Chances are your current marketing plans focus on two important areas – relationships with existing customers and lead generation for new business. Yet there is a ‘space’ between lead and customer, and this space is where companies can make vast gains in growth and profits.
Think of the market place like a banana plantation. Bananas are harvested when they are green and over time ripen to yellow. Some 80% of your sales leads are like green bananas, with only 20% ripe enough for your sales team to convert to customers.
Lead nurturing is the process of ripening prospects so they are ready for the sales team to convert to customers. In the ‘good old days’ it was the salesman’s job to convert leads to customers. It didn’t matter if they wasted 80% of their time on ‘green bananas’. Fair enough, but if leads are simply passed to your sales people or dealers/agents to follow up you could be leaving 80% of your prospects on the table for your competitors. Is that really good business?
Today’s buyers are savvy, more demanding and more cautious. The decision to buy – or change supplier – is not simply about price, it is more about trust. Companies who know this, such as John Lewis Partnership who have reported reported a 13% rise in like-for-like sales during December, continue to demonstrate outstanding sales performance, outperforming the market time and again.
There are five secrets to exceptional sales success:
1. Your prospect is familiar with your company and the products you offer
2. Your prospect perceives your company to be experts in its field
3. The sales person must be seen as a ‘trusted advisor’ who understand the needs of the customer
4. Your prospect believes your company can meet their specific needs
5. Your prospect likes the sales person and your company enough to work with you
Trust has become central to the sales process, and lead nurturing inspires trust. Nurturing is not about a sales person calling the prospect every few months to find out if they are ‘ready to buy’. It’s about winning ‘hearts and minds’ and creating regular and meaningful dialog regardless of where the prospect is in the ‘sales cycle’.
It is a myth that more sales leads equal more sales revenue. Research has shown that the more leads a sales team has, the lower the conversion rate because sales people will focus on the ‘ripe bananas’ – those prospects ready to buy, and neglect the ‘green bananas’ – those that need nurturing. That’s why trade shows and exhibitions sometimes produce disappointing long-term results – a glut of sales leads over three or four days can often lead to poor conversion rates.
Your Lead Nurturing strategy
Companies usually have two marketing objectives – one directed at existing customers and one designed to generate sales leads. Lead nurturing introduces a third strategy, one that converts more prospects into customers, creates strong brand loyalty and drives referral business. It requires a specific process of providing meaningful information using a number of different channels – letter, email, telephone, blog, events and so on.
Some of the content that should be considered includes;
- Company and industry related news and stories
- Expert articles and options written from the company
- Third party articles that might interest the prospect
- Case studies and customer reviews
- Hints and Tips
- Marketing collateral and literature
- Reports, research and White Papers
- Seminars, open days and events
Creating the right blend of method, frequency and content is important. Some companies have automated this with a series of pre-written e-newsletters that are sent on a weekly or monthly basis. Other companies ensure their marketing department produce regular blogs, web content, events and social media content designed to move prospects from ‘green bananas’ to ripe.
Marketing to your existing customers and for lead generation are both essential, but introduce a third strategy and watch all those ripened prospects turn into loyal, high value customers.