Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready. Put another way, lead nurturing is what you do with all those leads you generate that aren't ready and don't want to speak with a sales rep.
The benefits of lead nurturing are clear: 20 percent more sales opportunities, 150 percent increase in contact-to-lead conversion rate, 47 percent higher average order values, and so on. The challenge is implementing and improving lead nurturing. Below are four categories of lead nurturing campaigns I discuss in The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing, each designed to increase sales leads and revenue by building trust with your prospects through timely, relevant communications.
Type #1 - Incoming Lead Processing
Lead nurturing is a lot like starting a long-term relationship with someone-you need to be a good partner, foster respect and trust, be a good listener, and keep things interesting. Incoming lead processing campaigns are your chance to make a positive first impression, with two main objectives:
- Identify if prospects are sales ready. Some companies have sales call every lead; others let sales cherry pick leads. The best companies use some combination of data quality, demographic attributes, behaviors, and lead score to determine which lead to move forward. Lead nurturing can automate this process, and take into account anonymous online behaviors-actions the prospect took before filling out a form. Behaviors such as page visits and search terms can be strong indicators of buying interest.
- Establish permission for nurturing. This is the time to offer prospects the opportunity to opt in or out of your nurturing programs-if someone doesn't want to hear from you, it's best to find out now.
Type #2 - Stay-in-Touch Campaigns
B2B buying decisions are usually dominated by one emotion: fear of risk. As a result, B2B marketing should focus on minimizing fear for prospects by minimizing their risk, both at the organizational and personal levels. "Stay-in-touch" campaigns are essential to building trust and credibility with your prospects, and help minimize their feelings of risk when potentially taking on a new vendor or solution. The best way to do this is to set up a "drop marketing" campaign that maps your content to your prospect's buying process (it can be as simple as "early stage," "middle stage," and "late stage") and roles (e.g. industry, buyer/doer, company size, geography). By sending relevant content at the right time, you can build the relationship with the prospect without being too pushy.
Type #3 - Accelerators
Accelerator campaigns are behaviorally triggered campaigns that attempt to help prospects along the buying cycle faster by watching what they do and providing relevant "nudges." By observing the type of content prospects request, where they go, and how often they visit your website, marketers can adjust their nurturing approaches accordingly, placing prospects with stronger interest on a more accelerated path toward a sales conversation and perhaps scaling back communications with less interested individuals.
Type #4 - Lead Lifecycle
The most important lead lifecycle campaigns relate to lead recycling. The goal of the lead recycling campaigns is to reassign-and track-leads that for any reason sales cannot pursue in a timely manner. Perhaps you received a flood of hot sales-ready leads from a specific campaign. In this situation, marketing and sales must jointly set up ground rules regarding which leads will be automatically reassigned if they are not pursued within a certain time frame. After marketing and sales agree on an approach, marketing can set up automated campaigns to manage the lead recycling whenever the specific business rules or conditions are met.
There will also be situations when leads should be manually recycled by sales. If, after contacting a group of leads, a rep determines that they are still not sales-ready, these prospects should be sent back to marketing. What makes this situation unique, however, is the fact that sales has already had a conversation with these leads so knows more about their buying intent than leads without any sales interaction. Because of this added insight, sales should be able to manually recycle these leads back to marketing, provide added details about their interaction, and indicate how and when the leads should be moved back into sales.
About the author: Jon Miller is Vice President of Marketing for Marketo and author of the e-book The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing (http://www.marketo.com/dg2-lead-nurturing).