put a lot of energy into lead generation to make the initial contact, but not enough into lead nurturing. This is a mistake. Studies in the B2B marketplace have shown that up to 70% of potential sales can come from long-term leads that require nurturing.

Follow these tips to help establish and maintain a successful lead nurturing program.

Define a sales-ready lead
Marketing should work with sales to agree upon the definition of a lead that is ready for a salesperson to take over. The only rule is that both teams must agree to the definition. The criteria could be a combination of expressed need, company size/industry, purchasing timeframe or other factors. When leads come in, if they meet the definition, they go directly to sales. All others belong to marketing and get put into your lead nurturing program.

Deliver content to long-term leads
Content is at the heart of any lead nurturing program: white papers, videos, articles, Webinars, fact sheets, blogs, and more. The lack of content often intimidates marketers and dissuades them from conducting a lead nurturing program. They wonder: how will they ever get all this content?

Even if you don’t have a lot of content, you can still nurture leads. One thing you can do is write a blog and then send new blog entries to your long-term leads. Or take a single white paper and create several smaller articles from it. Create a brief in-house video of a product manager talking about how to solve an industry challenge. You can even consider a phone call to prospects as delivering content, and simply ask them if they have any questions.

Another way to deliver content is to send links to relevant industry articles, reports from analysts, or content from business partners. You might need to get creative, but don’t let the lack of content slow you down.

Automate where possible
If you can enlist the help of your technical team or take advantage of a feature-rich e-mail system, you can automate some of your lead nurturing. For example, send automatic follow-up emails at specified intervals to prospects who accept an offer for a white paper. Or if a prospect clicks on a certain link in an e-mail, have that trigger a second e-mail on a relevant topic at a specified point in the future. Depending on your company and its offerings, automated responses can be simple (all prospects receive the same correspondence) or sophisticated (different types of prospects receive different content).

Personalize communications
Using your prospect’s name in lead nurturing e-mails and invitations can go a long way toward making them feel valued and respected by your organization. It’s easy to personalize e-mails sent from an e-mail marketing system. The next step up in sophistication: create personalized landing pages with prospects’ names on the top or with some fields in a form already completed with information you know. If you can’t go this route, don’t worry. If you’re getting relevant, educational content in their hands, they will feel you care about them and understand their needs.

Always collect more information
Remember that your goal in lead nurturing is to turn long-term leads into sales-ready leads. That means you must collect the necessary data to know when a long-term lead reaches that threshold. Well-designed forms on your Web site can help and encourage leads along. Don’t keep asking for the same name/company/phone/e-mail information every time a prospect downloads something or accepts an offer.

Instead, find a way to ask prospects the additional qualifying questions, such as need, buying timeframe, decision-making process. It will require technical acumen to keep track of what you’ve already collected on prospects and what you still need to know. Again, your technical team should help.

Make the handoff
When you’ve turned a long-term prospect into a sales-ready lead, get that lead into the right salesperson’s hands as soon as possible. Keep track of how many long-term leads become sales-ready leads, and how many of those leads become customers. You’ll likely find that your lead nurturing efforts are paying positive dividends.
 

2 comments

  1. And ideally your strategy should plan content around your customer buying cycle – from unaware, awareness/interest, desire, research (price/proposition comparisons) to decision making. Taking into consideration the many different job roles that play a part in the decision making process.

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