What is Lead Nurturing? And Why Are You Not Doing it?

Lead Nurturing on Red Road Sign.
Buyers are smarter than ever. They have more options, more leeway, and more leverage than any other time in human history. But maybe most disturbing is their ability to simply say “No”. And once they do, good luck getting them back.

How can any sales team hope to be effective in this kind of environment? Well, having a great product is a start, but to truly inspire people to buy-in your company needs to get with the times. It’s time to change from the hard sell to the soft touch of lead nurturing.

So, what is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of engaging your potential customers authentically along every step of the buying cycle. It takes into account specific actions taken by each prospect to ensure they are receiving high-quality content that helps them make an educated decision about their upcoming purchase.

Notice in that definition that outright selling is not included. That is because the hard sell has a very limited role in the lead nurturing model. Nurturing a lead requires a more subtle form of selling. It is about persuading a customer to buy by displaying your company’s unique selling proposition and benefits over the competition in a genuine way, not just in a sales pitch.

How does it work?

To create a successful lead nurturing system you need to have a thorough understanding of your customer and their decision making process. Where do they search for product choices? What social platforms do they use, and how do they use them to communicate with brands? What kind of offers (ebooks, whitepapers, infographics) do they consume before they feel educated enough to make a purchase decision?

These questions, and many more, have to be scrutinized and addressed in order to create an effective lead nurturing model. Once you have that information you need to have a system in place to analyze incoming leads and follow them along the sales cycle. That way you can track each lead as it develops and use what you know about your customers to send relevant content to the platforms they use.

It is important to note that lead nurturing is not drip marketing. Sending mass emails or generic promotional content out at predetermined intervals will not achieve the same result as following each unique lead through to the end. To effectively nurture a lead you have to understand the prospect’s unique needs and publish content that is right for them, not what you think is right for everyone.

Why do I need Lead Nurturing?

The beautiful thing about lead nurturing is that it does more than just sell your product. It generates highly educated customers who understand the worth you provide to them. That lends itself particularly well to the conversion from customer to brand advocate. But if having a legion of dedicated fans is not enough to persuade you, check out these 3 facts about lead nurturing:

  • Lead nurturing companies sell 50% more product for 33% less than competitors (Marketo Research)
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases (Annuitas Group)
  • On average, lead nurturing companies see a 45% lift in lead generation ROI – (MarketingSherpa)

Who Can Use Lead Nurturing?

Any company can implement lead nurturing techniques to great effect, but it lends itself heavily to the Business-to-Business space. That is because most B2B transactions include large sums of money and personal responsibility on the part of the purchaser to make the right call.

That is why it so important to bring these people into your circle. Instruct them on what to look for in a good product, how your company compares with competitors, and how you can help them in the long term. By being a friend, instead of a salesperson, you will have more than customers. You will have life-long supporters of your business.

Can You Really Use Marketing to Shrink the B2B Sales Cycle?

It seems at least once a week that I talk to a B2B company about how to shrink their sales cycle. Sales executives and CEOs get especially frustrated because their quarterly sales forecasts become much harder to predict when the sales cycle timing is all over the map. For example, we have one technology client where it seems half their deals close in days or weeks, while the other half can take six months or more. So what is going on and what can us B2B marketing types do about it?

The first thing we need to do is accept certain realities, regardless of the pain involved. And the first reality is that buyers have more control over the sales cycle than sellers. They have come to understand that the offer you claimed was for today only can easily be had tomorrow or next month – especially if they wait to buy until the end of the quarter. And even more significantly, our prospects know they can use Google to find out a great deal of information about your company, your competitors, the product or service category, and what past buyers think about you and everyone else in your space.

Here is the relevant point about the new realities: the important thing is not the actual sales cycle (how long it takes the prospect from the time they start their research to the time they buy). Rather, the key metric is what we refer to as the “effective sales cycle” – how long the prospect is actually in touch with your company.

If you organize your business around the new type of selling model as shown below, the “effective sales model” will shrink and your close rate will go up. This is true because the potential purchaser completes all or most of the first three parts of the process without engaging with your sales staff. In this example, if you start interacting with prospects at the fourth stage, close rates can skyrocket – from a typical 1-3 percent of raw inquiries to as much as 10 percent of those who are educated and self-qualified.

So how do you create the environment to support everyone from early-stage information gatherers to hot prospects who are ready to engage or buy today? Here are a few tips:

New Sales Model
 

  1. Provide content relevant to the needs of the audience. This will be very different for someone who is doing some general category research (what’s out there) as opposed to someone who is in the final buying stage (pricing, terms and delivery options).
  2. Layer the content. At Fusion Marketing Partners, we recommend the layered content approach. Of course this varies by type of product and offer, but we typically recommend fairly short and generalized text on the landing page (e.g. 300-500 words). On pages that link from the landing page, text can be much longer, running into hundreds or even thousands of words for some technical products and services.
  3. Offer options. Don’t treat all visitors to your website like they’re the same. Some are at early stages: give them a place to browse content and self-educate without a sales person breathing down their necks. Others are at later stages: give these people a way to self-qualify and engage in different ways – phone, chat, email, form submission.
  4. Enable self-service. Sales resources are expensive and whatever parts of the processes you can offload to the website will cut your costs, and assuming you execute this correctly, boost your effectiveness. As reported in a recent Forbes article titled Death of a B2B Salesman, a Forrester Research study showed that “Nearly 75% of B2B buyers now say that buying from a website is more convenient than buying from a sales representative. Further, 93% say that they prefer buying online rather than from a salesperson when they’ve decided what to buy. B2B companies that wait too long to create self-serve eCommerce websites risk losing share to pure plays and omnichannel competitors.”
  5. As you can see, marketing can help shrink the effective B2B sales cycle, but it may require a new way of thinking – as well as some concrete actions to align your selling model with your prospects’ buying behavior.

Keeping Promises to Your Customer: Marketing Strategies that Work

How to tell your company’s story to inspire trust, remain agile to customer needs

In Seth Godin’s recent blog, he says: “My take for the last 15 years is that marketing is merely storytelling and promise making/keeping, and in fact, everything the organization does is at some level, marketing.”

I couldn’t agree more. But how can a new company or an existing company ensure that they’re telling the right stories and making promises they can keep? Using The Center for Business Modeling Business Planning Framework will help. And the best thing about it is that it is an iterative process: If your story doesn’t gel or your promises start to feel flimsy, using the framework will help you adjust.

Agility is Critical

A post by Margaret Rouse writing on techtarget.com provides an excellent definition of business agility. She outlines the ways that a company can keep changing by “assessing priorities and progress frequently”—not just at the end of a project. Her post mostly discusses agility in the context of project management, however, isn’t your business plan the most important and impactful project you undertake?

Using the Framework has helped me crystallize my stories and ensure my promises are kept to my clients in three major ways:

I Can Do Anything Better Than You

1) Brand integrity- I used to tell the story: “I can do anything you need in PR and marketing” and it’s just not true. I don’t have certain skills but then again, one of my strongest attributes is being clear-eyed about that. If one of my clients gives me a project that’s not in my wheel house and hiring a contractor to fill in the gaps is cost-effective for both the client and my company—it’s full steam ahead. However, I need to be very careful when doing so—most of the skills I need help with come with a pretty hefty price tag. Working with my client to find a more effective partner brings them more value in the long run—and makes me more of a business consultant in their eyes. That’s the new story for me—“I will do what I’m best at and if it’s not my strength, I will make sure I hook you up with quality people.” My product and services roadmap (based on the CBM Framework) was adjusted accordingly.

What No One Wants to Hear About Business Ownership

2) Keep your promises to yourself- As a marketing and PR professional for many years, I spent a lot of late-night hours catching up on work because I made sure to make the evening football and soccer games when my kids were in school. When I opened my own company, I tried to opt out of business trips (when possible) that included a lot of travel, paid awesomely — but would upset my work/life balance.

Sometimes, I just had to leave and do my job—and that involved breaking promises to my loved ones rather than to my employer or client. Today, I walk a fine line with keeping client promises and promises to myself about how present I will be for my grown daughter and my youngest son. I believe that any business plan that ignores an entrepreneur’s personal life will fail in the long run—so when using the Framework, I make sure to adjust my plan to the impact on my personal life. I might lose some revenue, but I gain energy and commitment for the projects I choose to take on—because I know that they are congruent to my values. No one asks for their checkbook balance on their death bed.

What’s the Story?

3) Telling a valuable story- The CBM Framework shows you how to tell your company’s story and also to remain agile enough to change your story when the customer is not responding. This is where content marketing metrics come in—how are you reaching your customers and what are you telling them to ultimately turn them into “paying customers”? Your marketing strategies are always evolving based on their needs and your business goals.

Keeping promises. Telling compelling stories. These are the two core activities of any business, anywhere. I love feeling confident that I’m doing them well. Let CBM’s Framework make you confident, as well.

How to Validate Your B2B Go-to-Market Plan

What are we selling? This is where we determine the specifics of our offering, not just in terms of product features and functionality, but also in terms of uses, pricing, messaging and offers. Following the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy, we create as little of the product as necessary to prove its economic viability. In fact, there are ways to do this without actually building the product, which I will explain in a future article.

Who are we selling it to? At this stage, we do persona mapping — determining the demographics and psychographics (personal and business) of who we think will purchase our product or service. Remember that who you think will purchase and who actually purchases may be quite different, so it is important to test this in the early stages of the launch.

Go-to-Market-plan
Why do our prospects need this? Given all the ways our prospects can spend their money (or not spend it), why is our offering something that will grab their mind share and wallet share? What are the compelling factors that will make them overcome inertia and hit the “buy now” button or engage with a sales representative?

Where can we reach them? This is where you determine where your prospects hang out, what they read and who they listen to, and also where you discover which media are the best at reaching people who may not currently know who you are or why they may need you.

How do we go to market?  I’ve written a lot about marketing and sales models, including this recent post where I discussed sales models as a core component of marketing and sales alignment. There are four major types of B2B models, including direct, telesales, channel and online, with dozens of hybrids and variations. There are ways to test these models at very low cost, with the goal of achieving a consistent and repeatable go-to-market model as you scale the business.

When should we launch?  Okay, to confess, the “when” isn’t as important as who, what, when, where, why and how, but I needed it to complete the set. Actually, “when” can be important when you consider the impact of seasonal purchasing and competitive product launches. Enough said about this.

Marketing research does have its place in your go-to-market plan validation, but usually as a form of pre-testing. Conducting research online or at the library — or asking someone whether they would buy a product at a focus group – is not the same as proving whether there is a market for your product. Better to spend some time and a few dollars on the type of testing that really counts – whether your prospects will actually purchase of what you are selling.  That’s the type of testing that gets me excited!

Reprinted with permission from Great B2B Marketing. To view the original post, click here.

How to Find Your Total Addressable Market

Businesses love talking about total addressable market because it’s exciting for them to see the available opportunity for their product or service. So exciting, in fact, that they often clammer to craft specific campaigns or shift messaging around new potential markets. However, if this is done hastily or without thorough research, it can turn into a waste of time and resources.

Determine Your Ideal Customer Profile

To find your total addressable market, you first need to determine your ideal customer profile, then find look-a-likes that accurately fit the mold.

Determining which data are relevant to your total addressable market is a challenge. With so much data available on both current and prospective customers, it’s hard to distinguish the signal from the noise.

The traditional way of figuring out significant information was to look at the accessible firmographic data. Firmographic data includes basic information such as industry, location, size, and revenue. While this is useful to include in your analysis, this type of data is only the tip of the iceberg. Additional business signals that are harder to obtain, such as web savvy or social presence, may actually be better predictors of success.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a point of sale (POS) system looking to sell your product. Perhaps you target restaurants, because they fit your ideal customer profile. You may have performed well with them in the past, so you continue searching for other look-a-likes in the same industry. But what happens when you throw a new industry in for comparison?

addressable market

On the surface, with solely the firmographic data taken into account, the mechanic appears to have a lower success rate than the restaurants. This is where most marketers end their targeting exercise and launch campaigns targeted solely at restaurants. But look at how the success rates change when you add additional business signals:

addressable market

With the additional signals taken into account, the business in a new and unexpected industry has a significantly higher likelihood of success than a formerly considered look-a-like.

This example reveals that before you deeming a category unfit, make sure you are looking at the best possible predictors of success. This advanced segmentation uncovered a more effective go to market strategy than the original idea to sell to restaurants.

In this case, social media presence was more indicative of success than industry. 

The restaurant segment performed well because restaurants are more likely to be socially savvy than other small business industries. This new perspective with additional business signals revealed almost as high of a success with mechanics that were on Facebook as with restaurants on Facebook.

Discover the Size of the Market Opportunity

Once an ideal customer profile is solidified, the next step is to figure out how large the market opportunity is that fits the description.

Understanding your total addressable market will help you answer 4 key questions:

  • How long will my sales pipeline remain satisfied?
  • What is the real size of the market?
  • How many prospects can I expect?
  • What is the potential revenue for a particular quarter or year?

You can think of your total addressable market as the sum of your ideal buyer profile look-a-likes.

Let’s look at two scenarios to help understand how valuable it is to understand total addressable market for a product or service.

In this first scenario below, you have a segment that has a very high success rate compared to your typical conversion rate. Here is a highly targeted segment with an impressive success rate of 85.7%:
addressable marketsegmentation

It is clear that this segment will perform well. However, the addressable market opportunity – as shown in the number of new and open records – is small. This segment should still be used, but it will soon need expansion to provide a full sales pipeline and fuel sufficient business growth.

Below is another scenario for comparison with one signal removed to widen the net of potential businesses.

segmentationsegmentation

In the second scenario, you have a segment that converts at a lower success rate, but with a much larger market opportunity available to target – as shown in the number of new and open records. Even though the success rate is lower in this scenario, it still has a high success rate at 67.7% – and is well worth targeting. The sheer volume of the potential in the new and open records make up for the slightly lower success rate.

The results from the second scenario are more helpful in determining the size and scope of the total addressable market because it is scalable. Continue this analysis process with additional high performing segments that have ample market opportunity to effectively visualize your total addressable market.

Conclusion

Estimating the size of your market used to be a struggle that involved informed guesswork and complex calculations. Now, there are tools available to businesses that automate the total addressable market discovery and execution process. Taking advantage of these tools gives marketing and sales teams confidence that they are focusing on the right market segments and opportunities. Marketing organizations in particular need to be more strategic in their analysis because their efforts span a large scale that requires significant resources. Gaining a realistic understanding of your ideal customer profile and your total addressable market will help your entire organization become more targeted and effective.

The images in this post are of the Radius product. If you would like to learn more about Radius, click here.

To view the original post, click here.

sales marketing plan alignment

Sales and Marketing Plans Need to be Aligned

As a B2B marketing outsource provider, my team and I usually work very closely with the sales department at our client companies. Marketing and Sales PlansThe goal is to achieve effective alignment between what the marketing and sales teams are doing: driving to a common goal and reaching agreed-upon revenue targets. In the best-case scenario, we get to review and provide input for the sales plan. At the least, we want to understand the sales model so that we can formulate a marketing plan of attack that best supports the sales plan.

As an example of why this is important, imagine two very different sales models: In the first example, awareness is created and generated leads are fed to a business development function. In this scenario, direct sales reps will only see leads that have been pre-qualified, usually by a business development rep (BDR) who has personally qualified inquirers by asking a series of questions about budget, authority, timing and so forth. To best support this type of sales model, we want to drive as much activity into the top of the funnel as possible, creating the critical mass of inquiries needed to achieve the target number of qualified leads that have passed through the qualification process.

Let’s now look at the second sales model and how we align it with the marketing plan. If an organization utilizes a direct sales force, but provides no pre-qualification function (e.g. no BDRs), our focus in the marketing plan will be more on quality than quantity. This is true because we know that in most B2B scenarios, somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of all inquiries will pass the qualification filter. This means that sales reps will talk to 8.5 to 9 suspects before reaching one qualified prospect. This imbalance leads to two negative consequences. First, the reps fail to call all the suspects, finding reasons to disqualify them before making the calls. Second, reps get busy chasing their hot prospects and neglect to make the qualification calls in a timely manner. At some point, slow follow-up is almost as bad as no follow-up. If you want to see the impact of slow lead response, read my blog post on this subject.

In this type of sales model, we purposefully back off the quantity goal and align our marketing plan to deliver leads that are more qualified. Reps that discover that one out of every three or four suspects are qualified. They are then more likely to make the qualification calls and optimize their time. One of the easiest ways to produce quality is to require suspects to provide more data about themselves on the web form, thus pre-qualifying themselves. Each additional piece of data you ask for will reduce the number of responses, but will also drive up average lead quality.

These are just two sales model examples. When you include hybrids, there are dozens of possibilities. And every sales model will require a marketing plan that is tightly aligned. If you have a gap between sales and marketing, it’s best to address this quickly, especially by creating a service level agreement between the two departments. You can read more about Bridging the Gap here.

The above article by Christopher Ryan is republished here
from his blog Great B2B Marketing.