Lead generation is a tough gig and well after you have successfully generated a number of leads, your job is not done. As Sensible Marketing points out, “77 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing the common cause of this poor performance.”
Once you have accumulated your leads through various marketing strategies, some would say that the “real work” begins. The next steps include lead follow up and nurturing, since the entire purpose of generating leads is to draw them through the sales funnel by converting them into customers. To understand the importance of following up and nurturing leads, let’s start from a basic point – defining the main types of leads.
Qualified vs. Unqualified Leads
There are two types of leads that you have likely accumulated in your lead generation strategy: qualified and unqualified leads. If you have been doing things right in your lead generation strategy, then you have accumulated many more qualified leads than unqualified leads.
As Sales Fusion points out, an unqualified lead is unsure about what they want to purchase. As a result, your product or service may not be their end goal and if is, then it may be out of their price range. Other factors that point to an unqualified lead are when the lead is uncertain about what your brand offers and when the lead is too costly to convert. The more unqualified leads you have, the higher the chance you are going to be unable to push them through the sales funnel and convert them into paying customers.
Alternatively, your main goal should be to generate qualified leads. Unlike unqualified leads, these leads are more than willing to go through the nurture and follow up process, they are receptive to your marketing, and they know what they want out of the buying cycle – mainly your product.
While these are the general guideposts for qualified and unqualified leads, Sales Fusion also mentions that it is completely possible to redefine the parameters in your marketing campaign. To do so, marketing professionals and the sales department need to work together to figure out what their sales goals are, how to achieve those goals, and what buyer persona is prone to buying. At the end of the day, many brands agree that sales and marketing alignment is one sure way to an organization’s growth and success.
How to Generate Qualified Leads
While some brands may have successfully mastered the process of generating qualified leads, there are many others that have a lot to learn. If you fall into the former category, here are some nifty tips that will help you generate qualified leads so you can then learn how to follow up and nurture for a successful sales process. Here are some of the best strategies that Inbound Marketing recommends:
- Team Up with Your Sales Department. As already mentioned, teaming up with your sales department is one way to generate qualified leads. When discussing qualified lead generation with your sales department, one of your main objective is to ensure that they understand marketing tactics and when to use then. For example, your sales department should expertly know how to nudge a prospect by offering them free webinars, eBooks, and other materials that will be conducive toward helping the process come to a final decision.
- Marketing Integration: Online and Offline Materials. While the web is certainly one of the most prominent marketing tools, many marketing professionals forget that offline marketing can be just as valuable at generating not only leads – but qualified leads. Your offline marketing should focus on where your prospects are getting their offline information, networking events, and traditional paper and billboard ads. In addition, in some cases you may even find offline marketing to be more cost effective.
- Employees Generated Qualified Leads? Reward Them. There is no better way to generate more qualified leads than to reward your employees for generating them. Rewards do not always need to come in monetary compensation. For example, some companies reward their employees by giving them gift cards, certificates, or a simple nice gift. Your employees will not only be pleased with the reward, but they will also be more loyal to your brand and the process.
- Customer Referrals. Finally, customer referrals are invaluable to generating leads. To gain customer referrals, reach out to your current customers, send them a survey, and even ask if they would refer your brand to someone they know. If they answer “yes” in an electronic survey, then offer them some sort of incentive to refer – such as a discount on their next purchase or a promotion code that they can use when checking out on your online shop.
Ultimately, the tactics enumerated above are not only easy to implement, but they can be highly effective in generating qualified leads. The more qualified leads you have, the better your overall lead follow up strategy will be in securing a final sale for your product or service.
Now that we have covered what types of leads you should generate and how to do so, let us move on to the next logical point – which is why it is important to focus on nurturing your leads and to follow up with them.
The Importance of Lead Nurturing
Now that you have successfully attracted the right leads, the next step is to nurture your leads, prioritize, and then sell.
At this point, we are at the nurture stage – so here is what you need to know:
What does it mean to nurture your lead?
According to Marketo, lead nurturing “is the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospectus, and providing the information and answers they need.”
Essentially, lead nurturing is the process of truly paying attention to your prospects and taking that information to guide them through the sales funnel using the information that you are given. Tehopedia also points out that lead nurturing is a portion of the larger marketing process in the sense that it is what you need to do to reach your end sales goal.
Brands who nurture their leads are more successful at moving them through the sales funnel. Now that we have covered what lead nurturing is, here is an overview of “lead follow-up.”
What is lead follow up?
Lead follow up and nurturing are pretty similar concepts. However, unlike lead nurturing, which is expressly taking note of what your lead is looking for and their expectations from your brand throughout the sales process, lead follow up is a more straight forward approach. Lead follow up is the process of actively contacting your lead after they have somehow come in contact with your brand.
According to Marketing Bridge, lead follow up is most successful when you maximize the efficiency of the interaction and the potential of the transaction. Meeting these goals requires you to successfully gauge how much time your lead has and what they need to be coached through the processes in the set amount of time.
The best place to start in the lead nurturing and lead follow up process is to gather sufficient data to learn about your lead. As Formstack points out, knowing the value of your lead helps you avoid overselling and under spending on marketing. It enables you to invest in optimization, and you can also ensure that you are generating a strong rate of return on your marketing efforts. By focuses on these points before the nurturing and follow up process, you will be able to attain better results.
Evidence that Lead Nurturing and Follow-up is Imperative
If you are not convinced at this point that lead nurturing and follow up is important – then here are some statistics that will perhaps change your mind.
- Forrester Research: Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost.
- The Annuitas Group: Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
- Marketing Sherpa: Organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% lift in lead generation ROI over those organizations that do not.
- Scripted: 80% of sales require 5 follow up calls after meeting and 44 percent of sales people give up after one follow up.
As you can tell, nurturing your leads and following up is an integral part of the marketing process. Brands that give more attention to their leads are able to convert them more easily, effectively, and with the least amount of effort.
In addition, nurtured and leads that are given a follow up are most likely to purchase more from your brands than those who are not nurtured. Overall, while the lead nurturing and follow up process may seem time consuming, evidence shows that the benefits are truly worthwhile.
Now that we have covered how important it is to follow up and nurture your leads, here are some of the best strategies that you can implement to successfully meet those goals.
Inbound Sales Lead
An inbound sales lead is as lucky as you can get in this process. For those who are not familiar with the concept, an inbound sales lead is someone who reaches out to your brand on their own. An inbound lead may have received your brand’s information from a referral or they may have simply conducted a search on their own. Regardless, once you receive an inbound call, you should follow up no matter what. As Hubspot points out, you should follow up with 100% of your inbound sales leads.
When you follow up with these types of leads, add them into your CRM database so that you can track who followed up and how many times a follow up was performed. The more accurate your sales and marketing team is in terms of collecting data; the more success the lead follow up process will be.
Time Your Follow Up Correctly
Many marketing professionals underestimate the importance of following up with their leads at the correct time. As Entrepreneur explains, timing can have a big impact on whether the lead turns into a final sale.
At the end of the day, leads are going to buy when they feel ready to buy – so when you are ready to sell is pretty much irrelevant. The best way to approach timely follow up is to always reach out to your lead with a warm and friendly call, even if they are cold at the onset. Warm calls usually lead to positive results. Another way to follow up in a timely manner is to ask your lead when the best time to call is. At the end of the day, if a lead is qualified and ready to buy, they will be willing to give you an ideal time.
Real Time Notifications for Your Sales Team
Once a lead subscribes to your email newsletter and other content, to make the lead follow up process easier and more effective, you may want to consider using automation software to notify your sales time in real time.
According to Auto Pilot, your sales reps should receive emails regarding the new lead and once they receive a notification, they can contact the lead to start the nurturing process.
Top of Mind Campaign
The top of mind campaign is the process of nurturing an interested lead who needs just a bit more information to make a final buy. Your main goal in this type of scenario is to ensure that the lead is not poached by one of your other competitors. Here, you want to give the lead consistent touch points and also highlight the value of your product.
As Pardot points out, you can also use content to help at this stage. Some of the most valuable content to use includes blog posts, infographics, and white papers. While you certainly do not want to inundate your lead with too much information, you still want to give them enough that will ensure that what you have to offer is at the top of their mind.
Always Provide Complete Answers
One of the worst things that you can do as a marketing or sales professional during the lead nurturing and follow up process is to give your lead incomplete answers. As HubSpot mentions, you need to be completely responsive to your lead by ensuring that they have the best information to go off when making a decision.
In addition, another point to remember is that speediness does come in handy. Because it is likely that your lead is also getting information from your other competitors, you should follow up with your lead as fast as possible. Chances are, brands that follow up in a speedy manner are able to catch the lead before he or she takes their business elsewhere.
The Current Follow Up Process
There really is no better way to ensure that you are properly following up and nurturing your leads than to create a step by step chart for the current process. As Kissmetrics mentions, you need to start by outlining all of the steps that need to be taken. By mapping out the process, you can create a uniform and effective strategy that all of your sales professionals can use.
Some would even go beyond one chart by personalizing the chart for specific instances. For example, brands often have a chart to follow up with online leads and a separate chart to follow up with leads that brand representatives meet at trade shows and other places. By personalizing the information, you can attain more effective results and you can also reduce the amount of time and guess work that goes into cultivating the process.
Give Your Sales Team New Marketing Content
Finally, if you want your sales team to succeed, you must give them the right tools to enable them to do so. Pardot recommends enabling your sales team by giving them content that will help them sell your products.
A few of the best marketing content that you can give your sales team includes blog posts, education videos, competitive sheets that show your performance next to your competitors, and eBooks. In addition, not only should your sales team have resource to give to interested leads, but they should also have pertinent information that teaches them how to constantly make strong sales.
Overall, lead follow up is not complicated – but it is time consuming. As a result, it is best to have all of the tools and resources at your disposal to make the right calls. Moreover, you should also take the time to teach your marketing team and sales professionals about how to gather qualified leads as opposed to unqualified leads. The more qualified leads you start off with, the easier the entire process is going to be for everyone. More importantly, you will see a better rate of return.