Lead generation and lead nurturing are two of the most important factors for any successful business. However, they require two very different strategies and processes. In many ways, the term lead generation is misleading. In fact what many believe to be a lead is in fact just a contact. Lead nurturing on the other hand is a series of communications to maintain ongoing contact with prospects identified as not yet ready to make a purchase.
It is marketing’s role today to capture the contact and then build a relationship over time with relevant educational material, qualifying them continually, until passing to sales.
The growing use of the internet has allowed many people who are researching problems, products, or services to maintain a distance, a sense of anonymity until they are ready to make real contact. Your marketing team must be able to capture an email address as a result of a researcher wanting to download material from your website. If they can do this successfully you are doing a great job at getting a contact – the first step. Getting the researcher to opt-in to regular email contact is even better and allows you a better contact qualification.
That being said sometimes, if a prospect’s time lines and your business cross, a contact can be an immediate lead – a blue bird. However, how many times does this occur? Contacts in general can be represented by a normal bell curve. Some are ready to buy almost immediately – the blue birds, the majority will purchase in a given time frame after contact, while some may disappear for a long time, only to come back when they are ready to do something.
Lead nurturing programs are now imperative to move contacts into prospects and transform them into sales ready opportunities. However, you will need to maintain a comprehensive history of every communication with your contact. As a result, having a CRM software solution directly connected to your lead nurturing strategy is mandatory. It will maintain the information you send to each contact, but also guide you with the right follow-up communication. There are many types of communications that are valuable including white papers, case studies, podcasts, industry trends and benchmarks and general tips.
Your goal is to ensure that the contact sees you as the specialist, someone who is knowledgeable and will be on their contact list when they are ready to seriously look at the solutions you offer. Having many valuable communications over time, is similar to a sales person who builds credibility with many visits - providing the right information to help the right decision to be made for the business.
Today, the barrier to entry in maintaining a database of contacts and information is quite low. Access to enterprise level software such as
Setting up a lead scoring process will help you determine when an opportunity is ready for a sales person to take over. This does not necessarily stop the need to continue marketing to them, but a more structured approach to the sales process may be necessary, working closely with marketing. Lead scoring can be based on a number of factors including:
- Authority of contact
- Needs of the business
- Timeframe to resolve the problem
- Size and profile of the company and whether they fit your target market
- Email and web behavior of the contact.
Good lead scoring processes will result in fewer leads being wasted and more efficient use of sales resources. You do need to ensure that both sales and marketing agree on the definition of a lead to align goals
With the ever increasing presence and use of the internet, smaller businesses can compete head on with larger enterprises. A well structured lead nurturing campaign will provide you the opportunity to convince potential clients that you have the knowledge and skills to give them first class attention and satisfy their needs. You also provide your sales team with a kick start with a contact that is no longer cold. Your CRM software solution becomes a major sales tool that allows you to score leads and forecast your business opportunities.