Successful Lead Nurturing

This is the final post of my four-part series on common small business marketing pitfalls.  If you’d like to access the other topics in this series, you can access those here…

Today, I’d like to discuss a big missed opportunity for most businesses:  Failure to nurture sales leads over the long-term.

If you talk with effective sales people, they’ll tell you they love getting a decisive “yes” or “no” answer from a prospect.  Of course a “yes” means they just closed a deal.  Everyone understands why that’s a positive.  But effective sales people also don’t mind hearing “no” because it means there is closure.  It means they can stop spending time with an unqualified prospect and move on to the next opportunity.  It varies by business, but collectively, the prospects that provide a quick and decisive “yes” or “no” represent only about 30% of people.

Higgins Marketing Group - Successful Lead NurturingSo… here’s the question.  What is your organization doing to nurture the other 70% – the 70% that have some level of interest, but they’re just not ready to pull the trigger right away?  If you’re like many companies, the answer is NOT MUCH.  These prospects all too often get put into a general pile of “tire kickers” while the sales folks move on to find the next quick win.

Don’t make this mistake! There is significant sales potential within this group of prospects; you just need to know how to nurture them without exhausting your limited sales resources.

Basically, you need to find a way to put these prospects on auto-pilot.  By that, I mean finding a way to stay connected and establish a relationship over time through frequent communication and adding value. Over time, you can expect some percentage of these prospects to “raise their hand” and let you know they’re now ready to buy (or at least have a serious buying conversation).  This is what lead nurturing is all about.

No question, when it’s executed well, LEAD NURTURING WORKS.

So here are five ways to ensure your lead nurturing is on the right track…

1)   You Need to Leverage Technology (but not just any technology)

Higgins Marketing Group - Successful Lead NurturingThe key to successful lead nurturing is treating each prospect appropriately for where they’re at in the marketing cycle.  So that often means hundreds or thousands of individual prospects each at a unique step in the process – and requiring a unique email communication.  Don’t even think about managing this through an Excel spreadsheet and manual emails.  It’s a recipe for disaster.

Email management systems get you a bit closer.  Many offer the ability to create “DRIP” email campaigns – essentially “enrolling” prospects into a series of email communications, with each prospect being managed on their own unique timeline.  It’s a step in the right direction, but it still doesn’t support truly personalized lead nurturing.

To really optimize your lead nurturing efforts, look for a good marketing automation system.  Why a marketing automation system versus simple DRIP campaigns?  The big difference lies in activity tracking and the triggering of actions based on certain rules.  Here are a couple quick examples:

  • monitoring the email links a prospect is clicking on, and then automatically serving up future content that is tailored to their specific interests,
  • allowing your prospects to indicate a preference for email frequency, and then automatically changing frequency based on those preferences,
  • based on specific actions a prospect takes, follow-up tasks can be immediately assigned to your sales team.

There are several solid tools out there, but I think the top choice for small business is Infusionsoft. It handles all our marketing automation at Higgins Marketing Group and I love it.

2)   Be Personal

Higgins Marketing Group - Successful Lead NurturingYes, you need to use technology, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be impersonal.  Highly effective lead nurturing is personal.  You’re trying to establish a relationship, so make sure the tone of your emails are friendly and professional… not stuffy or corporate.

Another important way to be more personal is through segmentation.  Make sure you are not treating all your prospects the same.  Segment your prospect lists based on their preferences and behaviors.

Let’s say you are marketing for an online bike store.  A prospect, Marie Smith, download a white paper on the “Top Triathlon Bikes of 2015”?  You’d want to “tag/segment” Marie in your database as having interest in Triathlon bikes.  Then… you should start sending her content related to triathlon bikes and gear.  Don’t treat all your prospects the same.  Don’t keep sending Marie emails about beach cruisers.

3)    It’s About Providing Value, Not Over-Pitching

Higgins Marketing Group - Successful Lead NurturingThe fastest way to get prospects to opt out of your emails is to be in their face, pitching your product.  Yes, the ultimate goal is to turn prospects into customers, but rushing the process will only hurt your efforts.

I often ask clients to envision their prospects getting into a chilly pool.  If you’re there to push them in, their body immediately reacts to the chilly water and they jump out! (You just lost your chance to do business with them.)  What if, on the other hand, you let them ease their way into to pool slowly – allowing them a chance to acclimate to the water… and get comfortable.  That’s good lead nurturing.

So how do you do it?  Keep the 4:1 ratio in mind.

For every 4 value-add emails you send, you “earn the right” to send one promotion email.

If your value-to-promo ratio starts getting too heavy on the promo side, you risk losing good prospects.

4)    Execute When It’s GO TIME!

Higgins Marketing Group - Successful Lead NurturingQuick true story… a few months back I was investigating some niche software providers to support Higgins Marketing Group.  One company immediately put me into a lead nurturing sequence as a result of downloading an online resource.  It was really good content.  So good that they gained my trust and I decided to reach out to them to request pricing information.

What do you think happened?  The lead nurturing emails kept coming, but no call, no pricing.  I tried a second time to reach out.  The lead nurturing emails kept coming, no call, no pricing.  Honestly, it still pisses me off just to write about it!  Seriously it’s a huge pet peeve of mine, but I know most prospects feel the same way.

There’s not much more I need to say here.  If you’re going through all the work to nurture your leads, make sure you’re responsive when one of those prospects raises their hand and wants to interact with an actual human!

5)   Don’t Forget to Remove Your New Clients

THiggins Marketing Group - Successful Lead Nurturinghere is nothing quite as bad: You close the deal with one of the prospects you’ve been nurturing, but you fail to remove them from your lead nurturing sequence.

John just bought your great new software, yet he keeps getting emails asking him to buy your GREAT NEW SOFTWARE!  If John wasn’t aware he was part of an automated email sequence before, he sure is now.  Not a good thing!  Make sure you remove your new customers from all prospect oriented email sequences.

(As an aside, I highly encourage clients to use email automation to remain connected to their customers, but that messaging should be entirely different.  A topic for another day.)

I’m sure you have been exposed to one or more of these as well!  With a little planning, thought and a good automated solution, these can all be avoided.  Hope it helps!