Your company probably spends a lot of time and money generating qualified leads, but how many of those result in closed deals? The truth is, there's a big difference between "qualified" and "ready to buy." In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the qualified leads that make it to sales get disqualified or discarded at some point.
Here's the catch: Up to 80% of those "dead end" prospects will ultimately go on to buy from you – or from a competitor – within 24 months.
Lead nurturing is the process B2B marketers use to build relationships with these prospects – even when they're not yet ready to buy – in order to win their business when they are ready to buy. Your job as a marketer is to give these prospects the information they need to make a buying decision, to keep your brand front-and-center during this period, and to be there when they're finally ready to commit.
In the following guide, we'll explain the six foundational steps your company can take to set up a successful lead management workflow for nurturing potential customers. These include:
- Understanding the fundamentals of lead management workflow for lead nurturing;
- Designing a basic lead management workflow;
- Learning how to refine and expand your program;
- Measuring the progress of your lead management workflow for nurturing; and
- Learning how to use lead management workflow for nurturing to build a better, more productive relationship between your marketing and sales teams.
Step 1: Understand Lead Nurturing & Lead Management Workflow
Businesses often work on extended buying cycles which may require many months (or, in extreme cases, multiple years) to make major purchase decisions. Today's B2B prospects also spend far more time doing online research that sometimes attracts the attention of a company's sales and marketing teams long before they are ready to purchase something.
Separating "warm" leads – those that aren't ready to buy today – from the "hot" leads can be very challenging. That's why lead management workflow and scoring tools have become important. And keeping those warm leads engaged over time without annoying or alienating them is a delicate balancing act. You don't want to annoy with with too much or irrelevant content.
Think of lead nurturing as a lead management workflow for your buyers, where your marketing organization plays the tour guide on their journey. You'll learn more about what buyers like, based upon their online activity and behavior. You'll provide relevant, timely information, based upon those preferences. You'll eventually learn to recognize when buyers are ready to purchase something. That's when your sales team needs to get involved.
Step 2: Paint A Picture Of Your Ideal Buyer
Every lead nurturing program begins with a better understanding of your customers. Here are some key questions to help you accomplish this goal:
- How many people are involved in the process of buying your company's products or services?
- What job roles do they play, and how influential are they in the final decision?
- What business needs drive their decisions?
- What questions do they typically have, and what objections are they likely to raise, before they make a decision?
- What does your buyer's purchase process look like?
- How long does the process usually take?
- How do buyers respond to your existing marketing campaigns?
- Does their online behavior suggest certain patterns in how they consume your marketing content?
Collect these answers so that you can define a set of ideal buyer profiles that allow you to focus lead nurturing campaigns.
Step 3: Design Your Lead Nurturing Program With Lead Management Workflow
Now that you have a set of buyer profiles, you want to marry them to a specific lead management workflow process. This includes:
- Choosing a set of nurturing touch points: How many times do you want to contact a prospect?
- Choose your content offers: Perhaps you start with a white paper, move on to a set of case studies, and then invite the prospect to a webinar.
- Choose your cadence: Do you contact a prospect every week? Every two weeks?
- Choose your contact methods: Does your entire campaign revolve around email, or do you contact some prospects by phone, direct mail, or other methods?
A very simple lead managment workflow may involve just a series of four or five email messages sent over a period of several weeks. A more advanced lead management workflow may include multiple touch points, content offers, and communication channels, all over a much longer period and with multiple variations. It's a good idea to start with a simple lead management workflow, and then allow your campaigns to evolve over time.
Step 4: Assign Responsibilities
Lead nurturing is usually the marketing team's responsibility, and it's a fairly simple matter to assign a team member to manage a company's ongoing nurturing campaigns. Yet the process of developing a lead nurturing program is a cross-organizational job and should involve sales; you'll need the right people to gather data, create buyer profiles, develop nurturing campaign workflows, and find or create content.
Step 5: Get Started - And Measure Your Results!
Lead nurturing, especially when combined with a marketing automation solution, gives your company the ability to track and measure the effectiveness of your efforts. There are a few places to look for key performance indicators in a lead nurturing campaign, including:
- Engagement: Email open and click-through rates are an obvious starting point for your tracking efforts.
- Lead acceleration: How long does it take to move your leads between nurturing campaign stages, and how long does it take to move nurtured leads into the sales cycle?
- Outcome metrics: How many nurtured leads that enter the sales pipeline turn into closed deals? What is the average revenue associated with those deals, and how long do they take to close?
Step 6: Plan For The Future
A basic lead nurturing campaign, using a handful of buyer profiles, a limited lead management workflow, and some performance metrics, is a great place to start. Like lead scoring, however, lead nurturing is a process that's never finished; there's always room to refine, improve, and expand your efforts.