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.

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.

SWOT-to-unlock-your-brand

Use SWOT to Unlock Your Why Before Your Customer Will Buy

Run a SWOT to unlock your brand promise and build better customer relationships

When you are planning how to reach out to the marketplace, there are some newer marketing theories that can be the key to building meaningful relationships with your customers. Yes, I said marketing theories. These are the rare theories that can be tested and put into practice immediately. For me, the most impactful of these was shared by Simon Sinek during a Ted Talk. He said: “Your consumers don’t buy what you do –they buy why you do it.”

This amazing quote came to my attention through a really cool blog by Michael Brenner. In it, he offers several insights about how to plan to reach your customers—to deliver your company’s core belief to them rather than just your product or service. He tells us brands are three times more successful when they promote their raison d’etre – and how to personalize your marketing efforts to potentials using your “brand purpose.”

How would I do it? I would use CBM’s SWOT analysis tool to identify my company’s Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats. After delineating these, I’d look for ways to deliver them to my audiences. Start a conversation. Build a relationship. Let me break it down:

  • Worth it to My Reader My core belief for my communications company is—everyone needs to hear my story (content) because I don’t waste their time with stuff they don’t want to hear. Whether it’s a technological white paper on manufacturing IT or a media pitch for a pair of cool headphones, I have done my research. I know who I am talking to. My strength, then, is making sure my content is targeted and meaty enough for the people I get it in front of- so that it won’t waste their time. That’s the S in my SWOT.
  • Too Cute By Far My weakness is my ability to write fun, fearless copy. Yup—I often refuse to make it dull or clog it up with business speak to please a review board at a client company. In all fairness and in their defense, they are in the serious business of selling their products or services through the content I write. The problem with that is this: Sometimes, their audience expects the material to be cut-and-dry, with dry being the operative word. I learned that not everyone has to be amused while swallowing good, important information. I got myself a good editor at an hourly rate and told her about this issue of mine—we even have a code-edit for when she spots me being too “cute” for certain clients. That tells me to tone down a phrase and make it more business-like for my serious clients. I can usually edit myself with these kinds of clients because I am an excellent writer—and I still don’t bore people because I use juicy verbs and shun the passive voice. Weakness transformed!
  • Opportunity, Don’t Knock It The opportunities in the way I present my core belief—you need this, you should read this, you’ll be happy you did — have given me an edge in certain kinds of content—blogging is one and social media is another. My colorful use of language shows my clients that I can excel in these arenas—even business-to-business blogs and social networks are people-to-people, aren’t they? If I continue to sell my blogging and network posts and broaden my reach to new prospects, I can realize a great jump in profits—people need lots of blogs and tweets/shares these days — they’re among the most in-demand content I write.
  • Why Am I Not Scared? The Threat to my r’aison d’etre? The economic realities that my clients face as small businesses serving medium-to-large companies. Their marketing officers are suffering from “next big thing” fatigue—they are expected to jump on every social media or newest flavor of content bandwagon and then show an ROI on these untested tactics. The threat to my core belief—you need this, you should read this—is that it doesn’t get to the person who’s ready to hear it—or they can’t find it—or the company that hired me to write it doesn’t know where to put it. Or worse—we can’t prove that it worked. This threat is met square on by me—by being up-to-date on cost-effective content strategies and educating my clients on these. By becoming an ROI-KPI detective about these approaches to ensure that they can explain them to their bosses. And by really, truly knowing their customer wants and needs before I put one finger on the keyboard. See, that wasn’t so scary.

You can probably see yourself in some of my strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Run a SWOT on the why of what you do before you sell your what. It’s key to building a lasting relationship with your customers.

Relationship Marketing

Relationships are Dead? Smart Sales Models Resurrect Them

For me, reading the Bain and Company white paper, Is complexity killing your sales model? was like being splashed in the face with cold water. The ideas presented here about relationship selling were counterintuitive, at least for this former sales force communications manager. After all, I was used to the sales success mantra of—Relationships are everything! Then I read:

“Buyers can readily gather basic information about products online. Then, in the vendor selection stage, total cost of ownership and return on investment trump relationships. Purchase decisions that were previously controlled by one manager now involve a web of stakeholders.”(page 1)

Crazy, right?

But after I read the entire paper, I realized Bain was telling me how we need to rethink current B2B sales relationships and stop creating complex, inefficient sales models that use these relationships ineffectively.

  • The changing shape of demand means that customers are researching more before they buy, expecting to find solutions for their business problems, not just one-time products. The sales relationship thus becomes more consultative and the relationship even more crucial
  • Smart sales models reward their sales personnel for expanding the customer relationship through cross selling but also put a high premium on the difficult process of landing that new account.
  • Early in the sales cycle, smart sales organizations are loading their sales bench with specialists who are industry experts. That’s how they avoiding losing sales because customers fear salespeople “don’t know their industry”
  • Sales models that include a specialist and a generalist create a team that will grow with the product line. The relationship that a specialist builds with the “new kid on the block” is also rewarded somewhere in her compensation, to ensure that the knowledge needed to close deals expands across the company, across time, and in tandem with the sales cycle.
  • Make sure the relationship between the back office and the sales organization is seamless. According to Bain, the back office is the company’s “secret weapon” in protecting customer loyalty and freeing up to 30% more of the sales representatives’ days for actual selling. (10) Allowing a well-staffed, expertly trained back office to protect the relationship with new and existing customers can save money, untold heartache and, yes, Virginia, I’ll say it — relationships. To download the entire Bain and Company white paper, click here.