Losing Touch with Your Leads? 7 Suggestions for Nurturing Programs

Losing Touch with Your Leads? 7 Suggestions for Nurturing Programs
Michele Linn - Thu Apr 16, 2009 @ 04:08PM
Comments: 13

Lead Nurturing: Watering CanA 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:

Get permission
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
  • Webinar
  • Case studies
  • Web pages
  • Microsites
  • Demos
  • Analyst reports
  • Invitations to live events (customize based on location)
  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • 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?

Comments: 13

Comments

1. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Fri Apr 17, 2009 @ 12:33AM

Michele - Excellent post! As someone who sometimes wears a vendor procurement hat (in my project manager role), I can attest to the fact that the buying cycle of some of the products I research can be quite long indeed. In many cases, an organization has all the best intentions, starts doing some research, downloads a few white papers, and then the project gets back-burnered for whatever reason.
I recently was in the market for a collaborative, project management software. Well ... I suppose "recently" is a relevant term. ;) Anyway, I can tell you that although months have gone by, I still get occassional (and unobtrusive) emails from a couple of the companies I looked at. I'm not yet ready to purchase, but their continued, proactive communication with me has kept their products top-of-mind.
On the flip side, I just received a pair of emails from "Yankee Barn Homes" - the first one asking if I was still interested in their product, the second one saying that because they hadn't heard from me they were going to remove me from their contact list. Huh?? Talk about alienating a potential customer. Craziness!!!

2. Stephanie Tilton  |  my website   |   Fri Apr 17, 2009 @ 02:31AM

Michele - As Jamie said, great post! Your point about determining the length of the buying cycle is an important one. It reminded me of something Kathryn Roy of Precision Thinking said last night during her presentation at the Boston Product Management Association meeting - B2B sales cycles tend to be long so don't try to cram every detail into a single piece of collateral. Marketers need to accompany prospects as they make their way through the buying process, engaging them in relevant conversation at each step. Delivering educational -- rather than promotional -- content goes a long way toward keeping a prospect interested in what you have to say.

3. Wendy Thomas  |  my website   |   Fri Apr 17, 2009 @ 04:07AM

Michele - your post has wonderful information that is well laid out. It's got me thinking about additional ways I can keep in touch with my clients. Well done.

4. Michele Linn   |   Fri Apr 17, 2009 @ 07:59AM

All: Thanks for the positive comments.

@Jamie: Great example about how *not* to nurture leads.

@Stephanie: You make a fantastic point that readers don't need - or likely want - to know everything about you with one contact . By breaking things into digestible chunks, you can naturally create the foundation for a lead nurturing program.

@Wendy: Glad this gave your some ideas!

5. The Marketing Eye  |  my website   |   Fri Apr 17, 2009 @ 09:51AM

Once a prospect has been identified and a personal contact established, we recommend to our clients that they drop in unprompted and useful information on a personalised basis. We call this the 'I saw this and thought of you' approach. The trick is to make it seem spontaneous and not part of a newsletter or email alert programme. Twitter and Google Alerts are great tools for finding information to support this tactic.

6. Michele Linn   |   Sat Apr 18, 2009 @ 01:27AM

@The Marketing Eye: This is a fantastic idea and one that I've used myself as a freelancer. Once you have made a personal connections with someone, sending an article clipping, an notificaion to an event or something else that is specific to their problem and industry keeps you in contact without seeming salesy or obtrusive. I think the one-on-one approach can really have a positive impact just because it's not automated. Thanks for the suggestion!

7. Sarah Mitchell  |  my website   |   Sun Apr 19, 2009 @ 03:56AM

Thanks for the timely information, Michele. I've got an item on my "to do" list to find a way to automate emails. Your story had the information I needed.

I get a lot of traction out of sending a hand-written note to prospects. It doesn't take much time and just a couple sentences will do. I've discovered in our age of technology people get thrilled by an old-fashioned envelope in their post box. You can't do it for everyone, obviously, but we all have a couple fish we'd really like to land and these are the people to target.

8. Michele Linn   |   Mon Apr 20, 2009 @ 01:27AM

@Sarah: Thanks for the tip on the handwritten note. It's one of those things I haven't used it yet, but it's on my list. I hear it is very effective, so I am glad it's worked for you.

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