To grow, a business must attract new customers while also retaining old ones. However, this is only part of the story. Businesses that succeed in the market are those which really nurture their leads. Smart businesses spend time and effort on engaging with these leads and developing the most advantageous long term relationship for both parties.
Modern customers are a savvy bunch. They have access to a wide range of information sources and they know what they want and what represents a good deal. Your strategies should speak to this knowledge within your client base, and focus on providing genuine value to your customers at every stage of their lifecycle.
It is this value that will give leads and prospects the confidence required to commit to a sale and – subsequently – to a longer term relationship. A survey published by Digital Information World in 2010 found that 78% of respondents felt that organizations with an active and considered content strategy are more interested in developing mutually beneficial relationships than those who do not.
This underlines the importance of strong lead nurture campaigns in your acquisition and retention drip strategies. Your customers are smart, they know there is no such thing as a free lunch, and they recognize value. You need to deliver that value to them.
Identify the Goal and the Drip Strategy to Match
A lead nurturing campaign can take many forms. The form you select depends on your ultimate goals and on the position of the lead within the acquisition funnel. These can be divided into four distinct categories; engagement, education, retention and closure.
For relatively recent prospects, engagement is an ideal strategy. This lays the groundwork for the beginnings of a positive relationship, and enables the prospect to build up a more profound level of trust in your organization, while also giving you the opportunity to learn more about them.
A positive engagement campaign begins with a welcome email which is basically an introduction to your organization for the prospect. This can be triggered following that first interaction between the lead and your company – for example, downloading content or clicking on an add – or it may just be an email sent out to your mailing list. Follow this up with regular emails, delivering content which may be of interest to the prospect.
Often, this will be the first real point of contact between a lead and the services you can offer, so you need to focus on content targeted at the beginning of your sales funnel. This may include short blog posts or interactive features.
If prospects are to get the very best out of their relationship with you, they need to know about you. To deliver this level of knowledge to a prospective consumer, you can try launching a product or service-specific campaign, which pre-arms the prospect with a detailed knowledge of what you are providing.
As the relationship develops, it is important to continue delivering information to your lead, ensuring that everything they hear regarding your products or services comes from you. If you think that a specific lead could use a specific product or service, make sure that they know about it and how it can help them. More in-depth content which relates directly to the prospect’s own needs is required here, including data-packs, white papers, and user reviews.
The prospect has now moved towards the business end of your acquisition funnel, and so it is time to raise the intensity of the deployed nurturing methods. At this point, you need to be establishing yourself as a true authority in your field and reinforcing the confidence that your prospects have in you.
To do this, third party evidence is required. Pieces of content which express your knowledge and the strength of your products or services may be useful earlier in the funnel, but this now needs to be backed up. Any reviews you have received, any positive interactions with other figures in your industry, any studies that have been conducted relating to your organization; now is the time to deploy these in your content.
Deliver your own interpretation of the data at your disposal and spin the content to highlight anything you want, but remember to provide the prospect with as much third party data as possible, and tailor the content to be the trigger that inspires the conversion.
It is also worth remembering that prestige is very important, particularly when you are working with higher level clients. Publications with strong reputations, respected industry bodies, trade organizations which hold sway in your field; these are the people who you want to be speaking your name, and when they do, you need to be letting your leads know about it.
Of course, closing the deal is only part of the process. A valuable customer is a loyal customer; one whom you can count on for years to come, but how do we focus on retaining these converted clients? The secret is simply to extend your funnel.
Lead nurturing does not stop when the prospect becomes a customer. In many ways, a prospect never truly stops being a prospect, in the sense that they still represent a potential purchase in the future. Your initial interactions following a sale will be similar to the welcome emails you sent right at the beginning of the process, except now the campaign will be focused on support and how your organization can work alongside the customer to achieve the best results.
Consider the client’s field or industry. Do you offer a product or service that could be of use in this sector? Communicate this to the customer. Upselling to provide business with a greatly increased rate of income can be accomplished via continued lead nurturing. This involves bringing together the techniques used in engagement, education and closure, and combining them as you work to develop the relationship.
Build Your Strategy Ahead of Time
- Make sure that your strategy is fully-formed and ready to be rolled-out before it is initiated, ironing out any problems before it is too late.
- Integrate your campaigns with your acquisitions funnel, ensuring that each piece of content is building towards the desired outcome.
- Deploy your knowledge of your leads and prospects and use this to devise the positive outcomes that they require.
There is undoubtedly a certain romance and adrenaline rush associated with improvising your strategy as you go along, but this sort of free-thinking should be restricted to preliminary planning meetings. On the day that you roll-out phase one of your lead nurturing campaign, each component of said campaign should already be mapped out and in place.
Instead of viewing each piece of content on its own, your team should get into the habit of viewing it as a piece of the whole, and viewing the campaign as integral to your lead’s progression from prospect to client. During the planning phase, identify the pain points relevant to the prospect at each stage of their prolonged engagement with your organization, asking questions like “what does the lead need? How can we deliver an effective solution?”
This also gives you and your team the opportunity to learn more about your prospective clients, to discover more about what makes them tick and what motivates them to act, and then devise solutions which will encourage them to convert. As mentioned above, knowledge is a vital part of lead nurturing, and any tactic that can develop your existing knowledge should be deployed effectively.
The ‘Magic Ingredient’
- Focus on demonstrating your worth and authority in the field, highlighting why what you are offering is better than what can be found elsewhere.
- Communicate the genuine value of your services in an effort to encourage conversions. Do not resort to gimmicks and offers.
- Treat your prospects with respect and recognize that you are entering into a mutually-beneficial relationship. Don’t give away the ‘magic ingredient’ but lead into a call to action with each piece of content.
As we have seen, lead nurturing is all about engineering positive outcomes for your organization and for the clients you are trying to attract. The old ‘grab this unbelievable deal while you can’ tactic no longer holds any weight with the smart modern consumer, who will react far more positively when treated with respect. Customers understand that a client-provider relationship is a transactional one, and that the relationship must be developed in a way which provides benefit to both parties.
With this in mind, you need to demonstrate the worth of what you are offering during your initial interactions. If a client senses that the services you are providing are not as worthwhile as those offered by other players in the industry, they will simply go elsewhere. Each piece of content in your lead nurturing strategy should underline your authority in the field, and position you as market-leaders in the public consciousness. However, this requires a tricky balancing act.
These leads and prospects are still only that; they have not yet converted into paying customers and therefore you are under no obligation to provide them anything for free. When you deliver a piece of content to a prospect in your acquisitions funnel, it must demonstrate worth and outline the results to be gained from using your service, but it must also let the lead know that they must become a customer before you deliver the full solution.
This is the ‘magic ingredient,’ the piece of the puzzle that you are offering, and which will transform the business of your client. Provide high quality information, by all means; but ensure that this information leads directly to a call to action.
Unify Your Efforts
- Develop segmented calls to action and landing pages that will meet the specific needs of each group of leads.
- Once the aim has been established, focus on encouraging the prospect towards the optimal outcome.
- Stick to one landing page and CTA for each lead grouping. Do not confuse or discourage prospects with multiple, disparate outcomes.
It is the call to action that represents the critical point of contact between a lead and your organization. Each piece of content must include a call to action, as you unify your efforts in attracting a conversion.
You already have knowledge and information built up on your clients – i.e. what search terms they used to find you, what their desired outcomes are, which pieces of content they have responded to in the past – so put this to use. Design bespoke, or at least specialized, CTAs and landing pages that deliver solutions directly to the groups of leads which need them the most.
However, this is where the variation should end. Once you have established the needs of a lead grouping, and designed the optimal tools to encourage their conversion, pour your efforts into achieving those outcomes in each distinct segment. Nurturing campaigns with numerous CTAs leading to different service packages and products has been shown to confuse prospects and to give the impression that you do not thoroughly understand the prospective client’s needs.
Instead, reinforce the idea that you have appraised their needs and developed the ideal solution, and then focus your campaign on achieving this.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
- Deploy your pre-planned campaigns via automated software to boost efficiency and efficacy across the board.
- Spread out your email communications across your content schedule. This avoids turning off potential leads via excessive ‘spamming.’
- Implement lead scoring systems within the software, helping you to assess where each one is in the process.
With your pre-planned strategy ready for launch, it is wise to use an automated system to deliver your content directly to the prospect. You’ve already saved time by planning the campaigns in advance; this technology now gives you the opportunity to further augment that efficiency and efficacy across the board.
However, with this much power and scope at your fingertips, the temptation to go overboard must be avoided. Striking a balance can be a delicate art; communicate too seldom and your organization will lose its position within the lead’s consciousness, communicate too often and the ‘spam’ you are sending turns the prospect off. Plan a schedule, based on what your clients have responded well to in the past. Usually a drip email every three to six weeks is sufficient and will not have any negative effects.
Automation software also enables you to score each prospect and save the data within the system. This in turn allows your team to understand the stage which each prospect is at, and the steps that need to be taken to encourage a conversion.