It’s 2015. The marketing word of the year is Nurture.
Nurturing is one of the most effective, yet underutilized, activities in the sales and marketing process. Of the few companies that do try to incorporate nurturing programs—well, let’s just say they could use some help. This topic is of such importance, I reached out to fellow industry leaders and asked them to share their outlook on lead nurturing programs (and processes) and what to expect in the coming year.
This is part two of a two-part blog. (Click here to catch up on part one.)
The remaining five had some great feedback too:
Jim Obermayer, Executive Director of the Sales Lead Management Association, never disappoints with his wealth of knowledge in sales and marketing:
Nurturing (originally called drip irrigation) surfaced from the first sales lead management companies (Mike Simon at Inquiry Handling Service) because follow-up by sales reps was (and continues to be) dismal. The creators of this process reasoned that because reps did not do the necessary follow-up, it was easy to mail additional information in intervals to keep and create more interest. Telemarketing jumped into the system when a large recession devastated their business model of lead generation, and appointment setting was not enough to keep them going. So they began to sell follow-up as a tool to mix with mail. Email surfaced with the internet and the mixture of mail, calling and email became a standard for nurture models.
At each step of the improved process, research showed that when attention was given to the prospects and they were contacted, sales improved. People tried various combinations of email, mail, and calling. Early research for the first book on managing sales leads had “did-you-buy” research which showed that sales increased from 30-50% or more for those companies that placed just a single call to prospects.
Marketing became further educated when they asked sales about the customer buying process and the sales selling process. And when each product was found to have a typical buying time frame (start to finish—however many day or months), nurturing was tuned to the customer’s buying cycle. If it took six months to make a typical B2B sale, the nurturing process now had a timeframe for performance.
Enter the databasing process of recording customer preferences for product, size, cost, shape, color, application, etc. The nurture process became more defined, and marketing automation systems emerged as the controlling mechanism for nurturing based on time and customer preferences. Marketing automation companies, not surprisingly, make claims of sales increases of 200-300% by using their nurture systems.
Everything that has occurred in the last few years has been the result of fine-tuning the customer’s need for information (less need for product education and more need for answering questions). With the pressure of the last mega-recession, fewer people in purchasing, and the availability of product information, buyers now have a need for a different type of nurturing. The time frame for purchasing may not have changed on the buyer’s end, but the time frame for response and the sale closing has been reduced on the seller’s end. The selling is just getting to process later in the cycle.
Dave Stein, B2B Sales Consultant, provides a strictly sales perspective:
Coming from the perspective of a sales guy, the most effective nurturing approaches I’ve seen and heard about are HubSpot-driven. Precise tracking of what email links the prospects click, website pages they visit, how long they stay, and, most importantly, having a system that customizes the nurturing for them based on the criteria just mentioned. For example, if I’m interested in the underlying technology of your product, not the user interface, I’ll most likely be “better-nurtured” if you serve me up emails, white papers, and landing pages focused on technology. Case in point: I keynoted at a conference last year where another presenter was the CMO of a very large systems integration company. His lead nurturing program did precisely that. And the performance metrics underscored how successful that program was.
It’s been well-established that following a pragmatic, documented sales process supports more efficient and effective selling. Yet so many companies fail to achieve their targets because they don’t require compliance with a sales process. It’s not the next new “trick.” It’s making certain you’re leveraging what has been proven to work.
Chris Tratar, Vice President of Product Marketing at SAVO, emphasizes the need for personalization:
Lead nurturing has never been about a one-size-fits-all approach. But now, organizations are trying to get even more targeted and specific with their initiatives to more effectively nurture prospects and customers wherever they are in the cycle. By leveraging business intelligence and analytics solutions such as Lattice Engines, sales organizations are able to know precisely what targets they want to go after. Thus, the strategy for effectively engaging and nurturing that segment is set well before the campaigns are even launched for maximum effectiveness.
We’re also seeing a greater mix of human intervention in nurturing campaigns coming down the pipe. Sales organizations will continue to rely on automated lead nurturing, but the part that will change into a more hybrid model is where reps get engaged with a prospect or customer once they hit a certain critical moment in the buying cycle. Reps will begin stepping in and adjusting how the prospect is handled, and defining where they are/should be in the nurture process. For instance, a middle step may be added for people who aren’t yet ready to buy. Instead of sending them back to the beginning of the nurturing cycle, they’ll be placed in the middle of the campaign so the follow-up time isn’t as long.
Josiane Feigon, President of TeleSmart, says the responsibility of nurturing lies with sales:
I believe salespeople need to take stronger control of the lead nurturing process and not rely on marketing for this. Lead nurturing must be as easy as a one sentence email alerting the prospect of a new infographic or a short video they can watch. It strengthens the relationship and personalization bond.
Chad Burmeister, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at ConnectAndSell, advocates the power of the phone for nurturing. (As do I!):
Voice nurturing! Emails often get lost. They “pitch” products and carry no trust (20% written word is trusted vs. 90% via phone). By using automated sales acceleration technology, voice nurture is finally possible to guarantee that sales professionals can talk to their prospects on a regular basis to establish trust, build value, and sell more.
Combining voice nurture with email is the Holy Grail for sales and marketing and is now possible with whole solutions like OutboundOnDemand and PointClear!
So there you have it. Eleven sales & marketing experts on the importance of lead nurturing. In order to maximize revenue, you must have an effective nurturing strategy in place. If you’ve already got one, how’s it working for you? It’s time to evaluate.