Editor’s Note: Our recent regional i♥marketing user conference included six rapid-fire sessions on best practices for each stage of the customer lifecycle: Attract, Capture, Nurture, Convert, Report, and Expand. This blog post covers the key points of the Nurture rapid-fire session.
Step one, attract: You attracted that potential buyer with social media that pointed to content on your website. Step two, capture: The prospect wanted that content enough to fill out a form to get it. Now you know who your buyer is.
But you also know that there’s a long distance to go in this buyer’s journey before they’re even close to ready to talk to a sales rep. It’s marketing’s job to get them through safely to the hand-off; how are you going to do that?
Nurturing is the third step in the marketer’s playbook. It can be defined as building a relationship with a prospect through a series of touches designed to help the prospect progress through the buyer’s journey – from the buyer’s point of view. It’s a combination of mind-reading, art, and science, fueled through list segmentation, behavioral profiling, lead scoring, and automated programs. Recent reports show that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. Who wouldn’t want that kind of success?
Let’s look at the three core components of nurturing:
32% of marketers say segmenting their email database is one of their organization’s top objectives in the next 12 months. (MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Benchmark Report) WHY? Because 39% of marketers who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue. (The Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report)
Segmentation is what it sounds like: sorting your contacts into buckets defined by common characteristics, so you can market to them with a degree of personalization.
It’s one of the best ways to speed up your sales cycle, boost profits, and goose your marketing performance to new heights. Here’s how to do it:
First, work with sales to identify your target businesses and buyers
- Businesses. As an exercise with your sales team, profile your existing good customers for demographics and firmographics. Make note of how big are they, where they’re located, their verticals, any special business model, common problems, any patterns in technology dependence. If your company has multiple product lines, do this exercise for each one.The bottom line is, when you can discern the common characteristics and patterns among your best customers – you’ve found your target. Closed-Lost opportunities also offer a wealth of information; put these in a special bucket and run the same profiling exercise. You can often find patterns here that help you understand what segments you may want to avoid in the future.
- Buyers. Create detailed buyer personas for the people involved with making a purchase decision for your customers. Include job descriptions, day-to-day activities, background, and even personal motivations.
Here’s how this looks for a company that discovered who the influencers were in its sales process. Now map out their buying process – what stages do they go through, from the point they identify a pain or need in their organization, to when they sign on the dotted line (and beyond)? Be specific.
When you’re done, you have a set of valid segments that you can nurture by their specific title and need, using content progressively mapped to their stage in the buyer’s journey.
Thanks for this slide go to Keith Holloway of One Degree, central gathering place for Canadian Online Marketers.
Note: You and your sales team have to agree on interim steps and the final plan, or else you’ll be working to get leads that aren’t right, by sales’ definition, and the sales team may ignore them or push them back to you.
79% of B2B marketers have not established lead scoring. (Source: MarketingSherpa)
Lead scoring is the practice of applying a numerical value – a score – to some characteristic or behavior a lead exhibits. You and your sales counterparts have already gone through the exercise of getting to know your buyer and their journey, so you’ve got a pretty good handle on what should be scored.
Most scoring systems use ranking criteria that fall into two categories:
- Demographic/firmographic: What individual traits define your ideal customer? This may include a lead’s job title and department, as well as their company’s size, revenue and industry focus.
- Behavioral: What sort of “online body language” does a prospect exhibit? Examples include website visits, responses to email offers, marketing content downloads, and a willingness to complete online registration forms.
BANT (budget, authority, need and timing) are frequently scored together, as these quickly indicate a true buying cycle.
So, give high scores to the strong factors that indicate sales likelihood, lower scores to the less-strong factors, and zero to most of them. Don’t be afraid to use negative scoring. For example, you don’t want to treat a job seeker the same way as a potential buyer; you might score page visits to your careers page as a zero or negative.
Most marketing automation systems can be set up to deliver leads that cross some scoring threshold right to sales, with accompanying information about why the lead is worth someone’s personal attention now.
3. Automated programs make nurturing easier
Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (Source: The Annuitas Group)
Automation is not a substitute for process; successful marketers spend plenty of time planning, strategizing, and testing hypotheses before committing to a process. But once the process is defined and signed off on, you’re going to need marketing automation.
Henry Ford changed automobile production when he automated the factory, making cars cheaper, faster, and better. Marketing automation does the same thing for your nurturing programs, except you can tinker with them on the fly.
- Set up your nurturing process as an automated program
- You can set your program so as new leads come in, they enter your program’s beginning step via data synchronizations
- As the program begins nurturing leads, the leads gather scores for engaging with you or your content assets. You can set an automatic handover to sales for leads that hit a certain threshold for qualification.
- Be patient; companies with long or complex sales cycles also have long nurture cycles.
Start with a very simple program, like Program 1. Test your way to more complexity, but always keep it as simple as possible. Resist the temptation to add more conditions and steps unless you are sure they’ll provide a benefit.