Every year thousands of people join fitness centers, hoping they can lose weight, build some muscle or just shake themselves into physically better condition.

So, they work hard for a couple of weeks, check their progress and when they don’t see the desired results they quit.

What very often though, the problem is not in with their training, but what they do between training sessions.

I often see people come to the gym straight from the local Tim Hortons outlet after having fueled up on doughnuts, coffee or other fast food items of dubious quality and almost zero nutritional value.

And I also see people leave the gym and the first thing they do is light a cigarette.

In the gym, they work faithfully and very hard. But they destroy all that progress by what they do between training and eating sessions.

I’ve mentioned this because something similarly sinister is happening in business development.

Businesses are obsessed with generating more sales leads and doing amazing work after the contract is signed, but in between, the lead nurturing process has some serious problems.

And many companies do pay die attention to lead nurturing despite Forrester’s 2014 study that states that companies excel at lead lead nurturing techniques generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost.

But the first question is…

What Is B2B Lead Nurturing, Really?

In gardening, nurturing is the process of guiding and guarding seeds to become happy and healthy full-grown plants that provide high-quality meals to growers.

In business development, lead nurturing is the process of guiding and guarding interested people to become delighted clients that provide high-quality financial and psychological returns to the seller companies.

Guiding is all about taking them by the virtual hands and accompany them along a pre-defined path inside the sales funnel, and guarding is all about shielding them from the possible predation of the competition.

How do we shield them? Well, by providing unique experiences for them, so they don’t leave.

Successful lead nurturing anticipates buyer’s requirements based on their personalities (using demographic and psychographic data) and where they are in the buying process.

At the beginning of the buying process, buyers need more “eye-opening” pieces to help them see their problems from a new perspective.

Then later they need such pieces that help them make decisions as to whether or not your company is the right choice to do business with.

In Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, author Brian Carroll reports that the typical B2B sales cycle can be anywhere between 9 and 36 months.

Such a long nurturing period has to be planned quite carefully.

So, in this article, we look at seven techniques to stay in touch.

1. Be Generous With Touch Points

On average, as per Aberdeen Group’s Marketing Lead Management Report, prospects need 10 touches to make their first purchases, and pay attention only to every third touch message.

This means you have to send out 30 touch messages to provide those 10 touch points for your leads.

Yes, it’s a bit long in the tooth, but this is the B2B world of high-priced and inbound sales

While you may look at it as a challenge because it takes quite a bit of time and work, it’s great news because, as reported in the 2015 Lead Nurturing Benchmark Study, 49% of marketers offer fewer than five touch messages in their lead nurturing programs, barely budging their leads from their start points.

Kendra Lee of the KLA Group warns against sending touch message emails more often than three days apart. Too many emails in a short space of time can overwhelm buyers and they back off altogether.

So, based on your buyer persona, map out the buyer’s journey inside your sales funnel, and then start listing what type of content you will use to take buyers to their buying decision points.

If you know the buyer’s neurolinguistic submodalities (Visual, auditory or kinesthetic), then you can further fine-tune the way of delivering your content (video, audio, hard copy).

2. Send Your Messages To Specific People Through Personalization

As it turns out form the Experian Email Marketing Study is that personalized messages generate 6-times higher revenues than general messages.

While email is the most effective channel for lead nurturing, without personalization, even the best channel can easily become a dud.

Similarly, with personalization, both on- and off-line lead touches can be very effective. You can set up nurturing pieces for various trigger actions, like…

  • Downloaded of gated content
  • Had just bought something
  • Had vanished
  • Clicked through one of your emails
  • Webinar registration
  • Checked specific web or blog pages
  • Read specific product/service sales pages
  • Cart abandonment
  • E-zine
  • Had interacted with you via social media
  • Sign-up
  • Free-trial sign-up
  • Webinar attendance

Also, there is a concept Michael Roderick of Small Pond Enterprises calls the TCM index. It stands for Time, Connection and Money.

Your lead has a deficit in one of the areas.

Find out where your lead has his specific deficit, and address that specific deficit in your messages. You can’t help a time-deprived lead by offering him money or high-value connections.

The best message is when you mix personalization and the person’s TCM deficit into behaviour-based emails.

But note though that the lead’s TCM deficit is hard to find out. If you’re not sure, then don’t address it.

3. Lead Nurture Both Online and Offline

Many marketers complain that their email open rates are limited to a certain number. Yes, every channel has its own “typical numbers” that are hard or even impossible to exceed. It’s about 20% online. And MarketingSherpa reports that only 21% of leads ever turn into sales.

Then it’s time for to go beyond the email inbox and go off-line.

People are flooded with email but receive snail mail pieces only once in a blue moon.

It means off-line pieces get more attention.

And this is the kind of attention you want to use. This is undivided attention because even if your lead receives three snail pieces one day, two of them are bills from some utility companies and yours is the only piece that stands out.

It stands out with its unassuming nature…

  • Letter sized envelope, so letter fits in unfolded or a half-letter sized envelope, so letter fits in folded only once.
  • Letter is signed in blue ink. Don’t ask me why, but works better than any other colour.
  • Real stamps
  • Hand-addressed envelope
  • No company name only your name and address as return address

Alternatives

  • Jiffy envelope with some tangible three-dimensional items inside. A few weeks ago, I got a letter with a little M1 Ambram tank inside, and a message, “Like an M1 Ambram tank, poor SEO could blow your website to Kingdom Come faster than you can say booooom!!!”
  • Over the years, I’ve tried pebbles, corks, dice, pink bunnies, toy soldiers, etc. and they work pretty consistently. It may look silly, but it breaks up the routine of the day and make the super-busy and super-stressed recipient smile a bit.

4. Score Your Leads Correctly

In 2013, the Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness Study reported that 68% of successful marketers regarded lead scoring the most lucrative technique to turn leads into client and revenue.

What is interesting is that as per Marketing Sherpa, a whopping 89% of marketers don’t use lead scoring, which also means they organize their lead nurturing process in a haphazard way.

But what is lead scoring really?

It’s a process of ranking your sales leads, their characters and behaviours against predefined attributes of, so from the ocean of pre-screened sales leads your inbound marketing brings you, you can further screen sales leads and decide whether or not and how you want to follow up with them.

For instance, one lead may be interested in a $50 e-book but the other one may be interested in a 5-6-figure highly customized service.

They score differently and need different stay-in-touch processes.

Most marketing automation programs have built-in lead scoring, and they can score lead s based on specific behaviours.

That score play a significant role in the type of follow-up the lead receives.

5. Time Your Touch Points And Message

As it was published in the Harvard Business Review, it turns out that many companies shoot themselves in the foot by being slow to respond to inquiries.

James B. Oldroyd, Kristina McElheran and David Elkington report in their article, The Short Life of Online Sales Leads that the average response time to inquiries was 42 hours.

  • The fastest companies (26.15% of the surveyed companies) responded within 5 minutes.
  • The last but slowest companies (24%) responded after 25 hours.
  • And the slowest companies (22.85%) didn’t respond art all.

So, what’s the difference?

The 5-minute response creates 21-times higher rate of qualification that 30-minute response.

It also means that if you sell high-priced solutions and you have high CLTV (client lifetime value), then it’s worth having some highly-skilled people in your office who can instantly deal with incoming inquiries and then can collaborate with marketing on follow-up.

Yes, marketing could automate the whole process, but the whole point is that if these are high-value leads with possible high-value purchases down the road, they don’t want to end up in an automated email labyrinth.

You have to create a stay-in-touch process that is a good blend of artisanal and automated.

This is neither cheap nor easy, but you don’t do it for everyone. You do it for select leads with high potential.

6. Lead Nurturing Must Include Selling

According to CSO Insight’s 2014 Sales Performance Optimization Study, 89% of the companies that successfully align marketing and sales in their lead nurturing report measurable increase in new opportunities.

For many companies, lead nurturing is a never-ending dispensation of information without ever asking to go to the next stage, that is, making a buying decision.

Lead nurturing must be a means to an end. And the end must be that the lead either turns into a client or not.

The important point is that a no must be an acceptable answer.

The reason why many prospects fear salespeople is because many of them don’t take no for an answer and push hard for the sale.

In many cases, the problems are when marketing hands over sales leads to sales and after a lukewarm lead nurturing process, the lead meets a bulldog of a salesperson. It’s a total disappointment.

Technique #7: Match Leads With Content

Good inbound marketing is really about 6 Rs

  1. Getting the Right content…
  2. To the Right people…
  3. With the Right intention…
  4. Through the Right media…
  5. At the Right time…
  6. To achieve the Right response…

In order to achieve that, you have to align your content with the person who receives that content.

So, realistically, we have a few more things to match than content and recipient, but those matches come after the content is persona matched.

And remember that even slight mismatches can cause major problems in how your leads experience the content you send them.

In fact, according to Forrester Research, 33% of B2B companies regard content-lead match, that is, “targeted content delivery”, as their greatest lead nurturing headache.

One key point of making a good match is to understand your buoying personas and their buying cycles.

So, if you have, say, three buyer personas, then you have to match the above six criteria three times in order to design three matching buyer journeys and have the highest probability of turning those buyers into clients.

Summary

We know from the Corporate Executive Board that buyers delay their meetings with salespeople as long as they possibly can.

On average, there are 5.4 buyers in a B2B deal and buyers are more than halfway through their decision-making process, 57% exactly, when they are first willing to talk to salespeople. Some experts predict this number to be 84% by 2020.

With these fact in mind, it’s really the best nurturing process that wins.

There is no doubt, the B2B client acquisition can be pretty hostile to unsuspecting sellers who try to use old-fashioned client acquisition approaches.

This new client acquisition terrain requires new approaches, and inbound marketing with good lead nurturing is really one of the best ways to approach this new era of landing new business.