From search and events to webinars and direct mail, most of the leads you generate probably aren't much more than hand-raisers. While they've shown some interest, and might even fit your buyer profile, chances are they're still in the very early stages of evaluation. The reality is that only a very small percentage of the leads you generate at the top of the funnel are ready to engage with sales.
But even if they're not buying today, it doesn't mean they won't in the future. The question is, when that time comes will they buy from you or a competitor? The answer has something to do with how you manage your interactions with those leads after the initial touch.
If done well, automated lead nurturing can build strong brand loyalty long before a prospect is ready to buy. Here are six types of nurturing programs you can use to advance your customers and prospects to the next stage:
Elle Woulfe is senior marketing programs manager at marketing automation company Eloqua (www.eloqua.com). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Welcome campaign. A simple way to get started with lead nurturing is to set up a program that welcomes new contacts to your database. By providing basic information about your company or product, you can warm up prospects and direct them to high-value resources.
- Free trial campaign. Ensure that your prospects get the maximum value from a free software trial. Here, an automated nurture provides guidance and reminds users when the trial is set to expire. It can also trigger tips and can help you convert more prospects from free to paid.
- Acceleration campaign. Do you have prospects who are demonstrating key buying signals? A lead-acceleration program can guide them through the buying process by providing specific resources that will help them make a purchase decision. Acceleration nurtures can be triggered by a change in lead stage or score, and should deliver content that is mapped to the requirements of the buyer at that stage of the funnel.
- New customer “on-boarding” campaign. Think lead nurturing is just for prospects? Think again. Use nurturing to on-board new customers by providing helpful information that will make their transition smooth and seamless. Trigger different nurtures for different customer types, and ensure they receive only relevant information.
- Customer retention campaign. If your customer-retention rates are tied to a certain usage level of products or services, set up a nurturing campaign that's triggered when usage dips below a certain level. This program could alert an account manager and trigger customer communications that provide coaching tips on how to get the maximum value from the product. This leverages the integration between marketing automation, CRM and other third-party systems.
- Renewal campaign. Set up a renewal nurture that's triggered by contract expiration dates, alerting an account manager and providing some value-based messaging to customers in advance of an impending renewal date. By giving customers a heads-up and reminding them of the great value they've received, you set the stage for a seamless renewal.