By Daniel Kehrer
If your small business is spending precious advertising and marketing dollars to generate leads, and you have prospects calling or clicking just as you hoped, that’s great. But what now? As most business owners know all too well, leads must convert to sales – either now or in the future – before they can benefit your bottom line.
How you respond to your leads is critical – especially the ones who aren’t quite ready to buy…yet. So is speed. This is where “lead nurturing” comes in. Basically, lead nurturing is the process you use to follow up on leads and ultimately turn those prospects into customers. How well businesses do this varies radically, and so do results.
The goal of lead nurturing is to keep your prospects engaged and moving through the purchasing funnel. The best way to do this is to keep providing valuable information that informs them about your products and services in drip-like fashion (gently, with a light hand), in a way that’s memorable and has impact.
Here are 9 steps to implementing lead nurturing for your business:
- Establish a nurturing plan: The best approach to lead nurturing is to have a detailed plan that begins immediately (think real time) and shepherds prospects down the path to conversion in a consistent, logical fashion. That is, of course, easier said than done. Millions of local businesses regularly lose leads because they lack proper follow-up policies, which means they are wasting money and ultimately paying more for the leads that they do convert.
- Be quick and nimble: When it comes to converting leads, speed is a huge factor. Most lead conversions go to the business that responds first. Quick response should be at the top of your list. If you don’t respond quickly, you lose.
- Nurture the “not yet ready” prospects: While some leads may be ready to make a purchase immediately, many others must be carefully cultivated over time. To succeed at this you’ll need to anticipate the prospect’s needs based on who they are (using characteristics such as age, income, etc.), and what stage they occupy in the buying process. Remember: This is about converting contacts you already have, not generating new ones.
- Provide relevant information that adds value in bite-size pieces: During the nurturing process, give prospective buyers the kinds of information they will need to make a wise purchasing decision. But keep it simple, and provide information in snack size increments. Keep in mind that nurturing is about helping prospects throughout their buying “journey.”
- Tap lead nurturing tools and tech: There are many terrific tools and web-based services that can help you nurture leads. A few examples include VerticalResponse.com, SwiftPage.com and ConstantContact.com (all for email campaigns); AWeber.com and SendPepper.com (auto responder services); Enthusem.com and Thankster.com (for sending greetings and thank you messages), among others.
- Track prospect behavior and respond to their activity: The tools mentioned above can help you do this via customized reports and metrics. Use features that automatically track and respond in an appropriate way when a prospect opens an email, fills out a form, clicks on a link or performs another action.
- Vary your format: People respond differently to different types of communications so you should include different formats throughout your nurturing process. In other words, don’t just keep hitting them with emails. Also include newsletters, personal notes, white papers and other types of content. Make it a series of communications where each step has a clear goal to move prospects along to the next stage.
- Segment your prospects: For most businesses, prospects fall into different categories. Look for ways to build unique prospect profiles and customize your nurture messages to their particular needs. Segmenting will help ensure that your messages resonate with recipients.
- Make it personal: This is another way of saying keep it customer focused. Use a personalized approach, addressing prospects by name whenever possible. Try to design each message so it answers one specific question related to what’s in it for the customer.
Have a question about converting leads into customers? Connect with a SCORE mentor online or in your community today!