Generating leads — for most companies — is a relatively straightforward process of attracting website visits, trade show contacts, buying lists, outbound email campaigns or telemarketing, among other things.
The problem is that most of these leads (73 percent, according to MarketingSherpa) are not yet ready to buy — or to even talk to a salesperson. But it’s a mistake to ignore those leads. Studies report that 80 percent of leads not ready to buy today will go on to buy from you or a competitor within the next 24 months.
This is where lead nurturing fits in.
Lead nurturing defined
Lead nurturing is the process of creating a relevant and consistent dialogue with potential customers through regularly scheduled, customized communications.
Lead nurturing is typically focused on converting leads that are already in your database, with a goal of earning their business when they are ready to buy — next month, next quarter or next year.
How it works
Envision your sales process as an upside down funnel. Leads enter at the wide end of the funnel. Once leads are in the funnel, you need to nurture them with helpful, relevant information that moves potential buyers through each stage of consideration at a natural pace until they’re ready to be passed on to sales.
It starts with building a number of different customer tracks to address various products of interest, pain points and common objections during each stage of the sales cycle. Leads are placed on a track based on what you know about them.
Here is an example of three tracks based on key customer questions:
- Early stage — education: Do I have a problem? Does it impact my business? How are others solving it?
- Middle stage — solution: Will this solve my problem? Is this the best way to improve my business?
- Late stage – selection: Can I justify this expense? Is this vendor a trusted partner?
A common mistake marketers make is to think of lead nurturing as email communication. Instead, think of it as a workflow or series of communications in which every step has a clear and concise objective, whether it is moving someone to the next stage, or driving another desirable action.
The end result
Nurturing has the power to significantly speed up your sales cycle, with plenty of research to back up this assertion:
- Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (DemandGen Report, 2014)
- Companies that excel in lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at 33 percent lower cost per lead. (Forrester Research, 2014)
- Successful lead nurturing breeds educated, gratified customers who channel their satisfaction into their purchase sizes, making 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (Kapost, 2014)
A planned lead nurturing process actively builds new relationships with prospective customers and keeps a company top of mind.
With a nurturing program in place, prospects are no longer getting barraged with generic sales emails — instead they are receiving targeted communications based on their inquiries, interests and more. Perhaps that is why the sales results are dramatically better.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for GREENCREST, a 25-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into industry leaders™. Kelly is one of 35 certified brand strategists in North America and works with companies to establish brands and build brand value for their businesses.