Are you converting enough of your sales leads to customers? A study by the CMO Council estimated that companies waste up to 80% of sales leads because they don’t follow them up effectively. Sales teams do a good job pursuing hotter leads that look like they will buy in the next quarter. But a lot of other contacts are lost, ignored or discarded.
“Lead Nurturing” is a way to automate your follow-up so that more of your sales leads become customers. You can convert an extra 20% to 30% of your leads by automating your follow-up this way, and it has other benefits too, like more efficient use of your sales team’s time.
In this post I’ll look at how to get your first Lead Nurturing program up and running.
What Is Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing means automating communications, usually via email, with your sales leads. The goal is to keep your company ‘front of mind’ with prospects until they are ready to engage with your sales team. You define a chain of communications you want to send out to leads and specify the time intervals between each email or call. Then you automate the sequence using a marketing automation tool or your CRM (if it supports nurturing).
Goals and Principles
The main goal of lead nurturing is to convert more leads to sales by being consistent in the way you follow-up. I think it is also useful to set out some principles before you start lead nurturing for your company, spelling out what you want to achieve:
1. Ensure we respond to all leads (i.e. that none of them go un-contacted).
2. Make sure this response happens faster than at present (e.g. minutes or hours rather than days).
3. Ensure we respond to all leads consistently.
4. Ensure this response is based on information we have about the lead (who they are and what they show interest in).
5. Ensure that our lead nurturing communications convert leads to customers – that each communication increases their engagement, not decreases it.
6. Record sufficient information about how we manage leads so that we can analyze our activities and draw accurate conclusions about how to improve our approach.
Getting Started – Lead Capture
The first step is to make sure you capture leads from your website and blog. (This is because four of the five top sources of sales leads are online, according to research from DemandBase and Focus.com). You set up lead capture using registration forms next to “calls to action” on your web pages. For example, you can ask visitors to register their email address in exchange for a white paper or video. When they register you automatically record their details.
Score Your Leads
Some leads are more likely to convert than others. For example, you may find that leads from particular industries or countries are better quality. A lead score is a number you use to represent how ‘hot’ you think the lead is. You base the score on a mixture of information you can gather about the person (such as their job title and company) and on their subsequent behaviour (such as repeat website visits and response to emails). A lot of this information can be gathered automatically.
Categorize the Leads as “Personas”
You can categorize your leads into different “Buyer Personas”. A persona is a simplified description of your target buyers. For example, one of your target personas could be “IT Managers at Engineering firms”, or “Finance Directors at mid-size software firms”. Different personas will have different interests. When a new lead is created, you decide what kind of persona matches that lead. This helps you choose what kind of information they will be interested in during your follow-up.
Choose What Kind of Content to Use for Lead Nurturing
Content is just another word for information that your buyers use when they are researching a product or service. Content includes case studies, white papers, presentations and videos. Your sales leads will be interested in different kinds of content depending on their role, their business and their stage in investigating a product or service. Typically prospective customers move from “awareness”, “interest” and “evaluation” through to “decision”. As they learn more they require different types of information. For example, at an early stage a general overview of a product might be useful. As someone gets closer to making a purchase decision they may want to see technical specifications and pricing information.
Use a ‘Content Table’ to map out the kinds of content you think will appeal to the Personas you are targeting as they move through the buying process.
Setting Up Your First “Nurture Tracks”
A Nurture Track is a sequence of emails and phone calls executed to a pre-defined schedule. For each persona map out which emails and content you want to send and specify the delay between mails. For instance, for a “Sales Director” persona you can start with a ‘Thank You’ email, followed by sending them a link to a white paper. Then a week later you could send out a link to a blog post or case study.
You can automate these follow-up steps using a marketing automation system. Now as people register on your website the system automatically scores them and allocates them to a nurture track, and they receive a predefined sequence of emails. Where a phone call is required the system will notify your sales or marketing staff who they have to call and when.
Once you get up and running you can check how your leads respond to your nurture. For example, are they opening the emails and responding to your offers? If they respond positively e.g. by visiting your website and downloading more content then you can automatically increase their lead score. Your goal is to get them to a point where they become “sales ready” i.e. they fit your target profile, they have shown serious engagement with your emails and website and they have given some indication that they are in a buying process.
As you monitor your nurture tracks you will find that some emails work and others don’t. Identify emails or content that get a good response and eliminate emails that don’t get opened.
Automate Your Follow-Up to Convert More Leads
Lead Nurturing is a straightforward way to convert more sales leads. By defining your target buyers, identifying content that interests them and then running a series of automated emails, you can increase sales conversions by 20% to 30%. Getting started now could give you an edge over your competition.