What is Lead Nurturing and How Do You Do It?
The art of converting a lead into a sale is one of the most valuable skills a business can acquire. While no one would disagree that revenue generation is the ultimate objective behind lead acquisition, the path to convert leads into sales is not always as straightforward as we would like it to be. Many businesses do a great job of generating leads through various means (e.g., website traffic, trade shows, list buying, etc.), but when follow-up is conducted before the lead is fully ready to engage, the lead is often prematurely written off as non-converting. Quite often a lead may not be ready to buy immediately, but that doesn’t mean the lead has no value. Businesses can begin to salvage many of their valuable leads from being lost or forfeited to competitors by mastering the art of lead nurturing.
So what exactly is lead nurturing? Simply put, it is the process of cultivating long-term relationships with qualified prospects, regardless of whether they are ready to buy or not. In a world where “churn-and-burn” marketing tactics seem to be the order of the day, the lead nurturing approach may initially appear to be counter-intuitive, but mastering this art will be the key to ensuring long-term stability for your business. As with any meaningful relationship, you can’t force the other party to commit (or, in this case, purchase) before they’re willing to do so, but at the same time you can’t allow the relationship to completely wither either. You have to maintain a delicate balance of providing regular engagement while at the same time giving the lead their space. Most leads that aren’t ready to purchase now will eventually be ready; your main job will be to ensure that you are there to provide the guidance and information they need when they are ready to buy.
One of the best ways to engage in lead nurturing is to develop some type of categorization system for your leads. All leads are not created equal – some will provide more initial response than others. For this reason, separating them into various categories will help you to focus your efforts on the right set of prospects at the right time. You can create categories such as “hot,” “warm” and “cold” leads, you can label them based on which stage of the conversion process they are in, you can rank them numerically, etc. The main point is to be cognizant of which leads are sales ready and which ones are not based on specific criteria that you establish such as demographics, availability of information for each lead, offer type and behavioral characteristics (e.g., response to communications, etc.).
You can also use several metrics to determine if the prospect is sales ready, such as the specific search terms the prospect used to find your site, the response to your email campaigns, whether or not the prospect visited a “hot zone” page on your website such as your pricing page, etc. These factors (and more) can serve as guidelines as to whether or not the lead can be funneled to sales for immediate follow-up, or if it should be kept in the incubator for more nurturing.
In order to cultivate your relationship with the leads that require more nurturing, find out the way they’d prefer to be contacted (e.g., email, text messages, direct mail, etc.). Do your best to obtain permission from the lead to stay in contact via their preferred method. Then, begin drip-feeding them valuable content over time that further educates and informs them about your product or service, with little to no aggressive calls to action. Try not to self-promote during this phase, and simply focus on providing value. You can have the confidence that your system will produce results if you approach it with a long-term mindset. Scores of market studies have proven that this approach will often turn longer-term leads into sales over time.