Studies show that 70% of new business can come from long-term leads, those prospects that are in the early stages of their buy cycles when they first engage with your company, but will be ready to make a purchase decision at some time in the future. Whether they decide to purchase from your company or from a competitor may come down to how well you nurture those leads throughout their buy cycle, which in the industrial sector can be long and complex and involve multiple decision makers.
Lead nurturing campaigns are designed to:
• Provide prospects with relevant information related to their area of interest
• Maintain their interest so they don’t abandon you for another supplier
• Keep in regular contact with prospects, always ready to meet their needs
• Give prospects appropriate offers to help them move forward toward a buying decision
Your lead nurturing campaign will be more successful in terms of converting more of your long term engagement opportunities to sales – and prospects to satisfied customers – if you follow these seven steps.
1. Set up your lead nurturing infrastructure
Before you can launch any campaign, you will need to set up an infrastructure to support the program. This includes assembling your team and assigning responsibility for the following tasks:
• Developing guidelines for how sales and marketing teams will work together, including at what point in the nurturing cycle you should hand leads off to sales
• Getting leads recorded into your system
• Scoring and segmenting leads so that you can determine what type of leads you have and what campaigns they belong in
• Responding to leads and tracking their behavior throughout the campaign
While some industrial companies might still be able to use a simple spreadsheet to manage campaigns and engagement opportunities, many are now deploying marketing automation software. There are a number of low-cost, cloud-based marketing automation tools that can help enable and streamline lead management processes.
2. Segment your engagement opportunities
If your company has only one product and one type of customer, you can skip this step. But most companies have an eclectic customer base with different areas of interest. In this case, you’ll want to segment your audience for your lead nurturing campaigns according to relevant criteria. It could be by product, status (based on lead scoring or position in the buy cycle, for example), geography, or other expressed interest.
When you segment your engagement opportunities, you can more closely target your campaign to their interests and needs, and in doing so, be more relevant and attractive to them.
3. Plan your content distribution
Once you have one or more defined groups for your lead nurturing campaign(s), plan targeted content to help move them closer to making a purchasing decision. For example, new leads might be most interested in educational content such as infographics, blog posts, articles, white papers, and webinars. Prospects that score a little higher would be looking for demos, product overviews, and technical specs. The next level might include buying guides, customer case studies, ROI calculators, and competitive differentiators.
You probably already have a lot of content created that you can use in your lead nurturing campaigns. Other pieces you may need to develop to round out your library.
4. Create calls to action
With every piece of content you send and touchpoint you create, include a call to action by giving your prospects something to do. It could be download a white paper, read an article, register for a demonstration or webinar, fill out a survey, or any other type of action. These calls to action will enable you to gain two valuable insights: 1) you can find out what type of content is working and what isn’t, and 2) you can track the digital behavior of your prospects.
5. Develop a campaign schedule
Lead nurturing campaigns take place over time, usually at scheduled intervals, through email, phone, postal mail, and other outreach mechanisms. You might touch your prospects once a week for six weeks, or once a month for six months. The schedule depends on your goals and the needs of your prospects. The key is to develop a schedule, determine the content you will send at each scheduled interval, and stick with your plan.
6. Create response rules
As you execute your campaign, watch for signs of progress in your prospects by examining their digital behavior. If they are ignoring all of your offers, they probably aren’t that interested, but if they click on everything you send and act on every offer, you may have a hot prospect on your hands who is ready to engage with your sales team.
Plan ahead of time and apply logic, rules, and perhaps even branching (if they do this, then that, otherwise something else) in order to optimize your campaign’s flow and effectiveness—and to get high-potential leads into the hands of sales reps at the right time.
7. Measure and improve
A lead nurturing campaign requires structure and discipline. It also provides a trove of valuable data based on your prospects’ behavior. Because you have established goals and defined campaign rules, you can track what works and what doesn’t. Get rid of offers and content that don’t perform well, while building on what’s most popular by creating similar offers. Continually refine your campaign and you should see improved results.