This post is an addition to the previous What is Lead Nurturing? post. Get ready for a deeper dive with Lauri.
The bitter truth
The truth is that buying habits have changed. Prior to widespread use of the internet, people would window shop, gathering information as they moved from store to store. If they were adamant about research, they'd collect product literature and read Consumer Reports. Now that it's so easy to conduct independent research, they're diving in head first. After they've devoured the initial information from web searches, they're getting opinions from their peers and tapping into the knowledge of third parties.
Here's a bit of good news
The good news is that companies are meeting their potential customers earlier than ever. The bad news is that many companies don't understand exactly what lead nurturing is, let alone, how to use it to positively impact their business. Some of those that do accept the value of it, just don't want to hang in there long enough to get the sale.
Understanding the cycle
Research shows that only 1 out of 4 people will buy within the first 6 months of entering the sales process. The second quarter are estimated to purchase within a year. The third quarter purchase after the one year mark but prior to eighteen months. The final group buy sometime after 18 months. Abandoning those who don't purchase in the first 6 months is actually leaving 75% of the buyers for the competition.
Understanding people's buying habits is imperative to maximizing the sales that are derived though lead nurturing. Shoppers in the early stages of the buying process are usually more apt to tap free resources available including how-to guides, white papers, downloadable e-books, tip sheets, and newsletters. As they become a bit more familiar with the product or service, they are more likely to be attracted to webinars, teleseminars and hands-on tools.
The level of interest and desire for more in-depth information rise simultaneously as they are nearing the sale. At this point potential buyers are more likely to want help from a sales representative. This is the time to offer a specific needs based solution for the customer.
In essence, the cycle has been something like this: what is it, what does it do, what can it do for me, and finally, this is the solution I've been looking for.
What about the pay-off?
Many people will ask themselves, “Does it really pay off to follow leads for so long?” I think the answer to that question lies in the rate of success that your company is experiencing. If the demand for your product or service is so high that you're having a hard time filling your orders, then it absolutely doesn't make sense to follow after these people waiting for them to pull the trigger. However, if you don't have all the customers you want, you might look towards lead nurturing as a viable way to increase your customer base as well as your revenue.
According to Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, up to 95% of qualified prospects on your site are there to research and are not yet ready to talk with a sales rep, but as many as 70% of them will eventually buy a product from you or your competitors.
According to a DemandGen Report, on average, nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities vs non-nurtured leads.
Risky business or a smooth transition?
It's important that your lead nurturing calm fears and addresses the risk factors openly and honestly.
People buy from people that they like, trust and feel they can depend on. Lead nurturing helps you develop a relationship with the potential buyer that should eventually become a win-win for all parties.
Is it valuable?
Ask yourself, “Is the information useful to my lead even if they decide never to buy from me?” If you can answer, “Yes” to that question and you follow-up regularly, chances are you'll be there when the customer is ready to buy.