Lead nurturing is one of those marketing buzzwords that seem to pop up all the time. When they do, we as marketing professionals look at the new expertise or slant on the old and try to fit it in into our current paradigm. Sometimes that works, sometimes not.
While marketing folks have been developing leads until they were sales-ready for years, the twist on lead nurturing is that it goes hand in hand with marketing automation. In fact, if you do a search on “lead nurturing” you’ll find that a great deal of the content about how to lead nurture comes from the vendors of marketing automation systems.
Anytime a business issue can be addressed by a software system, there is a tendency to view the software as the solution. It seldom is. I’m quite confident that many early adopters of marketing automation systems, including myself, had second thoughts about their purchase when they figured out the gaps they had in implementation. Here are 5 things you should have to avoid the pitfalls:
- A long sales cycle. It may be obvious, but unless you have potential customers going through a somewhat lengthy process of education, understanding options and assessing fit, there isn’t much to nurture. This is one reason that marketing automation and lead nurturing have caught on in B2B lead generation; B2B prospects often have a long and involved sales cycle.
- A full understanding of the buying process. In the B2B world today, potential buyers do about 65% of their research online, before ever engaging with a sales person. It is during this period that a well-designed lead nurturing program can elevate your product from an also-ran to a short list. It will also educate the buyer such that that person can do the internal selling that nearly always occurs.
- Quality content. Lead nurturing is a process of delivering the right content to the prospect at the right time in the sales cycle. If the content is poor or not matched to a point in the sales cycle, your lead nurturing will likely fail. Create a content map and produce the best content you can for the use.
- Implementation tools. Of course, in order to implement you’ll need a system that oversees the whole thing. There are a ever-increasing number of viable alternatives. You’ll want to ensure that you purchase one that meets your specific needs by carefully laying out exactly how you expect the process to work after implementation. In short, make sure you get the requirements right.
- Buy-off from sales. I think this is the forgotten aspect of all this. In the past, lead nurturing (to the extent it was done) was done by sales. Leads were passed to them and those prospects not ready to engage now were put in their tickler file. An occasional phone call or email may go to them to “see where they are at” or “answer any questions.” Now, these activities are done by marketing and sales gives up some control of “their leads.” Sales needs to be involved and also needs to understand what is being done and how it benefits them.
It’s a fact that lead nurturing is being done successfully by many companies. The statistics are out there of the lift provided by executing lead nurturing. However, it is not the right answer in every situation. Before you execute, make sure it fits your situation and that you have the factors in place that will make your implementation a success.
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