Manufacturers can shorten their sales cycles by better nurturing leads before passing them over to sales.
It is hard to be a marketer, especially for those working in manufacturing. Global competition, trade wars (or tit for tats), changing buyer expectations and behaviors, and new technologies (that have wiped out historical competitive barriers) have forced small and midsize manufacturers to cut costs anywhere they can. And for many manufacturing marketers their budget has a big red bullseye on it.
And typical marketing tactics also aren’t proving successful:
Compounding that frustration is the opportunity that lies ahead like an elusive oasis just out of reach. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates US manufacturing GDP will increase over the next decade by $350 billion in real terms.
While there is no easy button, I will bet you a beer your numbers will improve if you set up an automated campaign that nurtures your prospects through their journey.
Wondering what is lead nurturing? Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with your buyers at every stage of their buying process (and your sales funnel). Too often, marketers are sending leads over to sales too soon. It’s estimated that only 5-15 percent of B2B leads are sales ready when they first become known contacts.
These days, B2B marketers are getting superior results by using short- and long-term nurturing programs:
- Forrester Research found that companies excelling at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads, at a 33% lower cost
- Nurtured leads result in purchases that are 47% larger than those of non-nurtured leads, according to the Annuitas Group
A recent survey indicated that a mere 10 percent of companies were actively using lead nurture strategies as part of their demand generation and pipeline-management marketing, but, “even for those, implementing a more complex closed-loop system may feel intimidating and out of reach,” said Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing.
It sounds like a lot of work, but if you just take it step-by-step, you’ll find the automated nature of nurturing campaigns ends up saving you a huge amount of time and resources in a relatively short amount of time.
Customer Journey Mapping and Funnel Stages
I often write about the importance of knowing your buyer. Know that and you’re on your way to better understanding the customer’s journey. Know that, and you begin to focus on the funnel stages of your business. According to Phil Bosley, CEO of Tactical Marketing, nearly 70 percent of B2B marketers have not identified their funnel stages. As a result, he said, 65 percent of B2B marketers have not implemented a lead nurturing program.
So know your customer to know their journey to know your funnel stages to know how to set up an automated nurturing program.
The buyer’s or customer’s journey are the steps a potential customer takes toward purchasing your product or services. This journey can have many shapes, entry points, turns (including U-turns), and exit points. Generally, we define the journey’s phases as awareness, consideration, and decision. You can also think of it as unengaged, engaged, and sales ready.
If you’re blast the same marketing message out to everyone, your pitch is going to be utterly meaningless to some people – upping the odds that they will never respond – because you now look irrelevant to them. Clearly, learning how to segment your lists will enhance your marketing results.
Use demographic AND behavioral data from your prospects to segment the folks you are marketing. If you aggregate people who have the same needs/desires into a segment, you can do a pretty targeted campaign to them and up the odds they will respond.
Cadence & Workflow
You have gotten a better handle on your customer, their journey through the funnel, and you are segmenting your lists accordingly. Now is the time to start building out your lead nurturing program. 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 an eBook, move on to a case study, and then invite your 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 nurturing workflow may involve just a series of four or five email messages sent over a period of several weeks. A more advanced 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 workflow, and then allow your campaigns to evolve over time.
If you’re using an adaptive marketing platform, like Act-On, you can take advantage of the latest technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, that can automagically segment, assign content, and send your emails.
Evaluating Your Nurture Programs
Lead nurturing, especially when combined with an adaptive marketing platform, 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 clickthrough 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/won deals? What is the average revenue associated with those deals, and how long do they take to close?
Once you establish a baseline with these and other key indicators, you can look for trouble spots in your nurturing campaign, experiment with solutions and consider your next steps.
A basic lead nurturing campaign, using a handful of buyer profiles, a limited process flow, and some performance metrics, is a great place to start.