One of the most critical, but often overlooked pieces of the demand generation puzzle, is lead nurturing. But, what does lead nurturing really accomplish? And why is this important?
At OpGen Media, when we’re dealing with clients who are focusing on driving either top-funnel marketing leads, or have a defined top-funnel and ABM strategy, the variable that sets apart the ones who generate a more predictable pipeline and ultimately ROI versus those that see less consistent, more spotty results is the way they follow up with people who interact with their content, website and brand.
What Exactly Does It Mean to Nurture a Lead?
Lead Nurturing, as defined by Marketo, is the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. We agree with the definition, but let’s that break down a bit...
From what we see, most B2B organizations have an established lead generation process and a proven sales process. The missing link between the two is in educating and converting those prospects and accounts that are either not ready to purchase right now, or need some more education around how a particular product or service can help them in some specific way. In most cases, businesses “nurture” their top-funnel leads (i.e. people who are just doing some research on a particular topic) by sending them right to a hungry sales professional, who more often than not, pushes product-specific information or asks for a “next step” too early on into the buyer’s journey.
Sometimes, a salesperson takes it a step further and is a little too aggressive, which I’m sure you’re all too familiar with. It often goes like this: you download a whitepaper, store it in your email account, Evernote, etc. to read for later in the week, and before you even read the content you’ve been sent 4 emails and 3 voicemails from a salesperson looking to set some time aside to connect, long before you’ve been able to research the merits of the product.
In doing so, prospects (i.e. regular folks like you and me) can smell the desperation and immediately jump to the conclusion that either the product is ineffective, too clunky or the organization is built like a boiler-room with one goal in mind: sell to anyone, at anytime.
This creates an unfavorable scenario for prospects, causing them to be turned off too early on. Even more importantly, these organizations miss a key opportunity to further educate the prospect about the challenge their product or service solves. Rather than asking for a demo, or asking a few canned questions, too many companies are losing out on legitimate sales opportunities because once that salesperson get a “no” or a “not now”, they move onto the next lead, and the cycle continues.
How Success Lead Nurturing Is Done
An organization that can educate their prospects through a helpful and consistent way, will win. Rather than calling up someone who downloads a piece of content to ask for 30 minutes of their time, they instead send a personalized, thoughtful follow up that acknowledges the person behind the download and the content they downloaded, and they send a gentle introduction, with another relevant piece of content. The end goal is of course to find interested prospects who have a specific challenge that your product can solve, a budget, and a legitimate understanding of how your offering can help them, but those “bluebird” prospects are rare for a reason. The typical process is much more in tune with a farmer planting, watering and taking care of the crop before it’s ready to be sowed.
While all organizations have different processes when it comes to sales and marketing, depending on their product, sales cycle, market and pricing, I think we all can agree that taking a step back to review the way we educate and interact with individuals and companies before they are familiarized with our products and services can have a massive impact across the entire business.
Rather than dumping “contacts”, “suspects” and “leads” into a blackhole or an inconsistent, pushy sales cadence, we recommend creating and experimenting with more personalized, helpful interactions with the people who are interested in learning more about your business and your offering. Even just thinking about “contacts”, “suspects” and “leads” as people with needs and wants who are no different than anyone else, can have a massive impact.
In fact, HubSpot does this quite well. Rather associating nothing more than some basic contact information and behaviors to a “lead”, they think about their readers and potential customers as real folks, looking to solve very specific problems that are dependent on their role and organization, by creating buyer personas. These personas not only help your marketing and sales teams understand your buyers and end users better, but it helps remind us that we’re dealing with people with real interests and motives, just like the rest of us.
This is a great exercise to try with your team, as it can help both in practice and how you think about lead generating and nurturing as a whole.
How do you nurture your leads? Is it something you have perfected, or is it something you need to rethink?