“Lead nurturing,” or developing of valuable new leads into customers is central to the success of every SMB. It involves learning about your prospects’ needs, engaging with them through multiple channels, educating them, and converting them to customers. Beyond the first sale, it involves helping customers to maximize the value of their purchases to engender loyalty. It’s about building relationships, and it is essential in B2B and in B2C environments. Yet many SMBs—despite investing heavily in generating leads— don’t invest enough resources into nurturing them.
Here, we’ll explain why lead nurturing is essential to growing your small or medium sized business and provide an overview of the general steps involved in the process.
Consider these statistics:
- 74% of companies say converting leads into customers is their top priority. (Hubspot)
- 80% of marketers using automation (automated nurture) software to generate more leads; 77% convert more of those leads. (APSIS)
The nurturing process, in a nutshell
You may hear others referring to this process as marketing automation communications, drip marketing, or multi-touch marketing. By any name, it’s about identifying prospects and sending personalized and strategic communications based on their needs at each step in the customer journey. Each communication in the “nurture” stream is triggered by time or activity. Communications may be through mail, email, social media, SMS, or phone call.
With every successive communication, your prospects are learning, becoming more interested in your product, sharing information with you, and (in some cases) being prepared for the handoff to sales. When prospects are successfully nurtured, they gradually increase engagement with the company through more channels such as social media, online chat functions, and the phone by calling your customer service or sales teams.
Educating today’s self-informed buyers is a critical part of lead nurturing, but it’s what YOU learn through this process that matters most. With minimal resources invested, lead nurturing will give your sales team insights into each prospect’s timing, behavior, and needs. The details you collect will inform your future communications and provide buying “personas,” which are detailed descriptions for each type of customer.
Let’s take a look at the basic steps in the nurturing process.
1. Kick start the relationships
You’ve just gained 150 new leads with contact information through online inquiries, social media ads, and through a cold sales call campaign. Start with an email campaign and consider segmenting it, so you can target the needs of specific groups. Keep in mind, response rates decrease as lead age increases, so you must act as quickly as possible. You also must provide a reason and a means to respond and engage. If your timing and content is on-target, you’ll retain more leads than your competitors. That gives your organization the early, critical advantage.
2. Establish early credibility
Many, if not most, of your leads will be generated by online search queries. Assume they know little about your business and even less about your organization. Your early communications should drive prospects to dedicated areas of your website where they can learn more about your products and services. Because self-informed buyers ultimately do business with companies they know and trust, lead nurturing maintains your early advantage by establishing your authority and thought leadership within your industry.
3. Qualify your leads
Learning about your prospects can be even more predictive of sales success than educating them. To win, your sales and marketing teams need more detailed buying personas than your competitors are getting. They need to know about needs and pain points, and about the products and services that can address them. In B2B, they need to know about key roles within organizations, buying processes, and time frames. Offer your prospects a valuable piece of content, such as an eBook or a video presentation to capture this information (as well as contact information).
4. Set it and forget it
Once your content is created, emails can be set up to run automatically, based on milestones or triggers. For example, a prospect who has received two “nurture” emails clicks through on the second to receive a whitepaper. He is now designated to receive successive communications that will take his understanding to the next level, without any sales pressure.
5. Zero in on your targets
Triggers dictate the flow of information to your lead segments and your lead nurture program tracks specific link clicks to determine which content is sent next. For example, if you’re targeting homebuyers, your leads will qualify themselves as ready to purchase within a choice of time frames, and you will be able to speak more precisely to their needs in future communications.
To get started with your lead nurturing program, begin by segmenting your target audiences. Think about what you want to say to establish credibility with each segment and what content you can use or develop to advance your leads to the next steps. Most important, involve your sales, marketing, and customer service personnel in the process. The more you can collaborate on developing customer segments, the easier it will be to work through these five steps.