Lead Nurturing Best Practices for SMBs

You’ve generated some leads. What do you do with them now?

Growing web traffic and converting them to leads are the first steps in your content marketing strategy. But once you have leads, what do you do with them?

Many businesses drop the ball with newly acquired leads simply because they’re not sure how to handle them. Here’s a potential customer who’s downloaded your content and left you their email address, and no one’s followed up. Tragic.

Fortunately, automated marketing can pick up where your lead generation leaves off. Setting up an automated workflow to handle your new leads takes some care and attention, but once it’s programmed it can save your sales team a lot of time—freeing them to devote more attention to closing sales.

Wondering how it works? Here are some lead nurturing best practices to get you going.

1. Start with qualified leads.

Don’t purchase lists, scrape websites for email addresses, or add people into your workflow who haven’t done anything to indicate they might want to be there. You’ll just be spamming people who don’t want to hear from you, and the likelihood that it will result in a sale is pretty low. What’s more likely is that you’ll irritate the contact, damage your brand reputation, or even get yourself blacklisted for sending spam.

Instead, only use your automated marketing to nurture leads who have taken an action on your site to qualify them, such as downloading your content, signing up for your newsletter, or making a purchase.

2. Base your workflows on their persona.

We’ve talked a lot about how to create buyer personas. If you’re thinking strategically, then the method you use to generate leads on your website will also give you a clue as to what persona that person falls under.

Maybe you made one piece of downloadable content for the owners of small to medium businesses (SMBs), and another for marketing directors of a larger business. If someone downloads your piece of SMB content, put them into the workflow you created for the SMB persona. If they download the Marketing Director content, put them into a workflow for that persona.

3. Segment your lists based on behavior.

Segmenting your email workflows by persona is the first step, but you can also segment your lists based on their behavior. For instance, if your lead visits certain pages or shows interest in a particular service, sending them information based on those actions will be more relevant to their interests than your more general workflow.

If you’re running a marketing campaign and attract leads through that campaign, create your workflow based on that campaign. Look at your advertising and landing pages, and consider how they might affect your strategy. There’s obviously a limit to how segmented you want to create your workflows, but so long as you can identify a different set of needs or interests, taking a more targeted approach will help.

4. Provide value.

One of the great values of a long-term content marketing strategy is the wealth of content it provides you for your email workflows. If you’ve been blogging regularly, covering all your personas and delving deep into your field of expertise, it means you will have dozens—if not hundreds—of blog articles to share as part of your workflows.

And that’s just blog articles. Once you start thinking about the downloadable content pieces, the infographics, and the videos you’ve created (or are going to create), the wealth of valuable content you have at your disposal is through the roof.

And when I say “valuable,” I mean valuable for your leads. A well-constructed piece of content should help them learn more about their needs and give them the information they need to make a confident purchase. Many of your web visitors are hungry for this: today’s online consumers spend a lot more time researching before making a purchase. Your content provides the information they need to conduct that research. By including a blog post or new piece of valuable content in every email, you direct them toward the information they need to make the best choice for them.

5. Schedule your workflow emails regularly, but not too much at once.

Once you have your email workflows mapped out (what emails go to which personas, what order they go in, what content they will contain, etc.) it’s time to think about timing. Obviously, overwhelming a lead with too many emails is going to drive them away. But wait too long, and you may miss your window of opportunity.

As ever, the key will be to base your emails on user behavior. A good automated marketing system will have ways of scoring leads by looking at how quickly the open an email, whether they click on any of the buttons in the email, and what they do once they’re on your website. It can then adjust the timing of workflows and accelerate the pace for a hot lead.

We generally pace ours to send a “thank you” email as soon as the lead enters our workflow. Their first lead nurturing email follows soon after that, and subsequent emails are paced a week to a month apart. Again, we don’t want to email most leads multiple times in a week unless they are highly active on our site. And if they aren’t opening our emails or visiting our site… well, that means something else.

6. Know when to stop.

Sometimes a lead will download your content and learn enough to know that you’re not a good fit for them. They may decide you’re not in their price range, or that you don’t offer the services they want, or that they like another brand better. It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that they’re not ready to purchase from you—and may never be.

When this is the case, a good marketer will read the signs and know to back away. If your lead generation and nurturing strategy is based on consent (as it should be), then you also need to recognize when consent is withdrawn. Your leads aren’t opening your emails, they aren’t on your website, they don’t want to hear from you, walk away.

Lead nurturing best practices for SMBs are all about timing and patience.

At the end of the day, a good lead nurturing strategy recognizes the user’s needs and understand that not every lead is ready to buy right away. They may stay in your lead pool for months, occasionally opening your emails or clicking on a blog article, before they decide they’re ready to contact you for a sales meeting.

Have patience. Your leads will feel happier with their experience if they don’t feel pressured into making it.

Published 03/29/18 by Laura Lynch