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As Google Slowly Kills SEO, What’s Next?

SEO is going out and we're still excited!

SEO is going out and we're still excited!

After nineteen panda and five penguin updates, Google has changed the game of SEO, making marketing automation the most important tool of marketers today.

It's October of 2013 and marketers can no longer count on Google telling them which keywords people are using to find their online content. But rather than making content less valuable, it increases the need to track user behavior. [Read more…]

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Relationship Nurturing: What To Do After Getting Their Business Card

You’ve done your networking job right. You’re back from the event with a pocket full of business cards. Now what? You’re not sure if it’s appropriate to call them immediately with a follow-up conversation, but you don’t want to just put them in a pile because you know you’ll forget about them. You want to nurture the relationship, but there are only so many hours in the day, and you can’t spend all of them in one-on-one conversations with everyone you meet.

There are a few things that I suggest you do.

First off, consider who you want to stay in touch with. There are two schools of thought about this. You might want to restrict your potential relationships inside of your target markets to maximize your efficiency. Does it make sense to invest your limited time, energy, and attention on someone outside of these markets? Maybe, because (as the other school of thought goes) everyone you meet knows a lot of additional people. And if you win someone over, you might gain access to this network of people that they know. [Read more…]

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Using Lead Nurturing? Here’s When It’s Time To Call A Lead

If you're using lead nurturing then you're probably wondering when it's time to call a lead.

That's a great question. Do you call leads or wait for them to call you?

They say that good things come to those who wait but we don't want to wait forever. But the answer isn't exactly simple. What we need to do is look at something called lead scoring, which is a method of assigning points to every lead that comes in. How you score your leads is dependent on what's important to your business.

But you know what? Let's scrap that and keep it very simple. All you really need is this, the sales lead readiness spectrum:

Sales Lead Readiness Spectrum

 

To see how this works, you need to ask a different question.

Knowing When A Lead Is Ready To Buy

Rather than asking the question “when do we contact a lead during lead nurturing” ask “how can I get a lead to contact me when they are ready to buy?”

This is where the sales lead readiness spectrum comes in.

Rather than giving a lead a score each time they do something set up your lead nurturing process so that by the time a lead contacts you about a product or service they are very close to buying. Here's an example of how you can do this.

It Starts With Content

Multiple times a week you publish blog posts. These posts are optimized for people as well as SEO. You syndicate them via social media channels. People come and read the posts and some opt-in to your various opt-in offers.

Behind each of these opt-in offers is a lead nurturing system that delivers valuable content automatically on a scheduled basis.

Over time some people opt in to multiple offers, read more and more of your blog posts, and are pulled further and further into your world.

All Along They See Your Calls To Action

Not all emails they get are content though – some are crafted to help them take the next step in the sales process. Depending on what that step is it could result in you calling them.

For instance, if you have a service-based business, your next step could be a free 30-minute consultation.

Now here's the thing – the customer determines whether or not to take this step. But by them taking this step rather than you the sales cycle is much shorter. As an example, I gained a $6,000 client with a one-hour phone call and three emails. What led up to that is where the magic happens. This client had been reading my blog and opting in to my offers for more than 4 months.

Keep This In Perspective

One thing I really want to ensure you understand here is this – the average time between when someone has first contact with you and later becomes a customer is, on average, between four and six months. And no I'm not making that up.

I became a HubSpot Certified Inbound Marketing Specialist and during the training they said that 4-6 months is the average time for an inbound marketing strategy to start landing customers.

Can it happen faster? Sure. Building a referral partner network is a great shortcut. Other than that it takes time for people to see you as an authority and trust you without direct contact.

What's Working For You?

How do you determine when it's time to contact a lead? Do you proactively call them or do you wait until they trigger an event that causes them to call you?

Inquiring minds want to know!

So let's talk about it in the comments below. I'll see you there…

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Lead Nurturing Diagram: Anatomy Of A Lead Nurturing Program

The lead nurturing diagram below fills in a crucial piece of the online marketing puzzle, namely what to do once you capture leads on your website.

If you aren't familiar with what lead nurturing is, click the link a few words back and read that first. And don't be ashamed, a lot of people aren't familiar with the phrase “lead nurturing” but I'm sure you already familiar with the concept. And changes are that you do this to some degree in your business, perhaps manually.

Let's look at how to set up an automated lead nurturing system that can help you turn your ideal customers into paying customers.

Anatomy Of A Lead Nurturing Program

As promised here's the diagram:

Lead Nurturing Diagram

Click the lead nurturing diagram to see it full size

There are 5 essential parts to a lead nurturing system:

  1. A lead capture mechanism, typically an opt-in form
  2. A thank you page
  3. An autoresponder system such as AWeber or Infusionsoft that can deliver emails automatically
  4. A series of emails
  5. Landing page with an offer

Let's look at each.

Lead Capture Mechanism

This is the starting point of lead nurturing – capturing leads. You've seen these before – they are all over the place here and should be on your site and blog too. These are opt-in form of various natures that offer something of value in return for an email address or more information.

Once a person's information is captured they become a lead. Until then they are simply a website vistor.

After opting in to your offer, always send the person to the next step in the system…

A Thank You Page

A thank you page can do more than just thank your new lead for opting in. This is your chance to strengthen the relationship.

A few items you want to consider putting on your thank you page include:

  • Links to your major resources pages, for instance our how to blog or how to SEO pages
  • An invitation to share the opt-in offer page with their social media communities
  • If it makes sense for your business, inviting them to join your social media communities

I've also seen a number of businesses promote upcoming events or free trial offers of their products on the thank you page. The idea here is that if some has already signed up they are more likely to continue acting.

Here's the thank you page you'll see if you fill out the form below and sign up for email updates:

Dempsey Marketing Thank You Page

Click to see a larger version of the Dempsey Marketing Thank You Page

Now lead nurturing is not possible if you don't have an automated email delivery system.

Autoresponder System

An autoresponder system allows you to create an email list and then create, in advance, a series of emails to be delivered on a pre-scheduled basis. There are two we recommend.

If you're just starting out with lead nurturing definitely sign up for AWeber. We've been using AWeber for more than 3 years and have always had fantastic success with them, meaning our emails are delivered and we have a ton of metrics we can dig into. Their support is also top-tier.

If you're ready for something more advanced the only choice in my opinion is Infusionsoft. At $300 a month Infusionsoft combines customer relationship management, e-commerce, and email marketing into a highly flexible package. For the price you won't find anything better. Eat your heart out Salesforce!

Regardless of what system you use, the point is that you need an autoresponder system that allows you to create a defined sequence of emails like you see in the lead nurturing diagram above.

A Series Of Emails

Now here is the heart of your lead nurturing system. Using a sequence of emails you can automatically deliver valuable content to your leads in combination with additional opt-in offers.

As in the diagram above you want to keep your offer emails spaced well apart, focusing instead on delivering value. How far apart should you space your offers? That depends on your average buying cycle. If you have a 6 month buying cycle you might want to have your email series set up like this:

  • Week #1 – Value
  • Week #2 – Value
  • Week #3 – Value
  • Week #4 – Offer
  • Repeat 1-4 up to 6 times

In this example you would need to write a total of 18 value emails and 6 offer emails.

Note: each offer email sends the lead to a landing page.

Landing Page

Always send your leads to a landing page with your offer. What's an offer? It could be a free consultation, another free report or other information, or it could be to purchase your product.

Why do you want to send them to a landing page? Testing. With this set up we can test:

  • Email open rates using different email subject lines
  • Email click through rates using different calls to action
  • Time on page for the landing page
  • Conversions on the landing page
  • And on yes, even more 🙂

Each landing page should be part of the natural buying cycle of your customers. Now you might be asking why I colored the landing paged red in the above lead nurturing diagram. That's because it's what I call a stop page, meaning there is only one action someone can take on that page – opt-in or leave. Okay that's two actions, but you get the point.

Here's an example of our landing page for the Google SEO Case Study:

Google SEO Case Study Landing Page

Click to see a larger version of the Google SEO Case Study Landing Page

Simple? Not So Much

In essence a lead nurturing system is a fairly simple thing. You have the 5 parts that fit together to automatically send valuable content and offers to your leads. The goal is to keep in touch with your leads until they are ready to buy.

Is this simple? Yes. Is it easy to set up? Fairly, given you have the time.

Will having this in place give you a distinct competitive advantage? Absolutely. It's amazing how few companies do this today, given how important it is to stay in front of customers and be prepared when they are ready to buy.

The customer is in control. Thinking any different is suicidal.

Can we help them along the way? You betcha. Use a lead nurturing system like I've outlined here to do just that.

Happy nurturing!

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Set Yourself Up to Succeed with Lead Nurturing and Drip Marketing

Drop of waterSomething that irritates me, and probably most people, is when you visit a site to simply poke around and immediately receive a sales call. It feels like a waste of my time and the sales person’s and, frankly, it is. This is a classic lead nurturing mistake, and it often drains the credibility out of an inbound marketing program because the percentage of leads that eventually close is very low.

Then what should you do? Consider a lead nurturing and drip marketing program that addresses each visitor at the right buying stage—and does so consistently without being intrusive.

You are going to know — because you’ve already have an awesome inbound marketing program in place, right? – which areas of the site visitors go to, what they download and how long they are on certain pages. If you haven’t put this kind of plan together—then start. Step one demands that you know why your visitors are hitting your site.

Step 1: Divide your leads into categories matching your sales cycle.

A good marketing consultant can help you but a lot of it is also common sense. If someone downloads a “How to Choose” or “Which One is Right for Me” asset from your site it’s likely they are weighing their options and might not be ready to buy. Get a feel for where they are in the buying process. Don’t forget the folks who have already purchased from you.

Step 2: Once segmented, decide how to keep in touch.

The further along they are in the sales cycle, the more aggressive your approach. So, that sales call I mentioned before? Definitely call within hours of a visitor pushing a button on your site that says “I Want the 10% Discount”. They are ready to buy. Use some finesse with the remaining categories. It might be as simple as just sending an auto-response to a person who provides their email address to receive updates. Save the phone calls for the leads that actually filled out the 15-entry form asking for more information.

Step 3: Be consistent and flexible.

Never shut off the lights on your lead nurturing program, and make sure that as buyers move through the stages they also move through your communication categories. Inconsistency not only showcases a lack of marketing acumen it gets confusing for your audience. Hence the words – drip marketing. Consistent content. Consistent amounts. Consistent time table.

What kinds of tactical tools are used in drip marketing?

The first, and most obvious, is a phone call. Following that: email blasts, newsletters, coupons and discount programs, buying reminders and special events can all be useful and, for the most part, automated by your CRM system.

Again, it is important in any lead nurturing or drip marketing activity to remain consistent and relevant. Do not inundate your audience with information. People respond better to quick and easy. Above all, always have a healthy respect for their time—and yours. Don’t set yourself up to fail by wasting your own time chasing leads that aren’t ready. Being consistent, quick and relevant will ensure your success.

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What Lead Nurturing Is And Why it Pays

Business LoopThis 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.

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9 Tips For Cost Effective Lead Nurturing

Cost effective lead nurturingMaximum results – minimum investment…

While many people are concerned about the cost of extensive follow-up, the least cost effective way to deal with lead nurturing is to do nothing. While doing something definitely costs money doing nothing is hugely expensive. Not only are they not buying from you, they're filling your competition's coffers by buying from them. When we don't participate in the conversation, we don't only miss this sale, we miss the opportunities for future sales, as well.

What Are We Talking About Here?

Before we get too deeply into the conversation about cost effective lead nurturing, it's a good idea to know a bit about what it actually is. Lead nurturing is a consistent method of building a trusted and information based relationship with a targeted audience. It's a way to educate a potential customer based on a series of “touches” that lead to a conversation. For even more information including a diagram read this post – what is lead nurturing.

It Can Work For You

While having these conversations isn't free, there are ways to make cost effective lead nurturing work for your company AND fit your budget. Let's look at a few ways to get a big bang for your buck.

Keep It Real

Always have your emails come from a real person. Use his or her email, phone number and sender address consistently. Remember people do business with people they like, trust and have a relationship with. An honest to goodness real person will convert people more quickly and effectively. I don't think it costs a penny extra to have a real person sending and receiving this information. It's totally cost neutral.

Speak To Me

It's a really good idea to know the customer. A complete target audience analysis will help your nurturing sequence hit home. If there's a real person in mind and the emails are written as if to that particular person, the response will be much better. It's important to make it personal and relevant to the reader's life. Let your visitors know that you know who they are and that you relate to them. The cost of this is negligible, as well.

Little Bites Are Best

Package information in small bite side pieces. Have a single idea and avoid combining multiple offers. It's imperative to make it easy understand and pack in lots of content.

Shorter Is Better for Everyone

Don't make them fill out long forms to access information. Provide a “key” tip and don't make them register for it. Have them opt in when you give them the chance to learn more.

Sharing And Caring

You can stretch your lead nurturing budget by making your information easy to share and require little initial commitment.

Make It Personal

Make it personal by building in customer stories. Including hard numbers makes it real and pertinent to the reader. Capture the essence of how you helped the customer achieve success.

And Lean

Keep the message lean, conversational, educational, and helpful. Establish your company as a valuable, trusted resource. Structure the delivery of information to decrease the lead nurturing cycle therefore capturing more sales at a faster pace.

Pay Attention

Offering options regarding the information available will give clues as to what customers are thinking about. Paying close attention to what the viewer responded to will allow evidence of where they are in the sales cycle. Careful monitoring will provide more relevant information that could be used to shorten the sales cycle.

Listen Up

The very best way to create a cost effective lead nurturing program is to listen to what the customers want and respond quickly to them.

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Lead Nurturing – Using Email Marketing To Nurture Leads

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:

Sales Funnel - Old School

Click for the full view

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:

Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel

The Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel. Click for a larger view.

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:

  • Webinars
  • Seminars
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Basic Lead Nurture Process

Basic Lead Nurture Process - Click for a larger view

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.

 

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The Money In Your Business Is In The Follow Up

I'll repeat that: the money in your business is in the follow up.

And the easier it is for you to follow up, the more money you can make. To make follow up easier, you need automation.

Many businesses go through feast and famine cycles. But guess what – it doesn't have to happen. You can bring in a steady stream of business, in fact that's what you want. Sure you want the level of that stream to raise over time, but for many, having a steady flow of business – leads and customers – is a major goal.

In my first business I ran into a serious famine cycle. I could blame 9-11 or the DC sniper incident or other events, but not everyone didd bad during those times. Why did I? Three reasons:

  1. I didn't market on a continuous basis
  2. I didn't have a way to nurture leads over time
  3. I spent money on the wrong things, namely flashy folders and paper marketing materials

In my second business thing went much better. I hired on employees to do the production part of the business, empowered them to work with clients, and did a lot more marketing. However I still lacked a way to nurture leads. I didn't hit a famine stage, however the flow of business was less than even to say the least.

Today we have the ability to follow up on many different levels. Let's take a look at a two.

Following Up With People That Opt-In

At the core of inbound marketing is content. Some content is free and some requires an opt-in. The trick here is to know the category of content that someone is opting in for, and then sending them information ONLY on that topic.

For instance, if you are a business consultant and have produced an opt-in guide on getting your finances in order, then you wouldn't want to send someone that got that guide information on improving their website. It's irrelevant to that person. They haven't shown any indication that they want or need to improve their website.

If you keep the follow-up information relevant, they are more likely to keep listening.

Following Up With Leads That Aren't Ready To Buy

A huge mistake that I used to make was that I stopped talking with people that didn't buy from me. While not everyone that contacts you is ready to buy right then and there, that doesn't mean they won't buy some time in the future. But if you stop talking with them then they'll never buy from you.

In this instance, you want to have a lead nurturing sequence in place that will continue to send information that is relevant, informative, helpful and entertaining. Then when the person is ready to buy, because you've stayed in touch, you'll be the vendor they choose.

Think About It

Why do so many companies spend millions of dollars on television advertising? To keep their brand in front of you! Pepsi, Apple, Aflack – these companies aren't hurting for customers, but they want more. So they spend the money to stay in front of you so that, when you go to the grocery store and see their product on the shelf, or you got to the mall and see that shiny Apple inviting you to come in, or you're walking in a park and hear the ducks quacking, you think of them.

The same is true of your business, only without the television aspects.

How You Do It

So how do you keep in touch over long periods of time? Automation using software. The combination of content and a customer relationship management (CRM) does the trick. Be sure that whatever you choose to use – I use Infusionsoft – allows you to tag every action someone takes.

You want to know that your lead like this but not that. You want to know that your lead got this ebook but not that one.

If you've got that, something MANY business lack, then not only do you have a serious competitive advantage, you have a marketing system that work for you, not against you.