Are Your Leads Gathering Dust on a Shelf?
Raise your hand if you have ….
- A pile of paper leads from three years ago gathering dust on a shelf
- A list of people that downloaded an eBook off your website
- An Excel file full of emails that visited your booth at a recent trade show
Now let me guess: you’re not quite sure what to do with them.
I get it, lead generation and nurturing can be daunting. Not only do you have people’s information flying in from all directions at breakneck speed (if you’re even that far yet), but you also have to qualify them, break them out into targeted segments, nurture them through the buying cycle … the list goes on.
And the cherry on the top is that you have to do all of this without making the prospective customer annoyed or frustrated or just plain angry about you contacting them.
So I get it, dealing with leads is not an easy task. Which is why taking the time to track them and follow best practices is SO essential.
The truth is that lead generation and nurturing have dramatically changed over the years. No longer is it the days of cold calls, buying lists or hoping that one of your early-stage visitors will magically transform into a customer with a wave of your sales wand (and no extra effort on your end).
Or, at least it shouldn’t be. If you are doing any of those things, sit up, start taking notes and stop it now. You, and your customers, will thank me.
If you have inbound lead generation down with leads bombarding you from all sides, then dive right in and skip ahead to the section on what to do with them. However, if you are struggling with what lead generation even is, then we will begin by dipping our toes in the pool and going over a few basics.
Lead Generation – What Am I Supposed to Be Doing?
Before I get too ahead of myself, let’s clarify what is meant when we talk about leads, lead generation and lead nurturing.
Lead: This is someone who has shown interest in your company, product and/or service in some way.
Lead Generation: This is the process by which you attract and convert random people into a lead. In other words, it’s the way you make people interested enough in what you do or offer that they engage with you (and provide information).
Lead Nurturing: This is the process of moving potential customers through the sales funnel by focusing on their needs and keeping them engaged with information they care about. This helps improve the quality of leads, and most importantly, the rate at which potential customers convert to buyers.
When it comes to inbound marketing, lead generation typically comes after you have gained an audience and are ready to take your visitors and convert them into leads. Leads are generated when the customer provides information, such as their phone number and email.
This information can be gathered in a number of ways, and how much information is needed often varies from business to business.
As you try to figure out what information you need from a lead, consider what is required to determine where the prospect’s interests lay, as well as what buyer segment they fall under so you can provide targeted messaging
But How Do I Get Their Information?
The lead generation process should be a fine-tuned set of steps that are intuitive, easy to follow and provide true value to the potential customer.
Step #1: A visitor sees your business on one of your marketing channels (e.g., website, blog or social media site).
Step #2: There is a call-to-action (CTA) in the form of a message or button that encourages you to click to learn more or find something of value.
Step #3: This CTA directs the visitor to a landing page, which they go to because they want what you offered them, whether it is a coupon, piece of content or something else.
Step #4: Because they find true value in what you’re offering, they fill out the form on the landing page with their information so they can receive the promised item.
Some of the common items promised in exchange for information include, but are not limited to, blog or newsletter subscriptions; coupon, guide, podcast or article download; and free demo or test of product/service.
Why Should I Care About Lead Generation?
Best practices for lead generation is about doing to others what you would like done to you. Just like you hate spam emails and the random 800 numbers that call your phone, so do your potential customers.
With this in mind, the goal of lead generation is to offer enough value that they show organic interest and initiate the relationship by providing their information in exchange for something else.
Not only does this mean they aren’t as surprised or turned off when you reach out, but it also means that you can better customize your conversation and talking points to their specific interests and needs.
As a result, effective lead generation helps get them on the path to eventually buying from you – and feeling like it is natural to do so.
The best part of lead generation and following best practices is that you establish long-term relationships with your customers that can lead to brand loyalty, word-of-mouth recommendations and, most importantly, a positive customer experience.
What To Do With Leads (Once You Have Them)
Once leads are rolling in and you have established a good lead generation strategy, you still need to nurture the leads. Tracking and nurturing leads allows you to better position yourself for future sales, determine the right time to reach out to customers and analyze how marketing efforts and different channels are performing so you can reprioritize as needed.
Need more convincing? According to a 2014 Forrester study, marketers, on average, see a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities for nurtured versus non-nurtured leads. Even better, lead nurturing done right results in 50 percent more sales at a 33 percent lower cost.
As leads come in, one of the first steps in the nurturing process is to use a system to organize and store them. Some of the common methods used include:
- Google Docs
- Marketing automation software
- CRM software
- Custom database
- Physical files and folders (this method is the least recommended of all)
Once you have a process for storing and sorting leads, the next step is to determine what constitutes a marketing qualified lead (MQL). An MQL is a lead that is ready to go to sales instead of continuing through the nurturing process. Often a lead becomes an MQL once they have completed a certain number of actions and/or a specific combination of actions.
Once you have determined what constitutes the exit point in the nurture process, you can focus on improving the quality of leads. Consider for instance a visitor who downloads a white paper compared to a visitor that requests a demo of your product.
The visitor that downloads the paper is not yet a high-quality lead, so the goal is to nurture them until they are also ready to request a demo, thus becoming an MQL. However to get them to this point, there are several key areas that you should focus on during the lead nurturing process.
- Score Your Leads
This allows you to measure your leads against the potential value they have to the company (and thus prioritize them as needed). By assigning a score to your leads – often determined by such factors as their engagement and content choices – you can determine which ones need more nurturing and which are ready to be contacted by sales.
- Target Content to Lead Segments
For this to work, you need to know the different types of customers, or buyer personas, that you are trying to reach. You should then create specific content that appeals to each lead segment based on their interests, goals, etc.
- Respond in The Now
Once a visitor has been converted to a lead, it has been shown that they are more likely to become a customer the sooner they are contacted. Immediate phone calls and/or emails (ideally within the hour) show that they are a priority and can rely on you for the timely support today’s consumers expect.
- Nurture Across Multiple Channels
Use more than one way to reach out to and engage potential customers. This could be through email campaigns, social media, web content, etc.
Doing so increases the chance of people interacting with your content in their preferred channel. Even better, use a mix of content across multiple channels to appeal to and drive prospects through the sales funnel.
- Send Personal Emails
Use marketing automation so that whenever a lead completes a specific action, from downloading a piece of content to clicking on a link, they receive a targeted email that contains personalized details, such as their name, custom content, etc. This not only encourages a higher level of engagement, but it can also move them through the sales funnel faster.
What About the Data?
Simply put, don’t forget to use it. While the main goal is converting leads to sales, you can make more informed choices and positively influence your business strategy using the data gathered. Some of the metrics you should periodically review include average lead close rate, paid versus organic lead percentage, leads generated per offer, CTA clickthrough rate and the new contacts rate for each landing page.
Lead generation and nurturing can be a nuanced process, and it’s easy to get lost in the maze of excess information, increasing traffic and piles upon piles of data.
It’s also just as easy to nurture increased traffic through the sales funnel, hone in on the leads that actually matter thanks to lead scoring, use the data to easily deliver targeted content each potential customer cares about and then turn ready prospects into hard-won customers. The difference is knowing what to do with the leads once you have them – and taking them off the shelf.
That’s the first step.