This morning I decided it was time to look into upping our company’s brand monitoring game. I did some quick Google searches, settled on a company that looked like the top option, checked out the pricing page, and requested a demo.
I received an email immediately, thanking me for my interest and asking me to choose a time that works with my schedule for a personal consultation. Done.
I was a motivated buyer. I knew what I wanted, had a short window to make a decision, and was hoping that the 15 minute demo would tell me most of what I needed to know.
But as marketers, we don’t always get so lucky with leads. What if I didn’t know exactly what I needed? What if I started researching ways to monitor a company’s brand and perhaps downloaded an an informational guide about what parts of the brand are important to monitor? What if I had signed up that I was interested in a demo but never scheduled it?
These are the cases where companies need to be nurturing their leads. Lead follow-through is fundamental to a standard sales process but it’s just not getting done (sufficiently) in digital marketing. In fact, 27% of digital leads are never contacted AT ALL according to a study by Harvard Business Review.
These are people who have come to a company’s website and shown some sort of interest in what they are doing. And no one is checking in (even in an automated way) to say, “Hey! Thanks for stopping by! Let me know how I can help.”
Think of all of the time (and money) we spend on optimizing incremental increases to get the leads to convert in the first place (conversion rate optimization) and then ... what, they just fall of the face of the earth? Time to wipe our hands of them. Game over.
Come on marketers. We’re better than that!
The marketer’s job does not end at “click.” That’s actually when you should be bringing in the big guns! And it doesn’t have to be hard, or incredibly time intensive. There are a few lead nurturing etiquette practices that you can start following today to close in on that very sad 27%.
First, Map Your Persona and Buyer’s Journey
You know the drill. How can you nurture a lead from point A to point B if you don’t know what those points are? It’s extremely important in all digital marketing, but especially lead nurturing, to have a thorough understanding of the buyer’s journey.
There are a ton of free buyer’s journey templates online. Take a look and see which one answers all the important questions for your buyers’ process. Just make sure it includes the key points:
the buyer’s motivations and fears,
language they would use at this stage,
questions and concerns, and
I really like this one from Kula Partners which maps out what the customer is doing, thinking and feeling. This map helps to create a picture of the complete process a potential buyer takes from start to finish, and everything in between.
Don’t forget about personas, either! Personas will help you craft the right message, for the right audience, at the right time. They will help you build more detail into your buyers’ journeys – particularly when it comes to the language that you should be using. And, as we will cover in the coming sections, lead nurturing is all about two things: timing and language.
Timing, My Dear, Is Everything
Immediacy. That’s what you have to work with when it comes to lead nurturing. Not a day or two, not even an hour or two. An immediate response to a lead causes a 341% increase in lead-to-customer conversion. And it drops off like a Mount Everest cliff from there.
So that’s our goal – immediate responses. But how, do you ask, can we immediately respond to hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of customers? Marketing automation, baby. Get technology to do the work for you. Find a system that allows you to set up if-this-than-that workflows so that the machines do (part of) your job for you.
There are a ton of marketing automation platforms out there at a range of price points. Do your homework and find out which system fulfills your needs. There is a lot more to lead nurturing, however, than just cut and dry automation – so let’s keep going.
Lead Nurturing and Personalization
One of the most important things to consider when sending something automated is to keep it personal. Millions of pieces of content are put online everyday – making it harder and harder for you to stand out.
Adding personalization to your content shows your readers that you’ve gone the extra mile to show you appreciate their attention. It also helps you ensure you with that all-important goal of sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
This all is possible with automated workflows. Also known as 'if this happens, than do that.'
If a person has been to your website and has already subscribed to the blog, you could be missing out on helping nurture that lead further down the funnel by feeding the same old call to action. Instead, make sure that the next step in the funnel is called out.
Automated (smart) website pages will allow you to serve new CTAs to visitors who have already clicked in CTAs earlier in the journey. You can even have your website welcome a visitor for coming back. You can’t really get much more personal than that.
Personalization will help you to convert more leads and increase your ROI by helping your content stand out and ensuring your leads see timely information to assist their decision-making.
The same thing goes for your emails. Help your emails work for you by setting up next steps when the lead follows the path that you want them to (or doesn’t). Provide them the information they need at the right time that they need it.
Emails are a tricky business, however, because you are entering your reader’s personal territory. Readers are coming to your space when you publish a blog on your website. You have to be even more conscientious when you are sending something to theirs. Segmentation, timing, and content of an email are all important lead nurturing etiquette factors.
Be sure to segment your list before you start. A study showed that a segmented list leads to a 39% increase in the ROI of your email campaign. This is because segmentation helps you with that relevancy factor that I keep bringing up. This should be no problem for you since you’ve already mapped out your personas, right?
There have been many studies done on the best times to send emails and the results are pretty much what you would think. The open rates remain the same across most week days (and drop off on weekends), though they do vary significantly for time of day.
Most email activity occurs between 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM, according to a study by MailChimp. So if you are sending something automated, it’s probably best to schedule it the night before so that the leads have it in their inbox in the morning.
But what is perhaps more surprising about timing is the frequency with which you should follow. The number one reason that people mark an email as spam is because the sender emails too frequently!
The optimal email frequency is two to three times per month, according to a 2015 study. Pair this with HubSpot’s research that you should follow up with a lead on email at least four to five times, and you should have a formula of emailing about once per week for two months.
Make sure you take the necessary time to get the content right. Make it personalized, and at the appropriate stage in the funnel, and be sure to have your CTAs follow the buyer’s journey. And don’t try too hard with the subject line.
Your subject should be catchy. In fact, you should grab their attention in the first few words, but don’t abuse tricks like adding an RE: to a new email’s subject line. There are opinions that tricks increase click-through, but your readers will see right through you and get annoyed after a while.
Contrary to what you may think, lead nurturing should not stop at email. Social media can be a powerful vessel to support your lead nurturing efforts. Think about it, most of your customers are already on Facebook or Twitter, and 71% of customers are more likely to purchase a product if they are referred through social media.
Make it easy for your customers to get involved with lead nurturing by adding social sharing widgets to your emails and campaigns. They should be part of your calls to action and thank you pages too.
You could even set up a workflow to nurture a lead who has mentioned your brand on Twitter – just be sure that it’s not automated in a way that doesn’t make sense. I.E. If they call out that they had a problem, be sure to help them with the issue, instead of pushing more product down their throat.
Phones are not just for texting. Picking up the phone and calling a lead who has willingly given you their phone number is an important part of lead nurturing, too.
Remember that black hole of 79% of leads that never get contacted? If you’ve done a good job segmenting those leads, and automating some workflows, you will be able to see which ones are most engaged with your brand. Those are the ones you should definitely be picking up the phone to call.
Studies show the best time of the week for phone calls are Wednesdays and Thursdays, but immediacy trumps this. So if you have a hot lead, you should still pick up the phone and call them right away.
And don’t forget about inbound calls. Inbound calls convert 10-15 times higher than web leads. One way to nurture your leads into calling you is by making a phone call the CTA in all of these expertly-crafted emails you’re sending. As marketers, it may be our natural instinct to hoard the leads for ourselves, but as the data shows above, a lead is more likely to convert if they come through a call as opposed to a landing page.
A final but very important way to help nurture your leads is with retargeting. The staggering truth is that only 2% of traffic converts after the first visit. This is precisely why lead nurturing is so effective. But since we’ve seen the data showing you can’t email them 10 times a day, you can still stay top-of-mind with retargeting.
The same best practices work here as with the other tactics we talked about - segment your lists, make things personal, and use killer content with nurturing CTAs. These campaigns can and should last a bit longer, however. Perfect Audience says to run the campaign for at least 30 to 90 days to properly test CTAs, content and frequency.
Ready, Set, Nurture
Lead nurturing is an incredibly effective way to turn more leads – at any stage – into cash-paying customers. 73% of leads are not sales-ready when they first connect with your website and it takes an average of 10 contact engagements to convert a lead into a customer from the top of the funnel.
So what are you waiting for? Start following some lead nurturing best practices today and you are sure to see an impact on your bottom line. What are your most successful lead nurturing tactics?
Let us know in the comments below.