Lead nurturing has tremendous benefits. In fact, since the Internet and its plethora of information have changed the buy and sales cycle, it's even more critical now as a way for companies to stay in touch with prospects and keep them engaged. Then, when the prospect deems the time is right to buy, your company will be top of mind.
The key elements in successful lead nurturing are that it be non-intrusive -- and more to the point -- that the content used has relevance to prospects based on where they are in their buy cycle. For instance, if a prospect downloads a whitepaper on your website, is it appropriate for a salesperson to call? Most often, the answer is no. This is because in our Internet age, the prospect might very likely be only in the information-gathering stage where they are just doing initial research and haven't yet established a defined need for a solution within their company. Since this now puts the responsibility on marketing to establish and maintain contact with prospects along their path from "just looking" to "seriously considering," it's critical to engage in some kind of nurturing program.
There's no "one size fits all" nurturing campaign. Not only does effective nurturing depend on your business -- the length/complexity of your sales cycle, your target audiences, who within the prospect organization buys, and more -- it also depends on your ability to provide content. While we strive for sophisticated approaches in nurturing, such as targeting the right content to the right contacts at the right time, the reality is many of us simply don't have the resources to produce all needed content. However, having some nurturing is better than having none at all. It's actually good to start simple when implementing nurturing campaigns for the first time. Once you figure out what prospects are engaging with and what they aren't, what timing works and what doesn't, you begin to see your own best practices emerge. The good news is that it's not necessary to spend a lot of time and resources mapping out complex nurturing programs.
Keeping with the simplicity theme, let's get down to the guts of nurturing programs -- content. The two essential elements for content are personalization and relevance. Personalization means you tailor content to the specific prospect -- start the email with the person's name. You should also be able to merge in other fields, such as placing the company name within the email's text. Personalization helps engage prospects, since it makes them feel like you're talking specifically to them.
Relevance is about delivering content with real meaning to the email's recipient. It can be simply displaying a graphic relevant to the prospect's industry (showing a hospital instead of an office building). Or, relevance can be more complex and deliver content specific to the prospect's title or captured interests. Some marketing automation tools provide rules for dynamic content that let you deliver such customization via templates.
So how can you get started? You don't need to create everything from scratch. Some nurturing content can come from pre-existing, repurposed materials:
- Web site: Your web site has content, so repurpose its copy. Just make sure it's not "salesy" if your prospects are still early in their buy cycle.
- Datasheet/collateral: Use the main ideas and bullet points for articles or blogs. Remember, it can't be "salesy".
- Press releases: Extract customer quotes or success rates to sprinkle throughout articles and emails.
- Case studies: Use customers' successful experiences with you for articles.
- Industry news: Share useful snippets from analyst reports.
By using content you already have, you can get your nurturing program started. But remember: Express thought leadership in a way that speaks your prospects' language and provides educational value. In articles or blogs, leave your audience wanting more — give them enough to whet their appetites so they want to hear from you sooner rather than later.
Lead nurturing has tremendous payback. It's great if you can spend time and money creating new content for every nurturing touch point. But the reality is most of us have limited resources. It's better to start with a basic nurturing program than to never execute one by aiming too big. Start out simple by repurposing materials you already have. Also, measure the effectiveness of your nurturing so you'll know what's working and what needs tweaking. In these ways, you can get your company started on the path toward keeping prospects engaged until they are ready to become bona fide buyers.
About the Author
Lisa Cramer is president and cofounder of LeadLife Solutions, a provider of on-demand lead management software with embedded best practices that generates, scores, and nurtures leads for B2B marketers. In 2009, Lisa was recognized as one of the top five "Most Influential People" in sales lead management. For more information on lead management or best practices, call 1-800-680-6292 or email Cramer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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