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Building A Successful Lead Nurturing Campaign

By: dev | October 24, 2013 | 
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Lead Nurturing

By Jason Konopinski

The cornerstone to the success of any organization are leads.

They feed the pipeline of proposals, contracts, and cashed checks.

If you know someone is investigating your product or service, you can contact them directly, deliver your most well-crafted and benefits-oriented pitch, and use your conversational and negotiation skills to close the sale, and ink the contract.

But there’s an elephant in the room. Too often, organizations are focused on the quick-turn transactional sale and not all leads are created equal.

Lead Nurturing

One of the assumptions marketers often make about web analytics and traffic is that website visitors enter the sales funnel at the top and move neatly from one step to the next, ideally making a purchase decision that nets you or your organization the sale.

They believe, perhaps foolishly, the traditional sales funnel translates easily from offline to online activities. Load up the top of the funnel with unqualified prospects and *voila* – sales fall out the bottom.

The problem with this reasoning is website visitors rarely follow a linear purchase pattern, moving in and out of the sales funnel at various stages.

The model is still useful for visualizing ways in which we can focus our efforts on optimizing the path to purchase, but it doesn’t fully reflect the modern buyer, one armed with open access to information and searching savvy.

A recent study by Latitude found 87 percent of consumers now travel a less linear pathway to final purchase, and paths to purchase may require more steps. Technology has influenced our buying processes, and the modern marketer needs to realign their tactics to align with this new purchase consideration cycle.

You’ve done the hard work to optimize your website with just that right mix of keywords, created valuable educational content for the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel, and converted a decent portion of your web traffic into a list of leads.

Now what? You need a well-planned and thoughtfully executed nurturing campaign to cultivate those leads into customers and/or clients.

What is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is communicating consistent and meaningful touches with viable prospects to keep your business top-of-mind when it’s time to buy. It’s relationship building via email. Full stop.

By helping prospects understand the value of the work you do, educating them about options, and arming them with the knowledge to make an informed decision, you’re making it easier for them to say “yes” to your offer.

Like a seedling just put into the soil, a captured lead needs a little TLC before it’s ready to bear the fruit of a sale. And just like overwatering and too much sun will kill a seedling, too much attention can leave a captured lead with a bad taste in their mouth — and they’ll go running for the hills.

Set Your Goals

Focused and effective lead nurturing campaigns aren’t born out of nothing. They’re built on specific, tangible goals and deliver unique content drips to lists segmented on behavior.

Leading with a goal will direct the entire campaign — who is receiving the email drip (audience), which assets you are delivering to them via email (content), and the metrics you’ll be using to determine the success of your campaign.

Trying to wake up a dormant list? Generate a whole new slew of leads? Increase the overall quality of your leads?  Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

Know Your Audience

Until you know who you are trying to reach and the business problem you are helping to solve, you’re shooting in the dark. Think about pain points, how your audience views the world, the things that annoy them, and how your product or services makes their life easier.

Buyer personas will help you create valuable, relevant content — and now you can deliver personalized content assets to every single one of your leads in a way that will resonate with them.

Map Content for Personalization

A complete nurture program maps content, offers, and messages into specific segments. The core function of any lead nurturing campaign is education, but you have to deliver the right content at the right time. A lead who downloads a worksheet is top-of-the funnel, so don’t make the mistake of offering bottom-of-the-content such as a free trial or product demo in the very first email you send.

When I sit down to map out a campaign into specific nurture flows, I fire up diagramming software such as Gliffy, identifying the triggers and pathways that brings a lead into the system, and charting out the content, offers, and messages they’ll receive once they are there.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Content-centric lead nurturing isn’t set-and-forget. You won’t know how your campaign is performing unless you have the metrics to tie it back to specific goals. A nurture campaign designed to reinforce branding and awareness can use direct traffic as a success metric.

If you’re looking instead to increase conversions, click-through data from content downloads is your golden goose — and they’ll tell you which content pieces are working and which need a tweak. Building your email newsletter subscriptions? Measure the increase in opt-ins against the lead nurturing campaigns.

Just remember the golden rule of lead nurturing: Like nearly everything in digital marketing, it’s all about relationships.

Meaningful relationships take time and effort to cultivate from those scraggly little seedlings fighting for light into something heavy with fruit — and you have to go into lead nurturing knowing that you’ll never get 100 percent yield.

Some relationships — and leads — never fully flourish, so prune them away and focus on the ones that matter.

15 comments
alanbr82
alanbr82

Nice post Jason, I agree with you about triggers and touches. Not all sales are the same many require several touch points and followups. Sure price matters but it is not the end all be all if within reason.

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benkunz
benkunz

Good post, Jason. Except for one big thing. "Lead nurturing is ... relationship building via email. Full stop." Email? Yes, email is a common tactic, but it's only one tiny tool in nurturing prospect relationships to the point where they become higher quality leads, then customers. You can also use direct mail, digital display retargeting, Facebook retargeting, phone calls, sushi lunches, and beer over conversations under the stars on bar rooftops at SXSW. Perhaps you meant this, but I would suggest real lead nurturing requires using all possible touchpoints, with the most human ones directed at your highest quality leads. Now, this of course would be prohibitively expensive for hundreds of thousands of consumer prospects. But not every prospect is created equal. Forecasting tools that determine customer potential LTV could allow the top decile of prospects to be invited (via direct mail, letter, phone, even in person) to a special offer to pull them forward. For good examples, look at financial services (where prospects have huge value skews), high-end auto brands, luxury goods, or even common office supply companies that have a dramatic value-skew in their prospects (where one person might order one pen and another $20,000 of supplies for the entire office). The greater the valuation differential in the prospect base, the more using all touchpoints, especially human contacts, makes sense. Thanks for the thought-provoking post. 

Matt_Cerms
Matt_Cerms

@jasonkonopinski "Think about pain points, how your audience views the world, the things that annoy them, and how your product or services makes their life easier." 

Really nicely said, Jason! To get to the core of these issues, we have to be sociologists, and not just creatives.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

Fantastic post Jason, thanks for sharing some insight on what it takes to build and cultivate quality leads with the hope of eventually turning them into sales. I think the Gliffy link you provided needs to be corrected? I will check out that platform though, it looks pretty cool!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I was just about to click Purchase and decided  I had better run this through my Amazon Price Check App and found a better price elsewhere at the Chris Voss Show. Tell @ginidietrich I am sorry but price matters. Plus I got double adventure points with the Chris Voss Club Card Special this week which one day will allow me to get a free t-shirt.

jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

@benkunz Ben! Thanks for swinging by --- and you're right, there's a whole side of nurturing relationships that extends beyond email. Email is the tactic with which I'm most familiar and proficient, so that's my frame of reference. As you rightly point out, using all the channels (digital and offline) is expensive. 

I have lots of research to do with Facebook retargeting especially. 

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jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

@Matt_Cerms Thanks! If you do the work of researching and building out buyer personas, your messaging will be that much more effective. "Getting" consumer behavior is very much an exercise in amateur sociology. :) 

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jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

@Liz @Howie Goldfarb @ginidietrich Copied this comment over from FB: 

Sorry, Liz, didn't mean to sound dismissive. That's what I get for trying to do too many things at once. 


My Habit and Fab are doing very, very well -- and I especially love how Fab jettisoned people from their lists that weren't opening their email
s after a period of time. They're certainly paying attention to how their customers are behaving. B2C brands are better positioned to deliver content assets to prospects compared to B2C. Someone buying clothing isn't going to download a white paper or register for a webinar from Tommy Hilfiger -- nor should they. The content drip (if any) will be very different.

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Liz
Liz

@jasonkonopinski @Howie Goldfarb @ginidietrich I am with Howie here. When you overthink the proposition, you may come away disappointed.  And whie I agree with many of the points that you make, I start to fade with the contention that marketers have to be prepared for the agonizing purchase decision process and plan accordingly. I disagree. The best examples that come immediately to mind are sites like My Habit or Fab. I click on a link and go right to the section that interests me at any given time and more oft than not, I make a purchase. The faith in the product delivery was built over time but consistent quality is what draws me in repeatedly, as does knowing ahead of time that I'll get value for my money. I am doubtful that the folks who run either of these commerce sites believe in the purchase consideration cycle. Make it more complicated than it needs to be and you've lost a customer before you're out the door. Nice stuff Jason. 

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jasonkonopinski
jasonkonopinski

@Howie Goldfarb For CPG, that absolutely holds. There's little need for a company like Congra or Kraft to employ lead nurturing because of their visibility in the marketplace. I'm going to buy Kraft Mac n' Cheese because it's delicious -- and any opt-in offers employed on their site are going to be about customer retention vs. acquisition. @ginidietrich 

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