Research has shown that 70 percent of new business comes from prospects that encounter your company in the early stages of their buying cycles, but they may not be ready to engage with sales or make a purchase decision.
What these prospects are ready for is nurturing campaigns that provide education, support and encouragement. These campaigns help prospects move through their buying cycle and reach a purchasing decision—hopefully with your company earning new business.
Without lead nurturing campaigns in place, most of your leads will grow stale and your prospects will buy from competitors who have cultivated stronger relationships with them.
Lead nurturing doesn’t need to be complicated, but you must carefully plan campaigns and execute with discipline. Technology such as marketing automation can make lead nurturing a lot easier, but if you only have an email list and a spreadsheet you can get the job done, albeit with a lot more sweat equity.
Follow these steps to set up a successful lead nurturing campaign:
1. Establish campaign goals and framework
The overriding goal of most lead nurturing campaigns is to convert more long-term prospects into sales-ready leads. If this is your first time conducting lead nurturing, you probably don’t have a baseline upon which to improve, so your first campaign may be a test to gather performance data.
The firm Invesp, which helps its clients increase conversion rates, reports that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a 33 percent lower cost. These might be ambitious milestones to reach, but they do offer you a guideline.
You’ll also need to create a framework for your lead nurturing campaign. Will it last three months, six months or a year? That answer may depend on a typical sales cycle for your company. Will you reach out to your audience once a week, once a month or at some other interval—perhaps with declining frequency over time?
In this initial stage, make sure you work with your sales team. Get their input on key aspects of the campaign as well as the goals and vision. Collaborate on the definition of a sales-ready lead so you’ll know when to hand off a prospect from the nurturing campaign to the sales team.
2. Segment Your Database
Segmenting your database allows you to craft targeted lead nurturing campaigns for specific audiences. How you segment your audience depends on the data you have available and your customer types.
If your company has only one product and one type of customer, you might segment your database according to how long ago you generated the leads. Other common ways to segment include buyer persona and stage of buy cycle. You can also use lead scoring to weigh various factors such as source of lead, action taken by lead, buying time frame, product interest or other criteria to come up with a score for segmentation purposes.
The objective is to get similar prospects grouped together so that you can provide content and messaging that resonates with them and is directly targeted to their interests and needs.
3. Create a Variety of Content
For each lead nurturing segment, you must create content to use in your campaign. Prospects in the early stages of their buy cycle may not know much about your company and products yet, or even how to solve their problem. This group requires educational content such as white papers, articles, checklists, assessments and problem-solving approaches.
Buyers at the consideration and comparison stages need to know how your products can address their specific needs. Helpful content includes data sheets, case studies, webinars and videos. Prospects at the decision-making stage will find demos, free trials, ROI calculators, and support and warranty policies helpful.
4. Schedule and Send
Email is the most popular and effective way to communicate with engineers in a lead-nurturing campaign. You want to show up in their inbox with something relevant to offer and a call to action for your prospect to act on.
There’s no rule about how often you should reach out to prospects in a lead nurturing campaign. Many companies send more frequently in the first few weeks while the need that drove a prospect to your company is still fresh. Over time, frequency may diminish, depending on response.
If you make use of marketing automation, you can easily trigger automatic emails to prospects based on their behaviors during the campaign. For example, any prospect who downloads a certain white paper also gets sent a “Top Ten Tips” as a follow-up.
5. Hand Off Qualified Leads to Sales
You’ve already agreed with your sales team on what constitutes a sales-ready lead. When a prospect in your campaign checks off the appropriate boxes through their actions, get that prospect to a salesperson as quickly as possible.
When a prospect is sales-ready is up to you and your sales team. If they signal buying intent during the campaign, that’s a good sign. Another trigger might be if they interact with a certain percentage of your content, or achieve a certain score if you’re scoring based on behavior. The important thing is to make the hand-off as soon as the lead is ready.
6. Measure and Refine
Throughout the campaign you should track important metrics, such as open rates on emails, accepted offers and unsubscribes. This will give you a good idea of how well your content is performing, or whether you are contacting prospects too often or too infrequently.
Other important metrics include number of sales-ready leads to emerge from the campaign, cost per sales-ready lead and revenue associated with leads from nurturing campaigns. Lead nurturing is an ongoing process, with new leads being added on a regular basis to your campaign and others dropping out or—better—making a purchase. At any time during a campaign, you can implement new strategies based on your analysis of key metrics.