Many people ask me, “Rob, what is lead nurturing?” The best way to describe it is to use a short story.
When I started my first business in 2000 I made the huge mistake of letting go anyone that wasn't ready to buy. At the time, my sales funnel looked like the standard:
That sales funnel doesn't take into account the people that got in contact with me that weren't yet ready to buy. Frankly I have no idea how much business I lost not following up with those folks, but I can tell you for sure that I expended a LOT of energy in continuously finding new clients.
Today things are quite different, and I want to share with you how you can never lose another potential customer again. That system is called lead nurturing.
Before we dig in I want to make a note: whether you are looking to do B2B lead generation or B2C lead generation the overall process is the same. Consumers are consumers whether they are operating under a corporation or not. The main difference between business and non-business buyers is typically the amount of red tape they have to deal with.
Having said that let's get into it.
A Sales Funnel That Really Works
In previous posts we looked at the Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel, which looks like this:
There are two major methods of lead generation in use here: search engine optimization (SEO) and social media, which includes blogging and social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others. Other lead generation methods you might use are:
- Online advertising
- In-person networking
- Trade shows (still viable if done right)
- Direct mail (also still viable)
Lead nurturing comes in at the point of integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) software and takes advantage of the power and automation of an email marketing system. It works like this:
- A person lands on a page of your website either through social media or a search engine. Most likely this is an interior page, not your homepage. Many times this will be a blog post, especially if they are coming from social media.
- The person reads your blog post and likes what they see. They now want more information and see you have a call to action (CTA) on your blog post to opt-in for some more information. The person clicks the CTA and lands on a landing page.
- The ebook looks pretty tasty so they give their name and email address to get the download. This person's information is captured in your CRM system and they are now a lead.
What now occurs separates the truly successful from those constantly chasing after new customers. If you want to be the former rather than the latter, the system you put into place will look something like the following lead nurturing diagram. Note at this point we aren't talking about lead qualification but rather how we handle the leads that are coming in:
Now here's where it really gets fun! Everything that you see on the basic lead nurture diagram can be automated using an email marketing system. We've done it using Infusionsoft, which is a combination of CRM, e-commerce and email marketing. I believe the technical term for it is “marketing automation.”
If you want to scale a single-person business to multiple people and beyond, you need to automate as much of this process as you can. If the $299/month price tag for Infusionsoft looks a bit much for you if you're just getting started, another great service we (and tens of thousands of others use) is AWeber.
But I digress…
The main point here is what happens if the person doesn't respond to your offer of a free consultation – they are moved into a long-term lead nurture sequence.
The Basics Of A Long- Term Nurture Sequence
This sequence is essentially a long series of emails that provides ongoing value along sales and consultation offer messages. DO NOT start trying to sell products right away, rather send an email once a week for a few weeks at least before offering a product or services. OR you could mention it in the PS of the email. That's ninja and fairly unobtrusive.
We have a number of sequences that span 4 months. All emails are pre-written, deliver information the reader can use in their business, and are automatically sent via our email marketing application – Infusionsoft. Where we've gone to the next level is by creating many of these sequences, each around a single topic that links back to a single category of offering. If you're interested in SEO, you get SEO. If you're interested in blogging, you get blogging. If you're interested in Twitter, you get Twitter. I think you get the point.
So What Is Lead Nurturing Again?
Lead nurturing is a method of providing ongoing value to a lead until they are ready to become a customer. Leads come in from a number of lead generation methods including SEO and social media marketing.
To successfully scale our efforts we need to automate as much of this as possible. To do that we use an email marketing system that allows us to create a predefined sequence of messages that are sent to a lead on a schedule.
We use lead nurturing because not everyone that visits your website is ready to buy. In fact, a vast majority of visitors are in the information gathering stage. The goal is to capture them and to stay in front of them often enough so that when they do make their buying decision they choose you.
Lead nurturing is applicable whether you are doing B2B lead generation or B2C lead generation. Buyers are buyers with the only difference being a typically longer and more complex sales cycle in B2B.