The dictionary definition of nurture is simply “bring up; train; educate.” The nurturing of business leads is exactly that. The goal is bring up or mature a young lead into a healthy opportunity through sound training and education. This role has historically belonged to the sales department in a business, but now often belongs to the marketing team. The methods of lead nurturing have changed dramatically in recent years as technology has modified the way that businesses do their buying and selling. That change has presented new opportunities through a variety of amazing tools that the internet now supports.
One of the most common tools now used is that of an email marketing campaign. Email addresses can be collected in a variety of ways.
Let's say, for illustration purposes, that a company has a list of emails that have been submitted on their company website from businesses that want information on their services. These are certainly legitimate leads, but it is highly doubtful that all of these leads are ready to buy. In fact, forwarding these leads to the sale team so they can be pounded with sales literature is a good way to disengage them. The reality is that they represent various stages of the buying cycle, so it would be foolish to treat them all the same.
A good email marketing campaign will engage these leads with valuable information, utilize feedback tools to determine more specific areas of interest and gauge the lead's sales readiness, establish a time-line for follow up, and evaluate the lead nurture process in order to make it more effective and efficient.
Engage by Adding Value:
This first stage is essential and demonstrates to a prospect that you are knowledgeable and competitive in your industry. To get some relevant information that is not focused on creating a sale will take you a step closer to building a relationship and retrieving additional information from which a sale can later be made.
There are many ways to do this, some more obvious than others. You can ask for feedback directly by giving a prospect some options and requesting that they select a topic of interest or rate their level of interest in a product/topic. You can also utilize web analytics to determine what a prospect is viewing or downloading on your website. This can then be used to engage them with appropriate follow-up content and helps turn lead nurturing into qualified lead generation.
Establish a Timeline:
Based on the type interaction and feedback you have from a prospect, you should be able to get a sense of their interest level and timeline. A casual request for information is different from a case study download and should be treated accordingly. There is an important balance between keeping your brand in front of the prospect but not over-soliciting.
Evaluate your Process:
There is always improvement to be made in the world of lead nurturing. Markets change, new information becomes available, and buying patterns shift. Even companies that have sophisticated marketing automation need to refine their processes to achieve optimal results in generating better qualified sales leads. (pictured statistics provided by inboundsales.net)
In a nutshell, lead nurturing is about adding value for prospects, discovering their interests and sales-readiness, setting an effective timeline for follow-up activities, and making sure that processes are evaluated on a regular basis to improve effectiveness. There are many tactics and nuances in the details of qualifying sales leads, but sometimes we have to get back to the basics and make sure that we are building on a solid foundation. It is sometimes easy to get caught up with one particular method or tool for lead nurturing, but remember, it is a dynamic process and should be treated as such.