A couple of weeks ago, I outlined some ideas for creating an effective landing page and sending a follow up email to generate better leads. While it is great to produce leads, as B2B marketer, your job isn't over once you have those leads in hand.
In the blog Sales 2.0, Mac Mcintosh (a B2B sales lead expert) evaluated research from Reed Business Information, which reviewed how 40,000 inquiries/leads were handled. Some key conclusions:
- Six months after the initial inquiry, 67% of respondents were still in the market planning to buy.
- Looking back at older leads, 47% took more than a year to buy.
What does this mean for you? The buying process takes a long time, and handing all of your leads to sales (a very common practice) is an ineffective approach. If prospects are in the earlier phases of the buying cycle, sales won't have an immediate need for them and will put them aside.
In fact, after evaluating the results from that survey, Mcintosh estimates that sales is "probably neglecting the longer-term prospects and, as a result, your company may be leaving as many as 8 out of 9 sales on the table for your competitors with better inquiry handling."
Whoa. 89% of your leads aren't get followed up on? That's a pretty sobering statistic--and a lot of marketing investment that is being squandered.
Instead of passing all leads off to sales, a much better approach is lead nurturing. In essence, lead nurturing is staying in contact with your prospects by providing them with information to move them through the buying process until they are sales-ready.
This isn't a new idea, but it's not something the majority of companies are doing, either. In a recent survey, Aberdeen Group found that over half (56%) of all their respondents (from 213 organizations) currently lack a formal lead nurturing program to support and nurture long-term opportunities.
So, if you've been thinking about starting a lead nurturing program, here are seven things to consider to get you started:
Just because someone downloaded your latest offer does not mean you can contact them whenever you want. When they register for something from you, let them opt-in to receive occasional updates from you.
Determine the length of your buying cycle
Understand how long your typical buying cycle is and plan your nurturing program accordingly. If it takes someone six months to make a decision, but you only stay in contact with them for three months, you're obviously losing out on an opportunity.
Map out content that is specific to each stage of the buying cycle
Next, make a list of all of your relevant content and organize it by where it would be used in the buying cycle. Include things such as:
- White papers
- Case studies
- Web pages
- Analyst reports
- Invitations to live events (customize based on location)
- Feature articles in trade publications
Once you have the sequence determined and the timeframe you want to cover, you can start planning how often you want to contact your prospects and what you want to offer.
Use various mechanisms to follow up
While email is a great way to stay connected, also consider using phone calls and direct mail as ways to make contact on an occasional basis. You may also want to conduct a survey to find out where they are in the buying cycle and what other information they want from you.
Make it easy for prospects to raise their hands when they are sales-ready
In every one of your interactions with your prospects, make sure they know how to get in contact with a live person if they have any questions or want to make a purchase.
Be relevant and educational
Whatever you do, make sure everything your provide to your prospect is relevant to their problems and educates them on a solution. It's much better to have less content that is targted rather than more content that is unfocused.
Automate the process
Minimize the effort that this program requires by automating as much of the process as you can. For instance, use an autoresponder (such as AWeber or GetResponse) to automate the task of sending the emails.
Do you nurture your leads? If so, what has worked well for you, and what would you suggest to others who are getting started?