As I’ve talked about in recent posts, a suc­cess­ful lead nur­tur­ing strat­egy improves the num­ber and qual­ity of the leads you can gen­er­ate — for a sig­nif­i­cant increase in revenue.

Last time I out­lined some impor­tant ele­ments nec­es­sary for a strong lead nur­tur­ing pro­gram — com­mu­ni­ca­tions should be per­son­al­ized, rel­e­vant, well-timed, thor­ough and auto­mated –and I offered an exam­ple of a suc­cess­ful B2C lead gen­er­a­tion email.

B2B com­pa­nies, both those that close the sale offline (the major­ity of B2B have field sales teams) as well as B2B e-commerce, can use the same rel­a­tively sim­ple ele­ments to improve con­ver­sions from leads, as well. Yet so many B2B com­pa­nies send follow-up emails that are noth­ing short of awful.

The images are bro­ken, the for­mat­ting is weird, text is cen­tered… in fact, with a great major­ity of follow-up emails that I see, it would be far bet­ter to send noth­ing than to send some­thing that rep­re­sents the com­pany so poorly.

But it’s not at all dif­fi­cult to put together a strong email that encour­ages a lead to move fur­ther through the sales funnel.

For exam­ple, below is an email Omni­ture might send to a poten­tial cus­tomer, Jason Smith, who had down­loaded a white paper on lead gen­er­a­tion. Notice how sim­ple the email is: it isn’t over-designed; it isn’t bla­tantly in-your-face; and it’s brief and to-the-point.  And it encom­passes a num­ber of the ele­ments of a suc­cess­ful lead-nurturing strategy:

Well-timed

The email is sent within 15 min­utes of the prospect down­load­ing the white paper.

Per­son­al­ized

The “To” line includes the prospect’s actual name, and the greet­ing uses his name again: “Hi, Jason.”

Per­son­al­iz­ing the email lets the prospect know that you are send­ing some­thing spe­cific to him and only to him (ecom­merce and many b2c com­pa­nies have been doing this for a while – it’s about time that the rest of the B2B world catch up).  It hints that the con­tent of the email will include infor­ma­tion of spe­cial inter­est to him.

The sig­na­ture reas­sures the prospect that a real per­son — “Jim Red­mond, Omni­ture” — is behind the com­mu­ni­ca­tion.  I want to be clear that this lead nur­tur­ing and mar­ket­ing automa­tion shouldn’t replace human inter­ac­tion, but rather rein­force it so that if the prospect hits “reply” in the email, it does in fact go to Jim Red­mond and can ini­ti­ate a mean­ing­ful conversation.

Rel­e­vant

The email is imme­di­ately rel­e­vant to the prospect: it acknowl­edges that Jason down­loaded a guide to lead gen­er­a­tion, and it offers some­thing of intrin­sic value — a use­ful For­rester report on lead gen­er­a­tion, as well. Note: The first para­graph does not give a sales pitch.

Because Jason was required to give a cer­tain amount of infor­ma­tion when he first down­loaded the lead gen­er­a­tion report, Omni­ture is able to cus­tomize the email even fur­ther, point­ing out in the sec­ond para­graph that other “high-tech mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies” sim­i­lar to Jason’s com­pany, Soft­ware Inc., have learned how to improve lead gen­er­a­tion through Omni­ture Test & Tar­get. The sec­ond para­graph offers a soft pitch, rather than a hard sell.

The third para­graph sets an expec­ta­tion, offer­ing to con­tinue to send use­ful infor­ma­tion sur­round­ing the topic of lead gen­er­a­tion (more rel­e­vance): “If you don’t mind, as I peri­od­i­cally come across rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion to assist you in your job, I’ll send it to you.”

Auto­mated

Email responses such as the exam­ple above can eas­ily be auto­mated using mar­ket­ing automa­tion (specif­i­cally lead nurturing/drip mar­ket­ing) soft­ware.  Sev­eral exam­ple com­pa­nies include:  Aprimo, Elo­qua, Market2Lead, Mar­ket Bright, Mar­keto, Neolane, Vtrenz, etc.

Cer­tain areas of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion are pre-populated auto­mat­i­cally by the tool, based on the infor­ma­tion the prospect has given when he down­loaded the white paper. For exam­ple, his name is auto­mat­i­cally entered in the “To” line and the salu­ta­tion. The title of the white paper he down­loaded is included. In the sec­ond para­graph, the indus­try Jason is in — high tech mar­ket­ing — is pre-populated, as is the name of his com­pany. His com­pany name is again inserted in the third paragraph.

Con­sider pre-writing all of your emails, for each indus­try you cater to (this can also be done by product/solution or other impor­tant seg­ments beyond indus­try). Then, your lead nur­tur­ing pro­gram sim­ply pop­u­lates the fields that you spec­ify based on the infor­ma­tion the prospect has given within the lead gen form on the web­site (land­ing pages), and sends the email within 15 min­utes of con­tact with the prospect.

Of course, the exact for­mat of the email will dif­fer widely from one com­pany to another, which is why each com­pany can and should run tests as they explore a lead nur­tur­ing strat­egy. At Omni­ture, we have found, for exam­ple, that the quan­tity of fields required in the lead form pro­vides us with valu­able infor­ma­tion that we can use to rel­e­vantly remar­ket to prospects. The extra fields required in the lead form mildly decrease con­ver­sion; how­ever, the addi­tional info gath­ered for remar­ket­ing off­sets any con­ver­sion decreases.  Another com­pany may have totally dif­fer­ent results.

By giv­ing prospects some­thing use­ful to them (a free report-call it com­pli­men­tary) – and no hard sales pitches , com­pa­nies can sig­nif­i­cantly improve con­ver­sions from leads to actual cus­tomers and simul­ta­ne­ously decrease prospects from unsubscribing.

Again, this type of automa­tion can be accom­plished by tying together CRM with mar­ket­ing automa­tion and enhanced with Web­site ana­lyt­ics for detailed analy­sis and report­ing to con­tin­u­ally opti­mize testing.

Next time, I’ll talk about when, and how often, you should be con­tact­ing your prospects.

3 comments
Mike Kemp
Mike Kemp

This article is one of the best messages on how to construct effective emails for your sales and promotional team. Lead Nurturing has become a popular method in many marketing strategies. Again, the minimum skill in any modern workplace must be to be competent in preparing a design email that encourages great sales and customer relationships.

Christopher Doran
Christopher Doran

Mikel - enjoyed the post. Too often when marketers think lead nurturing - the think about the platform. The other key pieces would be people, process, and CONTENT. It's critical to ensure that you can continue to move leads through the pipeline. Looking forward to your next post.

Will Schnabel
Will Schnabel

Great information, Mikel. Lead Nurturing is clearly taking center stage in many marketing efforts, especially as marketing budgets are strutinized in difficult economic times. And tying CRM and Web data to marketing campaigns greatly enhance the targeting and relevance of email communications. For some great benchmarks, including stats on email response rates, appropriate webform length, advantage of form-prepolution, and successful drip campaigns, I recommmend checking out a recent AMA webinar featuring Loren McDonald and Bryan Brown from my organization, Silverpop Vtrenz. They analyzed hundreds of companies and thousands of campaigns to compare results and derive key best practice metrics for lead nurturing. Useful knowledge for all of us marketers to know how we stack up- Will Schnabel, Vtrenz