Essential Primer on Lead Nurturing (Read: Increase Sales By Following My Advice)

Lead Generation is more complex today than it has ever been.  The buying cycle has changed, so has consumer behavior and consumer education. Generating traffic is more difficult and more expensive.  At least once a day someone says to me “Can I really afford to compete? Can I get enough traffic to make it worthwhile? Can I convert enough of that traffic into leads?

I hear and see the frustration of entrepreneurs, and small to medium sized business owners all too often.  Limited budget, even less time, complex Google algorithms, changing social platforms, difficult to reach consumers and so much competing noise.

That’s why I am here.  I am a resource that you can count onto shed some light on this insanity that is digital marketing.

Today, I want to explore lead generation and lead nurturing.

Before we begin, we need to understand what a lead is. A lead is generally defined as someone that is exhibiting “buying behavior” or “consumer intent” – however not all leads are the created equally.  Understanding your lead is vital to your success.  You need to understand their needs and wants. Their pain points, their objections and what stage of the buying cycle they are in when they enter your sales funnel and how likely they are to buy.

Determining the quality of a lead is a complex process that varies from industry to industry and then company to company. Many organizations require formal lead scoring.  Others do a more informal review.  Some sales funnels pre-qualify and others don’t.  There are so many variables at play here.

LeadscoringIn a perfect world, you would create a strong and scientifically based lead scoring system.  In the real world, you may be a little too busy and want to at least capture a few basics you can use to qualify your leads on the fly.

It starts with defining and then prioritizing all of your “most desired actions”.  Typically I see quote requests, whitepaper downloads, demo requests, newsletter opt-ins, phone calls and then direct purchases.  Of course there are so many other actions, like video plays, app downloads, shares etc.

Define them in order of priority – typically the sale being the most coveted action (and the hardest one to get!). Then you can determine which ones qualify someone as a “lead”.  For example, does getting on your mailing list make someone a lead or do they have to actually request a quote or consultation?  Specifics also come into play, for example, if you gather contact information or any business details in your web form the person completes in order to get the free report, that person may be a good lead. If they simply give their name and email and phone number, they are essentially a cold lead and it would be a cold call if you call them.

The truth is none of these people should be neglected and there should be a process to move them through the buying cycle towards a purchase. Scoring the quality of the lead does make it easier to prioritize the time and attention of your sales team.

These days most companies have an automated “drip marketing” system that serves to build your credibility by sharing insightful and helpful information. It also helps keep you “top of mind” for the potential customer and pushes them through the buying cycle, typically making them more likely to either buy from you or make an appointment with your sales team.

Back to our “on the fly” scoring system.  There are three key points you need to consider to determine the quality and strength of the lead.

 Budget: can they afford what you are offering?

Need: Is there a pain point that they feel strongly enough, that your product/service provides a solution for?

Timeframe: When are they ready to buy and how do they fit into sales cycle based on that info?

 Tip: While someone at the end of the buying cycle is an “easier” and quicker sale it may not be a “sure thing” since they found you late in the process and likely haven’t invested any time into you or built any loyalty. If you capture leads at all stages of the buying cycle, you have the opportunity to catch their attention and interest early and build a relationship.

The Evolution of Lead Generation

jetsonsWhile we aren’t quite living with Rosie the Robot or riding around in space cars, like the Jetsons, our technology and society have advanced.  This advancement has created a smarter and more educated consumer.

Back in the day, mass advertising was the way you found your leads. Note the key differentiator from today.  You would find your leads. Now it’s all about the lead finding you.  Don’t get me wrong, you don’t just throw up a site and the leads flood in. What I mean is, they do their research and your site and social profiles need to answer their “call” and provide the information they are looking for.

leads-looking-for-youBasically, when a lead comes looking, you need to be there and ready to build a relationship, nurture them and move them through your funnel. Remember, it’s not just about the initial sale.  If they have a positive experience and then the product or service delivers satisfaction, you are setting yourself up for referrals and repeat business – creating more value from that lead.

Again, back in the day and I’m not talking all the way back to Don Draper’s day – I mean even just five years ago – consumers weren’t as educated.  They wanted ot be educated and hand held through the process.

Today leads are more proactive, more educated and have more experience evaluating brands, products and services.  Leads spend more time researching on their own, which means they are typically further along in the buying process before you “get your hands on them” and get to talk to them.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to do two things:

  1. Have a killer offer and closing process to take the leads the rest of the way to the purchase quickly. Since they just came to me and don’t have loyalty, I need to close them before a competitor swoops in and swipes your leads.  (Did any of you just think “Swiper no swiping”?  If you did, you have kids in your life! Ever since my niece was about 3 I’ve thought of Swiper from Dora the Explorer when ever I hear any variation of the word swipe. Incidentally, I also learned star in Spanish is Estrella.  Thanks Dora!)
  2. Create a system to attract buyers much earlier in the process. Data tells me that they don’t want to talk to me yet, but they are still researching.  With am informative and engaging system for delivering content, I can still build some loyalty and trust before they are ready to talk at the 90% ready stage.

Your goal is to influence their buying decision.  You want to do it in a strong and memorable way that speaks to them at each and every phase of the buying process.

Got Leads? What Now?

Once you’ve generated your leads, you cannot afford to neglect them.  Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with qualified prospects.

Not everyone on your mailing list is going to be ready to buy right away but you can nurture then and move them through the buying cycle with a strategic plan. Ideally your pipeline would be filled with people at various levels of the buying cycle.

Without lead nurturing, those leads that you worked hard to get on your mailing list and in your sales funnel will just fade away. It is a mistake to only focus on the immediate buyers and lose the attention of those early in the process (remember, we want them early so we can build trust, brand recognition and loyalty).

nurtureLead nurturing is not an occasional email blast with generic special offers and it’s not random emails about varying topics. It is strategic and well planned and designed and then flawlessly executed to expertly move your prospect through the cycle.

You want to build brand awareness, sympathize with their pain points, offer helpful tips, and establish trust and address any objections. Even if they aren’t ready to talk to you, you have to use your content and messaging to create a “conversation” with them.

There are multiple ways to nurture leads. There is the general “stay in touch, stay top of mind” communication – which is designed for anyone that isn’t ready to buy yet. This includes sending relevant and informative content over time. There are videos, social campaigns, direct mailers, and more.

Some tips for you:

  1. All “drip marketing” pieces should include a small resource box at the bottom that says “Brought to you by…” You can put your company name, contact info and a brief bio. This should remain consistent on every message.
  1. Make sure you use the spam checker tool within your autoresponder system to make sure your subject line and body of the email passes the test and doesn’t trigger any spam filters.
  1. Include a teaser at the end of the message about what is coming next. You want to build anticipation and have them expect the next email in the series. Say something like “Tomorrow you’ll be learning how to x”
  1. Don’t forget story telling is a great way to convey information.
  1. Please note you have to play with the timing of the messages, you don’t want to email too often, but too infrequently is just as bad.

I know, you are probably ready to stretch your legs and get back to work, so I’m going to wrap up for now.  Stay tuned as I share information on how to generate leads, how to create sales funnels, how to optimize for improved conversions and so much more.

Questions? Comments?  Love it or hate it, I’d love to hear what you think if you took the time to read this!

And for those that didn’t know what I was talking about, here’s a fun little clip for you: