Marketing automation

How To Convert More Sales Leads with Lead Nurturing

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Lead Nurturing

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).

Lead Nurture Track example

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.  Marketing Automation systems like Motarme take care of this for you.

Landing page example

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.

Lead Scoring Example

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.

Lead nurturing and personas

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.

Content Matrix

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.

Lead Nurture Track example

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.

Monitoring Progress

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.

What Is the Business Case for Marketing Automation?

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Business Case for Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation systems help you automate repetitive tasks linked to acquiring new customers. In this post I give a quick definition of what marketing automation systems do, and then put together a business case for implementing the technology.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation systems automate steps for acquiring new customers, usually focusing on online channels like your website, email and social media. They automate activities required to make potential customers aware of your products and services and then communicate with those customers over time until they are ready to purchase.
For B2B companies, Marketing Automation systems can help you

  • Generate more sales leads and
  • Convert more of those leads to sales.

How does Marketing Automation relate to CRM systems?

Marketing Automation systems usually integrate with a CRM system. Both types of technology have a different focus and different types of users. Marketing Automation systems are focused on getting an initial contact or sales lead in the first place, and then ‘warming it up’ until the lead is ready for a sales person to take over. CRM systems are usually focused on managing live sales opportunities, managing your sales team, creating sales forecasts, and managing ongoing customer support. This diagram via David Raab shows the relationship:

Marketing Automation and CRM

How do Marketing Automation systems work?

For B2B companies, Marketing Automation systems help in 3 overall areas:

  • Lead Generation –generating leads online via your website and social media, and managing leads from other sources like trade shows
  • Lead Profiling – marketing automation systems automatically help you profile your leads, building a history of their previous online interactions and pulling information in from 3rd party sources. This helps you decide which leads match your target profile.
  • Lead Nurturing – based on the lead’s profile, marketing automation systems put them into a follow-up sequence, usually based on personalized emails with some phone calls and other touches in between. This is known as ‘Lead Nurturing’. These Lead Nurturing sequences are based on sending high quality information – ‘content’ – to your prospective customers. For example eBooks, reports, white papers, blog posts, videos and industry analysis.

In practical terms, most Marketing Automation systems have these features:

  • Lead capture forms – online registration forms that you can plug into web pages and your blog to collect visitor’s registration details.
  • Landing Pages – a web page designer that lets you design and publish special web pages – ‘landing pages’ – with integrated registration forms that collect a visitor’s details
  • Lead Profiling – capture and recording of information on web visitors’ locations, where they have been on your website, what they have downloaded, their social media profiles, the company they work for etc.
  • Lead Scoring – creating a numeric “score” for each lead to indicate how “hot” it is, based on their job title, their company, the number of times they visited your site, what they downloaded etc.
  • Lead Routing – rules for sending a new lead either to a sales person or to an automated follow-up sequence.
  • Lead Nurturing – the ability to design one of those follow-up sequences, usually by defining a sequence of emails and phone-calls over a period of weeks or months.
  • Reporting and Analytics – tools and reports to help you identify which of your web marketing activities generate leads, and which kinds of leads are likely to convert to customers. This helps you figure out which activities to increase or drop.

So, What’s The Business Case?

To build the business case for any new system you need to identify the potential benefits and balance these against the potential costs.
The key potential benefits you can get with Marketing Automation include:

  • Greater volume of leads – generate more leads, mainly through online web-based lead generation
  • Better quality leads – because you profile and score the leads automatically, you should be able to improve the quality
  • Reduce the cost per lead – by reducing the manual steps and generating more leads online
  • Drop fewer leads – because the process is automated, leads won’t get dropped or mishandled
  • Increased automation / less manual steps – automation of processes for lead capture and lead management means you can scale up without adding staff.
  • Better insight – automated reporting to give you better insight into what activities generate good quality leads that are likely to convert to customers.

Business Case inputs

You normally start by looking at your existing performance without the new system. You collect indicative numbers such as

  • Average number of new leads required per year e.g. 6,000
  • Average number of new customers needed per year e.g. 120
  • Average value per new customer e.g. €10,000
  • The number of marketing and lead management tasks per customer acquisition
  • Average cycle time to acquire a customer from start to end e.g. 90 days
  • Number of staff engaged in lead generation and qualification and their % utilisation
  • Average employee salary
  • Number of customer leads that fail to convert

Benefit assumptions

Now you make some reasonable assumptions about the improvement you could achieve by standardizing and automating your processes:

  • Number of customer acquisition tasks could be reduced by 30%
  • Improved end-to-end process can reduce cycle times by 20%
  • Number of staff engaged in manual lead generation tasks can be reduced by 30%
  • Average utilisation of lead generation staff is reduced by 40%
  • Number of leads who convert to sales is improved by 20%
  • Improved throughput capacity increases the number of good quality leads by 10%
  • Successful cross-selling opportunities will increase customer revenue by 5% annually

Example RoI case

  • 6,000 sales leads generated per year
  • 120 paying customers generated per year from those 6,000 leads
  • 5,880 leads do not convert to paying customers
  • Average new annual revenue per customer is €10,000
  • Average start-to-end customer acquisition cycle time is 120 days
  • Customer acquisition cost per new customer is €2,000
  • 20 distinct steps in the lead generation and follow-up process

Assumptions for Calculation

  • A seamless marketing automation lead management process would convert an additional 10% of leads to customers
  • 30% of the lead management costs could be eliminated
  • An employee costs €35,000 per annum

Cost / Benefit Figures

  • Increase in customer conversion – assuming a 20% increase in the number of leads who convert means 40 extra customers, at 10,000 each = €400,000
  • 30% reduction in customer acquisition costs is 30% of (240 x €2000) = €144,000
  • 10% additional leads because of the automated process generates 10% extra customers i.e. 10% of 200, which is a value of 20 x €10,000 = €200,000
  • Staff costs will stay the same or reduce on introduction of the new system

So the Total benefit is €400k + €200k + €144k = €744,000

Potential costs are:

  • Annual cost of new system
  • Once-off cost of implementing new system
  • Once off cost of linking new system to existing CRM system

Summary

These example figures illustrate the kind of benefits you can gain from implementing a marketing automation system to streamline and automated your lead management processes. To gain these benefits you still need to apply effort and time to implementing and using the system – it won’t drive itself.
But there is a clear business case – if you adopt marketing automation you will generate and convert more leads than you do today, and you will be able to scale-up that lead generation without scaling up staff numbers.

What is Lead Nurturing?

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Lead Nurturing refers to building regular, automated interactions with sales leads in order to develop a relationship and encourage a purchase. This guide explains what Lead Nurturing is, and the benefits you can obtain such as converting an extra 20% of leads to sales. We also describe step-by-step how to setup your first lead nurturing program.

Written by Michael White

Michael White is co-founder and Managing Director of Motarme, the Marketing Automation vendor. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Mergon Group adopts Motarme for Marketing Automation

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Mergon Group has implemented Motarme for Marketing Automation.  Mergon Group is among the top 5 providers of technical blow moulded and injection moulded plastics in the world. Customers include BMW, Abbott, Volkswagen, Toyata and Bosch.  With 400 staff and multi-million revenues, the company has plants in South Carolina and the Czech Republic and is headquartered in Castlepollard, Westmeath, Ireland.

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