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Are Your Leads Leaking Out of the Funnel?

Lead Nurturing: Turning Prospects into Customers

from Net Atlantic

As a marketer, you understand the importance of generating a steady stream of prospects so your sales funnel doesn't dry up. Finding resources to generate high quality leads is a never-ending challenge, so it's important to keep those newly acquired prospects interested and engaged with your product or service, so they don't leak out of the funnel. For example, it's easy for trade show leads to leak out of the sales funnel simply because there are too many leads to follow up in a timely manner. Rather than let this happen, import them into a marketing automation solution, assign them to a lead nurturing campaign that was set up prior to the trade show, and they'll start receiving nurturing emails that re-engage them with your company in a timely manner.

Target Your Marketing Efforts

Email Marketing is still one of the most cost effective channels to nurture leads, since it engages the prospect in a two-way dialogue where conversion and interaction can be recorded and measured in real-time. Unfortunately, once companies acquire new leads they rely too heavily on a "batch-and-blast" approach, rather than targeted communications that address the prospects' challenges and interests.  All the effort and expense  to generate new leads results too quickly in a non-responsive list, lost deals and potential negative impact for your brand. Rather than "batch-and blast," create personalized email programs that evolve to match the prospects' needs and increase the relevance and impact of your emails. By maintaining message relevance, you will see results in increased email deliverability in your marketing campaigns.

Sales & Marketing Funnel

Deliverability is one of the most important aspects of email marketing; email recipients complain about email they don't recognize. So, a confirmed opt-in process can be helpful, since recipients are less likely to forget that they've opted in to receive your messages. Once people join your email program and give you permission, you can target these newcomers with timely, relevant, and personalized communications on a scheduled basis.

Plug Leakage in the Middle of the Funnel

Plug the leak in the middle of the funnel by improving your lead nurturing strategy, and create more sales-ready leads.

As prospects progress through the sales funnel and the various stages, from awareness to purchase, sales opportunities can get stuck. The loss of potential sales opportunities in the funnel is referred to as ‘leakage.' Staying in touch with leads that are not "sales ready" through a ‘marketing funnel' is a great way to gently push your prospects through the funnel to the purchase cycle. Prospects shouldn't be counted out because the decision to purchase is taking longer than expected.  The current economic climate calls for more research on the part of decision makers and, therefore, longer sales cycles. By nurturing the relationship over the longer term, your company stays in the consideration stage.

You have their email addresses; this is the time to establish personal relationships until they've come to a purchasing decision! According to DemandGen Report, nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. These prospects have shown some initial interest, are aware of your company, and most likely are interested in learning more. Touching these non-sales ready leads on a regular basis with relevant content will help you solidify your company as a trusted source and thought leader, and move these prospects effectively through the funnel from awareness down into the mid-funnel, where engagement and consideration occurs.

Lack of follow up is responsible for funnel leakage. Rather than focusing on initiatives to drive new leads, convert the leads you already have in your database by focusing on the middle of your marketing funnel.  It's not about lead quantity, it's about lead quality. The longer prospects stay in your funnel, the higher the probability they will not buy. Work to understand your prospects' pain points—needs, problems, desires, or challenges—then communicate with them in a relevant way. Eliminate barriers or points of friction that keep prospects from moving through the funnel. These include uncertainty about your product or service's fit and value, budgetary restrictions, or other concerns. The deeper your relationship is with your prospects, the more likely they are to buy from you rather than the competitor they don't have a relationship with. By focusing on the middle of your funnel, you can often turn prospects with a mild to moderate interest in your products or services into loyal long-term customers.

Drive Engagement – Automate Your Nurture Strategy

When creating your lead nurturing campaign it's important that you carefully plan the flow of your emails to ensure that your overall campaign guides your leads through the funnel. Implement automatically triggered campaigns (a series of automated emails called a "drip" campaign) that deliver consistent brand messages at specified time intervals and when leads reach certain milestones. In a long sales cycle, messages need to be more informative and not a sales pitch. Offer them something of value (webinars, eBooks, white papers, articles, free reports, blog posts, etc.).

Here are five essential elements of an effective lead nurturing campaign:

  1. Compelling. Effective nurturing requires thought leadership. Create compelling and informative content that resonates with your audience and motivates them toward action.  
  2. Personalized. It's important that lead nurturing campaigns are relevant to prospects. Personalize your message based on your recipients' preferences and past engagement with your content.
  3. Targeted. Keep emails targeted and relevant to where they are in the sales cycle, and feature a prominent call to action, when their interest in purchasing your product or service is peaking.
  4. Concise. Keep your content simple, focused and short enough to stop your recipients from losing interest.
  5. Timely. The timing and frequency of touch points should be linked to the prospect's purchasing cycle. Prospects appreciate receiving timely information which adds value. Use a marketing automation tool that allows you to segment your database according to behaviors, and send out consistent messages based on behavior or action triggers when a prospect enters a new stage in the buying process.

According to Gleanster Research, only 25% of leads are sales-ready—meaning that they are simply not ready to buy. In addition, 50% of qualified leads will need more convincing before they are ready to buy. Take a look at the email campaigns your leads have clicked through, and catalog the subject matter of those emails. You now have intelligence on their interest(s) based on the information they're requesting, pages they have viewed on your website, and offers they have clicked on. This information provides invaluable insight into what content a prospect finds interesting, and what offers entice them. You should also check to see if a lead is currently a part of a nurturing campaign to ensure any emails you send don't overlap with what they're already receiving (or are due to receive) from your automated marketing campaign.

Track the behavior of your prospects and deliver highly relevant messaging, tailored to your prospects based on how they engage with your content (white paper downloads, webinar registrations, free trial signups, demo requests, etc.). It's a proven strategy for closing more deals more quickly. Understanding when your prospects are ready to buy means adopting a strategy that looks at both demographic data (data collected from lead or conversion forms) and behavioral attributes (data gathered from a lead management system about the prospect's behavior).

In summary, one of the most beneficial things you can add to your sales process is an email lead nurturing campaign to engage with prospects through the middle of the funnel. This is the time between when they have shown interest in what you do or the problem you solve and actually converting to a customer. However, this is also the time it is easiest for them to forget about you, or for you to forget about them, because of broken sales and lead nurturing processes. Even high quality leads can go dormant if they are not properly managed and nurtured. Without a formal lead nurturing program, qualified leads that do not result in an immediate sale often leak through the funnel and become lost revenue opportunities. Marketers that nurture leads throughout the sales cycle with relevant and highly personalized messages, based on where they are in the marketing funnel, will prevent prospects from leaking out of the funnel before they are ready to speak with a sales representative. It involves time and effort, but it's a vital part of the purchasing cycle.

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