When it comes to nurturing prospects, think outside of the inbox

As a savvy digital marketer, you’ve most likely got the workflow down pat.

First, you determine your ideal customer or prospect.

You create the content those buyers are most interested in, like a clever social media campaign, a well-researched content strategy, or an irresistible offer.

When the campaign seems perfect, you launch it into cyberspace.

Then, you watch as the new leads roll in and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

But your job as a marketer shouldn’t stop with lead generation or the handoff to the sales team. I dare say your most important work is yet to be done — nurturing those leads to become customers.

Don’t Stop at the Opt-In

Today, the competition for market share is intense. Regardless of your industry, there is competition for your product. If your business has no competition, Forbes says you may have a problem with your business model. So, unless you fall into that category, chances are, other similar businesses are going after your same target prospect.

And the stronger your product, the more fierce the competition.

Take this marketing agency, for example. As a HubSpot partner agency, there are more than 430 other marketing agencies around the world offering similar services and competing for a slice of the inbound market share.

Because we all partner with HubSpot, we all offer similar services and a similar way of doing business. In fact, we all have access to similar resources to offer our customers and prospects.

So how does one differentiate themselves in what may feel like a very crowded field?

It’s not just what you do to attract a lead and capture their email address. It’s what you continue to do to nurture that lead through the buying cycle that increases your chances of success.

You Need More than Email

As marketers, we are often taught that email is the most effective way to nurture leads. But that too has become a crowded landscape. In 2015, the average business person received 122 emails per day. That’s 15 emails per hour! And that figure doesn’t even include the number of emails sent to personal email accounts.

According to a study by Radicati, the number of business emails sent and received daily is expected to rise by 3% by 2019 to an average of 126 emails per day.

If you are depending on email as your sole source of lead nurturing, you may want to consider augmenting your strategy with other nurturing activities to help your brand stand out.

5 Nurturing Alternatives to Email

As we continue to evolve and grow as an agency, we have experimented with different nurturing approaches to better connect with our prospects and potential customers. Here are 5 email alternatives we love for nurturing leads.

1. Use video retargeting ads.

Facebook is one of the leading platforms for digital advertising, especially in the B2C space. The targeting capabilities allow you to narrow down exactly who you want to reach with specific content. (Savvy Facebook users can even set the parameters such that an ad can be served to just one individual.)

One of the best ways to take advantage of Facebook’s detailed targeting parameters is by setting up retargeting ads. Often, retargeting ads are used to serve content to a visitor who did not convert on your original offer.

However, Facebook ads can be used to retarget leads once they have converted to continue to nurture these leads to become customers.

Think of it like this:

A visitor clicks over to your landing page and opts in to your offer. Once you deem that lead qualified (whether through lead scoring or other factors), you want that lead to become a customer.

So instead of (or in addition to) your sales team calling the lead, why not create a custom video thanking the person for opting in and providing additional value or content that continues to move them through the buying cycle?

Create a custom Facebook audience by installing your Facebook pixel on your thank you page and serve the nurturing video to anyone who hits that thank you page.

Continue to create custom audiences and videos for each phase of your buying cycle until someone becomes a customer.

PRO TIP: Use this same strategy to serve thank you videos on Facebook once a lead converts to maintain client happiness.

2. Engage in online user groups

If your company, industry or product uses online forums, user groups or Facebook groups to network with leads or prospects, take advantage of the opportunity to participate in these groups and engage in conversation with group members. If this conversation is valuable, it can lead to customer conversion.

Take this real-life example:

Recently, I opted in to attend a webinar to improve my marketing skills. As is often the case with webinars, the company used it as a lead gen tool and pitched their training program at the end of the webinar.

Even though the content was valuable, I was not ready to enroll in the program at the end of the webinar.

However, the company has not lost me as a lead for their nurturing funnel. As soon as I registered for the webinar, I received an email inviting me to join the company’s Facebook mastermind group to interact with other marketer members.

I joined the group and subscribed to the notifications, which means that I am consuming more of this company’s content that I likely would if it were just coming via email. In fact, I find myself often overlooking the emails in favor of the real-time conversations taking place on Facebook. And because the course leaders are engaged in the group, as well as other participants, I feel that I get much more valuable information than I would from the emails alone.

3. Implement Live Chat

Live chat is quickly topping the lists of consumer preferences, with 73% of consumers choosing this method of customer support communication over email and phone.

It’s quick, easy, and can be used not only to service existing customers but engage with website visitors looking to you for solutions to their problems.

With a service like SnapEngage or Drift, you can install a plugin onto your website to offer support to your site visitors and potential customers. These programs allow you to pre-populate content customized on each page of your site, which encourages visitors to reach out for help.

Consider customizing the content to returning visitors to address additional questions they may have, or implement chat on free trial pages so address user issues prior to subscribing to your service.

Capturing these conversations can then lead into other lead nurturing tactics, such as text messaging, Facebook ad targeting, or even emailing.

4. Send text alerts.

Text messaging services (permission-based, of course) can allow you to reach your audience in different ways and prequalify prospects prior to a sales call.

Consider this: 35% of business professionals say they can’t go 10 minutes without responding to a text. Compared to the email statistics mentioned earlier in this post, texting can lead to higher open and response rates.

Several services, including TextMagic, Twilio, and SlickText allow you to implement SMS-based marketing strategies.

When incorporated into your lead nurturing strategy appropriately, text messaging can increase user engagement and drive conversions.

Just make sure to follow some common SMS marketing etiquette before you get started!

5. Don’t overlook the USPS.

Sometimes direct mail pieces can make your brand really stand out to your prospects. While some may argue that direct mail is dead, used appropriately, it can have powerful effects.

Consider triggering a postcard when a lead reaches a certain point in a workflow to follow up in the mail.

Or, better yet, send a handwritten note after a phone call or meeting, or when a prospect has a very high lead score.

How to Remain Relevant With Emails

Email can still remain a viable component of your lead nurturing campaigns, but it should be used effectively. Don’t simply send a series of 3-5 emails in as many days by default.

Make your emails relevant and timely to make them effective. Put yourself in your customer’s position. Imagine you are not the marketer, but the customer, and think about the questions that you would have at each stage. Then create the content that addresses those questions.

Talk to your sales or support teams to determine the frequently asked questions or common objections and address those concerns in your nurturing emails. Don’t simply make your follow up emails about you and your product.

In whichever manner you choose to nurture your leads, provide value. You’ll have a much greater chance of closing the deal if your leads feel you are walking with them through this journey of solving their problem, not just selling a service to fix it.