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An Effective Lead-Nurturing Program in 3 Steps

  |  August 11, 2010   |  Comments

Develop a lead-nurture e-mail series that will help you gather more information about your leads so you qualify and prioritize them.

B2B (define) marketers are constantly being asked to generate more leads. But is it enough just to collect the leads when prospects complete a form on your website and then pass them over to sales? Probably not, as studies show that sales departments don't follow up on almost 80 percent of marketing leads.

The solution? Develop a lead-nurture e-mail series to gather more information about your prospects. You can then analyze the responses to help you identify the "sales-ready" leads.

Follow these three steps, and your salespeople will no longer have to guess which leads are the best.

Step 1: Define a "Qualified Sales Lead"

Work with your sales and corporate management teams to agree on a definition of "qualified sales lead," those leads that are considered valuable and worthwhile to follow up on. Every company will define "qualified sales lead" differently. These are some of the criteria you should consider:

  • Does the prospect have a need for your product or service?
  • How quickly is the prospect looking to buy?
  • What is the size of the opportunity?
  • Does the prospect have a budget allocated for the project?
  • Does the prospect have authority to make decisions?

Step 2: Develop Your Lead-Nurture Program

An e-mail lead-nurturing program should build a trusted relationship with viable prospects, regardless of their timing to buy.

According to an Aberdeen Research report, implementing a lead- nurturing practice can yield a 50 percent-plus increase in sales-ready leads.

In practice, much of the selling in a complex sale happens when the salesperson is not present. In fact, studies show that longer-term leads typically ignored by salespeople represent almost 80 percent of potential sales.

Good lead nurturing establishes your organization as the source of authority in your prospects' minds when they're looking to find the answers to business problems. It also reinforces the benefits of working with you.

The program creates value by giving prospects useful information a little bit at a time so that you don't overwhelm them. The goal of this program is to deliver sales-ready leads to the sales organizations that are as close to the buy decision as possible.

A lead-nurturing program should addresses typical concerns of potential customers as they are in the process of making a buying decision:

  • How will this product/service help me?
  • Do we need this product/service?
  • Is there a competitive product/service that will work better?
  • Can they prove that this product/solution will work for me?
  • Is the company credible?
  • Can we afford this product/solution?

Information is delivered through relevant, educational, or thought-leadership content in a series of e-mails. These messages highlight meaningful articles, events, white papers, case studies, customer success stories, and Webinars that address the needs of your potential customers. The timing and frequency of touches should be linked to the prospect's buying cycle.

Step 3: Measure Your Success

Once you have defined a qualified sales lead and implemented your program, the next step is to analyze your program.

  • Are you delivering an acceptable number of sales-ready leads to the sales organization?
  • Do sales and management agree your leads are valuable and worthwhile for follow-up?
  • Are the leads converting to actual sales?

If your lead-nurturing program isn't delivering on these points, it's time to reevaluate how you define a sales-ready lead and optimize your program accordingly.

The Last Word

Remember, the ultimate goal of a lead-nurturing program is to deliver high-quality leads to the sales organization that result in a strong sales pipeline with high close ratios and shorter average sales cycles. Nurtured prospects should bring in more initial revenue and have a higher positive impression of your company as well.

When you succeed at lead nurturing, you have a program that will provide a predictable and sustainable flow of qualified sales leads over the long term.

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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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