How to Power your Lead Generation with Lead Nurturing
If you’re running a B2B company, or you sell an expensive product (my threshold is above $200), your principal online activity should be to generate leads, not drive for an online sale.
But generating a lead is just the beginning. Lead nurturing is where the money is at. Without lead nurturing, your chance of closing a deal with your customers is slim to none.
What is lead generation?
Lead generation is when a potential customer, often referred to as a suspect, raises his or her hand and says “yes, I’m interested in you and your products. I’m not ready to buy yet, and I don’t really know who you are, but the information you have on your website is intriguing.”
The typical creation of a lead in a B2B scenario is when a visitor to your website or your landing page fills out a form to download a white paper, a free eBook, a case study, or signs up to attend a free webinar.
When you offer this free information you also ask them to subscribe to your email list. For example, small business CRM software maker InfusionSoft asks you to fill out a form to watch a product demo – and they also subscribe you to their email list.
That’s lead generation. But many companies get it wrong.
How companies get lead generation wrong
When your prospect fills out a form to download your white paper or view your product demo, they’re now a lead. So it’s ok to call them now, right?
Not so fast. Many companies make the mistake of calling their leads too soon, and pushing them away.
I had that experience with a software company recently. I downloaded a report on their website by filling out a form. A day later I received a phone call from an eager sales rep wanting to sell me their software.
This guy was relentless – he called me every day, until I answered the phone and told him I was wasn’t a prospect, I was only interested in the report.
I honestly felt sorry for the guy.
This mistake is actually more common than you’d think. We believe that the 18 people who downloaded our new eBook are now ready to buy our product.
They’re not ready to buy. They’re not ready to talk to you. They’re not even ready to think about talking to you. All they did was download something and say “yes, I’ll sign up for your newsletter, but don’t spam me or I’ll delete your messages and ignore your phone calls.”
Enter Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing is the process of establishing a relationship with your prospect so they know, like and trust you enough to consider trying your product.
John Jantsch, author of the books Duct Tape Marketing and The Commitment Engine, is the master of lead nurturing. His description of the marketing process, from the time a customer finds out about you, to when they finally become your customer, is the best description of lead nurturing I've seen.
His tool to explain this process is the Marketing Hourglass.
Jantsch correctly identified that trust is a key factor in the purchase process. You must deftly establish a trusting relationship with your customers before asking them to buy.
Let’s hear Jantsch in his own words:
“Far too many businesses attempt to go from Know to Buy and wonder why it’s so hard. By creating ways to gently move someone to trust, and perhaps even creating low cost offerings as trials, the ultimate conversion to buy gets so much easier.”
But how do you take your fresh lead and move them down the path to “Trust,” “Try,” and “Buy”
The clues are in the marketing hourglass itself.
How to nurture your leads
Your number one tool to nurture your leads is the newsletter you signed them up for in the first place.
In Brian Massey’s fantastic article The Considered Purchase, he says your online goal should be to sell your content, and not your products. This coincides nicely with Jantsch’s recommendations.
Then Massey says you must engage the biggest social network on the planet. What, you ask, is the biggest social network on the planet?
Massey provides a recipe to nurture your prospects with email:
1. Permission. Always get permission from your prospects before emailing them. You already did that when you got them to download your special report. You asked if they’d like to sign up for your newsletter as well, they said yes, and just to make sure you asked them to confirm by clicking a link in the confirmation email your email marketing tool sent them.
2. Frequency. Massey says you should send at least two emails a month, but probably more. Just as you should publish to your blog on a regular schedule, you should send out your email newsletter on a regular schedule too. Regularity and frequency builds trust. The lack of a regular schedule destroys trust.
3. Non-promotional content. The best way to nurture your prospects and become a trusted resource for them is to send them truly educational marketing. Adopt the content marketing mindset.
4. Test Massey says to test different headlines and calls-to-action. Test which emails generate the most visits to your website, and which ones prompt your visitors to call your sales team.
Nurturing via a content-based email marketing approach is our preferred way to build trust as well.
But you can’t nurture your customers forever. Eventually you have to sell them something.
Convert your nurtured leads with a Landing Page
You probably used a landing page to convert them to leads in the first place. You offered them something for free in exchange for their email address.
Now create another landing page to harvest your nurtured leads and turn them into customers.
As we noted in our earlier article about content marketing, for every 3-5 non-salesy content pieces, send them a promotional email. Provide a special offer with a time limit. Tell them about your 10-city tour and invite them to join you at the local event where you’ll be speaking. Get them to attend a live demo of your product.
How do you know when it’s time to call your prospects?
But what if your sale is a high dollar sale that doesn't happen until one of your sales people talks to a customer on the phone or in person?
If you can’t or won’t wait for your prospects to call you, then do the following:
- Use analytics to check your prospects’ activity on your website or landing page. If you are sending them offers, you should check out your analytics program to track how your customers react to that offer. How many pages are they visiting after your landing page? Are they visiting the pages that indicate purchase interest, such as product/service pages, or pricing pages?
- Test your prospects’ readiness by calling at different stages. Separate your prospects by their activity on your landing page and website. Maybe create three groups, from those that clicked on two pages, those that clicked on four pages, and those that clicked on five or more pages, then left, then came back again. Have your inside sales team call each group and determine which group of prospects was most receptive to a sales call.
- Set up a conversion funnel in your analytics program. If you've tested enough prospect phone calls, set up a conversion funnel with the ideal prospect activity path on your website. Those prospects that complete the funnel you’ve set up are the best prospects to call.
This can only be achieved if you have a paid version of an analytics program, such as Kissmetrics or HubSpot, which allows you to identify individual prospects by name.
If you sell a high ticket item, such as an enterprise software product, consulting services, coaching, machinery, computers, or anything that would not be considered an impulse buy, you need to generate leads and nurture them.
Don’t make the mistake of calling prospects who downloaded your white paper yesterday, thinking they’re ready to talk to a sales rep. Get them to know, like and trust you buy sending them valuable content via your in-house mailing list.
By alternating 3-5 pieces of valuable content for every offer, you can build the trust needed to turn them into a sales-ready prospect.
Check your analytics to see your prospects’ behavior on your landing page and website, and call the ones that are most likely to respond positively to the call.
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