Typically prospects don’t queue up waiting for the opportunity to hand you their cash. Instead marketers have to use all the tools at their disposal to nurture a sales lead towards a sale.

And the odds are stacked against the win from the very start. Research by SiriusDecisions reveals that of the 20 percent of leads that sales reps follow up on, 70 percent are not qualified.

But it’s a mistake to ignore those leads according to the authors of Lead Nurturing, A Guide for Modern Marketers.

Research results contained in the Oracle Marketing Cloud guide suggests that 80 percent of prospects who don’t make the grade today are likely to buy from someone within the next 24 months.

That’s why lead nurturing is so important, according to the report. “Successful lead nurturing anticipates the needs of the buyer based on who they are (using profile characteristics like title, role, industry, and so on) and where they are in the buying process.”

“If done well, lead nurturing can build strong brand loyalty long before a prospect is ready to buy. By cultivating latent demand, companies can increase the conversion of unqualified leads to opportunities and drive more revenue.”

Nurturing should also provide prospective buyers the information they need to make purchasing decisions thereby accelerating active opportunities for brands.

The authors describe sale lead nurturing as a safety net for each stage of the buying cycle, that minimises the likelihood that revenue will be missed.

According to the paper, lead nurturing typically focuses on converting contacts that are already in a businesses database, rather than attempting to generate new inquiries. “This improves the results of leads already gathered. Demand Gen Report found that nurtured leads produce a 20 per cent increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.”

But it is important to remember that lead nurturing as much more than just email communication. Instead is should be considered as a workflow, or series of communications. Each step should have a clear and concise objective—whether that involves moving someone to the next stage, or driving some other desirable action.

The authors identify what they describe as the five basic approaches brands need to get right;

  • Segmenting: Building lasting relationships based on trust requires an extensive knowledge of your prospects. Only then can you provide them with the most relevant content, messaging, and assets. Nurturing paths should be based on unique customer profiles.Segmenting allows you to use title, role, industry, or sales stage to account for nuances in messaging. In this way, you can ensure that your content resonates with the recipients and reduce unsubscribes.
  • Customer Nurturing: Nurturing isn’t just for prospects. Even when you’re bringing on a new customer, there are plenty of ways to nurture the relationship and drive adoption. Here, too, is an opportunity to segment based on user role. Is the customer a “champion,” “power user,” or “executive sponsor”? With this knowledge, you can funnel customers through onboarding programs tailored to their roles, making the transition smooth and seamless.
  • Give to Get: At two points in the buying cycle, you have prime opportunities to gather information about a contact: when someone is new to your organization and when someone decides to become a customer (or transacts new business with you). During these times, you can increase the frequency and number of touches.
  • Customer Focus: Use personalization whenever possible, calling the customer by name or mentioning the company name. Provide assets relevant to the customer’s industry and ensure that every communication is matched to that buyer’s need at that point in time. Each communication should be designed to answer a specific question. If you can’t answer the question “What’s in it for the buyer?”—the messaging probably isn’t valuable in your nurturing program.
  • Progressive Profiling Requiring registration in exchange for an offer is called gating. However, because lead nurturing typically applies to contacts that already exist in your database, it’s not necessary to put forms in front of every offer. Still, there are always gaps in contact records. Progressive profiling—which incrementally asks contacts for additional information—can help you build a rich, actionable data set on each prospect. With progressive profiling, each time a prospect clicks through on an offer, the system asks for just one or two pieces of information.

With the vast majority of leads failing to convert to sales, companies can’t afford to simply abandon prospects when they fail to become buyers within a designated time frame, the authors say. “Particularly in today’s buyer-driven marketplace, where they are empowered to make informed business decisions more quickly than ever, marketers must cultivate a role in the discussion in a way that’s meaningful to their audiences.”

About the Authors

Andrea Dixon is the Director of Marketing, JAPAC at Oracle Marketing Cloud which is a corporate member of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Andrew Birmingham is the Director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit. Members contribute their expertise and insights to Which-50 for the benefit of our senior executive audience. Membership fees apply.

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