We have process, right?

If you are reading this article, chances are good your organization has built, or is in the process of building standardized processes for lead processing. Whether you have adopted a “waterfall” model or created your own variation, your model should closely represent your buyers’ journey from anonymity to closed business. Your model should be based on lead taxonomy and stage definitions unique to your solution(s) and buyer personas. (If not, we need to have another discussion entirely!) Let’s proceed on the basis that your process is defined correctly. So, we’re good, right? Maybe not!

Houston, we have a problem!

The issue is very likely hidden in the cracks between your process definitions, and should profoundly affect the way your organization approaches this step. In the Demand Gen world, it’s a basic tenet that you don’t nurture a lead being actively worked by sales. And yet, does your process indicate a single “lead nurturing” process similar to this over-simplified diagram?

If so, your organization may be missing out on a critical component of nurturing: the process is the same, but the intent is entirely different!

Two sides of the same coin.

In your buyer’s journey from anonymity to lead – especially in the B2B world and more so for long-cycle products or services – there are actually two distinct nurturing phases. Each phase may contain subdivisions unique to your buyer’s journey, but the process intent creates two distinct classifications:

  1. List2Lead Nurturing: the process of moving the buyer from anonymity to involvement
  2. Lead Nurturing: the process of moving the buyer from involvement to investment

To best illustrate both the similarities and the differences, these two classifications are best viewed on a chart measured against process intent, using a specific intent model.

Regardless of your organization’s intent model, nurturing is designed to simultaneously prompt buyer action and allow the buyer to move on his or her own schedule. Notice that there is functional overlap, but the difference in intent dictates we need two distinct processes to accomplish two distinct objectives.

Metaphorically Speaking…

As marketers, we are often too close to our subject matter to objectively see the fine differences in our own value propositions when viewed from a buyer’s perspective. Often, the best way to see those differences is to objectify them through metaphor. For example, if your organization sells financial services to businesses, change your metaphor to selling office furniture to the same set of businesses. The intent and movement along the buyer’s journey are similar, with your market nuances shaping the message delivery based on buyer personas and the value your product or service delivers.

Since the objective of Demand Generation is to create demand, it implies there isn’t necessarily an intrinsic demand. This is especially true if your product or service is innovative or new to the market. Even if your organization is an established market leader, we cannot assume that your prospects will automatically self-select into your lead process. We use a combination of inbound and outbound marketing channels to invite prospects into our lead process. This is where the nurturing processes diverge.

List2Lead Nurturing is focused on the movement from anonymity to involvement. Nurturing tactics in the List2Lead phase should be specifically targeted at generating involvement, not generating leads. This will seem counterintuitive to many traditional marketers and all of your sales team, it makes perfect sense when viewed from the buyer’s perspective. Let’s go back to our metaphor. Does your organization decide one day to trash its existing investment and purchase a new suite of expensive office furnishings without proper due diligence? (If so, Herman Miller wants to talk to you immediately!) Let’s build a buyer’s journey for that kind of purchase.

Start with “why buy?” What are the questions you would ask? Are the questions you are asking at this stage about the high-level advantages of new office furniture, or are they about fabric swatches and finish styles? How would you get those questions answered?

This is the List2Lead Nurturing stage. You are asking your buyer to become involved in the process, not make buying decisions. Your well-designed List2Lead Nurturing process will guide your buyer gently through the “why buy” question and into the “why buy from [your company]?” question with little friction. During this process, you will have demonstrated five of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of ethical influencei (Reciprocity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Consensus) and be well on your way towards properly positioning your organization for the next phase: real Lead Nurturing.

Let’s get real.

At this point, it may be occurring to you that you have many of the elements of List2Lead Nurturing as a part of your lead nurturing program already. What’s the point of changing your existing program if the components are already there?  The question can be answered by examining your own lead taxonomy. For example, if you are using BANT criteria, how many of your “leads” currently have an established budget? Authority? Right, that’s why Lead Nurturing is a non sequitur. Real lead nurturing only exists when your prospect is, or is very close to, a lead by your own definition. Real lead nurturing exists with the intent of converting (or re-converting) a prospect to a Sales-accepted Lead (SAL).

Real lead nurturing answers the question “why buy from [your organization] now?” This process is very distinct from our List2Lead Nurturing in that we have shifted from general, high-level advantages to more specific differentiating factors that spell out your competitive advantages to the buyer. The differences between these two conversations are dramatic, especially when we consider measurement! Yes, measurement.

What should we measure? How should we measure?