Considering that around 80% of leads never turn into sales, you need a proper lead nurturing plan, including lead scoring, with the goal to transform those leads you do have into potential sales opportunities. Remember, lead nurturing is the process of delivering highly relevant content to prospects that may have shown some interest in your company but not ready to buy. The benefits of lead nurturing are:
- Automatic lead qualification, meaning increased sales productivity. Save time following up on bad leads.
- Shortening of sales cycles. Nurturing advances prospects through the purchase funnel, increases their lead score, and provides additional sales opportunities.
- Increases campaign ROI. Nurturing converts leads into opportunities.
Before getting started with lead nurturing (with marketing automation), let’s make sure the following steps take place:
- Goal establishment.
Define criteria on your ideal prospects and leads. When should they go to sales? What are your content and nurture KPIs to measure?
- Buyer Persona.
Really understand your buyers. What questions do they ask via each buying phase? How do they make vendor decisions? What is your ideal customer profile?
- Content Assets.
Identify existing content; prepare new content, and determine where each asset fits into the buying phases for each prospect. Plan what information buyers are looking for, and give them answers via your quality content.
You can read many blogs on this subject; there’s great thought leadership out there. Many of those blogs and articles discuss the “what,” the “why,” and touch on the “how” but really don’t get into actual planning and implementation of actual nurture campaigns.
Here’s how we do it, after we’ve done the preliminary steps as described above:
Lead Scoring Matrix.
Put together a basic list of demographics (compiled from lead forms) and content behavior items (compiled from potential email/content engagement behaviors). Assign each a score that is agreed upon between sales and marketing teams. Then determine a “threshold” or a score that tells your marketing automation to transfer that lead to sales for further contact, because that lead is assumed to be “actively” engaged with content and may be a valid prospect for a sales opportunity. Below is a sample matrix we use.
Gather two databases of available content. One for blogs; the other for longer-form content.
- Long-form content matrix.
As you see from the headings of our matrix, we get granular when we list our available content, whether they are white papers, case studies, ebooks, recorded webinars, or more.
- Blog Content Matrix.
We also plan our clients’ blogs on a blog calendar matrix; in order to keep track of our topics so that we can utilize them via our nurturing campaigns or newsletters.
Email and Landing Page Matrix
For every email campaign, we need to keep track of which email and landing page templates we need to use; which helps us orchestrate the nurture campaigns by aligning the content asset with an email cover, an autoresponder, and a landing page/thank you page (for conversion tracking). We also plan initial landing page or email subject line tests here.
Lead Flow Planning Matrix
Now we take the previously listed matrixes, and begin building nurture flows. You need to plan these drip campaigns meticulously, understanding how to shift prospects from list to list, what content to be sent, and when CRM (like Salesforce) lead transfer occurs. Below is an example of our nurture flow templates. Each nurture strategy has its own matrix. Some explanations on matrix fields:
- Campaigns. The name of your campaigns. I typically use objectives as names- Demand Gen, Increase Lead Score (accelerated nurture), Increase Interest (reactivate dormant prospects), or Gain Interest (initial nurture campaigns from rented/uploaded email lists)
- Campaign Types. This is where I identify the list that’s identified with a specific lead flow. A Form Submit list is a list of prospects that just enter the top of your funnel via a web form. A Manual List is prospects uploaded from a 3rd party source. A Nurture list is a new lead nurture flow gathered from an existing list of prospects that came from one of the two other two sources just described here.
- Segment/List. This is where we choose from which specific list or segment of that list we will be planning nurture flows to.
- Nurture Strategy. This field identifies the nurture flow content strategy- awareness-consideration, decision, loyalty buying phases.
How the lead nurturing template works. Drip strategy basics.
First, if this is a lead generation campaign, we begin with an autoresponse message, which is emailed immediately after the email submission. We have three Thank you templates, which can be customized. Thank You Content for content downloads, Thank You for Registering for webinars, and Thank You Contact, for direct web form inquiries. These autoresponders are triggered for any of the actions defined above whether at the beginning of a lead generation campaign, or within a nurture lead flow when long form content is distributed.
Waiting periods. You don’t want to bombard prospects with emails, but you do want to plan strategically. There is no “best practice” guide to waiting periods. Generally speaking:
- For the first 3 drips of a demand generation campaign, I wait 7 days before next email, then 14 days, then 21 days.
- For nurture campaigns with the goal to accelerate lead score, test between 14 and 21 days between emails
- For nurture campaigns with the goal to reactivate stale leads, test between 21 and 28 days between emails.
Email sends. This is where we list the blog or long form content that we are sending in between waiting periods. There’s no right answer, but we typically send two blogs in a row, then a long-form content piece. If you measure the email opens and clicks, you can determine which types of content are more engaging over time, and adjust your content distribution strategy
Positive or Negative Actions
Now the fun part begins. After the initial 3 drip campaigns, your content engagement is either going to be positive or negative.
When audiences click a link, view a video, register for a webinar, or download content, lead scores increase. If any of these positive actions occur, a typical marketing automation system allows you to do the following:
- Send the prospect to another list, perhaps an accelerated lead score campaign, since the prospect has shown some interest in your content, but not enough to reach your lead score “send to sales” threshold.
- Add the prospect to a CRM or Salesforce (SF) task, in case you want your sales people to call any prospect that downloads content, for example.
- Add the prospect to a Salesforce Campaign, if you want to assign the lead to a specific marketing campaign
- Notify. If you want to email a salesperson when a positive occurrence occurs, so he/she is aware of lead activity.
If there’s no engagement after the 3 drip emails, you can continue additional drip campaigns another 3 times, or the frequency of your choice. The goal here is to garner a positive response from a prospect. During the lead flow, if a positive action does occur (drip email 5, for example) then the steps taken when a positive action begins (as above).
This section of the matrix provides your campaign actions when your lead score threshold is reached any time during the lead flow drip campaign. We also include instructions for what happens to lead when the lead flow drip campaign ends.
- Lead score threshold reached. Follow the options listed above under Positive Actions. This will most likely be send to a Salesforce Task and Campaign. You can also send the lead (now an opportunity) to a loyalty list (reserved for leads that sell, and gives an opportunity to send newsletters and upsell/cross sell messages).
- When Drip ends. When the specific drip campaign ends, that lead either moves to another drip campaign or list (positive or negative actions) or another option if the lead is negative; removing that lead altogether from your lists, because you determine after the initial drip campaign flow and the additional reactivate flow that the prospect is not a prospect at all. Remember, a positive lead is one who has engaged in content, but hasn’t reached the lead score threshold yet.
Proper lead nurturing planning is a key to a successful campaign. By using these templates, you have the tools to plan when content should be sent to each prospect and when, minimizing any guessing, and being strategic instead.
If anyone would like to review these planning templates together, or you’d like a copy of the templates, feel free to email me.
What do you think of my approach? What is your lead nurturing planning process?