David Kirkpatrick

Lead nurturing via email series and content marketing

January 5th, 2015

Lead nurturing involves a number of activities and channels such as “under the hood” tracking and scoring of prospects behavior and engagement with your campaigns as well as follow-up telephone at times whenever that tactic fits into an overall lead nurturing program.

However, the key channel for lead nurturing is email — particularly using email to send a series of relevant content pieces or offers to prospects as they move through the buying funnel.

In previous B2B Lead Roundtable Blog posts, I’ve offered a group of MarketingSherpa case studies based around a particular content area. Today, I’m going to highlight one case study — Email Marketing: 133% ROI for B2B’s first-ever lead nurturing program — on a lead nurturing program launched by Crowe Horwath, a public accounting and consulting firm.

 

Background on the campaign

Christine Elliot, Director of Content Strategy and Digital Marketing, Crowe Horwath, understood the value of lead nurturing to both fill leaks in the sales funnel and improve ROI.

When she began working with the “performance group,” a business unit within the firm, Christine was pleased to learn that she didn’t need to pitch the value of launching an inaugural lead nurturing program.

The program was based around a 12 to 18-month sales cycle and targeted C-suite executives and large financial institutions with at least $1 billion in assets.

 

What the team did during the campaign

The first stage was determining content for the program, in this case, based on four topic areas:  Dodd-Frank, anti-money laundering, process improvement and core systems. From there the team mapped content to the early, mid and late stages of the buying cycle.

In launching the lead nurturing program, the campaign began with a list of 4,000 executives who would receive a monthly email offer for a piece of content.

To even be entered into the lead nurturing program, email recipients had to download content from an invitation email.

Invitation email

 

After engaging and entering the program, list members no longer received invitation emails and instead began receiving one email every three weeks with an offer for free content.

Content email

 

The team had 12 pieces of content for each of the three buying stage tracks for a total of 48 pieces of content. The nurtured leads became sales-ready after either downloading three pieces of content or just one piece of late-stage content.

 

How the team refined the campaign

Once the program launched, both Marketing and Sales met to review the newly nurtured leads and discuss how the program was performing. These meetings led to improvements to the program:

  • Instead of filling out a lengthy form, prospects only had to answer a single question to download content. These questions even had the options of “none” and “other” so prospects didn’t even have to provide any meaningful information, but according to Christine, most did. One question asked recipients if they preferred to receive email on a different topic — a question that might change the nurturing track they were currently on.
  • Lead scoring was improved after analysis of every person in the program, and the team found out that factors impacting lead quality included: asset size, title and behavior such as changing tracks, forwarding material or downloading at least three pieces of content.

 

How the campaign performed

What were the results of this campaign?

  • 33% of invited executives entered the program
  • A 75% to 80% open rate for nurturing emails

This was the first automated nurturing program at Crowe Horwath, and it became a model the team uses to deploy similar programs across the company.

“Now we’re expanding all over the firm,” Christine concluded.

If you found this short excerpt of the case study, clickthrough to read the entire case study with more detail on each step of the program.

 

You might also like

Lead Nurturing: Pilot campaign increases conversion 32.6% with automated emails [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: How intent data lifted a B2B email campaign’s CTR 248% and forwarding rate more than 400% [MarketingSherpa case study]

Multichannel Marketing: Combining email and content marketing leads to 35% conversion rate for Elsevier [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Kayla Cobb

Best B2B Lead Posts in 2014: Lead generation, lead nurturing and content marketing

December 29th, 2014

The holiday season is always a time of reflection for what we have and what we have accomplished over the past year.

However, it is also a time to reflect on all we have learned that can help us improve the blank slate that is 2015.

Read on to find out what B2B Lead Roundtable Blog posts were shared the most as well as the three topics B2B marketers valued most in 2014. You can utilize this information to better inform your 2015 strategy.

 

Topic #1 — Lead generation is king

Lead generation was a huge topic for 2014 and for good reason. Every lead nurturing campaign, every lead conversion, every sale depends on first generating a lead.

But what’s the best way to optimize your lead gen efforts?

 

Develop a strategic lead generation portfolio

The best marketers don’t rely on one specific tactic to generate leads. Instead, they utilize a diversified portfolio of channels.

The best way to build this concept is to approach your marketing strategy in the same way a portfolio manager would approach a mutual fund. Namely, this means diversifying your leads, establishing a schedule of when you’ll address said leads and testing every element in this process.

This post offers ideas on how to expand your lead generation portfolio, and features a free downloadable copy of a mind map for lead gen from Brian Carroll’s Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.

Lead-Generation-Channels

 

Improve the alignment between Marketing and Sales

Not having your marketing and sales teams aligned can be a costly mistake. Luckily, this is also an avoidable mistake.

By simply implementing a few key strategies, such as scheduling frequent meetings between these two teams, you can easily re-align interests and strengthen your overall lead efforts.

Learn 31 tips on how to align Marketing and Sales when it comes to lead generation.

 

Put you customer first

When you’re in the trenches, it’s easy to get caught up in marketing acronyms, data and analytics. What you need to remember is that, ultimately, lead generation comes down to connecting with people.

This personal connection comes down to one idea — empathy.

Learn about the importance of putting the empathy back into customer interactions, and then read some simple strategies for achieving empathetic marketing.

 

Topic #2 — It’s all about nurturing. Lead nurturing, that is

More than anything else, lead nurturing can help turn a lead from marketing qualified to sales qualified and hopefully into a sale.

Here are a few tips we learned this year to help you optimize this process.

 

Stop with the cold calls

In the Internet age of uber-informed and advertising-adverse consumers, cold calling just doesn’t work like it once did.

Instead, in order to score leads, and ultimately drive conversions, marketers need to make themselves a valuable resource to their prospects. This requires a customer-centric approach that involves staying relevant and informed on what the customer wants to learn and then being helpful and building trust through effective nurturing content.

Read on to learn how to modernize your lead strategy.

 

Learn what qualifies as lead nurturing

What is and isn’t lead nurturing?

A silly question, I know, yet it is one that several marketers continue to answer incorrectly. This seemingly simple concept is one that is actually more nuanced than it seems. Lead nurturing involves providing prospects with relevant and valuable information and helping them on their buying journey, regardless if they ever buy from you. This specialized treatment is much more likely to result in a conversion than sending out generic promotional emails.

Learn the exact definition of lead nurturing, and read some examples about what does and doesn’t make the mark.

 

Don’t forget about emails

Email is an indispensable tool for today’s marketers, but sometimes the relevancy gets lost between the subject line and send button.

Not keeping your customers first in your email sends can lead to something worse than an ignored email — it can lead to an unsubscribe.

Read about the benefit of adding lead nurturing to your emailing strategy, and discover six ideas for how to keep relevancy at the front and center of your emails.

exacttarget

 

Topic #3 — Words, words, words: The almighty power of content

It’s the easiest aspect to overlook, but it’s often one of the most important components in your marketing strategy — your content. Whether it’s the copy in a brochure or a case study about what you’ve accomplished, what you say to your customers and prospects, and how you say it, matters.

Here’s what we’ve learned in 2014 to make content marketing the best it can be.

 

Build a customer-centric content strategy

How do you create content that your customers will read?

Simple — listen to what they want. Content marketing is an excellent way to introduce customers to your brand as well as to establish yourself as a professional in your industry, but in order to create the best content, you have to first listen to your customers.

Watch Ninan Chacko, CEO, PR Newswire, as he explains the five steps to effective content marketing in this Lead Gen Summit 2013 replay.

 

Utilize storytelling in your call scripts

When it comes to teleprospecting, it turns out “what” you ask your prospects is just as important as “when” you ask them.

In a 2014 MarketingExperiements Web clinic, testing the time of the “ask” in a call script led to a 31% response increase. The difference? The treatment structured the call script as a story.

Learn more about why transforming the call script into a story resulted in this dramatic increase.

control-call-script

 

You may also like

The Most Important B2B Marketing Metrics for CEOs [More from the blogs]

10 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Conversion Rate [More from the blogs]

3 Factors that Connect Value Prop to Prospects [More from the blogs]

B2B Marketing: A recap of content and customer-centric marketing in 2014 [MaketingSherpa case study]

B2B Email Marketing: Ferguson Rewards trade show optimization achieves over $10 million [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Brian Carroll

How the Halo Effect Drives Lead Generation

December 22nd, 2014

Building upon my post from last week, I was reminded of an important lesson I learned on influence that’s served me my whole life.

My dad taught me many lessons growing up, and one that stands out as relevant to lead generation went something like this: He said, “Choose your friends carefully because we become like the people we spend most of our time with, and [like it or not] we’re judged by the company we keep.”

He didn’t know it the time, but he explained how the halo effect works. In this post I’m going to explain how it applies to lead generation.

The halo effect works like this: By helping thought leaders and subject matter experts build their platform and influence, you will also build your influence and platform.

This MarketingSherpa case study, “How to Impress Conservative Fortune 100 Business Prospects by Allying With Academia,” demonstrates the practical application of the halo effect. It explains how Steelwedge, “a previously little-known software company became a trusted and admired brand in a couple of short years” and got the attention of Fortune 100 companies.

How? They built alliances with nuts-and-bolts professors in America’s heartland.

How do you get on the radar of thought leaders and industry experts? The following images shows how conversations, and in turn alliances, progress.

You’ll notice it’s a series of touches over time:

Example

 

This idea is already in the lead generation playbooks for most large consulting firms. We see the halo effect demonstrated in places like the Harvard Business Review, where it’s quite common to see business executives collaborate on papers with a professor or sponsor research projects.

These experts can become a source of speakers and webinar presenters. You may want to co-market an event and share the attendees list. There are also opportunities to post articles and materials by these experts on your website or as links in an e-newsletter. The ultimate objective is to

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have some of their credibility to rub off on you.

One way to start relationships with professors is to find those that have their own consulting practices. Think about how you help build their practice, and they may be more inclined to help you.

You can start putting the halo effect work by leveraging the four steps to I previously wrote a post on: “Lead Generation via Influencers and Experts in 4 Steps.” This post gives specific suggestions to help you get started.

 

You might also like

MarketingSherpa: How to Impress Conservative Fortune 100 Business Prospects by Allying With Academia [MarketingSherpa case study]

Inbound Marketing: Tech brand increases online sales 271% with original content and influencer outreach [MarketingSherpa case study]

Essential Guide to PR 2.0: Social Media Dos, Don’ts [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Generation via Influencers and Experts in 4 Steps

December 15th, 2014

Proactively building relationships with influencers and industry experts is a powerful way to generate leads and positive word of mouth (WOM). Most of us know this as influencer marketing, aka influence development.

Influence development is a practice of building relationships with key individuals who have influence over your buyers’ decisions. There are multiple opportunities with influencer development, which include:

  • Getting more opportunities with people and companies you may have not otherwise engaged with
  • Increasing your close rate and reducing sales cycle time by earning an influencer’s “seal of approval,” thus leveraging their credibility
  • Increasing your influence via the “halo effect” by helping thought leaders build their platform, which will also help build your influence
  • Testing and refining your messaging and value proposition. Influencers feel the pulse in the marketplace, and you can learn how you’re perceived and what messaging works in the market by talking to people who live and breathe within each space.

Here are four steps to engage and develop leads via influencers:

Four Step Engagement

 

Step 1: Target — Map out the key players, experts and opinion molders in your industry

Look at speakers at industry events, authors, bylines of contributed articles in trade journals and blogs authors. Also be sure to interview your sales team and your potential buyers. This will give  you a pretty good map of the people you need to know.

 

Step 2: Focus — Research them, their companies and their clients or customers

Do they work with companies that fit your ideal customer profile? To determine whether or not your customer bases are similar, you can search for relevant keywords. You can also use tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Alerts.

Create your short list, and prioritize who you think will make the biggest impact. Remember, less is more. Build personas for your influencers. Clarify your value proposition from an influencer point of view by answering the following:

  • Why should I pay attention?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • What’s in it for the people I influence? (i.e. my customers, audience)

 

Step 3: Execute — Engage them and be relevant

The following chart shows how influencer engagement might look. The point is to see it as building a relationship and a conversation over time.

Also, Kevin Cain’s post on Convince&Convert has some great suggestions on how to engage influencers and what to say:

Conversation Over Time

 

Step 4: Measure your results and make adjustments

Developing an influencer program takes time, but as you measure you can make adjustments.

Here are some questions to ask as your measure:

  • Can we see the impact our influencer program is having on targets?
  • What testing can we do to determine if we’re targeting the right influencers?
  • What can we do to improve?

Influence Marketing Program Q1 Report

 

Bonus material on influencer development:

Many influencers and experts will give you permission to post their articles and resources on your website or newsletter. The “about the author” section will give them more exposure as well as position you as an expert because their credibility rubs off on you. This means you benefit positively from the halo effect.

As you build your lead generation program, your experts may be interested in codeveloping white papers, special research reports, articles and even events with you.

Experts and influencers pride themselves on their professional integrity, so they will likely refer business to you and a competitor (assuming you have them) at the same time. You will still have an edge by investing in the relationship. They are more likely to favor someone who has shown an interest in them and given them value.

Why does this work? You begin by being genuinely interested in their business. Secondly, experts stay experts by continually updating their knowledge of industry trends, information, key players, tools and ideas.

Experts need to be “in the know.” Consider this as you engage them. They will continually seek out other relevant resources that could possibly help their clients. If you can be a good resource for their clients, they need you.

Finally, when experts are doing their consulting, writing and speaking, they are not completely focused on new business development. The result of this is many experts and influencers go through phases of feast and famine. You and your company could be sales lead referral source for them as well.

 

You may also like

Influence the Influencers: 5 Tactics to Generate Demand [MarketingSherpa how-to article]

Amplify Your Content Strategy with Influencer Marketing [Via Convince and Convert]

Lead Generation: It’s all about building relationships [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing in 6 Simple Steps

December 8th, 2014

What’s the quickest, cheapest way to implement lead nurturing?

I get that question frequently when I talk to marketers about lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is pretty easy to understand, but hard to execute when you have little time or budget.

I thought I’d share my barest-bones lead nurturing strategy. I’ll do my best to resist the urge to elaborate. Volumes could be written about each bullet point. In fact, they have been.

 

Step #1. Set up your nurturing database

Include all of the people you could potentially sell to, such as people you’ve met at trade shows, who have spoken with your sales team and who have responded to your website.

 

Step #2. Review your database

What do you know about the people in it? What industry are they in? What are their titles? Where did you get their names?

B2B Personas

 

Step #3. Segment your database into personas

Not everyone is the same. Make sure you understand what each persona looks like, their needs and goals, what information they’re looking for and how they prefer to receive their information.

Persona Example

 

Step #4. Decide what information would be most relevant to them 

Begin by asking your sales team, “What questions do our customers ask most often? What do they care about? What issues are they facing?”

Find content – articles, blogs, white papers and the like – that addresses these issues. Pass this content by your sales team. Ask them whether their customers would value it.  As much as you can, repurpose content. For instance, white papers can be transformed to articles and articles to blog posts.

 

Step #5. Email prospects this relevant content, but whatever you do, don’t pitch

These should be simple emails that are written as if you are speaking to them directly. Be genuinely helpful.

Provide your sales team with email templates so that they can follow up and engage in their own conversations.

 

Step #6. Follow up with a human touch

Make a personal connection and follow up emails with phone calls to directly gauge prospects’ interest. Never rely on email alone.

Lead nurturing can be executed without expensive marketing automation tools; there are plenty of simple, low-cost platforms to start off with.

You can create databases in Excel and run mail merges from Microsoft Outlook.

 

Here’s some extra lead nurturing material for a deeper dive into the topic

I hope this is helpful as you implement lead nurturing for your organization. I’d love to hear your tips on what you found helpful to get started with lead nurturing? What else have you learned to implement lead nurturing programs in your company?

If you want to dig deeper here’s some lead nurturing bonus material:

 

Checklist of lead nurturing questions

When you’re designing a lead nurturing program, ask yourself the following:

  • Exactly who do I want to nurture?
  • What problems does the prospect need to overcome each day?
  • What is the prospect’s top priority right now?
  • Do I know what the prospect worries about?
  • What messaging do I want to communicate?
  • What is the best way to deliver the message?
  • What action do I want the prospect to take?
  • Will I need to demonstrate my product or service?
  • How often should I strive to be in contact?
  • Which tools require direct sales involvement?

 

Thoughts on lead nurturing channels and timing

Lead nurturing is not a single marketing campaign. Instead, it’s better to think of it as a conversation.

Lead nurturing takes on the form of a series of steps and communication tactics with defined objectives and strategies that are tailored to developing and building a relationship with the potential customer – out of which will come conversations that convert to sales.

The channels you’ll use and the frequency of touches will depend on the product or service being sold and the buying cycle of the prospect. A general rule is to bring sales people into the process about six months before the targeted purchase time.

A simple lead nurturing path might look like this for your personas:

B2B Lead Gen

 

The mix and selection of lead nurturing channels and content should be based on what is being sold and how the specific market and prospect have been shown to prefer acquiring information.

I just covered using the phone and email, but you can use several channels, as evidenced by this mindmap of lead nurturing channels and content:

B2B Mindmap

 

You might also like

Stop Cold Calling and Start Lead Nurturing [More from the blogs]

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale [More from the blogs]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how-to]

Marketing Research Chart: The ROI of lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

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David Kirkpatrick

Marketing Automation: Lessons from 4 case studies

December 1st, 2014

Marketing automation technology has become an indispensable tool in the complex sale marketer’s arsenal. Lead generation, lead nurturing and determining the time for the handoff to Sales would be extremely difficult without that technology. Add lead scoring and tracking through that final conversion to sale and the task is flat out impossible without automation.

Luckily, for B2B marketers there is a wide range of marketing automation options out there from relatively simple solutions that help streamline email marketing to full-blown packages that seem like they do everything but automate the lights and thermostat at the office.

To help illustrate how some of your peers are utilizing marketing automation, in this B2B Lead Roundtable Blog post, I’m sharing four MarketingSherpa case studies that cover everything from how automation improved lead gen to how that tech directly impacted the bottom line.

Case Study #1 – Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume for software company after implementation

SmartBear Software, a B2B cloud mobile software company, was rapidly growing and decided to implement CRM software and marketing automation software as a single process to ensure the two technology pieces would be easily integrated.

When choosing the automation vendor, Keith Lincoln, Vice President of Marketing, SmartBear, said three main criteria were considered:

  • Ease of use
  • Scalability
  • Integration with the new CRM system

Once an automation vendor was chosen, the team decided to bring in an outside consultant to expedite the implementation. Keith said this consultant helped speed up the learning curve through training and was able to get the automation solution up and running within a five-day workweek.

Automation in place, the team started slow with a few email campaigns, faced some internal challenges, but then quickly began to implement lead nurturing to handle a high volume of leads in different product groups. Lincoln said the automation solution was even integrated with SmartBear’s webinar platform.

Results? Lead volume grew 200%, 80% of global leads were generated with automated trial downloads, and 85% of SmartBear’s revenue was generated by the trial download leads.

 

Case Study #2 – Lead Generation: Revamped marketing automation and CRM technology drives 75% more leads

In this case study, Managed Maintenance Inc. (MMI), a provider of management services for technology assets, faced a different problem than SmartBear from the case study above.

Where SmartBear implemented automation and a CRM solution together to ensure those pieces were integrated, MMI had marketing automation and a CRM in place, but the two were siloed and weren’t synched – Marketing’s and Sales’ activities and data were completely separate.

The solution was to audit the current technology setup, and it was determined that MMI needed to replace both the automation and CRM tools together and, similar to SmartBear, implement the new software pieces together to ensure they would be integrated.

Once that occurred, Marketing at MMI was able to begin lead scoring and lead nurturing, and maybe even more importantly in terms of company culture, Sales and Marketing became more aligned because the new technology implementation allowed visibility from lead gen to conversion to sale for everyone involved in the whole pipeline.

After completely revamping marketing automation and CRM technology at MMI, lead generation was up 75% over the previous year.

 

Case Study #3 – Marketing Automation: Implementation drives $550,000 in net new revenue at Crain’s

Crain’s Business Insurance is a trade publication that faced the challenge all publications are undergoing right now with declining advertising revenue, but at the same time, its industry customers began buying up-front research and content.

Because the company has reporters with more than 300 years of combined writing and editorial experience, it was positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

In order to do so, Crain’s implemented marketing automation, revamped and integrated its databases. The company had three databases: print subscribers, online registrants and the newly created marketing automation database – and integrated its content creation process into the marketing automation system.

Integrating content creation into the automation solution meant creating content categories and segmenting the database into those different groups to align content creation with certain reader segments.

From there, Crain’s implemented lead scoring, and even utilized analytics coming from marketing automation to influence the ongoing marketing strategy.

This campaign led to:

  • Nearly $550,000 in brand-new advertising revenue for demand generation services
  • A 43% increase in registered online newsletter subscribers
  • A 2% increase in paid print subscribers
  • Conversion rate of 2.6% from anonymous website visitors

 

Case Study #4 – Marketing Automation: IT company boosts leads 59%, generates $1.5 million with system implementation

This case study combines a dramatic lift in lead gen along with an impressive impact on the bottom line after CentricsIT, at data center solutions provider, implemented marketing automation.

Mandy Hauck, Manager of Marketing Communications, CentricsIT, was the company’s first marketing employee, and walked into what could be called a fairly unsophisticated marketing strategy largely consisting of email blasts.

Her background was email marketing, but early on she reached out to marketing automation vendor based on a coworker’s connection with that vendor’s CEO.

After a call with the vendor’s sales rep, Mandy knew she wanted to implement automation at CentricsIT and conducted internal marketing to get both Sales and company leadership buy-in.

Part of this process included attending a conference on the automation solution in place and learning ways to get Sales involved in planning how automation would be used at CentricsIT.

Before automation, the company didn’t have a refined method of tracking its leads or nurturing them. Leads were thrown into Mandy’s inbox for her to manually forward to Sales. After implementation, leads were automatically directed from landing pages to sales reps. In the first year of marketing automation at CentricsIT, lead gen increased 59% and $1.5 million in revenue was directly attributed to the new technology

 

For even more value

Hopefully you have found something of interest that might help your marketing automation implementation, optimization or pain points.

The title of each of these summaries links to the full MarketingSherpa B2B Newsletter article with detailed steps and creative samples, so if any of the case studies shared in this post grabbed you, do click through so you can get the full value of the information and campaigns your marketing peers shared with us.

 

You might also like

B2B Marketing: 7 tactics for implementing marketing automation from a fellow brand-side marketer [More from the blogs]

B2B Marketing: 5 privacy factors to consider when using marketing automation [MarketingSherpa how-to]

B2B Email Marketing: How a publishing company used marketing automation to increase CTR 1,112% [MarketingSherpa case study]

Marketing Automation: 25% more engagement, 0% unsubscribe in 4-email series [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: What it is, and what it is not

November 24th, 2014

Building on my post last week, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a marketer who was meeting with her new boss to explain the need for a new lead nurturing strategy.

The problem was that her boss felt their current integrated marketing campaigns qualified as lead nurturing. We discussed the challenges of communicating what is and isn’t lead nurturing.fortune-cookie

A lot of marketers say they are “nurturing” their prospects, when in reality, all they are doing is sending out nice brochures, landing page links or marketing copy focused on product releases or company announcements.

Starting to get my point?

Pretty, well-designed fluff is not going to “feed” your prospects. Creating a nice layout and clarifying your value statement isn’t going to contribute to the development of your client or your relationship with them.

Let me break it down even further by giving a few examples of what is and what isn’t lead nurturing.

 

Examples of what is NOT lead nurturing:

1. Sending out an e-newsletter on a monthly basis

2. Blasting your entire database with a new case study that’s unlikely to be relevant to many list members

3. Sending all early stage leads the same series of emails, regardless of their behaviors

4. Randomly calling leads every four weeks to see if they are ready to buy

5 Salespeople calling early stage leads every month just to “touch base”

6. Offering content that promotes your company’s products and services and does not take into account your prospects’ interests or needs at their stage of buying

 

Examples of what IS lead nurturing:

1. Sharing content that’s relevant and valuable, even if they never buy from you

2. Sending a targeted email that includes content based on:

  • Recipient’s industry and/or role in the company
  • Stage in buying process or interest
  • Previous conversations or content engaged that’s likely to be relevant

3. Helping to answer a question or offering more information

4. Sending information that is relevant to the recipient’s problem

5. Making calls based on touch point data that adds value to the interaction – being a “plus” to their day

6. Giving them useful information that sticks with them and/or helps them grow as an individual or company

 

It’s all about building trusted relationships with people. That’s what we really need to do instead of expecting to drive conversion from a single event or email. You do this by consistently offering relevant content in the context of lead nurturing and delivering value.

 

Image Attribution: The Vacant-Green Camera

 

You might also like

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: Pilot campaign increases conversion 32.6% with automated emails [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: 3-part funnel campaign creates 70% increase in inbound calls to sales reps [MarketingSherpa case study]

Lead Nurturing: How intent data lifted a B2B email campaign’s CTR 248% and forwarding rate more than 400% [MarketingSherpa case study]

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Brian Carroll

Lead Nurturing: You can’t automate trust

November 17th, 2014

I recently had coffee to catch up with my friend Jill Konrath and we were talking about new opportunities, ideas for the improvement of lead nurturing and I’m currently pondering my next book.

If you’re not familiar with Jill, she’s the best-selling author, sales guru and is a featured keynote speaker at companies like LinkedIn, HubSpot and many others.

Both of us attended Dreamforce 2014 (Jill was a featured speaker) and we stopped by number of trade show booths to see the different vendors and learn what’s new in their companies.trade-show

As you might guess, we both experienced lead nurturing follow-up after those visits. It was fast. They all used marketing automation to rapidly follow up with me via email.

But two things were missing: relevancy and trust.

For example, Jill was a guest speaker for one company at Dreamforce, but the marketing messages and phone calls she received after the event didn’t acknowledge they knew her, or that she was featured on their website.

Rather than pitch demos (that were irrelevant or unnecessary) I would have started by addressing what motivated us to stop by their booth. How could they help me right now? What might interest me in their offer?

 

Don’t sell – be relevant

Today’s prospects have a general lack of trust and they simply don’t want to be sold. People are weary of pitches, hype, pushy sales people and irrelevant marketing messages. They are time constrained and too busy to think. So what do they do with most of our sales and marketing messages? They simply ignore them.

There’s an incubation period that needs to happen before sales professionals can even think about taking the relationship to the next level. You don’t ask someone to get married on the first date – the relationship you’re looking to start with customers is built over time with trust.

 

You can’t automate trust 

Marketing automation can help you manage lead follow-up and lead nurturing, but you can’t automate trust.

Building that trust takes time.

Trust is earned by being helpful, relevant and honest with your prospects. Relevance is the foundation of lead nurturing, which is, at its core, a series of conversations.

Like real-time conversations, we can’t bore the recipients of our emails by talking about ourselves all the time – we have to discuss what they care about:

  • If all we do is focus on winning the sale, they’re going to tune out or opt out.
  • If we focus on how we can help them, we’re going to build trust, and when they trust you, they’ll stick around and likely buy whatever it is you’re selling.

My research shows that executive buyers choose the salesperson who has been a resource and developed a trusted relationship with them regardless of their timing to buy. These people are called trusted advisors.

The foundation of nurturing is relevance, which is knowledge of your potential customer and their world:

  • Know the likely problems they’re facing.
  • Know what makes their lives easier or harder.
  • Know how your value proposition helps them.

For this reason, I think it’s critical to contact and have initial conversations with future customers that are devoid of sales pitches. When we begin a conversation with those prospects, their attitudes and beliefs are being shaped and primed by the information they have already soaked up through various sources.

I think a perfect way to do this is through lead nurturing. A key aspect of lead nurturing is the ability to provide relevant, valuable content and information to prospects.

 

Build trust with lead nurturing

Look up the definition of “nurture.”

Here’s what a quick search of the Web will tell you: foster, help develop or help grow; the act of nourishing or nursing; tender care; education; training; that which nourishes; food; diet; sustenance; the environmental influences that contribute to the development of an individual.

Lead nurturing is all about having consistent and meaningful dialog with viable prospects regardless of their timing to buy. It’s about building trusted relationships with the right people. In the end, it’s the act of maintaining mind share and building solid relationships with economic buyers. It’s not about having a salesperson calling up every few months to find out if a prospect is ready to buy yet.

I’ll be sharing more on building trust and what is – and isn’t – lead nurturing in my post next week.

 

You might also like

Marketing Research Chart: Messaging tactics for effective lead nurturing [MarketingSherpa chart]

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale [More from the blogs]

Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content [More from the blogs]

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified [MarketingSherpa how-to]

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David Kirkpatrick

Marketing Automation and SMBs – an Overview

November 10th, 2014

Before my current role as manager of editorial content, I was the senior reporter for MarketingSherpa. As such, I interviewed hundreds of great marketers and industry thought leaders for case studies and how-to articles. I’m still writing some case studies, but not nearly at the pace I did for over four years.

Because of that past, it is fun to have the tables turned on me, and a few weeks ago I agreed to be interviewed on the topic of marketing automation and small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The interview covered a range of ideas within that topic area and I wanted to share some of my extended answers with the B2B Lead Roundtable Blog audience.

 

Why marketing automation software is relevant to SMBs

A major factor is how marketing automation can help optimize the SMB marketers time. The marketing department at an SMB is typically small just based on the size of the business, but at the same time the customer base – the database – can still be very large and automation software can help with activities such as lead nurturing.

If you think about an enterprise-level company, automation is almost a requirement to augment the CRM software. There’s just too many records in the database to handle this world of highly segmented and personalized marketing any other way.

For the SMB marketer, let’s say you have a one-person staff. I’ve spoken with many marketers doing great stuff with only one person. Maybe you have one, two, three people on your staff. You want to maximize their activities.

They are doing creative things instead of some of the grunt-work associated with handling email campaigns and the like. Automation does a lot of things under the hood that you just physically can’t do even if you wanted to.

 

How the disconnect between Sales and Marketing can be alleviated with technology

For this section, I’m going to reprint part of my original answer during the interview:

I think I’ll provide an interesting answer for you. The first part is Sales and Marketing alignment is a challenge. I’m hearing more success stories which is awesome. The technology is bringing people together because, if nothing else, Sales instead of getting more leads, they’re getting more qualified leads. Technology helps out on that end.

I think Sales and Marketing should be in alignment anywhere. Every time they’re in a silo, it never helps the company for those two pieces to be adversarial or siloed at all. If they’re working together, it’s always going to be better.

The change is, if anybody’s been reading a lot of industry stuff is the CMO is taking over the CIO and CTO, in the C-suite. Very interesting.

If you think back six or seven years ago, if you told the CMO they were actually going to have a seat at the table and not be the voodoo doll at the end of the table that it was a black hole for the budget and no one paid attention to, they would laugh at you.

Now, because of all the technology and different pieces, and the fact that they’re buying this technology and they’re handling this technology, and the data that’s coming in — now marketing activities are no longer a black hole. Now they’re trackable. Now there’s ROI that can be attached to it. Now all of the sudden, CMOs are surpassing and taking over the role of the CIO because they’re buying the technology and telling the CIO, now you make this work for me.

I think the actual alignment issue now is between marketing and the IT department. I would like to Marketing and Sales as a team become aligned with the IT department, but given where we are, and just the direction things are going, if you look at various pieces of research of some of the bigger research firms, that’s the direction that things are going.

I read articles every single day about the CMO and the CIO need to get together. They’re not getting together because of this.

I think the bigger challenge now is for Marketing and IT to be in alignment, and obviously technology is that piece there. I think technology helps get Marketing and Sales in alignment, but technology is the reason that marketing and IT have to get into alignment. If they don’t, it just makes things a lot harder for everybody.

 

Creating a culture that allows for marketing automation implementation at an SMB

This goes back to some of that Marketing-IT alignment.

Within marketing, the case for implementing automation should be fairly obvious – “This is going to make our world easier. We’re going to have to learn how to use it. We’ve got an initial training going on, but in the long term, it’s going to make our lives easier.”

Automation is going to allow the team to track its activities, and hopefully begin handing Sales a higher quality of lead, rather than a higher quantity of leads. The internal sales job to Sales should be just as easy with the quality of leads argument in place.

When getting buy-in from the company C-suite or leadership, the IT department can be your worst enemy or your best friend. By fostering an aligned relationship with them, they can advocate the that internal sell.

You want them to be part of this process, one, because they’ve written those contracts. They’re going to see the pitfalls before the marketer does. They know this is a really nice SLA on this contract. The agreement looks good, but IT will see a loophole that might not be obvious to a marketer. IT will know if the new tech piece will actually integrate with the current set of systems already in place.

I think having IT on board with an automation implementation gives a lot of credibility across the board when creating a culture from leadership down to the sales team.

 

You might also like

Industry Insights with David Kirkpatrick [Original interview from the SalesFusion blog]

Marketing Automation: 200% increase in lead volume [MarketingSherpa webinar replay]

Lead Generation: Revamped marketing automation and CRM technology drives 75% more leads [MarketingSherpa case study]

B2B Marketing: 7 tactics for implementing marketing automation from a fellow brand-side marketer [More from the blogs]

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Brian Carroll

Introduction to Lead Management

November 3rd, 2014

If Sales and Marketing were a manufacturing operation starting with raw materials — leads — and ending up with 5% to 20% in deliverable product — won sales — it would soon be shut down to determine what is wrong. However, companies continue to spend untold dollars on lead generation efforts ultimately doomed to fail.

 

Lack of lead management impacts lead conversion and ROI

I think the major cause for poor lead conversion and ROI is the lack of lead management, also known as passing unqualified leads, or marketing qualified leads (MQLs), directly to sales reps.

MarketingSherpa captured some of the key lead management issues in the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. Of the 1,745 marketers surveyed, the research showed the following:

  • Inverted Funnel68% of study participants have not identified their Sales and Marketing funnel
  • 61% send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified
  • 79% have not established lead scoring
  • 65% have not established lead nurturing

In my own experience working with companies, I’ve found the top issues include:

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs aka inquiries) have been sent to sales people without qualifying them first or sending leads to Sales based on lead scoring alone.

A lead nurturing program has not been implemented.

Sales has not been given the means to hand leads back to marketing to reengage for further work or nurturing on their behalf.

 

Lead management defined

Lead management is a multi-stage process that manages the conversion of sales leads to customers. It’s the process of managing and tracking customer interactions from first contact to close.

The above illustration shows map of lead management. You’ll notice the funnel is inverted because people are not falling into the funnel; they are falling out.

The idea is that the buyer’s pipeline requires a series of “micro-yes(s)” before getting to that “macro-yes” in the form of the final conversion-to-sale.

Here are the 5 major stages of an effective lead management process:

  1. Lead capture (Generating inquiries)
  2. Lead qualification and scoring (Are they engaged? Are they a fit? Are they sales ready?)
  3. Lead nurturing (Progressing early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent)
  4. Lead distribution (Handing off only “sales-ready leads” that meet the universal lead definition, aka ULD to sales)
  5. Lead tracking and reporting (Closing the loop between sales and marketing)

Do you have your process for each of these steps documented and understood by key stakeholders? If not, start now.

 

Marketing automation alone doesn’t equal lead management 

Many marketers hope that buying technology and tools will help  marketing automation and drive better lead management processes.

Marketing automation can’t spontaneously generate collaboration between Sales and Marketing. It also cannot  create processes nor will it generate sales-ready leads on its own. Marketing automation tools just enable lead management, but they’re only part of the solution. There are more fundamental aspects of lead management that often get overlooked.

Lead management requires the following elements:

 

People

  • Dedicated resources (i.e. sales development reps, inside sales team) directly connecting and qualifying leads
  • People focused on getting the highest conversion rates on leads and the most efficient cost per opportunity

 

Processes

  • Centralized lead qualification process prior to sending leads to the sales team to filter raw inquiries and disqualify those that don’t fit your ideal customer profile (ICP)
  • Clear and universal lead definitions created with the sales team determining what exactly is a qualified lead
  • Provide qualification information for each lead while making it clear who owns the lead
  • Lead nurturing content marketing to help progress early stage leads from interest toward purchase intent
  • Rapid engagement of inquiries to qualify interest and fit
  • Clear service level agreements (SLAs) between Sales and Marketing on what Sales will do once they are passed a “sales-ready” lead.  Then, require a time-limit on a turnaround once leads are distributed, and track the lead throughout the process

 

Technology

  • Marketing automation tools to enable lead scoring to prioritize the human touch rather than replace it
  • CRM tools to manage inquiries and track sales lead interactions from first contact to close
  • Effective data management to cleanse bad data and append missing data on leads
  • Clear metrics to manage the process of inquiries: MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, closed vs. won business, etc.
  • Established training for sales reps on how to engage and convert qualified leads in the CRM

Companies that adopt effective lead management processes generate more revenue from their lead generation investment and have overall higher close rates on marketing generated leads than those that do not.

 

You might also like

Building a Marketing Funnel and More Lead Management Tips [ITSMA article by Chris Koch]

Universal Lead Definition: Why 61% of B2B marketers are wasting resources and how they can stop [More from the blogs]

Lead Management: 4 principles to follow [More from the blogs]

Lead Generation: 2 simple tactics to determine cost per lead [More from the blogs]

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