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