New Lead Nurturing Study from Aberdeen Group

Aberdeen Group recently released Lead Nurturing: The Secret To Successful Lead Generation, and they are offering a free download of the report until January 30, 2009.

The report includes:

  • Basics of lead nurturing
  • Analysis of how lead nurturing is linked to top-performing businesses
  • A guide to best practices, including a case study
  • Tips on developing content

This piece is worth the read, whether you are looking to improve your use of a marketing automation solution or just starting to investigate the benefits. If you don’t have time to read the full report, Demand Gen Report has put together an excellent summary of the key findings.

Tips on Timing Your Lead Nurturing

Brian Carroll posted some tips on lead nurturing from MarketingSherpa’s B-to-B Lead Generation Handbook, providing some great guidelines on how to stategically map out nurturing communications.

Nurturing can often be automated using triggered emails or drip marketing programs and is meant to keep in touch with quality leads that are not yet sales-ready. The email program can also be used to supplement any follow-up calls by sales reps will perform.

Let’s take a look at the 5 Nurture Campaign Time Factors from Marketing Sherpa’s Handbook:

  • Immediate welcomes  – Welcoming someone to your list creates good will and also gives you an opportunity to reiterate the benefits of your email marketing program.
  • Lead Qualification Telemarketing – As soon as possible use telemarketing  to qualify each lead. In some cases you may also montior online activity and profile information to determine lead quality.
  • Interest-level Timing – Using cues from a prospects online activity or responses via phone, start to determine what stage they may be at in the buying cycle and respond appropriately. Marketing automation allows you to use lead scoring to gauge online interaction and market more agressively to highly active prospects.
  • Industry Timing – It’s a given that you may need to adjust your campaign timing to reflect your industry’s annual rhythms.
  • Job Function Timing – Data shows that a decision maker is heavily involved at the very start and the very end of the process, but leaves the middle of the process up to the influencers. For your niche, you’ll need to investigate who gets involved at which point in the process so that you can segment your messaging.

Examining Modern Relationship Building

This week Brian Carroll posted four unique perspectives on today’s communication styles. In a world of digital communication, the rules of relationship building have changed. Many of us have clients for years and never meet them face-to-face.

Carroll poses the question: “To what extent can emails be used in place of phone calls and face-to-face meetings when maintaining and developing relationships with clients and other important network contacts?”

He then invites four bloggers, including himself, to give their perspective on the issue.

Though modern technology gives marketers the opportunity to do very specific targeting and provide personalization, nothing takes the place of building good, old-fashioned relationships. Carroll stresses that today’s buyers are saavy – and in some cases, are marketers themselves! They are very sensitive to being pitched by a fast-talking sales rep. Therefore, it’s wise to start building those relationships with key targets even before they are sales-ready. This ensures that they will trust you when the time is right.

As Carroll points out, one way to do this is through a lead nurturing program. Positioning yourself as an industry expert and providing truly valuable information to your target audience will secure a place for your company in their conciousness and prove you know your industry. Staying top-of-mind means you’ll be first on the list when it’s time to buy.

 

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve often discussed the benefits of using Drip Marketing, or Drip Irrigation, to nurture prospects along the sales cycle. New marketing automation technology has made it so easy to stay in constant contact with leads who aren’t quite sales ready yet.

I came across a brief interview with Jim Cecil, marketing consultant and founder of the Nurture Institute in last month’s B2B Magazine. Cecil emphasizes the importance of irrigating, not irritating, your customers. He also talks about the challenges small-to-medium sized businesses face when using a CRM to nurture leads. Tying in the sales team, Cecil does not discount the importance of building personal relationships as you move toward closing the deal.

What can we take away from this?

  • CRM’s and tools built for larger sales organizations don’t always meet the needs of a small or growing business, who can benefit from other marketing automation tools.
  • You must always follow the best practices of permission-based email marketing. Overwhelming your prospects with information that is not targeted to them creates negative feelings toward your company.
  • Teach your sales team to be patient, but not lazy. Drip Marketing is a great tool to keep you top-of-mind, but it can’t take the place of traditional sales calls. Conversely, the sales team has to let your marketing tools plant the seed before they go in guns blazing.

Who has time to reengage leads? You do.

Everyone talks about lead reengagement. Very few companies do it. Even fewer companies have found a reliable way to automate it.

If you are a B2B marketer, it probably seems as though your marketing budget is always too small, no matter how cleverly you stretch your dollars. One way to get more out of your lead generation spend is to reengage old leads when the end of the year (and the budget crunch for most companies) rolls around. Just because some of your leads haven’t been converted to opportunities doesn’t mean that they’re worthless. In fact, some of them might be waiting to hear from you!

If your organization makes the small initial investment in software that lets you track leads and automate your marketing programs, reengaging leads can be easy and profitable. Setting up a drip marketing program specially designed for old leads will ensure that even if your sales reps forget to follow up, your marketing automation software won’t.

You can create an emails that are less about advertising and more about thought leadership. This is a much softer sell and can be especially effective when reengaging dormant leads who may be turned off by receiving what amounts to a sales pitch. Many leads that fell through the cracks earlier were simply not sales-ready, but that things might have changed. Talking to old leads is the perfect way to get the most of a tight marketing budget and can improve the bottom line.

How much does it cost you to generate a lead? A lot, right? I thought so. Fight hard to keep that lead in play.

No Lead Left Behind

A lot of marketers talk about automated lead nurturing but very few actually put it into practice. It may be because implementing a program is perceived as a lot of work. It may be that the early technology in this space was cumbersome and unreliable. It may be because marketers are simply unaware that this is possible. Whatever the reason, in spite of this being a hot topic at conferences, very little is actually being implemented by B2B marketers.

Aaron Ross brings up several great points about lost leads in his latest blog entry: Build A Sales Machine: “Never Waste A Lead – Part 1″

He correctly points out that lost or ignored sales leads is one of the most common bottlenecks to growth in a B2B organization. This is probably why the average tenure of a CMO at such a company is only about a year long.

It is often said that 80% of leads passed on to sales never have a meaningful conversation with a rep. Sales reps often attempt to make contact several times but ultimately put the lead aside if they are unable get in touch or the prospect is not immediately ready to buy. Although the lead may eventually show interest by visiting the website again or clicking on links in an email newsletter, there is no way for the sales rep to be notified and the prospect that is “raising her hand” goes unnoticed.

New technologies, including marketing automation solutions, allow you to place your non-sales ready leads into nurturing tracks. You can then ensure that your marketing efforts periodically “touch” leads via automated, one-to-one advertising such as email or direct mail. All links and calls to action in your marketing collateral are tracked individually to prospects and your sales reps will be notified as soon as a lead responds. By automating the lead nurturing process you are not only further qualifying your leads, but also freeing up sales or marketing personnel who formerly did this task manually.

Whatever the reason for not implementing a nurturing program, one thing is clear: if you are not using automated solutions to keep your leads engaged, you are leaving revenue on the table.