Getting Leads Is Just The First Step; How You Nurture Sales-Qualified Leads Is The Key To Revenue Growth
Marketing is working hard to generate leads for long-term nurture campaigns and general contact database growth. They’re also working hard to generate sales-ready leads, or what we call sales-qualified leads (SQLs) – people who want to talk with your sales team now.
These sales-qualified leads need different nurtures campaigns, and these nurtures need to be orchestrated with your sales outreach plans.
If these SQL nurtures are not strategically designed, you could scare away your leads, fail to move them along the buyer journey or just look silly if your reps contradict your sales nurtures.
Here are some proven upgrades we’ve been using with clients over the past few years that have accelerated sales cycles and improved close rates.
1) Shorten Your Nurtures
A lot of clients bring us ineffective nurtures, and the first element we notice is the extreme length of the nurture sequences – 12, 15 and even more sometimes. That’s just too long.
Even if you have an extremely long sales cycle, triggered nurtures like we’re talking about here shouldn’t be longer than a few weeks. People just don’t have the attention span to follow longer nurtures. They should be part of ongoing email marketing anyway, and if they click on any of the nurtures, that could get them into a new nurture.
We run a lot of nurture campaigns based on the rule of three. The world around us has an uncanny connection to the number three. You need food, water and shelter to survive. Every car has three mirrors. Consultants are trained to give clients three options – an aggressive, a conservative and a moderate plan. Good video production teaches you to split the screen into thirds.
Don’t make me start using examples like the three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears or the three wise men. The fact is human beings are more comfortable when things come in threes. Most of the more successful nurture campaigns have three emails separated by three days.
From there, you can run variations, like a six-sequence nurture over three weeks or a nine-sequence nurture over six weeks. I would not run anything longer than six weeks, and I would only do that in companies with ultra-long sales cycles.
Our advice is almost always to start shorter and see how the emails do. If they’re not moving people through the buyer journey and not accelerating sales, then extending them as a test would be an option. But in almost every situation shorter nurture campaigns always work better.
2) Make Them About Your Prospects
It’s hard to not talk about you, your company and your products or services, but this is the kiss of death in nurture campaigns. You’re going to have to work harder to not talk about you and only talk about your prospects.
Think about this the same way you think about meeting people at a party. When you meet someone who won’t stop talking about themselves, you’re immediately turned off. But when you meet someone who genuinely seems interested in you, you’re drawn to them.
You should be talking about your prospects 10 times more than you talk about yourself. One way to keep tabs on how you’re doing is by using what we call the red/blue test. This test can work for any marketing asset you’re working on.
Circle every reference to your company using red. This includes words like our, we, us and of course your company name. Then circle every reference to your prospect using blue. This would include words like you and your.
You should have 10 times more blue circles than red circles. Make sure that your entire nurture series is filled with content, references and words directly related to your prospects. The more you talk about your prospects and the less you talk about you, the better your campaigns will perform.
3) Use Data And Social Proof
There is another interesting human behavior component to nurture campaigns. People love knowing others like them are having the same issues and have already decided you’re the best solution for this issue.
You might have also heard sayings like “misery loves company” or “there’s safety in numbers.” Most people want other people in the boat with them, even if the boat is sinking. The sales email nurtures are an excellent place to build up the story around everyone else who has chosen to work with you.
The best way to tell this story is with data and social proof. We use data to support the stories. Data might look like this (using links helps people feel confident that the data is accurate):
If you were on the fence around lead nurturing, these stats might move you along your buyer journey.
Well, if all these other companies are seeing results, we should consider trying it too.
For social proof, this is even easier. Simply get a few of your current customers to tell their stories as part of your lead nurturing efforts. Something like this would work fine:
“We used to struggle generating sales-ready leads and it seemed to take forever for people to work through our sales process. Once we added nurture campaigns in support of the sales reps, our sales cycle reduced by almost 50%."
– Joe DeRosa, Chief Revenue Officer, SAFEbuilt
Including quotes like this from real people at real clients helps your prospects feel safe. You could take this one step further and build mini-case studies in the nurture, too. All of this social proof helps your prospects feel like plenty of other people just like them have had success with your company.
4) Always Include Links To Measure Engagement
While the most obvious goal for any sales-related lead nurture email campaign is to keep the conversation going with the prospect, there are a few other goals.
One of the most significant goals is to try and monitor how the prospect is moving along in their buyer journey. You can do that by strategically using links in you lead nurture campaigns.
These links can signal to you where prospects are in their journey, what they’re interested in, what concerns they might be dealing with and potentially how to move them along more expeditiously.
But you have to use the right links. We recommend client campaigns include buyer journey stage offerings as a tool to signal intent. Here are two examples.
We want as many prospects subscribed to the blog as possible, so in our first email nurture, we’ll send some contextual blog articles and encourage prospects to subscribe to the blog. When they do, it’s a signal that they’re engaged with our content, and we get to touch them more frequently. Most of our clients blog multiple times a week. Every time a blog comes out, they get another touch.
Another example is that we like to provide late-stage buyer journey offers toward the end of the journey. Again, we’re trying to get the prospect to signal intent around wanting to talk with a rep or being ready for a rep conversation.
Strategically work offers into your lead nurture emails. The buying intent that comes from the link data is invaluable in helping you know when to get reps engaged and when to let them hang back a bit.
5) Include Behavior In Your Lead Scoring Model
Most of our clients have lead scoring enabled and are using these scores to dictate a number of playbooks. Make sure your lead scoring model includes signals from your lead nurture email campaigns.
If prospects open the email, how many times they open the email, whether they click through and what they click on can all impact your lead score and demonstrate intent. These scores can be used to let you know how prospects are progressing through their buyer journey.
It’s important that your lead scoring model is upgraded to include data from lead nurturing campaigns. Remember, these are not monthly educational emails (I call those air cover emails). These are targeted, trigger emails based on actual on-site behaviors.
These can be some of the most important signals in your lead scoring model. Someone that opens all of your nurture emails, clicks on every link and then spends five minutes on your website is a more qualified lead than someone who only opens every other email.
Reps need this intel, your marketing operations people need this intel and your campaign managers also need to know what content and assets are triggering prospects to take action.
6) Include Rep Touches In Your Nurture Campaigns
Not all nurtures need to be electronic. It might make sense in your case to have the reps involved in the nurture sequences, too. If, how and when you involve the reps in nurtures may have a lot to do with your specific situation.
For example, if you only have two reps and they have their hands full working with people who are ready to buy immediately, I wouldn’t take them off that task to follow up with prospects who are much earlier in their buyer journeys.
However, if you have plenty of reps and you think a personal phone call as part of your nurture sequence could help move a prospect along, it should be part of your nurture program.
What that reps say, how they say it and how they position the call is going to be critical.
If you’re using sales rep outreach as part of the nurture, look at those touch points strategically. They shouldn’t be calls to ask, “Would you like help scheduling a meeting with another rep?” They should be an opportunity to share information, add value or learn something about the prospect that can be leveraged into more contextual content for them.
Other outreach might include sending prospects something in the mail. We send books and marshmallow fluff. Both of these have roles in telling our story. The books show methodology and thought leadership, while the fluff talks to core values and our no-fluff approach to helping clients grow.
These packages can be automated through tools like Sendoso and can include sales rep follow-up to continue the story. The key is to architect an experience that optimizes automated nurtures, content in context, efficient rep follow-up, solid storytelling, differentiation and the ability to use these tools to move people through their buying journey quickly and with your company as the lead.
Finally, the all-important extra half-tip.
6.5) Close The Loop By Sharing Data With Reps
For marketing and sales to work together to create this amazing guided prospect experience from click to close, it’s critical that sales has the data they need to understand the “why” behind some of the asks.
Why are we sending this box? Why are we telling this story at this time? Why should this email get sent at this point in the process? These answers are important to sales.
They need to know that the box improves close rates by 20%. They need to know that by telling this particular story right after this meeting, prospects move to the next stage in two days instead of 10 days. Sales reps should know that by sending this specific email right before the final meeting, that meeting produces a request for proposal (RFP) 50% more often.
The data now exists to share this type of information with all your reps. This data supports the upgrades and ongoing optimization to the sales process that are critical for shortening your sales cycle, closing more new business and having much more efficient sales reps.
The sales team should be just as intimate with data as the marketing team. When they ask, “Why do you want us to do this now?”, the answer should be, “Because it works better, because it produces better results and because it makes you more efficient.” Who could argue with that?
As long as you have the data to support those improvements, your sales team should be happy to support any and all upgrades.
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