Lead Nurturing is Not Optional

Want to hear something shocking about B2B lead generation? A full 79 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales opportunities. (Source: Marketing Sherpa/ KnowledgeStorm) That means if you’re not taking the necessary steps to move your leads through the sales funnel, you might as well be throwing 79 percent of them in the trash.

Alarming, right? Especially when you consider the amount of money that goes into generating those leads in the first place. For example, how much did your company spend on that latest trade show? How about that advertising campaign or website redesign? Makes me cringe just thinking about it- especially the trade shows. Talk about throwing money down the drain if you’re not putting 100 percent into your leads. There’s a reason the finance guys break out in a sweat when they see you coming come budget time.

What is the Missing Component?

Whether your marketing budget is sky’s-the-limit or you get by on a shoestring, converting leads into business should be your top priority. A critically important, but often overlooked step is lead nurturing. The term ‘lead nurturing’ refers to a system for continuing a conversation with a prospect from initial contact until the prospect is sales-ready and/or the lead is closed and the business is lost or won.

Brian Carroll, founder and CEO of InTouch says, “Imagine your marketplace is like a field of banana trees. Your marketing people are those who nurture and pick the bananas. Bananas are harvested when they are green, and they turn yellow as they ripen. Fully 95 percent of your leads are like harvested green bananas, and, off the top, your sales team needs only the other 5 percent, those that are ripe.”

It’s those 95 percent that need to be nurtured.

Here’s my take on the basic essentials of lead nurturing:

1. Quality over quantity. Market towards and attract prospects that would make good customers. Common sense, right? Yes, but you have to remember to not stuff your sales funnel with noise. You might get 100 leads from an editorial you had published, but be sure you know how those leads were qualified. Are they just readers who clicked on the page? Or are they readers who clicked on the ‘send more info’ button? Same with the trade shows. Did the prospect’s business have projects for which your company is a good fit? Or were they through your booth to get free pens or other items?

2. Respond instantly. Whether automated or manual, a message should go out letting your prospect know you are going to contact him or her. Better than an email is a phone call. If you don’t have in-house telemarketing, invest in a high-quality, professional telemarketing firm that can speak to prospects on your behalf. As a matter of fact, numbers three through five below could be handled by the same firm.

3. Stay in touch! This doesn’t mean you need to badger them, but follow-up in a timely fashion, checking on the progress of projects, etc.

4. Engage. Offer to send relevant brochures, films or technical papers.

5. Keep detailed records. All exchanges with prospects should be recorded and extensive notes taken. You can do this in your business management system (like Salesforce), or your telemarketing firm can take care of this for you.

6. Close the sale. If the lead happens to not go your way, ask for a referral, and don’t forget to keep this contact in your system. You many not win the business this time, but you’ve laid the foundation for the future.

Compelling Statistics

Here are some statistics for you:

  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.(Forrester Research)
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.(The Annuitas Group)
  • Companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate. (CSO Insights)

Lead nurturing should be an integrated, strategic part of your marketing and sales plans. As you are crafting your marketing budget, lead nurturing should be a key component.

Says Brian Carroll, “Good, sound, effective lead generation is more often than not acknowledged to be the biggest single issue for contemporary business-to-business marketers today. It has also been pointed out, however, that up-to 80% of marketing expenditures on lead generation and collateral go to waste for lack of commitment and discipline, ending up in the scrap heap because the sales department doesn’t know what to do with them. The secret to successful lead generation, and in turn marketing, in the business-to-business space today is process. This process, that converts more inquiries into qualified leads and qualified leads into sales, is called lead nurturing.” (startwithalead.com)

The bottom line: Lead nurturing should be a strategic activity, not a tactical afterthought.

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