Marketers want to talk to prospects and salespeople want to talk to buyers. The courting process of moving a person from the prospect to buyer stage is called lead nurturing. Unfortunately most B2B marketers aren’t very good at it. In fact, among marketing automation adopters, only about 1 in 3 believe they have an effective lead nurturing process, according to research from Bulldog Solutions/Frost & Sullivan.
Like in a courtship, nurturing involves two-way communication. To have an effective dialogue with your customers, you must watch their digital body language and listen to where they are in the purchasing process.
Too often marketers make nurturing synonymous with email drip campaigns. While this tactical effort is easy to put in place, it’s not effective in converting leads because it overly simplifies communications by making it one-way and one-size-fits-all.
“Simply delivering the same message to a broad audience (mass marketing), doesn’t allow for the 1-to-1 engagement that yields the best results,” says Carlos Hidalgo with Annuitas Group.
The graph below from Left Brain Marketing shows how good marketing communications involves listening to the prospect, then sending a message, and then waiting for a customer response before tailoring the next message.
Does a lead-nurturing program seem too methodical, time consuming, or too customized to implement or manage? The increased customer appeal and response of proper nurturing brings financial gains that make the process all worthwhile. A recent study by the Aberdeen Group showed that companies who implemented a nurture-marketing program had:
- 46% increase in annual revenue
- 26% increase in lead conversions to sales
- 25% decrease in cost per lead
IBM lead nurtures its customers by dividing them into one of three categories depending on where they are in the buying cycle. Leads are categorized as ‘Learn’ (potential client at the initial stages of a project), ‘Scope’ (interested in case studies white papers, conducting research) or ‘Select’ (interested in comparing and engaging with vendor).
IBM maintains a dialogue with those in the Learn and Scope stages as they progress through the sales cycle, using targeted collateral and promoting IBM’s solutions. Once prospects reach the Select stage, they are handed over to the IBM sales team for direct engagement.
The graph below shows how marketing and sales can work in tangent nurturing prospects during the inbound and outbound marketing process.
Your dialogue with your customers sets the tone for the relationship. Customers know that how you sell them is how you will serve them in the future. So set the tone by nurturing their needs and nurturing their trust.
If you provide valuable education and information to prospects up front and as they need it, you’ll become their trusted advisor. Then you’ll be first in line for their business when they move from the data collection phase into the purchasing mode.
With patience, ongoing dialogue, and a good lead-nurturing program, you can ensure you’re not leaving 8 out of 10 prospects on the table for your competitors.