Oh_Sht.pngYou’ve launched your first inbound marketing campaign and now leads are starting to come in. So, now what do you do? We often get so focused on generating leads that we don’t have a clear plan of action once someone engages with us. After a visitor becomes a lead is when the real work begins.

How you handle your leads is just as important (if not more) than generating them in the first place. Because what good are leads if they just collect dust inside your CRM. Through my inbound journey I’ve learned a ton about what to do and what not to do when it comes to nurturing leads. So to help you avoid some of my mishaps and hopefully set you on a path to success, I want to share some of my thoughts on what to do after a lead comes in.

The first time you start generating leads it is exciting. I remember how pumped I was when my campaigns started to take off. Finally, all the hard work I had put in was finally paying off. While it’s easy to let the excitement take over, the best thing to do is relax. Yes, you want to make sure you follow up, but you also don’t want to smother your leads. Remember, they are not just leads, they are people. They took a risk and gave you some information about themselves, so don’t abuse that privilege. This is an extremely important thing to remember. If you are too aggressive and pushy, you can damage your brand and limit your success. But, by treating those who engage with you with respect and courtesy, you will establish your brand as trustworthy and caring.

Not All Leads Are Created Equal

It may be hard to grasp, but just because someone downloaded your guide or signed up for a webinar, doesn’t mean they are a qualified lead. Before you make any move it’s a good idea to get to know the person you are thinking about reaching out to. This is where the internet comes in real handy. If you are a HubSpot user, a lot of this data gets pulled for you automatically under the contacts profile. For those of you not using HubSpot or another program that will pull the data for you, here are a few things I look for when qualifying a lead.

  • Name: It’s important to know who you are reaching out to. Starting a conversation off with “Hey Buddy” is very impersonal. This is also a good place to start when disqualifying. We have has a number of “John Does” and “Jane Does” sign up for stuff. It’s cool, enjoy your free content internet person. :)
  • Email: While a number of marketing automation softwares are built to catch bogus emails, sometimes they do slip through the cracks. If someone gives you a fake email it’s a clear sign that they are not ready to have a conversation with you.
  • Phone: If a person is willing to give you their phone number in exchange for some content, that’s a big deal. This is a sign that they trust you with their information. One piece of advice, know where they are located before giving them a call. While it may be 11:00am on the east coast, those on the west coast are still eating breakfast. Interrupting someone’s breakfast to talk about your content is very, very awkward. (Made this mistake this morning, whoops!)
  • Company Information (Name, URL, Phone): We are a B2B company, so knowing more about a lead’s business is extremely important. This is one of the many great tools inside HubSpot. If the lead puts in their company’s URL, HubSpot will look for data on that company and attach it to the contacts profile. I can see what industry they are in, their estimated revenue, social accounts and more. This allows me to dig a little deeper into what this person and their company does so if we engage in a conversion, I have better context.

After you have sifted through your contacts and qualified/disqualified your leads now it’s time to nurture them. Once again, not all of your qualified leads are created equal. You now need to lead score and segment so you have the right conversation at the right time.

Lead Scoring & Segmentation

Lead scoring is a methodology used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value each lead represents to the organization. – ( Wiki). Not everyone is on the same level with you. Some are in the early stages of the buying cycle, some are ready to make their move now. Scoring leads helps you figure out, as much as you can, where your prospects are in their journey.

There are many schools of thoughts on how to score your leads as well as tools to do it for you. While there are some basics you should use like site engagement, email engagement and so on you also need to make sure you add elements that matter to your business. For example, on our forms we ask people to state their level of seniority or role. This lets us know if the lead is in upper management or lower on the totem pole. This helps us segment and deliver a more appropriate next step. For some best practices on lead scoring check out this post from HubSpot.

Segmenting your leads will help you deliver a more contextually appropriate next step. Think of segmentation as grouping by similarities. We segment by persona as well as lifecycle stage within a specific persona. For example, when a person signs up for a piece of content and selects “Engineering” as their industry and “C-Level/SVP” as their role they will get assigned the “Executive Eric” persona and be added to that lead nurturing workflow. But if someone selects “Marketing” as their industry and “Manager” as their role they will be placed in “Marketing Mary” workflow.

This allows us to make sure we deliver more relevant content to whomever comes in contact with us. Segmentation takes some time to set up and will occasionally need to be updated. But doing so will help you better nurture your leads and create a conversation with them that is contextually relevant. Having good marketing automation software is critical here. HubSpot’s smart lists updates our leads lifecycle stage as they continue through the process. This lets me and the team know where people are in their journey and if it’s time for us to take the next step

Pick Up The Phone

Most of the nurturing process is done using this amazing tool called email. No email is not dead, nor is it even thinking about dying. While email is a great tool, it is less personal and can at times drag the process out too long. There is, however, this really great tool that many are afraid to use.

The phone is an amazing marketing and sales tool if used properly. While many of us prefer to do research on our own, when it comes down to developing a relationship and closing the deal, people still like to talk to people. Now, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Many of us, myself included, are intimidated by the phone. We don’t want to sound too pushy, we don’t want to be annoying and we’re afraid we may say or do something stupid. (Like me calling that guy too early because I didn’t check the time zone.)

Learning to use the phone takes practice. The more you do it, the better you will be. Here are a few tips to help you out when using the phone:

  1. Know when to call: If someone gives you their number, reach out within 24 hours.
  2. Serve don’t Sell: Ask them what they were looking for help with and if they have any questions for you.
  3. Listen: Don’t think of how to position your services. Instead listen to them and give the space to express their needs.
  4. Recap & Reconnect: Before getting off, recap the conversion and set up a time to speak again later.

It’s All About Follow Up

After you’ve finished your conversation with your new prospect, make sure you send a follow up email. In this email you want to recap your call, add a few links to content that you feel could lead them in the right direction as well as thanking them for their time. This was something I started doing after taking the “Agency Sales System Training” from DoInbound. As a result, I’ve done a better job of serving my prospects by addressing their needs quickly and it helps me stay on top of quality prospects so they don’t slip through the cracks.

Don’t wait to send this email because you will forget. I can’t even tell you how many times I told myself, “I’ll get to that later” and later never happened. When it comes to lead nurturing, timing is key. Keep it short, to the point and make sure your next meeting is set. Once you’ve followed up, set a reminder for yourself to check back in on that lead’s profile is a few days.

Contextualize and Personalize

Earlier in the post I talked about segmentation and how it helps you contextualize the conversion you are having with each group of leads. When it comes to closing the sale, you’ll have even greater success if you personalize the conversation. Segmentation is about groups, personalization is about the individual. Addressing a prospect’s specific needs rather than general needs helps build your credibility and trustworthiness. You’re showing that you are paying attention and that you care about solving their problems.

We use personalization in a number of ways, but the most effective is with our content and our engagement. Using smart lists, we sync the data with an awesome tool called BrightInfo. When the prospect visits our site, BrightInfo will suggest content specifically for them based on their interactions, lifecycle stage and other data gathered from our marketing efforts. As a result, our site becomes a customized resource that meets their individual needs.

While BrightInfo is great, we as individuals must also personalize our interactions or we end up contradicting ourselves. Our motto is “ Personalized Marketing for a Personalized Economy.” We live in a culture where we can customize almost anything. When something is created “just for us” it makes us feel good. We need to engage with our leads in a personal way and provide solutions to meet their specific, individual challenges. This doesn’t mean trying to do things that are out of our scope, but rather using what we have “in the box” to serve them.

Generating leads is exciting and energizing. But knowing what to do next is what sets those who succeed apart from those who don’t. The key throughout the process is to remember that on the other side of that screen, email or phone call is a person. A person who has a need and is looking for a solution. If you remember to serve the individual and strive to create a solution that is mutually beneficial, you’ll position yourself and your company as trustworthy. In a world of unlimited choices, trust is a commodity that carries a ton of weight.

So, congrats on generating leads. Now get work on getting to know them!