In Olympic training, preparation is everything. Olympic athletes prepare rigorously to become champions in their respective events, and the process demands unwavering commitment, discipline and focus. Just as athletes develop their skills and expertise over time, so do leads need to be consistently nurtured. You can’t qualify for the Olympics after taking one swimming lesson – nor does it make sense to ask for a prospect’s business the first time you encounter a lead. With myriad messages competing for your prospect’s attention, a formal lead nurturing strategy can help to convert new leads into customers by providing the right content at the right time. Here are five steps for designing your lead nurturing strategy and creating content that converts.
1. Identify the appropriate channel and corresponding content. Whether you communicate with new leads by email, direct mail, or through a multichannel approach, campaigns should be aligned with the lead’s stage in the buying decision. Brian Carroll, Executive Director of MECLABS, MarketingSherpa’s parent company, suggests approaching lead nurturing like a conversation. In his words, the goal is to carry the conversation forward, and your content should help you do just that. If your lead generation source was your website, for example, an introductory email providing a summary of your value proposition and services would be a good first step. At later touches in the lead nurturing process, however, you’ll want to continue building on the conversation by incorporating content that offers a deeper dive, such as video testimonials, case studies, demos, product specifications or webinar invitations.
2. Time communications to coincide with your sales cycle. The longer your sales cycle, the more touches it will take to nurture leads through to close. For example, MarketingSherpa suggests one touch a month for a nine-month sales cycle with fresh and relevant content at each touch. As you design content for touches later in the sales cycle, MarketingSherpa also suggests re-purposing content to help move leads forward to close. For example, content from a webinar could be re-purposed into an executive summary that Sales can distribute as a part of the lead nurturing process.
3. Instill focus with lead scoring. Establishing a set of criteria by which all leads are scored as they are received from lead generation sources including your public website, email, events and outbound calling campaigns can help to filter priority leads for your Sales team and make sure the most relevant leads stay on the map and get nurtured through to close.
4. Automate follow up through drip and trigger campaigns. Monthly lead nurturing emails can be scheduled for automatic distribution from within a marketing resource management system to save time and money – and to enable the prospect to progress through the customer decision journey without the pressure of a hard sell. Continuity campaigns can help to softly nurture leads towards understanding their product or service gaps and over time create a sense of urgency about finding a solution to those challenges.
5. Collaborate with Sales. As you create new content and re-purpose existing content for your drip and trigger campaigns, don’t overlook the opportunity to solicit Sales feedback for validation that your content is appropriate for each stage of lead nurturing process. Your Sales team can also evaluate content for relevance with respect to what they are hearing in the field. Because the goal of your lead nurturing strategy is to prepare leads for a warmer hand-off to Sales, your approach will only be marginally effective without Sales feedback. Collaboration is essential, and passing the torch, so to speak, should be as seamless as possible.
With more customers researching buying decisions online well before purchase, lead nurturing has become an important strategy to soften leads in preparation for a handoff to Sales once the lead is ready to convert. Using a marketing resource management system to schedule and distribute lead nurturing campaigns as leads progress through the sales cycle is a cost-effective approach that shows respect for your targets by not asking for the sale when that step may be premature. Just as with the Olympics, the key here is preparation, and designing your content so that it’s timed to be relevant at each stage of the sales cycle can help to earn the respect of your prospects as you nurture leads through to close.
What is your process for nurturing leads to prepare for a seamless handoff to Sales?