Why Lead Nurturing Isn’t A Score

If only it were that simple. As with most things in marketing these days, there’s much more to it than that. Yet so many marketers today refer to “nurturing” as something that happens only when a prospect doesn’t attain a certain score after one or two marketing touches instead of part of a broader Lead Management Framework℠. And that “nurture program” is merely a notion of emailing that prospect whatever one-off communications are sent to everyone else in the database – whenever everyone else receives them.

lead scoring

I would argue that instead, nurturing should be an ongoing two-way conversation used in order to build and maintain a relationship with your buyers. It’s not merely a score, but a way to do all of the following:

1. Establish yourself as a thought-leader who understands your buyers’ struggles, wants and needs
Think of nurturing as a strategically orchestrated dialog that begins with building trust. We’d all love for 100% of our audience to receive a single email from us and immediately score as a hot lead, ready to be passed to sales.

However, the reality is that buyers today are savvy and skeptical. They require multiple touches, but not the kind of product-focused touches most marketers build today. Buyers don’t want to hear how wonderful our product is. After all, isn’t everyone’s? We must build Engage stage content that appeals to their needs and establishes our brand as a thought leader, building trust over time.

2. Gather data about your buyer….one step at a time
We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t propose marriage on a first date” by asking your prospects ten questions in your first communication or touch. Nurturing is the perfect opportunity to date your prospects and gather data gradually…before proposing marriage.

Build a progressive profiling strategy that captures the least threatening data you need first (i.e. name and email) and save the scary / heavy commitment questions like purchase time frame for later. Not only will nurturing allow you to capture the data you need for scoring, it will also allow you to tailor your content based on the answers and/or your buyers’ behavior in a well thought-out manner.

3. Keep your company/solution/product top-of-mind
Nurturing isn’t just about prospects. Don’t close a deal and then forget about your new customers you’ve worked so hard to gain. Continue to nurture your customers, not because you’re necessarily aiming for a certain lead score this time around, but because you want to keep your brand top-of-mind. Odds are these customers will be in the market for additional solutions or products that your company offers in the near future.

Of course the flavor of communications as well as the frequency should be different for customers versus prospects. A monthly newsletter works well in this scenario.

4. Prevent non sales-ready leads from growing cold
Building what we call a “turnback” nurture program will prevent leads from falling into a black hole. A turnback strategy accounts for all the possible reasons a previously qualified lead turns out to be unqualified. It might be simply because they’re just not ready to buy. Maybe the prospect erroneously answered the progressive profiling questions. Or maybe he/she just doesn’t ever pick up the phone when a sales rep calls.

Think about all the reasons a sales rep wouldn’t want to waste their time following up on these leads and build your turnback program to do the follow-up. This can prevent the leads from becoming a total loss and often, drives real results in pipeline growth. Make sure the sales organization is clear on how to place leads into the proper turnback program once developed and establish criteria for what constitutes re-qualification. The results will be new sales-ready leads with minimum sales involvement.

When done correctly, nurturing will help Engage, Convert and retain buyers. Nurturing isn’t a score, and it’s not easy to develop an effective strategy without it. However,well-designed lead nurturing helps build a perpetual stream of sales-ready leads, increasing pipeline and driving revenue growth.

*This post first ran June 5, 2014 on ANNUITAS.com

Author: Jennifer Harmel @JenniferHarmel2 Vice President, Strategy, ANNUITAS