Traffic is one thing, turning that traffic into sales is another.
So how do you convert those leads and traffic so they become loyal and paying customers?
Lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship with your leads and moving them down your sales funnel until they are ready to become a customer. When a new visitor arrives at your website, there are two ways to seize the opportunity and guide them to becoming customers:
Two Ways to Make a Prospect a Customer
1. Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing starts by collecting contact information in exchange for something the visitor deems of value, but with little risk. Often, this entails some form of information or product trial intended to help solve the visitor’s problem.
Email addresses, RSS subscriptions and similar methods of engagement all serve to keep a visitor’s memory and impression of a company or product at the forefront. Later, the contact information provided offers you the ability to educate, inspire, or otherwise engage a potential new customer.
The goal is to encourage both return visits and eventually, sales. Always remember, lead nurturing is all about relationships.
2. Behavioral Marketing
Behavioral marketing collects information about what the visitor does while on the site, and intuitively engages the visitor before he or she clicks away. For example, a visitor might land on your home page, see a button about a product of interest and click to learn more. Imagine if her activities could automatically produce targeted messages announcing special incentives, additional useful information, tips or other enticements.
Behavioral marketing uses your visitors behavior, both on and off the website, to select just the right message, at just the right time.
- If a lead should mention a competitor in a tweet on Twitter, for example, or use specific keywords, you can automatically send that lead a Direct Tweet.
- If they download a document but does not return to your site within a set time frame, an automatic email goes out asking her to review the document.
Each of these examples serves as a way to engage with leads and bring them back to your website.
Both opportunities can evaporate in the blink of an eye without the proper systems in place. Together, lead nurturing and behavioral marketing help increase conversions and provide the building blocks needed to move leads along from visitor through to paying customer.
3 Points Necessary to Gain a New Customer
Nearly every marketing expert will agree, for a visitor to become a customer, you must cover three basic points. Those points are “know“, “like” and “trust“. In other words, before expecting a visitor to buy or invest money, you must cover all 3 points.
- The Visitor Needs to “Know” – Provide an opportunity for the visitor to learn about the company, product or service (know)
- The Visitor Needs to “Like” – Help the visitor identify with, relate to, or see a need or usefulness for a particular company, product or service (like.)
- The Visitor Needs to “Trust” – Help the visitor come to trust the company, the product and most importantly, his or her decision to risk money on it (trust.)
Lead Nurturing Automates the 3 Points
Offering up an email address, subscribing to a newsletter, following on social media, all of these actions demonstrate a visitor’s interest. The visitor has taken the initiative to engage, like starting a face-to-face conversation. With automation tools, you can continue the engagement in a hands-free environment, while still participating in the conversation.
Automatic emails, new content notifications, RSS feeds and social media updates can all be automated to deliver valuable information to previously engaged visitors on a regular basis. Again, the visitor is not taking a large risk, only learning more and becoming more familiar with a company, product or service. In essence, automatic tools take over the 3 point process needed to move a lead along.
The Power of Automation
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to automate. The effort to create an environment that encourages conversions, at least on the part of the business, is expended once, yet repeatedly produces results. It is the equivalent of producing a TV commercial once and replaying it dozens, hundreds or even thousands of times for each individual lead. When done well, the process does not even feel automated for the visitor. Each instance of engagement, such as a series of informational or training emails, provides a gentle nudge towards becoming a paying customer without the business exerting additional effort. Work once, reap the benefits over and over again.
Feedback and Forwarding
Not only does lead nurturing provide the opportunity to move one visitor toward becoming a paying customer, but also provides feedback and referral opportunities. Business owners and key management personnel can see what visitors do, how they respond, what messages they open and what links are clicked. This provides a wealth of opportunity to tweak the process to best meet the needs of your target market.
So you need to:
- Test new content
- Experiment with targeted or segmented promotions
- Request feedback on services or engage customers in the decision-making process.
Social media sharing, email forwarding and similar actions of current leads can also provide a plethora of forwarding opportunities. Produce outstanding content, send it out to your leads and those leads can potentially market your information for you. People, by their very nature, are prone to sharing information and solutions they feel meet the needs of their friends, family, co-workers, supervisors and colleagues.
Lead nurturing, when executed properly, can serve to encourage sales as well as generate more leads through forwarding and sharing.
Build Loyalty by Listening and Responding
How many times have you bought a product and loved it, but couldn’t remember where you bought it? How many times have you thought a product could be improved, but didn’t say anything because you didn’t feel someone would listen?
With the right lead nurturing system, you will never leave your customers feeling like this. Staying in front of previous customers through continued lead nurturing helps them remember how valuable you have been to them in the past.
Giving customers a platform on which they can regularly interact gives them a voice. It also provides you with a means to hear what they have to say and respond in a timely manner with improved products or processes, more interesting content or a better information delivery schedule. Do they want to know more, hear from you less often, or express an idea for a new feature?
Lead nurturing helps provide the means they need to stay engaged with you and your offerings.
Shorten the Time Between Initial Contact and the Sale
According to Market2Lead, the sales cycle is nearly 25% shorter for nurtured leads. That means a visitor engaged in immediate contact through lead nurturing will risk money on a product or service in three-quarters the time as a traditional lead. Faster sales cycles means increased revenues and less effort on the part of sales staff. A warm lead, as any good salesman knows, is easier to convert than a cold lead.
Is Cold Calling a Waste of Time?
Genius.com reports that the top marketing misalignment occurs when vendors rely on cold calls and sales personnel in the early stages of lead development, when leads rely on their own research and low-pressure engagement. Less than 10% of customers surveyed reported buying from a company as a result of cold calls. In fact, buyers listed vendor websites and white papers or ebooks as two of the top three influences that helped them feel confident enough to make a purchase.
Lead nurturing combines these influential marketing tools to help maximize lead conversions.
What It All Means
Given the value of lead nurturing, you have to ask yourself if your current strategies are working.
Look at your current website statistics. How many of your visitors click away after reading just one or two pages?
Consider what might happen if you took a popular knowledge article or white paper that currently enjoys a large percentage of your traffic, expanded it to a short ebook, then offered it as a download in exchange for a visitor’s contact information? A good example of an ebook is “20 Ways to Generate Leads From Inbound Marketing”
Now you know what inbound marketing could do for your business, and start putting those ideas into action today!
Guest Author: Sookie Shuen is the community manager at Tomorrow People, an inbound marketing consultancy. She offers free advice and updates based on her experience of helping businesses evolve through a five step inbound marketing methodology. She handles all online and digital community activities based around Zoober Inbound Marketing philosophy. Read her blog at www.tomorrow-people.com/blog
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Image by Shaheer Shahid