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