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Don’t let leads slip through your fingers

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The best direct marketing program in the world will be ineffective if companies fail to stay in front of the longer-term prospects that those campaigns generate. That’s why effective lead-nurturing programs are critical for staying top-of-mind among leads.

Successful lead-nurturing programs gather information about where leads are in the buying cycle, move them along in that process and influence them toward the company and its products. And they can be simple or complex, consisting of a basic sequence of timed communications to all prospects or an automated, proactive communication triggered by specific responses, behaviors or prior contact history.

We’ve found that even simple “drip” campaigns outperformed one-time-only e-mail campaigns by 3 to 1. And by further analyzing a prospect’s response to these communications, coupled with their online activities, we can gain important insights into a prospect’s buying intentions.

It’s important that distributed messages clearly address prospects’ greatest needs or challenges, so give them an opportunity to share their insights. In your direct campaign, make sure to include a message that contains a question about your targets’ specific needs; then base subsequent messages on their responses.

Another opportunity is to measure the response rates from the various channels (e.g., webinars, e-mail, telesales, events) and adjust your communications streams accordingly. Ultimately, the goal is to engage in an ongoing dialogue with prospects until they are deemed qualified and sales-ready.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Prospects also should have the ability to indicate when they are ready to buy. This can be accomplished by making it easy for leads to update their information, or request a demo or a call from a sales representative.

Even with the best lead-nurturing program, however, people don’t always move through the process exactly as marketers would like. This is especially the case today: Even hot leads can get stalled when a budget gets cut or a time line is extended.

To address this, lead-management programs should allow sales to send formerly qualified leads back to marketing for further nurturing. It’s important that these leads not slip through your fingers or fall by the wayside. In this economy, marketers need to continually communicate with every inquiry that comes in.

Similarly, marketing must easily be able to alert sales when these prospects are once again ready to be worked. This back-and-forth nature of a strong lead-nurturing program helps close the loop between sales and marketing, ensuring that both groups work more efficiently, close more deals and generate higher revenues.

When adding lead nurturing to an overall lead-management plan, ensure that you: 

  • Manage the flow of multichannel communications to prospects;
  • Return stalled leads to ongoing marketing programs for further nurturing;
  • Alert sales in real time when leads re-engage or take specific actions that could indicate a readiness to buy;
  • Track sales follow-up in an automated fashion;
  • Track nurture-influenced revenue in order to fully measure the success of the marketing program.
Good lead-nurturing messages provide insight and solutions, not overt sales pitches. As companies educate leads about their products and services—and how they can address prospects’ current challenges—they become trusted advisers. Lead-nurturing programs ensure that prospects will immediately think of your company when they are ready to buy.

Ultimately, the most important thing about a lead-nurturing program is beginning one. So for companies that haven’t yet implemented an automated lead-management program, now is the time.

Will Schnabel isVP-international markets at Silverpop (www.silverpop.com). He can be reached at wschnabel@silverpop.com.

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