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 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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Marketing Segmentation

What is marketing segmentation?

Marketing Segmentation

Interestingly, marketing segmentation is not listed in Wikipedia – the mother of all definitions. However, Wikipedia does define “market segment” as “a sub-set of a market made up of people or organizations with one or more characteristics that cause them to demand similar product and/or services based on qualities of those products such as price or function.” Marketing segmentation and market segmentation are different. Marketing segmentation is, well, a way to segment your marketing, not a market. It’s time we gave marketing segmentation a definition.

Here’s our definition, marketing segmentation is the process of individualizing marketing efforts to a subset of targeted contacts or companies meeting related criteria. In plain English, it means marketing to sections of your database to address specific, and like needs. Using email marketing as an example, without marketing segmentation businesses would send out spray and prey email campaigns to every contact in their database. Recipients would become annoyed as they’d receive irrelevant content too frequently that doesn’t meet their needs.

To achieve marketing segmentation, businesses should do two things. First, turn to their most valuable asset, their database, and compartmentalize it. Second, split up their sales pipeline into two separate pipelines, one for marketing and one for sales.

Step 1, analyze your database for segmentation

Let’s first look at compartmentalizing your database. If you have a clean and accurate database you can probably skip this paragraph. However, if you’re like most companies and have an immature or messy database, take the time to get it in order. Your database is the foundation for your marketing segmentation strategy. To clarify, database segmentation is different from marketing segmentation. Database segmentation is a part of the overall marketing segmentation solution and helps you send more personal emails while avoiding unnecessary ones. Once your database is segmented, create unique and relevant content to send to each segment.

Before segmenting your database, it helps to make a list of how you’ll market to your database. When you understand how you’ll market to your database you’ll know what database information or fields you’ll need for segmentation. Reference our article 101 ideas for B2B lead generation to spark your thoughts.

For this article, let’s assume we’ll use email marketing as our marketing strategy. Next, identify your segmentation criteria. Here are 16 examples of how to segment your database.

  • Email address vs. no email address
  • Interest-based preferences – does the prospect/customer like product A or product B? does your prospect/customer like information on products, use cases, documentation? These are just a few examples. Use interest-based questions in your web forms to collect data.
  • Title – is the prospect/customer a Vice President or in Engineering?
  • Referred by – was it a partner who referred the contact to you?
  • Source – did the lead come from a tradeshow, purchased list, internet search?
  • Clicked links – has the prospect/customer clicked any links in your email campaigns sending them to your company website? This indicates interest.
  • Geography / territory / time zone – where is the prospect/contact located?
  • Recency – was the contact added to your database within the last 3, 6, 9 or 12 months?
  • Networking – where did you meet the prospect/customer, at a restaurant, trade show, on-site?
  • Frequency – who is buying more frequently than others? Separate these folks from the rest of the pack to hone your selling efforts.
  • Monetary – which customers are spending the most? Push them to the top of your stack.
  • Pareto’s Principle of 80/20 – Pareto state’s that for many events, approximately 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes. Identify which customers bought something in the past year and what they paid. Figure 80% of the total sales for the year and determine which customers contributed that amount; these are your “A” customers. Next, identify the next 10%; these are your “B” customers. Identify the next 10%; these are your “C” customers. Mark everyone else a “D”. Ignore the Cs and Ds and focus your sales and marketing efforts on the As and Bs.
  • Buyers by Product – who’s buying and who’s not? which products are they buying?
  • Sales stage – where is lead/customer at in your sales and marketing efforts? Feel free to use our article on the sales pipeline to get some ideas of the pipeline stages to use in your database.
  • Lost business – which opportunities have been lost? Don’t forget about them, they may have other projects or interests. You’ve invested a lot of time and energy trying to sell to them. Don’t let that go to waste.
  • Active vs. inactive – for example, who has not opened or clicked an email in the last 180 days

Most marketing automation solutions have built-in technology to help you partition your database into individual contact lists by running a query on your database. The query can be a one-time query only or an ongoing query that adds new contacts to your list as they appear in your database and match your requirements.

Step 2, allocate a marketing pipeline and a sales pipeline

The second step to marketing segmentation is to split the sales pipeline into two separate pipelines. We’ve gone into depth on this topic already so we won’t repeat ourselves. Read this article on dividing your sales pipeline for more information. In summary, sales will manage a pipeline of leads, contacts, and opportunities ready to talk whereas marketing will manage everyone before they’re ready to talk.  Marketing’s pipeline is most likely interested in getting an education vs. a sales pitch.

Once your contact lists and pipeline process is separated, create unique and relevant marketing assets (whitepapers, kits, email messages, etc.). Finally, leverage closed loop email marketing to send personalized email messages and nurture your lists using lead nurturing technology.

Good luck with your marketing segmentation efforts. Special thanks to Lori Feldman, the Database Diva, for providing her list of ideas for database segmentation.

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