I’m not saying you’re ignoring your prospects, although I imagine there are a handful of business owners and VP’s of Sales/Marketing reading this who feel their sales team are doing just that. What I am saying is that I am sure you are doing lead nurturing, you’re just doing it wrong. What makes me say that? Virtually every company I walk into is doing it wrong; then they blame their salespeople for not closing more deals and the salespeople in turn blame marketing for the quality of leads. Yes, poor quality leads do exist, however more often than not, high value leads slip away due to a weak nurturing strategy.
Why should I care about our lead nurturing program?
In case, you haven’t picked up on it yet, a central theme running through ThinkFuel Marketing is “Why should I care?” and when it comes to implementing a lead nurturing strategy, you should care a lot.
- You spent a lot of money to obtain those leads, from your marketing efforts to the salespeople to the entire support system in your office.
- If your lead nurturing program is ineffective, you risk losing those prospects to your competitors.
- Many “lead nurturing” programs are so ineffective, that they create a poor impression of your company – trust me I’ll prove this to you later.
The Buyer’s Journey
Before we can get into what makes a program good or bad, we need to all be on the same page about the Buyer’s Journey from the moment they are aware of a problem they are trying to fix, to the time the chose to engage with a shortlist of vendors. Again, why should you care? You know that overly used stat which states that a prospect will often complete 70% of their research before they even pick up the phone to talk to you? Well, this is it, and the good news is that you can influence it.
This is the stage when the prospect is experiencing and expressing signs of a problem but cannot clearly articulate the issue. They are conducting research that may lead to many possible solutions to their problem.
The prospect has now clearly defined their problem and put a name to it. They have identified a shortlist of possible solutions, and now they are researching those solutions.
The prospect has now decided on the solution to their problem and the methodology to the approach. All that is left now is to determine which vendor will meet their needs with the least amount of risk. This is when the prospect is willing to engage in a sales process with a shortlist of vendors they feel most confident in.
Why do most lead nurture programs fail?
Too eager to close
Has this ever happened to you? Worse yet, have you ever seen one of your salespeople doing this?
[You]: “This whitepaper I downloaded is pretty good. It makes me realize there is a lot more to this issue than I had thought. It’s given me a lot to think about.”
[5 minutes later][Salesperson]: “I noticed you downloaded our whitepaper when would be a good time for us to connect so I can tell you more about our company and put together some pricing for you?”
While that little example was exaggerated to make a point, it’s not far off, and it was at that point you lost the prospect, and now you have an uphill battle to win them back. So, what went wrong? To be frank, quite a bit. The salesperson and your marketing message were nowhere near being in sync with each other. The prospect downloaded a piece of premium content which was targeted at people in the first stage of the Buyer’s Journey (awareness). It positioned your company as a thought-leader and helped lead point them in the direction of your solutions when they enter the consideration phase. However, the salesperson jumped on the lead like they were ready to decide. They tried to skip steps in the journey and offered no value to the interaction. You instantly went from thought leader to a typical vendor.
“These leads are no good.”
The other reason a lot of leads never move down the funnel and into a sales process is that of the disconnect between the salesperson and the prospect. Salespeople are hard-wired to believe that if someone reaches out to them, then he or she must be ready to buy, but as we have already explained, this is just not true. So, when a salesperson follows up with a prospect, and they don’t hear back from them, they assume it was a “bad lead.” If you have ownership of the marketing budget and revenue goals of the company, here’s the heart-wrenching reality:
A salesperson will typically stop trying to connect with a new prospect after 3-5 attempts
A prospect typically needs 10-12 touchpoints to engage with a salesperson
Now, this is not permission to queue up 15 follow up emails within the first 72 hours of conversion (please don’t do that, and if you do, please don’t mention you got the idea here). Instead, you need to have a formal nurture plan in place, and if you don’t have one in place now, this is the point where I will stop blaming your salespeople and start blaming you.
Building a lead nurture strategy
The essential part of a lead nurture plan is to know what content you will be sending/sharing with prospects at each stage of the Buyer’s Journey. The goal of each touch point is two-fold, continue to position your company as a thought-leader and nudge the opportunity to the next phase of the Buyer’s Journey. Below are a few ideas for content pieces at the various stages of the journey.
Mapping out the process
Once you have identified the content you’re going to share, you need to map out how and when you are going to introduce that content to your leads. Personally, for most business to business applications, I like to take an approach of a quick flow of material early, then begin to space it out over the middle to end of the process. I prefer this approach because it helps push impulse buyers or prospects with a pressing need to convert quickly, then spreads out the information over the next 2-3 months for those prospects who are not in an immediate rush. After 3-4 months in a lead nurture program, I want that prospect to convert or get off my mailing list.
The process can be as complicated or simplistic as your business call for. If you offer one primary product to a small group of industries, you may only need one nurture process. On the other hand, if you have multiple buyer personas and a dozen very different offerings you may need to build numerous nurture strategies.
These are just a few of the factors that will influence the number of, and complexity of, processes include:
- Number of solutions offered
- Number of markets served
- The quality of the incoming lead
- The type of content you have available to share
- The amount of material you have
- The industry or sociographic behaviours of the lead
- The complexity of your pre-sales process
How to simplify the process
The more your nurture process grows, the more time consuming it will become to manage them using unconnected applications, spreadsheets, reports from salespeople, etc. This is where a marketing automation tool like HubSpot will make a world of difference. These applications can score the quality of leads in real time, route them along the proper nurture process, automate email touchpoints, schedule phone calls for your salespeople, and provide instant alerts regarding their interactions with your website and content.
Just like anything else, the way we nurture and position ourselves to prospects as changed. We need to focus on creating more informative content to help prospects define their problem, recognize the need to change, and visualize how our solutions can help get them to where they want to be long before we have any right to talk about ourselves. We need to understand that when we connect with them early in the Buyer’s Journey, it is an educational process that requires 10-15 high-value touchpoints before they will engage with us in a sales process. And finally, we need to be aware that this has become a necessary part of successfully selling business to business solutions.