Customers are nothing like our parents; they won't put up with one-sided relationships, poor conversation or constant demands for their money.
When I was in college, my parents used to joke that they only heard from me when I needed something. The conversation always started the same: I made lame small talk, followed by a rapid fire pitch.
Fortunately, my parents love me unconditionally, so I was able to get away with it... at least for a little while. Unfortunately for consumers, many companies today are stuck in that same selfish cycle when connecting with prospects.
When Do You Contact Your Leads?
Too many brands do a great job of generating leads through marketing, but only engage with potential customers when they are after a sale. This is absolutely the wrong move. It lays the foundation for an insincere, one-sided relationship that not only inhibits trust building and brand loyalty/advocacy, but hurts your brand as well.
How can you avoid alienating your prospects and foster continuous conversation? The answer is simple: nurture them. Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready. These campaigns "drip" useful information over time to prospects who aren't quite ready for sales, to keep your brand top-of-mind.
Nurturing B2B vs B2C Leads
In B-to-C marketing, this process is fairly straightforward, as your content is geared toward one stakeholder. In B-to-B marketing, it typically takes a committee made up of users, influencers, and executives to reach a purchasing decision; your nurturing campaigns need to address the unique needs of each member of the "buying committee" within a prospect's organization. Understand each audience you will cater to and make sure you have content suited for them.
As with all good marketing tactics, content is the glue that will keep these strategies together. The content you use needs to be relevant, interesting, and helpful - after all, you're trying to maintain ongoing conversations and that's hard to do if your speaking points are uninspiring. A key part of this means a transition from "Always Be Closing" to "Always Be Helping." Your nurturing content must be useful and/or enjoyable to potential customers even if they never buy a solution; it should not be about you.
Always Be Closing Always Be Helping... But You Still Need to Close
Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to nudge people towards a purchase. One approach to balancing these demands is based on the "4-1-1 rule." Popularized by Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi as a way to approach social media marketing, the 4-1-1 rule is also applicable to email lead nurturing. This means scheduling four educational or entertaining emails mixed with one "soft promotion" (such as an event invite) and one "hard promotion" (such as downloading a free trial). Instead of sending emails once every two weeks or so, 4-1-1 lead nurturing allows you to email more frequently because you're sending highly relevant and non-promotional content. By planning out emails as such, you're providing the prospect with plenty of content that's valuable to them, even if they never buy.
This may seem obvious, but our customers are nothing like our parents. They will not put up with one-sided relationships or poor conversation and certainly will not respond to someone who demands their money all the time. Lead nurturing is the two-pronged way to build and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with customers and keep your brand top-of-mind when they are ready to buy.
Download your copy of "The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing" for more basics and advanced strategies for those with developed lead nurturing skills.
Jon leads strategy and execution for Marketo. Before co-founding Marketo, Jon was Vice President, Product Marketing at Epiphany and held positions at Exchange Partners and Gemini Consulting. He is executive editor of the popular Marketo blog, Modern B2B Marketing, and author of the comprehensive handbook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
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