Last year, I started a series of posts on how generating demand is the second core strategy in your sales-centric marketing plan that is instrumental in helping sales generate more revenue. I looked at some of the newer and traditional tactics used to get found. But I also talked about how lead generation is really only the first step. Once you get found, what’s next?
Generating demand involves creating awareness of your solution to get found by prospects, qualifying the leads, sending the sales-ready leads to sales, nurturing the others by building relationships with them until they are ready to buy, while working with sales to move the qualified leads along the funnel until the deal is closed. So, this week, I want to focus on a key aspect that must go hand in hand with generating leads and that’s how to nurture them.
I’ve seen many companies that are good at generating leads and sometimes have thousands in the sales funnel but then nothing is done with them. They either pass them immediately over to sales and when the prospect is not ready to buy, the lead gets discarded and the company never talks to them again. Or, even worse, they don’t get classified as a qualified lead, so they are not passed to sales, and languish as a prospect forever.
A certain percentage of these initial prospects and leads that get passed to sales but quickly discarded will eventually need and buy a product that solves a problem similar to the one you offer. The sales cycle for some companies, especially in the B2B space, can be very long so the time between identifying them as a prospect and when they buy can be months or even years. That’s why nurturing leads is so critical.
The good news is that many of the tactics we discussed in creating content and getting found can be leveraged to nurture leads so it doesn’t need to be a lot of extra work. In fact, compelling content is absolutely critical to nurturing leads and mapping that content to the sales funnel will help you know what to create and when to move your prospects along.
Even though compelling content is critical, the cornerstone of lead nurturing is an email list. Even in this age of social media, email communications is how you build on the relationship in a more private setting and take the prospect through the funnel. If I had to collect one piece of info from every prospect it would be their email address. That’s why you need to create many opportunities for the prospect to give you this critical piece of information.
Once you have this email address, then you can follow-up on an ongoing basis with eNewsletters, links to new content, updates from your blog, industry news that would be of interest, and the list goes on. However, this content needs to be valuable to your prospects and educate them through the buying process or give them additional advice to solve their problems. It cannot in any way be perceived by them as Spam or they will unsubscribe and be lost forever. So avoid product pitches and plan your timing of emails carefully.
But email marketing, while important, is only one of the options available to you to communicate with your leads on an ongoing basis. While some may see inside sales as just annoying, it can play a key role when done correctly, especially if it’s not just used for cold calling. It can help qualify the leads generated from the campaigns so only the best are sent to sales while also continuing to keep the others warm or turn a previous contact into a hot lead at the right time.
Many marketing plans focus on generating leads but some of your best leads may be prospects from previous campaigns where enough time has passed that they are ready to buy. If you don’t nurture your leads though, when they are ready to buy, it will be a solution from your competitor. Also, proper lead qualification and nurturing will help focus sales on the hottest ones rather than sending them all over only to have most dismissed.
That’s why nurturing leads is as important a concept as brand awareness or lead generation to the overall demand generation plan and a step that is often missed. What many forget is that demand generation is ongoing and involves follow-up with these prospects while the sales organization builds relationships and closes the deal. That’s why getting found is only the first step.