Beyond a Lead Collection Obsession: How to Create More Sales

Lead Nurturing

As online marketers, we are obsessed with and addicted to collecting leads. We count how many come in (and pat ourselves on the back when they do), we track where they came from (and allocate more budget to those channels), we optimize landing pages, enhance SEO strategy, raise budgets, tweak designs, track SERPs . . . and then point fingers at the sales team, which just doesn’t turn enough of our leads into closed sales.

Like many obsessions and addictions, this one too is self-destructive. Leads are important; they are the fuel to the sales machine that powers business. But leads are not the ultimate goal; and we must never forget that.

Let’s be clear: the ultimate goal is revenues. And revenues are generated from sales; not leads. Our goal as marketers then, cannot end at lead capture. We must consistently nurture those leads as they progress through the buying cycle toward the buying stage.

To be effective online marketers, we must cure our obsession with leads; and instead, develop a healthy addiction sales.

Lead nurturing strategies

Like lead generation requires a strategy and a plan, advancing those leads through the buying cycle doesn’t happen miraculously on its own. Nurturing leads is an important element in marketing strategy; one that takes forethought, design, testing, and a little bit of luck.

Marketing automation solutions like Eloqua, Marketo, and Pardot exist to systematize the lead nurturing process. Regardless of whether you have the need (and the budget) for one, you still need lead nurturing strategies.

Planning effective lead nurturing requires a comprehensive understanding of several factors:

  • Buying Cycle Stages
  • Buyer Personas
  • Segmentation
  • Buying Stage Content
  • Effective Nurturing Campaigns

Buying Cycle Stages

Even in a macro sense, there isn’t industry-wide agreement about the stages of the buying cycle. Some experts claim 7 stages, others show 5; and those 5 or 7 seem to change slightly depending on the source. But even if there were macro agreement, it would not change the fact that in a micro sense, each company may have different stages.

In general, the stages can be mapped as follows:

  1. Awareness: when a prospect realizes they have a need
  2. Consideration: when the prospect considers available solutions (sometimes called the Research stage)
  3. Evaluation: when the prospect carefully considers the pros and cons of the considered solutions (sometimes called the Education stage)
  4. Purchase: when the prospect selects your solution and makes a commitment to buy it
  5. Upsell or Advocate: When the customer makes additional purchases and/or advocates the chosen product/service to a sphere of influence

Planning your lead nurturing requires understanding how these stages apply to your product. For example, higher-priced products may have more drawn-out stages. Well-known companies may be automatically considered in the second stage; while the lesser-known may need to invest more in this stage to be included. Very technical products may need lots of guidance through the evaluation stage.

Make is a point to understand your product and its own buying process stages.

Buyer Personas

In addition to the products’ effects on the buying cycle, your buyer personas may also shift things around. For example, if you target college students with a low-priced package, they may move quickly through the stages and advocate extensively if they like your product; while targeting high-level executives with an enterprise package will require much more nurturing and a strategy rich in various types of content.

Segmentation

Once you have a firm grasp on your stages and target personas, you can create segments for your lead nurturing campaigns. For example, Student Stanley at the Consideration stage may get one type of campaign; while Executive Steve will get completely different correspondence and information.

Buying Stage Content

You will need to map the content you have (and create new content) to target specific buying stages.

For example, prospects at the “top of the funnel” stages of awareness and consideration will need thought leadership content that explains trends and benchmarks. Depending on the type of product you are selling, you may offer white papers, tip sheets, checklists, educational webinars, etc. The goal of this content is to make prospects aware of your product and how it can solve their problems.

“Middle-funnel” content may include competitor comparisons, case studies, FAQs, product webinars, demo videos. This content needs to explain why your product is the best and how it works.

“Bottom of the funnel” content aims to generate buy-in and resolve barriers. Offer free trials, live demos, consultations, coupons etc.

Effective Nurturing Campaigns

Creating the drip campaigns that will nurture your leads through your funnel becomes a scientific experiment when you fully understand the process and prepare your materials. There is no magic formula that works for everyone, you just have to test things. Try different calls to action, messaging, and timing in email campaigns. Post different things on social media. Try telemarketing with different messages. And track everything. Maintaining meticulous records will allow you to prove what works, what converts, and what turns the leads into revenues.

What kind of lead nurturing campaigns have worked for you? What kind of research was required to set them up properly? And what kinds of results did you find when you stopped stopping at lead capturing and expanded your obsession to lead nurturing?

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