Let’s Ease Into It

In the last few weeks, I’ve received two phone calls from sales reps responding to my downloading something from their website (at least they said I downloaded something from their website.  In both cases, I didn’t remember downloading anything).  In both instances, the sales rep asked if we could talk about my needs, asked me about my purchase time frame, and inquired as to the best time to show me a demo.  I politely declined the invitations informing each of them that I was not looking to buy.  I’m sure this kind of “cold call” is something we’ve all encountered, and have even been guilty of ourselves.  Yet, it highlights one of the largest gaps B2B companies are experiencing in the lead-to-sale process:  lack of lead nurturing.

I wonder sometimes how different my relationship with my wife would have been had I taken a similar approach.  What if when we first met, we exchanged phone numbers and then I called her the next day and proposed marriage?  No dating. No finding out more about each other. No building the relationship. Just going right to the commitment with no dialog in between.  I can tell you, that would NOT have gone well.   Yet that’s what B2B marketers and sales people continue to do to their prospects.

A recent study by Marketing Sherpa shows that 70% of initial prospects are not in a buying mode when they first interact with your company.  They are actually qualified for long-term nurturing.  These are solid, but “not right now” opportunities and they should be treated as such.

Why does this component have such importance in the Lead Management Process FrameworkTM ?  Because if executed correctly, it can have the biggest impact on improving return.  Here are some statistics that demonstrate the value of lead nurturing:

  • Deals that closed on nurtured leads received a 47% higher order value than deals that closed on non-nurtured leads
  • Nurture emails have a 2x higher open rate one-off emails
  • Companies have shown to achieve an improved win rate on nurtured deals by as much as 20%

But beyond the statistics, marketers should begin getting used to the idea that the B2B buyer is now demanding that sellers build a rapport and relationship before they engage with a sales person.  Research shows that sales is brought into the buying cycle later than ever.  Building this relationship in response to this demand from the buyer is what nurturing is all about.  Here are some things to consider when building a nurturing relationship with your prospects…

1. Nurture at Every Stage in the Buying Cycle

For those companies that are nurturing, too many of them are nurturing only at the top of the lead funnel in an attempt to get inquiries turned into marketing qualified leads (MQL’s). This is certainly worthwhile, but nurturing doesn’t stop there.  Companies need to develop a nurture strategy for all the stages of the buying cycle:

  • Marketing Qualified 
  • Sales Accepted 
  • Sales Qualified 
  • Post-Sales 
  • During the Lifetime of the Customer

Remember, the goal of nurturing is to build a relationship so stopping communication after post purchase is a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” scenario.  Make sure to keep the nurture process going throughout the customer cycle as well. You’ll not only help them overcome any potential buyer’s remorse, but you’ll also serve to engage them as more loyal customers.

2.  Align Offers Accordingly

Where the buyer is in the buying cycle should dictate what offer is presented to them.  Remember the sales rep calls I mentioned earlier?  They were incongruent.  I was in the “research” phase, but the reps were treating me as if I was in the “consideration” phase, offering me a demo.  As a non-qualified lead, the chances of me being ready for a demo are slim at best, so why offer it?  The best plan of attack is to create an offer map that aligns individual communications and offers with the stages of the buying cycle, which includes customers. And if you don’t know what to offer  . . . . ask your customers, they’ll tell you.

3. Content is King!

It has been said before but it cannot be overstated.  Content is the “make or break” for your nurturing campaigns.  If it’s not relevant or timely, you’ll lose them. Have you ever been part of a dinner conversation that is drab and boring? You know, the kind where you keep looking at your watch, waiting for it to be over?  Well, now you know how prospects and customers feel when marketers don’t make the communications about them.  Buyers are looking for relevant, “to-the-point” content that will provide them information, education, and the ability to take the next step, whatever it may be.  And one more hint: keep your content fresh.  Buyers want current information, not yesterday’s news. 

4.  Automate

As we have continually said, Lead Management is a process and Lead Nurturing is one component of this process.  Marketing Automation enables the Lead Management process and will enable you to effectively execute your nurturing campaigns.  Manually run lead management processes will fail and breakdown as your nurturing campaigns become more complex.  If you are looking to nurture, ensure you automate for success. 

The changing buyer is now in charge and is forcing B2B marketing companies to respond and adapt. Developing a Lead Management Process Framework is key to adapting to this changing dynamic, and developing a nurturing strategy as part of that framework will help you improve your marketing responses, build a better relationship with your buyers and have a positive impact on your bottom line.