It’s a timeless scenario we all know: they meet, sense the instant mutual interest and suspect they may have met their ideal match. They could be perfect partners, but one of them just isn’t ready to commit yet.
Indeed, this particular tango is all too familiar to marketers. No matter how great a fit your product or service may be, more than 90 percent of B2B customers aren’t ready to buy right away. According to the 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, the biggest challenge faced by almost half of all marketers is a sales cycle that continues to grow – a challenge exacerbated by shrinking budgets and a troubled global economy.
Until prospects are ready to commit, organizations need to keep the music playing in the background. Staying connected to early-stage leads and – more importantly – keeping them engaged requires an effective lead nurturing program.
By delivering relevant content directly to the prospect, timed to keep apace of key steps in the decision-making phase, lead nurturing can help keep your business top-of-mind while systemically advancing the early-stage lead through the sale pipeline. “Educational” content progressively and consistently delivered to prospects can become the information they need to drive and ultimately finalize their purchasing decision.
Successful lead nurturing campaigns are built on a foundation of the following three elements:
Know who you’re dancing with before the music starts.
Identify your target audience(s), and segment them as much as possible. In what ways are they and/or their sales cycles alike? How are they dissimilar? Where are they in their individual decision-making processes? Understanding which buying behaviors a group of prospects share can help fine-tune the messages they receive from your organization.
Be in tune and on beat.
Repeatedly sending the same generic message to all prospects can result in your leads tuning you out.
The content you provide to leads must deliver value rather than a naked sales pitch. Whether you offer case studies, whitepapers or podcasts, each message has to pay off the recipient’s implied “what’s in it for me?” question in order to propel the prospect to answer your call-to-action. Content should position your brand as a thoughtful caring partner with expertise in solving the prospect’s specific “pain.”
Planning and Execution
Carefully choreograph the steps, then enjoy the dance.
In most cases, the heaviest lifting in any nurture campaign comes up front. Successful deployment hinges on initial planning, message development, content/asset creation and scheduling. Once mapped out, however, much lead nurturing is “set it and forget it,” as your message automatically disseminates via email on schedule and in sequence.
Lead nurturing campaigns work. A well-defined process that cultivates a relationship with your early-stage leads not only boosts conversion and move leads through the sales cycle faster, but lead nurturing also helps build your database and grow your brand, to help you start – and keep – dancing cheek-to-cheek with your key prospects.