How to Build and Maintain Lead Nurturing Systems For Your Business

If you’re interested in selling anything online, then you already know about the importance of lead conversion. Simply put, all the traffic in the world won’t matter if you can’t turn at least some of your visitors into paying customers. That’s why it’s important that you develop a lead nurturing process that optimizes your conversion rates and turns tire-kickers into buyers.

The Importance of Lead Nurturing

It’s certainly important to generate leads for your business, but the process doesn’t stop there. Nurturing a lead begins immediately after conversion, according to HubSpot’s Lead Nurturing Manager Niti Shah (@NitiFromBoston). Once you’ve got a list of contacts who’ve expressed an interest in your product or service, it’s time to begin the lead nurturing process, for the purpose of converting them into marketing qualified leads (MQL).

Why? Because you want only the hottest leads to go to your sales team. Good management practice dictates that you don’t waste your employees’ time. You can ensure their productivity by providing them with only the most qualified candidates. They’ll spend their time following up on people who have a genuine interest in your product or service as opposed to people who are just window shopping.

Further, lead nurturing is a process that often converts previously reluctant buyers into customers. It’s a professional hand-holding technique that, if done right, contributes directly to your bottom line. It’s effectively a closing technique that’s drawn out over a period of days, weeks, or even months.

Lead Nurturing via Email

In this digital age, one of the best ways to transform curious onlookers into paying customers or clients is with the aid of something that we all use every day: email.

Start the nurturing process by putting your leads into an email list. Obviously, you’ll want to do this with their consent or your business will generate some bad will very quickly. One of the best ways to get a customer to opt in to your email list is to offer something free to download. Ask the person to fill out a simple form that includes his or her email address so that you can email the link for the download.

Also, feel free to use an attention-getting popup on your website that uses a tempting call to action. Remember, you need to advertise to your visitors how they personally benefit from becoming a part of your email list. Otherwise, they’re going to see the word “SPAM” all over your popup.

Finally, add an opt-in form at a couple of different locations throughout your site so that visitors who’ve ignored your popup still have a chance to sign up if they change their mind later on. You also might gain a few sign-ups from people who closed your popup out of a matter of habit.

Lead Nurturing Solutions

There are numerous ways that you should nurture your leads. None of them are mutually exclusive, so feel free to employ every means at your disposal.

One of the best tools for lead nurturing is an outstanding customer relationship management (CRM) application, which is the foundation of your marketing technology “stack” according to marketing technologist Travis Wright (@teedubya). High quality CRM software will give you everything you need to know about your leads right at your fingertips, including important information such as the last time each lead was contacted, a score for each lead, and relevant contact information. CRM software will also automate certain mundane tasks to give you a more productive sales force.

Along with high quality CRM software, you should also have an email autoresponder at your disposal. That’s a tool that allows you to email a standardized, yet somewhat personalized, marketing pitch to the people on your email list. A great autoresponder will not only facilitate mass emailing for you, but it will also provide you with forms that you can use to give your emails a professional appearance. A quality responder will also keep track of important analytics such as open and bounce rates. There’s a perennial raging debate among Internet marketers about which email autoresponder offers the best service. Suffice it to say that Aweber, MailChimp, and GetResponse usually end up in varying positions as the top three contenders.

Last but not least, you should also have a comprehensive automated marketing system that helps you foster a better relationship with your leads. It should include:

  • an inbound marketing solution that streamlines your content marketing,
  • a search engine optimization utility that helps your amazing content get found,
  • a platform that’s used to host the free downloads you’re offering,
  • website personalization for specific leads, and
  • automatic notification when your visitors have a look at your pricing page.

However, the most important part of any automated marketing solution is that it tracks your leads. Your software should have the ability to identify unique visitors and follow them throughout the sales process. That’s how you’ll know where each customer is at in the sales funnel and tailor fit your marketing efforts accordingly.

Keep in mind that great marketing automation software not only offers excellent lead nurturing opportunities, but also provides analytics so that you can measure the success of your digital marketing tactics. Key metrics should easily be viewable in graph form so that you can see how well your latest campaigns have performed over time.

Also, great marketing automation software will offer sophisticated deployment technology that will enable you to rapidly put a landing page or complete website into production so that you can start earning money immediately. That’s a great benefit for marketing-savvy but technically challenged professionals who want to get a professionally designed web page online quickly.

Some of the more popular automated marketing solutions are offered by HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and Rainmaker.

Email List Segmentation

It’s great to build an email list. However, it’s even better to build a series of segmented lists consisting of leads who are interested in a specific product or service that you’re offering, says marketing entrepreneur Matt Paulson (@MatthewDP) in his book Email Marketing Demystified.

For example, if your company offers shirts for sale, wouldn’t it be great to segment your leads into groups of people who are interested in a specific type of shirt? In that case, you would have one email list for men interested in men’s dress shirts, another for women interested in blouses, and so on.

Keeping segmented email lists is important because you’ll be able to target your marketing efforts to leads based on their particular interests. You’ll find that targeted email marketing gives you a superior conversion rate over more generic email blasts that are sent out to everyone on one big email list.

If you’re using quality marketing automation software, it’s likely that the platform will segment your leads for you. Also, your automation software can put your leads into specific email lists depending on where they landed on your website. In other words, email list segmentation is something that you shouldn’t have to do manually.

Sales Funnel Best Practices

Your marketing automation platform should also segment your leads based on their location within the sales funnel. That’s because your marketing message will vary based on where they are in the overall sales process. Your sales funnel should typically have a minimum of three different stages, according to Insight Squared’s Gareth Goh (@Gareth_giggs). People at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel will require a different approach and a marketing tactic suited to their position:

  • At the top of the sales funnel, you’re starting out with an effort to build trust. Point to your website’s blog as an example that you’re an authority within your niche. In your email marketing, include quotations from people who’ve benefited from your product or service. If household name companies are among your customers, be sure to mention that so that you can quickly build trust with the contact. Finally, don’t be afraid to throw out a “hard close” offering to someone at the top of the funnel. You might get a conversion earlier than you expected.
  • When your leads have moved down to the middle of the sales funnel, it’s time to continue to build brand awareness. This is when you send out the “Hey, don’t forget about us” emails so that people who are legitimately interested in your offerings, but are very busy, will be reminded about your company. Also, entice the middle-of-the-funnel prospects to revisit your site with more free offerings.
  • Finally, when your leads are at the bottom of the funnel, it’s time to seal the deal. This is where you’ll analyze your competitors and find out what they’re offering that you aren’t. If you can’t find any difference, then you become the competitive advantage by sweetening the offering with an additional incentive. Also, include in your marketing emails some relevant statistics about how your company “just” helped another business with a problem and provide a testimonial if you have one. As always, include a specific, targeted call to action so that your lead has the opportunity to quickly close the sale.

Wrapping it Up

Lead nurturing is essential to maximizing your profitability. Statistics show that 74% of top-performing companies use automated lead nurturing, according to Act-On Marketing Software (@ActOnSoftware). Among average- or less-performing companies that use marketing automation, 2/3 fail to leverage the platform’s lead nurturing capabilities. (Gleanster, Nurture Marketing for the Overwhelmed Marketer, Mar 2013)

The take-away from this is if you adopt a lead nurturing system, you’ll find that your business will see a superior conversion rate, improved outreach, a better relationship with customers or clients, increased brand awareness, and additional goodwill. All of that translates into additional bottom-line income and increased value for your business.