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Studies show that 70 percent of new business can come from prospects that are in the early stages of their buy cycles when they first come in contact with your company, but are not yet ready to engage with sales or make a purchase decision.

We call these longer-term prospects nurture-ready contacts. One definition of nurture is “to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development.” Another is “to feed and protect.”

As a marketer, that’s exactly what you need to do: “support and encourage” nurture-ready leads to take the next steps in their buy cycle, “feed” them valuable information that will help them make the right buying decision, and “protect” them from being stolen by your competitors. You can do all this through lead nurturing campaigns.

Lead nurturing campaigns are designed to:

  • Provide nurture-ready contacts 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

To create successful lead nurturing campaigns, follow these guidelines:

1. Create the foundation for successful campaigns

Before you can launch a lead-nurturing campaign, you need infrastructure and processes to support the program. Assemble your team and perform the following tasks:

  • Develop 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.
  • Input nurture-ready contacts into your system.
  • Score and segment contacts so you can determine what type of leads you have and what campaigns they belong in.
  • Establish response rules based on your contacts’ behavior at points during the campaign.

2. Plan campaigns for each group of prospects

If your company has only one product and one type of customer, you can skip this step and instead plan a “one size fits all” lead-nurturing campaign. But most companies have an eclectic customer base with different areas of interest.

This requires you to segment your contacts by interest and plan different campaigns according to relevant criteria. Segmentation criteria could be by product, status (according to lead scoring or position in the buy cycle, for example), geography, or other expressed interest. The more you can segment nurture-ready contacts into distinct groups, the more closely you can target their interests and needs, and in doing so be more relevant and attractive to them.

3. Develop and organize your content for distribution

Content is the fuel that keeps lead nurturing campaigns running. It’s what persuades nurture-ready contacts to trust a supplier and to take the next step in their buy cycle.

You probably already have a lot of content on hand that you can use in your lead nurturing campaigns, but there may be some missing pieces. The time to create content is now, while you’re segmenting your contacts and planning campaigns.

New contacts in early buy-cycle stages might be interested in educational content such as infographics, blog posts, articles, white papers and webinars. Prospects that score higher or are further along in their buy cycle could be looking for demos, product overviews and technical specs. The next level might include buying guides, customer case studies, ROI calculators and competitive differentiators.

4. Move prospects to the next step

With every touch-point, include a call to action by giving your prospects something to do. It could be downloading a white paper, reading an article, registering for a demonstration or webinar, filling out a survey or any other type of action.

These actions enable you to track the digital behavior of your prospects, as well as determine what type of content is appealing and what isn’t.

You also need to develop response rules based on what your prospects do. For example, if someone responds to an offer by downloading a white paper, you will send them a related article. Or if a prospect engages in X number of activities, you consider them sales-ready.

Your response rules are like a flow chart, with decision points and actions along the way. You can apply logic and even branching (if they do this, then we do 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.

5. Measure and improve

A lead nurturing campaign provides a trove of valuable data based on your contacts’ behavior. 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.

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