Research has shown that up to 50% of leads are qualified but not yet ready to buy and only 3% of those in the market are in an active buying process. This represents a large audience of potential buyers that is important and should not be ignored. Often times sales teams are solely focused on short-term gains and not interested in the longer nurturing processes. A strategic lead nurturing campaign enables you to stay engaged with these prospects until they are ready to purchase.
Lead nurturing allows you to reach these leads more effectively by mirroring the natural progression that they go through during the sales cycle. This way, your team is not overwhelming or annoying them with “salesy” tactics when they are not ready to purchase. The process of nurturing leads is important in continuing to build relationships. Although it can seem tedious at times, staying on top of your prospect’s minds can prove beneficial.
While the process of taking an inquiry from a cold lead to customer will vary according to your specific industry, here is a simplified framework that most lead nurturing processes follow.
Whether it’s through a list purchase, white paper download or interaction at an event, the lead nurturing process begins by making initial contact with someone. At this point, begin with a soft sales approach to introduce the lead to your company. Because it is likely that most leads are not too familiar with your company, this introduction phase is a great way to set a foundation. You might consider a welcome email that outlines what they can expect and some introduction information.
It might be your first instinct to immediately send a new lead to a salesperson, have them make contact and ask for a purchase. This method is not ideal and will likely generate minimal sales and lead them to stop engaging with your company. A better practice is to place leads into a nurture program, during which it is possible to learn more about their specific pain points, needs and processes. This enables you to understand what they are looking for and what they need throughout the sales process.
The goal during this stage of the lead nurturing process is to drive awareness of your company and products. This can be achieved by leveraging thought leadership content that illustrates your knowledge and expertise. Sharing this content establishes your company as a reliable source for information and creates a sense of trust among your prospects.
A lead nurturing plan is a strategic way to ensure that you stay top of mind with prospects throughout their journey through the sales funnel. Through continued interactions with your company, a lead will become more engaged with your company. Typically, the type of content they consume will become less focused on thought leadership such as blogs and webinars and transition to more sales focused content such as case studies and price sheets.
Lead scoring is the process of ranking leads to determine their sales-readiness and is an effective method to determine and understand the quality of a lead. The more engagement a prospect has with your company, the more information and data you can gather, and learn from, to score the lead. Therefore, both explicit and implicit lead scores should be used to develop a well-rounded picture. Explicit scores come from information that a lead gives your company directly, either by filling out a form or when speaking to a sales rep. Implicit scores come from what you infer from a prospect’s behavior. You can determine implicit scores by using tools such as analytics or marketing automation software on your website which observes prospects behavior.
The duration of this phase in the lead nurturing cycle varies depending on multiple factors. For example, the monetary investment required, or the contract renewal cycle length, can be of great influence. It is important to pay attention to cues that prospects give you in order to determine when it is appropriate to move them to the next stage. If you sense that they are becoming annoyed or overwhelmed, it would be wise to take a step back and lower the frequency of your interactions with them. On the other hand, if you see that they are expressing interest in content that is more sales focused, you may want to have a salesperson reach out to them directly.
Ultimately, the goal of any sales campaign is to convert leads to customers. If executed correctly, lead nurturing increases the conversion rate of a sales campaign since the process keeps your company at the top of mind. When a lead is ready to purchase, your company is at the forefront of their consideration due to the relationship that has been built over time.
Benefits of Lead Nurturing
It may seem like the lead nurturing process is never-ending, but your sales team will be more successful than if they solely focused on trying to convert the small percentage of sales-ready leads that you receive. In the end, nurtured leads have a 23% shorter sales cycle than leads that are not nurtured, which goes to show you why these steps are worth it!