By learn­ing to suc­cess­fully nur­ture inter­ested prospects that haven’t yet com­mit­ted to buy, both B2B and B2C com­pa­nies can increase cam­paign response rates, max­i­mize lead con­ver­sion rates and increase the num­ber of closed sales for a sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in rev­enue. Sir­ius Deci­sions stated that ~80% of inter­ested B2B prospects will pur­chase the prod­uct and not nec­es­sar­ily from the same provider within a two-year time frame (even if it isn’t imme­di­ately). So how do we ensure that we stay “top of mind” for them? Nur­ture. Some com­pa­nies call this drip mar­ket­ing or lead mat­u­ra­tion.

Despite the above sta­tis­tic, most com­pa­nies today don’t have a lead nur­tur­ing strat­egy in place — or if they do, they are not mak­ing the most of their efforts: B2B mar­keters have low con­tact rates, end­ing their efforts to con­tact a poten­tially inter­ested prospect after just three to five attempts and hav­ing reached only 20 per­cent to 50 per­cent of their leads. The leads are often not highly qual­i­fied, and they are all treated the same, no mat­ter what level of qual­i­fi­ca­tion they have.

If this sounds famil­iar, you’re not alone. Over the course of the next month, I will be out­lin­ing in detail an auto­mated response and lead nur­tur­ing pro­gram over five to six posts that com­pa­nies can imple­ment them­selves in order to increase the num­ber of closed sales that are gen­er­ated from leads. I’ll give spe­cific tac­tics on how to increase rel­e­vance and con­ver­sion through per­son­al­iza­tion and profile-based con­tent. I’ll also give you plenty of exam­ples of what to do — and what not to do.

You’ll learn to bet­ter con­nect with your cus­tomers, based on their behav­ior and their needs. You’ll learn to use what you know about their demo­graph­ics in order to bet­ter tar­get your com­mu­ni­ca­tions. And you’ll learn how to inte­grate dif­fer­ent types of com­mu­ni­ca­tion — includ­ing auto­mated tele­phony, email, and direct mail — into your strategy.

Strat­egy for lead nur­tur­ing and response

So first, let’s talk about an over­all strat­egy. Bear in mind that this strat­egy is equally use­ful for B2B mar­keters as well as B2C mar­keters, espe­cially for those whose B2C sale is a more expen­sive con­sid­ered pur­chase (a car or a plasma TV) rather than an impulse purchase.

At its heart, a strat­egy for lead nur­tur­ing and response is sim­ple, and it’s based on five ele­ments. Lead nur­tur­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions must be:

  1. Per­son­al­ized
  2. Rel­e­vant
  3. Well-Timed
  4. Thor­ough
  5. Auto­mated

1. Per­son­al­ized — the mes­sage comes from a spe­cific per­son and goes to a spe­cific person

A lot of com­pa­nies use the imper­sonal “Eddie Bauer” or “Costco” or “CDW” as the sig­na­ture and “from” address in their emails instead of a named per­son. At Omni­ture, we have tested per­son­al­ized sig­na­tures, and have dis­cov­ered that when emails come from an actual per­son, con­ver­sion rates are bet­ter – now we don’t do this 100% of the time, only if the lead score achieves a spe­cific thresh­old so as to not inun­date our sales teams with vol­umes of leads that may not be qualified.

When­ever pos­si­ble, you also want there to be a phone num­ber on the email that goes to the per­son whose sig­na­ture is on the email.

At a pre­vi­ous B2C com­pany, the mar­ket­ing depart­ment went so far as to actu­ally test using imag­i­nary peo­ple — the name “Sally” vs. “Susan,” for exam­ple — and found that con­ver­sion rates can be higher depend­ing on which name you choose. Of course, you have to bal­ance that with the fact that you’re being some­what disin­gen­u­ous by using fake people.

2. Rel­e­vant — it is based on a par­tic­u­lar behav­ior, or on your pro­file of the lead

It’s easy to mon­i­tor behav­ior online: if a con­sumer enters into the check­out process to pur­chase a stereo sys­tem, and then bails from the shop­ping cart process before com­ple­tion, you can re-market to them based on your knowl­edge of that individual’s behvior.

You might, for exam­ple, send an email ask­ing the cus­tomer to return to com­plete the pur­chase for the same stereo, and offer a 20 per­cent discount.

If you work for a B2B com­pany, your vis­i­tors might fill out lead-generation forms on the Web site and answer ques­tions about their inter­ests. You can then choose to com­mu­ni­cate with them based on the answers to those ques­tions. For exam­ple, if some­one comes to the Omni­ture site and says that they’re a retail con­sumer site, it wouldn’t make sense for me to remar­ket to them offer­ing B2B-specific guides. I would mes­sage to them specif­i­cally about online retail mar­ket­ing and pos­si­bly send them reports on how to increase shop­ping cart con­ver­sion rates, etc.

You can also ask more ques­tions to fur­ther qual­ify the leads, which will help in future com­mu­ni­ca­tions with them.

If they’ve reg­is­tered with the site, you know their name, per­haps some demo­graphic infor­ma­tion, per­haps the types of prod­ucts that inter­est them by what they’ve clicked on or have pre­vi­ously pur­chased. From that infor­ma­tion, you can offer rel­e­vant communications.

3. Well-timed — com­mu­ni­ca­tion comes quickly fol­low­ing a par­tic­u­lar behav­ior or event (after achiev­ing a lead score thresh­old), and it is well-spaced thereafter

In a B2B sce­nario, how often is your inside sales team able to com­mu­ni­cate with a lead who had expressed an inter­est at a spe­cific point in time? If they wait more than five min­utes from the ini­tial point of inter­est, chances are they are gen­er­ally not very suc­cess­ful in reach­ing the lead. The same goes for B2C exam­ples where leads are gen­er­ated and then fol­lowed up by a call cen­ter. We did a straw poll and found that out of 10 leads, less than 1 was able to be con­tacted, even if the leads were fol­lowed up within 48 hours.

Research shows that the first con­tact attempt should come within five min­utes. (let’s link to the spe­cific study here if pos­si­ble.) Let’s think about this intu­itively, if you’re at work and down­load some infor­ma­tion or fill out a web inquiry form, chances are that you’re in a meet­ing or focused on your next project within an hour. Your down­load or request form infor­ma­tion after an hour is now out of your mind. When I receive calls from some­one fol­low­ing up with me within two to three days and I actu­ally take them, I have to go through a “remind me” rit­ual for them to even con­nect they’re rea­son for call­ing with my pre­vi­ous behav­ior. We’re most likely to reach a per­son within 5 min­utes while they’re still at their desk in a B2B exam­ple or at home in a B2C exam­ple and upon reach­ing them, I guar­an­tee they’ll remem­ber what their behav­ior was to pos­si­bly elicit a call.

Dur­ing the “response” period (the first two weeks after you get an online lead), it is most effec­tive to have attempted to call up to 5 times within the first 24 hours, and to have left one voice mail message.

If no con­tact is made after one to three hours, an email should be sent, with three or four more sent through­out the first two weeks (that may be too many; these are things you’ll want to test).

Through­out the first two weeks, a good follow-up strat­egy includes three dial attempts per day, with a voice mail every three days or so.

Dur­ing the nur­tur­ing period (after the first two weeks), con­sider one email per month and one voice mail per month.

4. Thor­ough — attempts to pen­e­trate thor­oughly and then back off

Good response and lead nur­tur­ing means attempt­ing to reach your poten­tial cus­tomer with the opti­mal fre­quency quickly after an exhib­ited behav­ior with a rel­e­vant offer, but then not pes­ter­ing them if they don’t respond. Then you will con­tinue to tar­get them with per­son­al­ized, rel­e­vant con­tacts over a pro­longed period of time as men­tioned above, per­haps once per month after the two week response period (see Nos. 1 and 2).

5. Auto­mated

When you have a com­pre­hen­sive response and nur­tur­ing sys­tem all in place com­prised of : 1) a mea­sure­ment sys­tem (dis­cussed in the first posts around B2B mea­sure­ment), your auto-dialer, CRM sys­tem, and email/ direct mail sys­tem are all synced, so that you’re not try­ing to do any of this man­u­ally, you’ll be more thor­ough, your com­mu­ni­ca­tions will be well-timed, you’ll be able to be rel­e­vant and per­sonal, and you will waste less time.

Typ­i­cally, sales does not wring the most value from leads because they do not con­tact the lead often enough (3 to 5 attempts rather than 26 or so in the first two weeks), they have low con­tact rates (20% to 50%) and their com­mu­ni­ca­tions are not per­son­al­ized and relevant.

Worse, email com­mu­ni­ca­tions fol­low­ing a sales lead are often, frankly, horrendous.

Have you ever got­ten emails like these? Images are bro­ken, there’s no per­son­al­iza­tion, for­mat­ting is wacky and the offer is irrelevant.

In my next post, I’ll offer a bet­ter solu­tion to the typ­i­cal autore­spon­der email, with sam­ples for both B2B and B2C companies.

2 comments
Joao
Joao

Thank for the post, an automated marketing software really makes a difference. It not only helps you get the lead ready to buy, it also saves time on the menial tasks so that you can spend time on what really counts.

Darin Dixon
Darin Dixon

Excellent point on lead response time. Some people think that aging the lead a little helps, but just as you have stated, we have seen that calling leads within 5 minutes dramatically increases contact rates.