If, like me, you are the founder or in senior leadership of a B2B organization, there is no doubt that you will have seen the following scenario occur time and time again amongst your sales team.

They’ve built a good rapport with the prospect. They’ve qualified them according to your organization’s rigorous SQL criteria. Perhaps they’ve even got to the stage where an SOW has been signed-off or a contract has been sent over. Then…nada. No response. Their calls are ignored. This previously warm deal has ‘gone cold.’

This unscheduled cold spell doesn’t even have to occur so infuriatingly close to a closed deal.

Harvard Business Review did a superb study (which I’ve cited before) a few years ago that looked at how long it took over two thousand US companies to respond to a web-generated test lead. Although 37% responded to their lead within an hour, and 16% responded within one to 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours—and 23% of the companies never responded at all. The average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours.

In a separate study in the same year, HBR found that firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which HBR defined as “having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker”) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

Fundamentally, regardless of where it happens in the sales engagement process – whether at the start or nearing the finishing line of a closed deal – a warm lead can go cold at any moment.

A cold lead is not the same as a ‘lost’ lead

Although a previously warm lead can show all the signs of having gone cold — that doesn’t mean that they are ‘lost.’

Perhaps your key decision maker is fire-fighting all manner of internal issues or a new strategic priority has emerged. Maybe a competitor has appeared on the scene, and they’ve decided to take more time to consider the alternatives. Or maybe they’ve simply got cold feet about committing to such a considered purchase. Without any more lead insight, it is difficult to know what to do.

Fortunately, this is where your content marketing has a real chance to shine – and reactivate sales conversations.

Using content to ‘reheat’ cold leads

So, how can content be used to reactivate cold leads?

1) The personal Sales reach-out

Whilst many of us struggle to get Sales to use content: there is much value in getting them to use content for a one-to-one reach-out, which is not too sales-y.

In practice, this might mean emailing a cold lead with subject headers such as:

“Just saw this article and thought of you…”

“I think that this new blog post might be of use…”

“Remember when we spoke about this?”

Use the unique understanding of each lead that you’ve garnered from talking and listening to them to inform which piece of content you send to them. We all appreciate help and sending over useful informative content casts you as an advocate for their success rather than just another sales rep trying to close new business.

2) Put them back into a nurture campaign

The advent of marketing automation has meant that cold leads that would have typically been abandoned by Sales can now be nurtured with a constant drip of automated communications by Marketing.Marketing can take a few pieces of valuable content such as case studies, industry recognition, or even just a simple “is now a better time?” personal messages and put them to work in your marketing automation system.

Unlike the 1-2-1 sales reach-out, nurture campaigns enable a longer view of gently touching base with a prospect – perhaps over a 60, 90 or 120 day time horizon. You’d be surprised at the engagement that comes from simply following up over a longer time horizon than this week or this month.

3) Let inbound marketing do its job

Of course, let’s get real. Sometimes a lead might be so unresponsive that even a prolonged nurture campaign with marketing automation will not be enough to reactivate them. At this point, all that is left to do is to ‘kick’ the lead out of the system.

Yet here, too, content plays an important role.

By simply committing to inbound marketing, an abandoned or ‘lost’ lead may well find themselves once again ‘reactivated’; having consumed content on your company blog or social media feed or a piece of native advertising. Each interaction ultimately leading them to becoming a warm lead once again.

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