Studies have shown that 70% of new business can come from long-term leads. These prospects are in the early research stages of their buy cycle when they first engage with your company, but will be ready to make a purchasing decision at some point in the future. The question is: Will you have established a strong enough relationship with these long-term prospects so that when the time comes to buy, they choose to give their business to you?
Companies with a high rate of success at converting long-term leads into sales have strong lead nurturing programs. They understand the economic value that long-term leads offer, and they establish appropriate processes and campaigns to nourish, protect, support, and encourage these prospects throughout their buy cycle.
The most effective lead nurturing programs exhibit strength, commitment, and discipline in two key areas: lead nurturing processes and lead nurturing campaigns. For an in-depth look at how to succeed with lead nurturing, read “The Industrial Marketer’s Guide to Lead Nurturing.”
First, Get Sales and Marketing on the Same Page
Your lead nurturing processes require buy-in from both your sales and marketing teams. You must work together and come to agreement on your program.
Many companies find the best way to start is defining the various types of leads they generate. You can develop a scoring system based on prospect demographics, industry, buying timeframe, product interest, digital behavior, or other attributes. The relevant attributes are different for every company, so choose those that work best for you.
You should also agree on the process for responding to leads in a timely and appropriate manner. Leads wither quickly, and technical professionals in the digital era expect a quick response from inquiries to suppliers. Hot leads want to speak to a sales person immediately. Long-term leads want low-pressure, helpful information.
Another part of defining lead nurturing processes is assigning responsibility for responding to and routing leads, as well as tracking them throughout your sales process. An individual or a team must be held accountable for your lead nurturing program. You can use a centralized database or in some cases even a shared spreadsheet where leads can be recorded and tracked by anyone who has contact with a lead.
Tracking contacts and inquiries helps prevent any leads from falling through the cracks, allows you to see which leads become customers, and helps you calculate return on investment in your marketing programs.
Create Effective Lead Nurturing Campaigns
Long-term leads require long-term attention in the form of regular and relevant contact with your company. However, it’s likely that not all of your long-term leads are created equal. If you have specific types of customers, you’ll want to define different segments for lead nurturing campaigns.
For each segment of leads, plan a campaign that offers your prospects value, as opposed to sales pitches. Remember: they’re not ready for pricing quotes, discount offers, and demos. Instead, value is created by educating prospects on ways to solve the problems they are facing and demonstrating how your company can help. Use educational content such as white papers, webinars, articles, and videos as offers.
As part of your campaign, plan an entire series of touchpoints: emails, phone calls, and letters, each of which contain a call to action, such as downloading a white paper, watching a video, signing up for a newsletter, or registering for a webinar. Establish response rules for your campaign. For example, if a prospect downloads a white paper and attends a webinar, they get a follow-up call, or they are considered sales-ready. Or if a prospect watches a certain video, you send them a topic-specific article. It’s up to you and your sales team to define the rules of the campaign.
Lead nurturing campaigns are spread out over time. You will need to develop a schedule for when and how often you reach out to prospects. It could be once a week for eight weeks, or once a month for six months, or some interval in between. Define the entire campaign in advance, so you will know how to phase your content and messaging, and can stick with it all the way through.
Marketing Automation as a Strategic Asset
One recommended best practice is to invest in marketing automation, which excels at lead management and nurturing. These systems can track your prospect’s digital behavior across websites, social media, blogs, and more. You can use marketing automation to score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails, and report on the effectiveness of your campaigns. There are a number of affordable marketing automation systems for smaller companies as well as robust software for larger and more complex marketing organizations.
The IHS Engineering360 Tool Kit, “The Industrial Marketer’s Guide to Lead Nurturing,” has other recommended best practices along with tips for following up on inquiries. Download your complimentary copy.