For long-lead sales cycles of expensive purchases for consumers and businesses and for “considered-purchase” products and services, lead nurturing is how marketing and sales work together to give prospects the information they need at the right time to accelerate the purchase decision process.
Lead nurturing requires marketing to anticipate what will be most relevant to a prospective customer (or client) at a particular time in their discovery and self-education process when they are considering or researching something to buy. For example, someone visits a car dealership or a student stops by a booth at a college fair or someone attends a free seminar given by a wealth manager or a couple visits a retirement community for a tour.
How can marketing partner with sales to improve the win-rate?
And reduce the HIGH cost of acquiring a new customer/client?
Think of lead nurturing like drip irrigation of a garden.
Lead nurturing “waters the prospects” in-between (before and after) their conversations and interactions with sales reps.
The purpose of lead nurturing is to:
1. Keep prospects engaged and moving through the purchase funnel to accelerate their purchase decision by offering relevant, credible and educational information to help them learn (and convince themselves to buy from you).
For example, use an ad that has a great call to action to attract people who are “just dreaming” and starting their research. Ideally you want to “catch” people in the “upper funnel” and then create an effective lead nurturing plan/process to educate the person.
2. Lead nurturing is also a key way to reduce cost of sales by using marketing messages (content marketing with eBooks and articles and infographics) and 1:1 content and relationship marketing through email and direct mail marketing to “warm up” and educate a prospect. Then sales can spend their valuable time talking to people who are ready to buy.
This sounds hard but it doesn’t need to be. Marketing automation software can be set-up to automate lead nurturing after someone in sales and marketing has worked out what to send/offer/say at different prospect stages.
To reduce the cost of sales and accelerate prospect purchase decisions, it’s important to know:
- What does a salesperson need/want to do?
- What can be done by marketing to help a prospect through non-personal selling?
Sales and marketing need to partner to decide who does what and when.
It’s very important that lead nurturing is co-designed or at least approved by sales. Sales people are accountable for quota. Sales people don’t want “marketing messing up my deals” by sending their prospect something they don’t know about or don’t think is appropriate. There needs to be transparency between sales and marketing about what prospects are receiving. Ideally, anything sent to a prospect is sent from the sales rep with their name and contact information.
Marketing automation software makes this all possible. Some marketing automation software even sends a sales rep an alert when one of their prospects opened an email or viewed a demo online or visited a pURL (personalized URL/website page) or other behaviors that indicate the prospect has somehow engaged.
Jon Miller, co-founder of Marketo (a popular marketing automation software tool/service for customer relationship marketing) describes lead nurturing this way:
Lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship with prospects that are not yet sales-ready by conducting an informative dialog, regardless of budget, authority, or timing. Less formally, lead nurturing is the art of maintaining permission to “keep in touch” with potential customers as they educate themselves, with the goal of being top of mind when they are ready to move into a buying phase.”
Lead Nurturing Tips
Create your lead nurturing plan. This is creating a contact plan for prospects in different situations. Outline a detailed plan that shepherds prospects down the path to conversion in a consistent, logical fashion to educate a prospect. You also want to agree on lead scoring to know what’s a hot, warm and cold lead and what the plan is for each.
Vary what you send and offer. Don’t just keep sending emails. Think more broadly than that. Use printed newsletters, personal notes, eBooks, infographics, white papers, invitations to webinars and live seminars. Create a series of messages where each step has a clear goal to move prospects along to the next stage.
Great tip from Jay Gaines, Group Director, Demand, at SiriusDecisions:
Long-Term Nurturing – The goal of long-term nurture is to learn more about prospects where little is known so that they can -as quickly as possible- be moved into, or back into, more targeted and compelling programs. For non-responders, a rigorous long-term nurture approach is key to an efficient demand creation process. Simply, delivering the same offers over and over, or dumping contacts into a database to be contacted randomly, will simply not be very effective.”
Personalize your messages. Use a personalized approach, addressing prospects by their name and their business name or type of business whenever possible. That’s the foundation. Then try to tailor your messaging more to be more relevant and persuasive.
Respond immediately so leads don’t go from hot to cold. Most sales go to the business that responds first.
Nurture the “not ready to buy yet” prospects by understanding and providing the information they way want at each stage of their buying process. Give the prospect choices and control about how much information they may want and how they want that (video, articles, eBooks, podcasts, webinars, infographics, etc.)
Track prospect behavior and respond to their activity. Look for marketing automation tools that can help you automatically track and respond to each prospect in an appropriate and relevant way when a prospect opens an email, fills out a form, clicks on a link for an eBook or performs another action.