By Toyin Adon-Abel Jr., Marketing Operations Manager, The Pedowitz Group
The importance of lead nurturing can’t be overstated. According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost.
Lead nurturing benefits your sales and marketing efforts by leveraging content to build relationships with qualified prospects and accelerate their journey through the buy cycle.
Based on best practices from working with 1,000-plus clients in lead nurturing, content marketing and sales empowerment, I offer you these 10 Commandments For Lead Nurturing Success:
1. Freshen up old content. We’ve found that clients have a lot more content than they think. The most efficient way to get started with lead nurturing is to think about how you can freshen up old content (emails, blogs, articles and sales presentations) and turn it into educational assets for use in demand generation campaigns.
2. Work closely with the sales team. Lead nurturing simply won’t work without an agreed upon understanding of goals, timelines and processes between sales and marketing. Sit down to discuss and define the definition of a “sales-ready” lead. A best practice is to create service-level agreements (SLAs) with sales defining a sales-ready lead, lead routing, time frame for follow up and consequences when the process is broken.
3. Create compelling content. Be sure to keep all prospect communication brief, relevant and unique. Include industry news, educational resources, and helpful tips to show your thought leadership. If your content isn’t compelling, targeted and delivered at the right time, you’re likely to be overlooked when buying decisions are made.
4. Map content to buy cycle. Not all content is created equal. Not all leads have the same needs. Therefore, you need to map your content to the prospect buy cycle. As potential customers interact with your campaigns, the content needs to drive them toward a closed sale. This ensures you are sending relevant information to leads, at the right time.
5. Don’t underestimate subject lines. A great subject line can make all the difference in lead nurturing. The more people who open your emails, the more chance you have to influence your prospects. Think about how A/B testing can help determine the best subject lines. Create personalized emails to improve open rates. Think about how to optimize subject lines to increase email deliverability; all are important factors in lead nurturing.
6. Check and double check. Quality assurance is the most neglected part of lead nurturing and campaign management in general. If you don’t do anything else, please be sure to establish a quality assurance process for all outbound email campaigns. Make sure you check the grammar, logical flow and appearance of your content. Make sure you’re sending to the right people. If you’re using marketing automation, make sure you’ve set up your costs, custom tags and you’ve got the right steps for your program statuses.
7. Establish lead scoring. It’s surprising to hear that 79% of B2B marketers have not established lead scoring, according to MarketingSherpa. Lead scoring is vital to sending better-qualified leads to sales. Start by working with sales to develop a common scoring system. Decide what interactions and demographics should be scored, and how much each is worth. Measure the effectiveness of your lead scoring strategy as more prospects get passed to sales. Be flexible, as your scoring criteria will change over time.
8. Follow data management best practices. Without clean data, you’re almost doomed from day one. However, too many marketers ignore this aspect of lead nurturing. Taking the time to clean up your data is fundamental to email marketing success. As a result, both marketing and sales will spend less time researching lead information and more time on engaging and qualifying new leads.
9. Report the correct metrics. Nearly half (47%) of B2B marketers say they either close fewer than 4% of all marketing-generated leads, or they don’t even know this metric, according to Forrester. Take a keen interest in measures that show lead nurturing’s contribution to the sales pipeline. Track the number of qualified leads marketing sends to sales. Measure conversion rates along the buy cycle. Gauge whether there is an increase or decrease in deal size, sales cycle and campaign ROI. What you track will change as your revenue marketing practice matures, so focus only on those key metrics and trends that help drive your business in a meaningful way.
10. Re-nurture leads. Not every lead is going to close immediately. To avoid lead leakage, be sure to re-nurture leads that don’t convert right away. Not every lead is ready to buy after the initial phone call. Create an SLA with sales on lead disposition and make it easy for sales to re-route leads back into a nurture program. Make sure leads are put into a re-nurture program with relevant content that will continue to move them through the funnel.
Toyin Adon-Abel Jr. is Marketing Operations Manager for The Pedowitz Group, a demand generation company offering strategic revenue marketing services and consulting.