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How can organizations use lead nurturing to develop a conversation?

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Creating a two-way conversation between marketers and prospects typically occurs through high-cost, high-impact channels such as trade show interaction or sales calls. Repeating those engaged interactions through lower-cost channels can also occur, however, using marketing automation systems. Building a bridge between lead nurturing and an effective, repeatable program is complicated. It requires translating an authentic understanding of the prospect's needs through an interaction that may seem “canned.” The characteristics that make lead nurturing impactful—targeted communications, calls to action and time- or activity-driven engagement—also make nurturing programs a challenge to build.

The key to those challenges is knowing your buyer. Who is the target audience for the solutions your organization provides? Identify who has bought in the past to uncover patterns that reveal commonalities. Those commonalities, called buyer profiles, can help associate certain buyer movements with demographic scoring modes such as BANT (budget, authority, need and time frame) scoring, enabling us to assemble nurturing tracks. Sound complicated?

Marketing automation, lead generation and lead nurturing aren't complicated, but doing them correctly is. Once those different tracks of information are assembled, we correlate them to the messages to which our buyer profiles respond. For example: If a CFO prospect is consuming “top-of-the-funnel” product information on your website, which sells accounting software, and then forwards e-mails after viewing them, should we throw him into a bucket to attend weekly webinars? Probably not. Instead we provide him with progressively more-in-depth ROI-based information and cap it off four weeks later with a call to action asking him to forward the e-mail to a midlevel colleague. What we've done here is conduct detective work based on what the prospect's digital footprint told us. As we provide more results-based information, we can track engagement and, when the iron is hot, strike with a message to which the buyer profile is likely to respond.

In this way we have created a two-way conversation in which we listen to the prospect's concerns, determine the preferred engagement method and automatically take the conversation to a deeper level. That scenario is an actual lead-nurturing track we built for a client that has been wildly successful driving top-down interest. In this case the goal was to create a secondary conversation with the influencer, not the buyer, all based on known behaviors of CFOs who had purchased in the past.

Justin Gray is CEO and founder of LeadMD (www.leadmd.com), a marketing services firm focused on organic lead generation and the successful deployment of marketing automation.

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