Any best practices for lead nurturing

What is Lead Nurturing?

What is Lead NurturingAnswering the question, “what is lead nurturing?”, is difficult for many companies especially those that think they already do lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is vitally important to lead management processes these days because of the fundamental change in the B2B buying process. B2B buyers are reluctant to engage with salespeople until they are deep into the buying cycle. In recognition of this paradigm shift, businesses should conduct a careful assessment of their lead generation processes and “get real” about what they have and what they do not have.

70% of the B2B buying cycle is complete by the time sales people engage. – SiriusDecisions

Let’s first discuss what lead nurturing is not

• Emailing periodic newsletters
• Sending out random product releases
• Sending out random company announcements
• Spending all your time creating fancy html layouts for your email marketing campaigns
• Not understanding your prospects persona
• Not running marketing segmentation on your database
• Blasting out email messages to your entire database
• Calling leads just to touch base with the intent to see if they are ready to buy

Well then, what is lead nurturing really? Lead nurturing is the process of engaging prospects or customers using relevant and timely communications to build a trusted relationship, generate interest, and raise awareness until they are ready to speak with sales. In summary, it’s the process of realigning the timing of sellers and buyers. Let’s itemize activities that help define what is lead nurturing.

Sending content after listening to your buyers

• Sending content based on timing
• Sending content based on product or solution interest
• Sending content based on a previous conversation
• Sending information that is relevant to your buyer’s problem
• Making calls based on touch point data that adds value to the interaction
• Sharing content that’s relevant and valuable even if they never buy from you

Sending content by understanding your buyers

• Sending an email that includes content based on the recipient’s role in the company
• Sending content based on your buyer’s location
• Sending content based on your buyer’s industry

Sending content that matters

• Sending content that is useful to them such as tools, calculators, or programs
• Sending content that helps your buyers expand their knowledge
• Sending content that raises your buyers awareness

By understanding what is lead nurturing and what lead nurturing is not your organization will better understand lead nurturing and you’ll be able to identify whether or not you need this critical sales and marketing technology.

Lead Liaison is pleased to extend a free consultation service to help you assess your company’s lead nurturing capabilities and needs. To speak with Lead Liaison and learn about our lead nurturing technology please contact us.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What is lead nurturing to you?

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Lead Nurturing Programs

Lead Nurturing ProgramsDesigning lead nurturing programs can be difficult especially if you don’t know where to start. We put together five sample programs to get you going. The programs range from simple one month programs to complex 12 month programs. Feel free to take these lead nurturing programs and customize them to fit your business. Remember, getting started is the most important part. Over time tune the “knobs and dials” on your nurturing programs to align them with your business.

First, let’s start with a simple definition of lead nurturing. Lead Nurturing is the process of engaging prospects through meaningful dialogue at each stage of the buying process. A lead nurturing program is a collection of independent nurturing events. Many B2B companies build lead nurturing programs to position their company as the best choice to help meet prospects objectives. Lead nurturing is also referred to as a drip campaign; however, drip campaigns are not “intelligent” and cannot react to buyer’s online behavior and interaction with marketing assets.

Enjoy the 5 lead nurturing programs below

1 month lead nurturing program with aggressive actionable offers:

Day 1: Email white paper download link. Recipient clicks link in email, gets redirected to a landing page then fills out a web form. Additional profile information is captured.

Day 3:: Voice mail and email from lead owner thanking lead for the download (if the download occurred) with an invitation to a webinar on relevant topic.

Day 7: Follow up email asking if the lead would be interested in learning more about the topic they are pursuing. If lead responds then schedule a demo with sales. If lead does not respond continue with the lead nurturing program.

Day 15: Email customer success story from related industry

Day 21: Email a brief note to touch base and make an offer. For example, suggest providing valuable information such as a white paper, awareness kit, case study, blog post, ROI, personal demonstration, video testimonial or a book from an industry analyst

Day 30: Send a personalized email with an invitation to evaluation your solution, start a free trial. If you are a consulting-based business offer a free consultation.

3 month lead nurturing programs optimized for different roles:

This program was designed to meet three different persona’s. However, each program is structured the same, with a single lead nurturing event over three months, one per month. Notice each lead nurturing program begins with educational content.

Marketing persona:

Month 1: Voice mail and white paper

Month 2: Follow up call and email link to analyst whitepaper

Month 3: Follow up call and email invitation to webinar

Sales persona

Month 1: Voice mail and email relevant 3rd party article

Month 2: Follow up call and email 3rd party article

Month 3: Follow up call and email link to relevant podcast

C-level persona

Month 1: Direct mail an executive report and follow up with phone call

Month 2: Follow up call and email invitation to executive roundtable

Month 3: Follow up call and ROI analysis tool

3 month lead nurturing program with aggressive initial phases and bi-weekly dialogue

Day 1: Follow-up email or phone call

Day 10: Email offering an article of interest from a third-party relating to previous communications

Day 15: Personal email from sales rep

Day 30: Email promoting a relevant webinar series

Day 45: Call from sales rep to “check-in”

Day 60: Email providing a similar case study or a best practices white paper

Day 75: Personal email from sales rep offering a product demo

Day 85: Call from sales rep to schedule a face-to-face meeting

Day 90: Submit a sales proposal via email

6 month lead nurturing program with dialogue every three weeks

Day 1: Initial phone call and follow-up email

Day 28: Invitation to webinar with follow up phone call

Day 42: Email customer success story in related industry vertical

Day 60: Personal invitation from lead owner to forthcoming webinar

Day 80: Email interactive ROI calculator or similar “tool” as prospect nears buying stage

Day 100: Email article of interest from social media site

Day 120: Send personalized email from lead owner to touch base

Day 140: Email free copy of analyst report

Day 160: Invite prospect to a personal demonstration of your solution

12 month lead nurturing program with monthly dialogue

Month 1: Email 3rd party article on relevant technology

Month 2: Follow up phone call and email industry related case study

Month 3: Leave voice mail to check in

Month 4: Email link to industry related video done by a 3rd party

Month 5: Email relevant and educational-focused white paper

Month 6: Direct mail collateral

Month 7: Follow up phone call and email relevant eBook

Month 8: Follow up phone call and email link to relevant podcast

Month 9: Follow up phone call and email quote from industry-leading analyst

Month 10: Follow up phone call and email invitation to webinar

Month 11: Leave voice mail with invitation to industry trade show and email registration link

Month 12: Email one page white paper on evaluation criteria for solutions in your industry

Lead Liaison’s lead nurturing software can save you time and help boost your sales conversion rates by sending customized emails to leads based on their characteristics, activity, interest and interaction with your marketing assets.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What types of lead nurturing programs have you used?

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How Lead Nurturing Helps Sales

How Lead Nurturing Helps SalesThe majority of articles on lead nurturing are written from a marketing perspective. The benefits of lead nurturing for sales are rarely highlighted. Let’s take a moment to discuss how lead nurturing helps sales.

Three key benefits of lead nurturing for sales:

1. Aligns the timing of a buyer and sales
2. Builds trusting relationships between sales and the buyer
3. Increases sales productivity

Most top performing sales people would agree success comes from being in the right place at the right time and through relationships with prospects and customers. Additionally, few would argue that success comes from being productive and focused on important deals. Lead nurturing technology is a natural fit with how sales people are successful and complements the selling process.

Here’s what analysts say on how lead nurturing helps sales:

What analysts say:

  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing are able to generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead – Forrester Research, Inc.
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing have 9% more sales reps make quota, and enjoy a 10% shorter ramp up time for new reps – CSO Insights
  • Six months after inquiring, 23% of the surveyed subjects had bought the product or service, from the promoter or from a competitor. An additional 67% indicated that they still intended to buy but they were not ready – Sales lead expert, Mac McIntosh.
  • Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads – DemandGen Report.

Let’s look at a specific use case on how lead nurturing helps sales. Without lead nurturing sales people must manually keep track of follow up. When they follow up they’re leaving multiple voice mails and emails in an effort to “touch base”. Sales people really want to know if the prospect is ready to buy. Sales people get burnt out and frustrated and often alienate potential opportunity by subjectively cherry picking only the best leads.

With lead nurturing prospects are automatically sent relevant and personalized content on behalf of a sales person. With the help of lead scoring and website visitor tracking technologies sales will know when a prospect “raises their hand” and is ready to speak to a sales person. Lead nurturing technology helps sales by framing discussions in the buyer’s mind and separates you as a trusted advisor vs. another annoying vendor dialing for dollars. Your buyer’s will feel a sense of gratitude for staying in touch and helping them make a more informed decision.

Additional resources:

  • Lead nurturing campaigns compared with traditional email marketing campaigns
  • Getting started with lead nurturing

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Getting Started with Lead Nurturing

Getting Started with Lead NurturingA study by the CMO Council showed 80% of leads are lost, ignored or discarded while 73% of companies have no process for revisiting leads. If they’re not the “Glenngary leads” they’re gone, wasted, trashed – bye, bye. Experts estimate businesses have an opportunity to close 38% more deals by using lead nurturing. Getting started with lead nurturing is not challenging as long as you have a recipe for success.

Andre Pino of Forrester Research, Inc. published this article on how to start building a lead nurturing program that delivers results. It’s an excellent article worth reading. Before getting started with lead nurturing define what lead nurturing is, set your objective, and identify your approach. Andre does a great job discussing these three elements so we’ll quote him:

Framework for getting started with lead nurturing:

Definition: Lead nurturing is a process by which leads are tracked and developed into sales-qualified leads. Meaning that they are ready and worthy of a salesperson’s time. Of course, it is critical that you jointly establish the definition of a sales-ready lead with the sales team.

Objective: Our objective is to lead our prospects on an educational journey that moves them down the qualification path and results in a prospect that is highly qualified and ready to enter the sales process.

Approach: Developing a lead nurturing strategy does not need to be a daunting task. A simple approach is best, one that is focused and meaningful to your buyers.

Items to consider when getting started with lead nurturing:

While getting started with lead nurturing take the following six elements into consideration as you work on your plan:

1. Ensure you have a database or list of contacts to start with
2. Focus on the prospect and how B2B buyers buy
3. Consider simple database segmentation (see marketing segmentation) like industry or role to send pertinent content
4. Outline a process that’s relevant to your customers B2B buying process
5. Create great content
6. Be consistent with your messaging

Getting started with lead nurturing is not as hard as you think it is. Lead nurturing is a process of iterations. Begin with a basic program and expand from there. Good luck getting started with lead nurturing and contact Lead Liaison if we can help.

To learn more about how Lead Liaison’s lead nurturing can help you contact us today.

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Lead Nurturing Campaigns

Lead Nurturing CampaignsEmail marketing campaigns are very different from lead nurturing campaigns. Unfortunately, many marketers believe they already nurture leads by sending random, generic, and untimely email messages to their database. In reality, what they are doing is annoying prospects and diminishing return on assets. Marketers must understand that lead nurturing campaigns infuse consistency, relevance, and patience into traditional email marketing campaigns.

“If all you do is send generic email marketing messages to your early stage leads over and over and over again, you’re missing the point. Consistency is good but being relevant and then consistent is even better.” – Brian Carroll, B2B Lead Blog

Lead nurturing campaigns create consistency

Let’s examine a few key words in Brian’s statement. First, let’s discuss “consistency”. Email marketing is typically a very manual and inconsistent process. In the world of email marketing it’s very easy to forget about sending a campaign or lose track of a marketing plan. Marketers must manually schedule email messages on a periodic basis. There’s no systematic way of scheduling campaigns. The frequency of traditional email campaigns is usually monthly or quarterly in the form of a newsletter. Lead nurturing campaigns are different as they allow automatic scheduling of emails. Experts estimate it typically takes 8-12 touches for a lead to start becoming familiar with you. Lead nurturing makes it easier for marketers to be consistent and build relationships over time by automatically scheduling a series of relevant and consistent communications.

Lead nurturing campaigns send relevant communications

Second, let’s touch on the key word “relevant”. Blasting out generic email campaigns demonstrates you don’t understand what your prospects care about. Marketers typically send email messages to the entire database. Lead nurturing campaigns allow marketers to leverage marketing segmentation to segment a database based on demographics, likes, dislikes, website activity or any other profile information stored in the database. Knowing your prospects interests enables lead nurturing campaigns to send tailored and relevant content. Sending relevant content increases the chance of advancing a prospect through the sales cycle through personalized and intimate communications.

Lead nurturing campaigns instill patience

Most marketers who send “static” email campaigns are impatient. They feel once they obtain a new contact/lead they’ve got one chance to turn that contact/lead into an opportunity. If they can’t, they ignore the lead. Marketers must go through a paradigm shift in the way they think about a lead. A lead should be a lead for life. Lead nurturing campaigns help marketers continually leverage their database as a holistic asset by providing frequent and relevant contact touch points with the lead regardless of their stage in the sales cycle. Patience truly is a virtue. Once the lead is ready to “sprout”, you’ll know about it. Brian Carroll shared an interesting analogy related to lead nurturing campaigns:

“…in Minnesota, where I grew up, I worked on a farm with a seed corn farmer and he said you don’t dig up your corn to check and see if it’s growing. That’s the truth with lead nurturing, it’s something that you’re investing in over time and building a relationship with someone” – Brian Carroll, B2B Lead Blog

Lead nurturing campaigns “ready” leads by feeding them topical information to keep your company and solutions top of mind with your prospects. The automated and dynamic capability of lead nurturing campaigns makes lead nurturing very different from email marketing campaigns. If marketers are patient and invest in lead nurturing for the long haul they’ll learn to grow their seeds and harness the fruits of their labor.

To learn more about how Lead Liaison’s lead nurturing campaigns can help you contact us today.

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Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Lead Nurturing Best PracticesLead nurturing is the process of building relationships with prospects over time while shaping their interest in your solution to a certain threshold, or lead score, until the lead is ready for sales. It’s similar to progressing from dating to marriage. First, there’s initial contact where one person expresses interest in another. If the person being courted is too aggressive in their response it could be a turn off to the interested party. Fortunately, there are dating and lead nurturing best practices to adhere to. Whether dating or trying to sell, it’s vital to deepen the relationship over time and know when to commit more.

According to Brian Carroll, author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, 95% of website visitors are not ready to speak to sales. They may be just researching your industry and your company. However, studies show sales-readiness of website visitors will increase over time. In fact, 70% of those visitors will eventually buy from someone – including your competition. Unfortunately, most companies don’t realize this outcome.

What problems does lead nurturing solve?

If your lead generation process is similar to most companies, once a contact fills out a web form two things occur. First, the contact is loaded into a CRM system, such as Salesforce.com. Second, a sales person qualifies the contact with a phone call or email. If the contact does not seem like a short term sale for the sales person the lead is ignored and deemed “unqualified”. No further interaction occurs between the company and the contact. Consequentially, lead generation processes become inefficient and “rusty” over time while sales people develop a stigma about the quality of marketing’s leads. Research supports this trend as 80% of all marketing leads are unused, which is a waste of 80% of marketing’s budget.

How will lead nurturing help you?

To maximize ROI on your marketing dollars, it is imperative that interested prospects remain in close communication with you and your company well beyond the initial point of contact. Instead of dropping unqualified leads into a black hole, companies should build a relationship with the lead through a series of scheduled communications. By doing so, companies shape the preference of their potential buyers and stand a better chance of winning a prospects business.

Forrester, CSO Insights and Brian Carroll summarized the benefits of lead nurturing:

  1. Decrease the percent of leads generated by marketing that are ignored by sales from 80% to approximately 25%.
  2. Raise win rates of leads generated by marketing 7% points higher and reduce “no decisions” by 6%.
  3. Have 9% more sales representatives make quota and decrease ramp up time for new reps by 10%.
  4. Increase efficiency as nurtured-prospects buy more, require less discounting and have shorter sales cycles than prospects that bought but were not nurtured.
  5. Generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost-per-lead.

Number 5 is very important. Lead nurturing allows marketers to maximize return on their most valued asset, a marketing database. Marketers spend lots of money collecting new leads to build up their database. Rely less on adding uninterested contacts with incomplete information to your database and focus on building a high quality database you can nurture. By eliminating dependencies on new contacts and leveraging existing leads, marketers lower cost per lead.

For the expert marketer, this is solid data. However, for beginners trying to understand why they should spend any time on lead nurturing here’s a simple summary. Lead nurturing will:

  • automate follow-up communication with leads too numerous to be handled through direct sales; and
  • cultivate and nurture contacts over time so those contacts remember your brand when the need arises.

Lead nurturing tips

Creating a lead nurturing plan is not difficult. Here are four tips for creating your plan:

1. Create content that tells a story, from start to finish.

2. Don’t focus nurturing content on your product; rather, focus content on what your product does for your prospect. Communicate your message using 3rd party content, case studies, white papers, eBooks, Podcasts, webinars and tradeshows invitations.

3. Select a time line and frequency for your nurturing program. Most programs last 12 months on average but vary based on sales cycles. Identify how long your typical sales cycle is and use that as the duration of your nurturing program. Most programs nurture their leads one time per month on average.

4. Keep lead nurturing simple. Experts suggest 80% of the benefit of lead nurturing is achieved by the first 20% of effort. Refrain from creating too many lead nurturing programs / tracks. To start, create only one program per industry relevant to your business. For example, if most of your customers are in the finance and telecom industry create two programs; one with content relevant to finance and the other with content relevant to telecom.

Sample lead nurturing program

Below is an example of a lead nurturing program with 12 nurturing events over 12 months.

Initial Contact –> Introductory phone call and follow-up “thank you” email
Month 1 –> 3rd party article on pertinent technology via email
Month 2 –> Industry relevant case study via email with follow-up call
Month 3 –> Newsletter with scheduled follow up task
Month 4 –> 3rd party article on pertinent technology via email
Month 5 –> Relevant white paper via email
Month 6 –> Targeted campaign via direct mail
Month 7 –> Relevant eBook via email with scheduled follow-up call
Month 8 –> Link to relevant Podcast via email with follow-up call
Month 9 –> Free report via email with follow-up call
Month 10 –> Invitation to webinar via email with follow-up call
Month 11 –> Call to invite to industry trade show and follow-up with registration link
Month 12 –> Prospect calls you and becomes a sales-ready lead

Executing lead nurturing best practices

Once your lead nurturing program is up and running, you’ll need to start prioritizing and capturing your leads. First, you have to define what a sales-ready lead is. A sales-ready lead is a contact that meets your ideal profile and/or demonstrates interest in your solution commensurate with buying signals. By using lead scoring, companies have the opportunity to measure the relative levels of sales-readiness of one lead versus another. Combining lead scoring with real-time lead tracking technology allows companies to notify their sales team of a hot lead at the exact moment a nurtured-contact interacts with marketing collateral. For example, if a contact is sent an email message with links to an article on your company’s website, you’ll be notified in real-time via email or desktop software when the contact clicks the link. This process creates a closed-loop email marketing system, which most email marketing programs do not have.

We suggest defining a sales-ready lead and your lead nurturing programs in a Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLAs are used to broker collaboration and agreement between sales and marketing. Remember, make sure you execute your lead nurturing plan and stick to it. To quote Thomas Edison, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”.

A lead nurturing program similar to the one above can be fully automated and executed using revenue generation software from Lead Liaison.

We welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions. What lead nurturing best practices do you suggest?

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