Lead generation is an incredibly important part of any marketing strategy. Finding and converting new customers is the key to growing your business, no matter the industry. Yes, it typically costs less to keep and upsell existing customers, but there are only so many ways to create repeat purchases, particularly in longer lead time verticals. That’s why it’s so important to keep your pipeline full of new leads.
But a lead is only that: a lead. They have shown to be interested in what you have to offer, but until they make a purchase they are costing you money, not making it. That’s where lead nurturing comes in. Lead nurturing is the process of moving these leads through the funnel, converting them into customers through a systematic marketing program that quickly weeds out any unqualified leads and focuses on getting qualified leads to purchase your product or service.
How Lead Nurturing Works
Depending on your lead generation strategy, you may be starting with a highly qualified lead database, or a little less so. Some marketers focus on a high volume of leads, generating a larger database of varying quality. This can work well for lower cost purchases with minimal involvement required to close a sale, such as consumable goods. You may have to combat brand preference, but soap, for example, does not have a high purchase price or a long lead or thought process to purchase. There’s no direct interaction with a salesperson to close the sale.
Buying a car, however, is a whole different process. There is a very long lead time and significant investment of time and money from the consumer, as well as the salesperson. Marketers in high-cost, heavily involved industries tend to focus on smaller but highly qualified lead databases that are more likely to “pay off” by converting to customers.
How a lead becomes a customer, whether it’s a $3 box of soap or $30,000 car, is through lead nurturing. The lead nurturing process guides the lead through the sales funnel with a series of marketing messages. Sometimes called a drip campaign, the lead nurturing campaign slowly ramps up affinity and urgency to bring a lead from consideration to intent to purchase.
The name of each stage may vary, and higher involvement industries often add half-steps along the way. But the basic premise is a series of messages, typically email, that show the consumer why they need this product, why it has to be this brand, and that they need it now. It can be a mix of benefits and features as well as offers. Additional advertising and personal follow-up may be incorporated alongside email. All together, these messages represent your lead nurturing campaign.
Developing a Lead Nurturing Strategy
You’ve got a pool of high quality leads, ready to to be converted into customers. And the way to get there is a lead nurturing strategy. Simply put, this is your plan to pull leads through the funnel. It’s not enough to send an email and assume they’ll purchase immediately. You need to develop a lead nurturing strategy that takes into account the time and cost to purchase, audience makeup, and typical customer journey. All of these elements are key factors in your lead nurturing strategy, determining the tone of your message, frequency of communication, and the channels you use.
When developing your lead nurturing strategy, it’s important to think through your customer’s path to purchase. Do they have to invest a lot of time and money before they buy, such as with a car? If there is a lot of research and personal attention, or a high purchase price, your messaging should reflect that across multiple touchpoints. You’ll need to stagger many messages over a longer period of time. The content should be informative and gracious; you’re asking for a lot from your leads. You can’t high-pressure sell them. (At least not right away!)
Lead nurturing campaigns are primarily executed through email marketing, but in the case of longer lead times and high investment purchases, you may want to consider other retargeting options, such as display and social ads that keep your product or service top of mind in between emails. However, this could be over complicating things for a lower investment product, like a t-shirt. Typically a lead will know fairly quickly if they are going to buy a $20 item or not, so a lengthy lead nurturing campaign isn’t worth the effort. But you can have some fun with the tone of these emails and push sales harder and sooner than a more involved purchase.
Best Practices for Lead Nurturing
Nothing drives a CPL up more than a misinformed lead nurturing strategy. Which is why we’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to get you started on the right foot. Of course, every industry is different, but these best practice are the building blocks of a solid lead nurturing strategy.
Wait too long and they’ll forget what they signed up for.
Deliver On Your Promise
Never change or hold back an offer that was used for lead generation.
Personalize Your Content
Subject line, offer, images. Use what you know about your lead, from name to favorite color.
Don’t rely on memory; set triggers and automate every send.
Multiply Your Message
More than one email send, and maybe even some retargeting ads.
Never underestimate the power of a discount or added value offer.
Lead Nurturing Timeline: Week One
From day one, when you acquire a new lead, until the final conversion, when they purchase your product or service and officially become a paying customer, here’s a sample lead nurturing timeline to guide you. Of course, this is only one example, and certain industries may require more or less time, as noted above. Use this as a starting point and adjust as needed for your business goals, repeating and building based on your needs.
Automated email is triggered to send a welcome message to new lead. This includes an overview of product benefits and features, as well as CTA.
Second, more offer-driven email is delivered to new lead.
Online retargeting ads launch, highlighting same offer as email.
Third email is sent with reminder of offer deadline and one key feature highlighted.
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