20 years ago the sales lead nurture process was simple but manual and heavy on admin. Sales people would keep racks of 3×6″ index cards on people they met. Each week the sales person would review the cards and look for reasons to contact the lead (newspaper story, new product information, etc) and send them a note or give them a call.
Today the process can largely be automated and allow those same sales staff to focus on customers ready to buy.
Lead Nurture Defined
Lead nurturing is the process of ongoing communication with your sales leads and customers to build engagement and progress them along the Buyers Journey
Most commonly, this is achieved using lead nurture emails that are sent automatically to your prospects and customers on a programmed timing.
Depending on your email or marketing service provider you should be able to track respondent reactions to your email and adjust your sequence accordingly.
For instance, you will be able to tell if they are clicking on links in your email, not clicking on links, not opening email, etc. Most systems will allow you to adjust the stream of content based on forms they may have submitted, demographic profiles, or even products they have purchased.
Each of these respondent’s actions and inactions are important in determining the next step in the nurture sequence.
Regardless of overall goal of the nurture campaign, the overall goal of this type of customer communication is to be as relevant to the recipient as possible. That will lift their engagement with your communication and your sales revenue.
Why You Need to Nurture Leads
A well-designed nurture campaign will drive four separate types of business value:
1. Increase Sales and Revenue
By providing the right information at the right time you can move your prospect through the sales funnel more quickly and increase the volume of qualified leads.
Annuitas Group revealed that businesses using marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads
What’s more, companies that excel at lead nurturing have 9% more sales reps making quota. (Source: CSO Insights)
This is even more effective if your lead nurture system can react to customer actions. For example, you might continue to send information and updates targeted at the Awareness stage of the Buyer Journey, until they have clicked through a few times, then switch them to Consideration stage information.
2. Increase Staff Efficiency
Automated nurture systems, particularly those with the ability to adjust communications based on prospect actions, free up sales staff to focus on customers near the decision stage of the customer journey.
Further, effective lead scoring (see later) allows the nurture system to alert sales staff when prospects show signs of being ready to move to the final stage of the journey: decision.
Nuclease research found a 14.5 percent increase in sales productivity where marketing automation (a.k.a. lead nurturing) is used.
3. Reduce Sales Cycle Times
Prospects often proceed through a relatively consistent Buyers Journey and an effective lead nurture process can speed up the journey by providing the right information at the right time.
Companies that invest in marketing automation solutions see 70% faster sales cycle times, and 54% improvement in quota achievement. (Source: Bulldog Solutions)
4. Reduce Sales Leakage
To paraphrase an old adage: you always buy from the last person you speak to.
For any product or service, especially B2B, that has a long consideration stage (anything more than a few weeks) the buyer will very often speak with multiple vendors and can easily forget those they encounter at the early stage of the investigation period.
In these cases, lead nurturing is a powerful way to stay top of mind for those prospects and ensure, when they do finally decide, you are actively considered and not forgotten.
Types of Lead Nurture Campaign
The most common type of lead nurture programs include:
Pre-Sale Buyer Journey Campaigns
These are typically initiated by a download from a website and move the prospect along the Buyers Journey. The is the most common type of lead nurture campaign.
Up-sell and Cross-sell
Selling to existing customers is easier than selling to new customer customers. Upsell and cross sell nurture campaign seek to offer customers new products and services.
Think of these campaigns as nurturing customers you have not spoken with for a while. They raise customer awareness of your business and offerings in order to either retain customers or generate new cross-sells/up-sells.
Designing You Nurture Process
A common temptation when designing a new lead nurture campaign is to whiteboard a complex series of communications with many steps and branches.
This is a mistake and can hold you back because it takes so long to develop that you lose focus before it’s even completed.
A better approach is to start with a simple campaign and build out the complexity over time.
Once you have built the initial, simple, process flow, test each element in terms of open rates, click through and, importantly, conversion rates.
So, before you go to that white-board however, you need to have a good handle on two sets of information for your prospects:
We’ve covered the Buyer Persona elsewhere on this blog.
This has also been covered in past posts.
With these two pieces of information you will be able to provide the correct nurture content at the correct time.
For example, if your key Buyer Persona is a C-level person at a mid-sized company and their interaction with your website was to answer questions on a key industry problem: you should start by sending them information, about that problem, relevant to mid-sized companies.
Testing your Lead Nurture Campaign
When testing your lead nurture campaign, you need to employ some essential statistics to ensure you make the correct decisions. Your goal in sending your lead emails is to have them read and engage with your content.
While open and click through rates are not in and of themselves important, they indicate interest and so are important.
As a result, you should test your emails to maximize these areas. For example, you can test:
- Email subject lines
- plain text vs newsletter style email
- no images at all some vs images
- long vs short copy
You may be surprised at the results. We recently tested long vs short copy and found that long copy performed much better.
Looking at click through, or other, rates in isolation can be misleading because of the high statistical uncertainly in low percentage rates and small sample sizes. So, ensure that you compensate for
Importance of Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is the practice of giving a score for different prospect actions or attributes during the lead nurture process.
For example, you might assign:
- +10 points if they look at a product or service descriptions page
- +30 points if they look at a pricing page.
- -100 points if their email address shows they work for a competitor
Summing each of the sub-scores provides a lead score. When a customer passes a certain score, they will pass out of the lead nurture process and be assigned to a sales person for active sales engagement.
Lead scoring enables you to push leads to the sales team when they are more likely to be ready to buy.