To paraphrase an old saying: You can lead a prospect to your website, but you can’t make them buy. On the other hand, you can improve your chances considerably with a lead nurturing campaign, helping your prospects every step of the way.
Easily 50 percent of the leads that your marketing team unearths are not yet sales-ready ‒ but rather than dumping that half of those prospects in the rubbish bin, nurture them to increase your haul of sales qualified leads. Building trust and fostering relationships with qualified prospects, regardless of their stage in the buyer’s journey, is a key element to surfacing quality leads that can be nurtured through the funnel.
But here’s the problem: Creating a successful lead nurturing strategy can be a bit overwhelming. A recent survey indicated that a mere 10 percent of companies were actively using lead nurture strategies as part of their demand generation and pipeline-management marketing, but, “even for those, implementing a more complex closed-loop system may feel intimidating and out of reach,” said Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing.
We asked Heinz and his fellow thought leaders to demystify lead nurturing and offer advice for developing and your own winning program. In addition to Heinz, the experts are:
Meagen Eisenberg, CMO MongoDB (at the time of this interview –VP of Demand Generation, DocuSign)
The best practices for setting up a lead-nurturing program include:
1. Develop your lead nurturing program one step at a time.
“Going from whatever you’re currently doing (likely a variation of treating all leads equally) to executing a complex lead-management strategy doesn’t have to happen in one giant step. For these organizations, achieving a strong nurture-marketing strategy (let alone the next step to closed-loop) should be seen as a multistep process.” (Heinz)
2. Identify ‘nurture-able’ leads carefully.
“Identify your ‘nurture-able’ contacts. What is the population of leads and contacts that you are free to nurture without complicating the efforts of sales or customer service (if you plan to nurture current accounts)? Add lapsed customers to the mix if it makes sense to do so. Note: The goal here is not to build the biggest database you can. There’s probably a segment of people you could nurture that would ‒ fairly or unfairly ‒ regard even a modest nurturing program as a relentless carpet-bombing ‘spampaign’ from a vendor they hope never to hear from again.” (Scearce)
“Define an ideal lead, and treat them differently: Create a relatively simple definition of an ideal prospect, and start with two buckets ‒ Do they qualify or do they not? For example, does an ideal prospect need to come from a company of a particular size? From a particular titled contact? From a particular industry? Set just two to three criteria, and start triaging leads accordingly.” (Heinz)
“I would implement nurture programs that map the sales cycle to the buying cycle. The typical buying cycle flow follows: need, learn, evaluate, negotiate, purchase, implement, advocate.” (Eisenberg)
3. Start with a single campaign and plan to segment in the future.
“Start a single nurture campaign for all leads. Sure, it would be great to have different nurture segments by industry, expected close date, reason the deal may be delayed, and so forth. But if you’re just starting out nurturing leads, start with a single nurture campaign for all leads. A monthly newsletter, or a regular webinar offer, or even an occasional free white paper offer can keep you top of mind with prospects not yet ready to buy. Get complicated later, but get something going to those latent prospects right away.” (Heinz)
“There are many ways for you to segment your contacts. You could segment by geography, or create-date, or lead source, etc. But at this point, you should be looking for the Venn diagram overlap of ‘known recent interest in a high-value product my company sells’ and ‘population of significant quantity.’ Leads and contacts with these two attributes are very good inputs to your content strategy.” (Scearce)
4. Remember that content is king.
“An important area to address related to nurturing is content. A first step would be to take an inventory of what content you have. You likely have more useful content than you realize. This includes whitepapers, videos, blog posts, articles, use cases, guest blogs, etc. Categorize them by the consumer they were designed for (technical sponsor vs. business sponsor, industry, and stage of interest/purchase). You can reuse content in very effective ways by breaking them into series pieces. Also, less is more with delivering content. People will get lost in long emails; better to present content in list form, such as Top 10 lists, 3 Things Your Competitors Are Doing, etc. Videos are easy, and people like watching short 90-second videos with success stories, use cases, industry trends.” (Vanella)
5. Act locally; think globally.
“For those with worldwide businesses, I would create nurture programs for various regions, such as Europe, so that you are localizing the communications.” (Eisenberg)
6. Don’t invest in software right off the bat.
“When setting up a lead nurturing program, don’t buy software. It’s too early for that. You don’t know what you need; you may not require every bell and whistle in the foreseeable future. Familiarize yourself with what is possible given the budget and expertise available to you. When you know your audience and have a plan to engage them, you have a good sense of what you need your software to do. This is important because there’s a wee bit of an arms race going on in the marketing automation space. The leading and emerging vendors in this category are competing for a fast-growing but still-nascent market.” (Scearce)
There’s no time like the present to stop losing valuable prospects and start grooming them into qualified leads. Setting up a lead-nurturing program doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The most important takeaway here is that you get in the game now, and take one step at a time. Identify your “nurture-able” leads, start with a single campaign, add in some content marketing, and worry about automating (and purchasing the needed software) down the road.