The Shift into Downstream Lead Nurturing

What happens to your “net new” leads after their first inquiry?   A closer look at your lead flow might reveal that the majority of leads receive inadequate follow-on communications once they are passed to Sales.

In one company where I was hired to study the severity of this problem, we confirmed that only 10-20% of the marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) passed to Sales were estimated to receive any follow-up activity.  The balance were discarded for seemingly legitimate reasons:  The organization was deemed a poor fit; the individual works for a known customer account, the individual is in a role without buying authority, and so on.  Most commonly though, sales reps were simply unable to connect by phone or email.  We concluded that people are generally unwilling to take cold calls from a sales rep and company they have not yet come to know or trust.  All of these factors contribute significantly to reduced lead conversion, and ultimately reduce the revenue potential from these leads.

Nurture programs can be used to extend the dialog with prospects well after the initial inquiry, creating a positive experience for sales-accepted leads (SALs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs).  Many of my clients are currently aiming their efforts at expanding the array of nurture programs which target “downstream” audiences.

With the availability of increasingly sophisticated technology at their disposal, marketers can expect to see an increase in the use of carefully-crafted, selective emails that target downstream audiences with relevant, carefully personalized email — all working in close coordination with Sales.  The typical goals of these nurture programs are to increase buyer awareness and consideration, position sales reps as trusted advisors, encourage referrals and cross-promote social media.

Are you using these tactics?

“Triple-touch” welcome emails.  Engage newly added prospects with follow-on information and offers that reinforce your position in the marketplace.  Offer them industry insight and content with third-party objectivity such as syndicated sources where available.  Rather than assigning a rigid schedule to the next email in the series, consider delaying your timing to “speed up” or “slow down” email schedule based on responsiveness.

Progressively verify member status.  Configure your nurture workflow to routinely check the status of each member in progress for any recent changes before sending follow-on emails. If the person’s account becomes a customer, stop sending them prospecting emails.

Personalize by sales rep. Companies with a direct selling model benefit from sending their nurture emails with sales reps as the sender using signature personalization. The emails should be crafted with relevant content and ideas that help position the sales rep as a trusted source. Authenticity is key.

Message from the “CEO”. A single, timely, handwritten message from a top executive can have a powerful effect on buyers involved in early- to mid-stage sales opportunities.  Automate the message using a combination of carefully crafted CRM integration, program workflow and signature personalization. Replies must be handled promptly!

Leverage sales opportunity and customer data to improve the personalization.  Pulling in relevant data tied to these individuals can open up excellent new applications for nurturing. For example targeting new product owners, customers in the renewal cycle, or buyers involved in recently won/lost sales opportunities.

What types of nurturing tactics have you seen for targeting downstream audiences?

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