Few of the leads you generate are sales-ready at the first contact with your company. Prospects might be anywhere in their buying cycle when contact is made and they typically have questions and concerns they need to be answered before they are ready to place an order.
They might want to know more about your products, your brand, your support policies, your customers, and more. This educational journey takes time. It’s your job to keep your prospects interested, encourage them along their buying journey, and build meaningful relationships so they are more likely to choose your company when it comes time to do business. That’s lead nurturing in a nutshell.
The lead nurturing process can be long—research shows it takes anywhere from six to 13 touches to deliver a qualified lead to sales. Lead nurturing can also be fruitful—studies show that 70 percent of business comes from long-term leads, those that aren’t ready to buy when you first connect with them.
In addition, the disruption of the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic has placed increasing emphasis on the importance of lead nurturing. Leads you might have thought were close to buying have now gone cold. Budgets have been slashed. Projects were delayed or canceled.
But things are picking up again, and engineers are on the prowl for components, products, and services to help them complete their projects. It’s time to hone your lead nurturing efforts. Focus on these core functions:
- Using a lead nurturing system
- Segmenting your database
- Planning email “drip” campaigns
- Handing off to the sales team
- Tracking and learning
Using a Lead Nurturing System
Many industrial companies are adopting marketing automation to help manage lead nurturing and other marketing efforts. Marketing automation allows you to capture prospect engagement across all digital channels and can help you score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails, report on the effectiveness of various content, produce analytics, and much more.
Some companies are embracing specific email-based lead nurturing platforms such as GlobalSpec Catalyst. Whatever system you choose, the three core capabilities you must-have for lead nurturing are the ability to segment your audience, create and send campaigns, and report results.
Segmenting Your Database
If all of your prospects are similar and interested in the same products, you don’t need to segment your database. However, many companies will have a variety of prospect types interested in different products and services. In this case, you will need to segment your database to craft different lead nurturing campaigns to meet the needs of different audiences.
Common segments include area of interest, phase of buy cycle, market, geography/territory, among others. Another important segment leads that have had no contact with your company for an extended period. You might create a segment of these cold leads to re-engage with them.
Planning Email “Drip” Campaigns
There are tons of ways to connect with your audience, but email is the most effective channel for nurturing the engineering audience. Nourishing takes place through what is called email “drip” campaigns—meaning at regular intervals, you show up in their inbox. For example, your campaign could touch prospects once a week for three months followed by once a month for six months. You decide based on your segments and your prospects’ needs.
What do you send to an engineer’s inbox? According to the “2021 Pulse of Engineering” report, engineers seeking technical documentation, product specifications, and data sheets to help complete their projects. You should also sprinkle in the type of high-level messaging that increases their confidence in your company. For example, many engineers are confronting supply chain issues for parts they need. Can you assure them of availability and delivery? Can you highlight the strengths and stability of your company? Can you demonstrate a high level of support?
Other useful content includes white papers, webinars, infographics, case studies, and articles. During the nurturing process, keep the content educational rather than sales-oriented. Engineers hate to be sold to; they want to learn and discover.
Handing Off to the Sales Team
The definition of a sales-ready lead should be determined jointly between marketing and the sales team. Lead nurturing only works if sales and marketing organizations are working from the same playbook.
Often a lead reaches sales-ready status when it achieves a score based on a scale you develop that awards points for specific prospect behaviors. For example, a prospect that clicks on every offer is a five and likely sales-ready, while a prospect that only visited a web page remains a one.
Tracking and Learning
Some of your emails and offers will perform better than others. Keep track of how the prospects in your campaign interact with your offers and content.
Get rid of nurturing emails and content that don’t perform well while building on content that is popular by creating similar offers. Continually refine your campaigns and you should see improved results.
Lead nurturing is an essential marketing tactic to increase sales-ready leads and potential sales. This is true at all times, especially during this period of market disruption due to the pandemic.