If you are using email as part of your lead nurturing effort, you can move your prospects along to the various stages in the sales process – or you can just let them run in circles. It all comes down to your offer strategy.
The sales lead process changed almost overnight with the development of email as a marketing tool.
In the past, the division of responsibility was clear. Marketing developed leads. Sales handled the follow-up.
Lead nurturing was entirely in the hands of the sales people.
Some marketers would implement a follow-up sales letter series, a postcard series or a printed newsletter, but they were few and far between. And these efforts would often die out prematurely because of a lack of time and resources.
Establishing a foundation for lead nurturing
Today though, most organizations have an email lead nurturing program in place. It’s not always the most sophisticated process. It might be a monthly newsletter or occasional email blasts to the list. But it’s something.
These programs often work side by side with the sales effort. Their job is to keep the company name in front of prospects with continued advertising and brand-building. At the same time, sales is operating independently with its own lead nurturing process.
This is not a bad strategy as long as you accept the fact that marketing and sales are not working together.
But is it the best way to use marketing – or sales, for that matter?
Instead of giving all leads to sales, wouldn’t it make more sense to hand over only those leads that are sales-ready? Or at least those that have shown a higher level of interest?
If you are giving the sales team all of the leads, isn’t it likely that more of those leads will fall through the cracks or won’t get the attention they need?
I think most would agree that giving sales higher quality leads is a good thing. So how do you do this?
You focus on the offer
In direct response – regardless of media – the quantity and quality of your response is determined by the offer. High-interest offers generate more response than low-interest offers. Offers that require low commitment will generate more response than offers that require high commitment. Pretty obvious, yes, but a very important factor in direct response.
In developing a lead generation program, we typically look for high interest and low commitment offers – like white papers, special reports and how-to guides. The commitment level is usually very minimal – little more than a name and email address.
But when you get to the lead nurturing stage, you have a decision to make about the types of offers you want to use.
You could continue to offer more white papers, special reports and how-to guides. Many take this approach especially when they are facing a long sales cycle. In fairness, this approach does strengthen your reputation and help to cement your connection with your prospects.
But here’s the catch: When you keep using the same types of offers over and over, your prospects are not moving up the ladder to the next step in the sales process.
They are just running in circles.
Higher level offers
To move your prospects along to the next step in the sales process, you need to offer something that reflects that stage in the process.
Something like a webinar or teleseminar. Why? Because webinars and teleseminars require a time commitment on the part of the prospect. If an individual is willing to sit through a 60-minute webinar, that shows a higher commitment than simply downloading a free report.
At this point, you could send all your webinar leads off to sales, or you could continue to market to move your prospects even further.
For example, you could contact the webinar attendees and offer some type of one-on-one consultation, strategy session or diagnostic meeting. This would be an opportunity for you to explore the needs of your prospect and for your prospect to learn more about your capabilities.
Let me give you some hypothetical numbers to help illustrate how this might work:
If you have 100 leads ==> offer webinar (20% respond),
you have 20 webinar attendees ==> offer one-on-one consultations (20% respond)
you have 4 participants ==> submit proposal (25% respond)
you have 1 new customer
When you start this program, your numbers will be small and you may be disappointed with your overall results.
But over time, the number of leads in your house list will accumulate and you will start to generate more productive results.
Remember, if 20% of your leads respond to a webinar, you still have 80% you can go back to next month in addition to the new leads you generate that month.
There is no question that any type of email follow-up is going to help your sales team. But with the right offer strategy in place, you can develop a lead nurturing program that moves your leads along in the sales process – even before your leads get turned over to sales.
Written by Bob McCarthy
This article may be reprinted without permission as long as the article includes the following credit: Bob McCarthy is a freelance copywriter and consultant specializing in direct marketing and lead generation. His website is www.mccarthyandking.com. He can be reached at 508-473-8643 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org