If your business involves finding service solutions that fit your customers, rather than selling one-size-fits-all products, lead nurturing is something you’re probably familiar with. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, lead nurturing is simple. If someone calls about your services, visits your website, or subscribes to any of your marketing efforts, that person is a potential lead. By keeping an eye on those potential leads through your analytics or their in-store behavior, you can spot opportune moments to give them a sales opportunity they’ll be more highly receptive to.
Lead scoring is part of this process. Scoring is how you keep track of those leads, where they’re at in your sales cycle, and whether or not they’re ready for a sales proposition. You can literally apply a numeric score to prospective leads based on their activity in your store or online presence: do they visit often? Do they ask lots of questions about a product? Do they browse multiple product pages, or have they subscribed to your newsletter? These are all consumer signals, kind of like sales “body language,” that will tell you how close they are to actually converting—and at what point can you step in and make something happen sooner.
There are all sorts of CRM and data tracking software available, but they usually come with a steep monthly fee. Here’s how you can score and track your leads without pricy software, whether your small business runs out of a physical location or completely online.
Physical Locations: The Walk-In Lead Evaluation
When you’re physically in your store with your customers, you have the benefit of that physical interaction—being able to observe their behaviors and gauge how ready they are to buy. You might not even think about it, but chances are, you’re probably sizing up customers to determine just how “ready” they are for you to swoop in and try to make a sale. That’s lead scoring!
If you want to make your personal strategies more clear to your other employees or you just want to keep yourself organized, you can use a spreadsheet or a pad and paper to keep track of how you monitor customers.
What you’ll want to do first is determine the overall goals for your lead nurturing, or what exactly you want your customers to do. Once you have that goal in place, you should come up with a scoring system that progresses them towards that end result. If your goal is to have your customer buy a product, your scoring system will revolve around how willing they appear to be to make that purchase.
Your numbers can be arbitrary, but they need to make enough sense that when they add up, you have a clear picture of how far along they are towards making a purchase. Walking in the door could be 20 points, for instance. (If they try to sell you something in your own store, minus 20 points.) Browsing your products for 1, 2, or even 5 minutes should be a certain amount of points, and that’s a factor that can add up. Asking questions about a product can add a certain amount of points.
For instance, if it only takes two or three minutes for a customer to decide on what they want in your store, and you have a customer that has been there for 5 or 10 minutes, chances are they’re a potentially hot lead: their “score” should be relatively high due to the points they’ve accumulated for each minute they’ve been there. The customer that has browsed for 5 or 10 minutes longer than it usually takes typical customers has higher priority than the customer that just walked in: this is a no-brainer in practice, but is this an explicit part of your policies, or just something you expect your employees to understand?
Online Businesses Have It Harder, But No-Cost Lead Scoring Isn’t Impossible
Obviously, online businesses don’t have the benefit of physically observing visitors; that’s the tradeoff for having an always-on, 24/7 virtual storefront. That doesn’t mean you have no idea who your visitors are, and no means to enact some form of lead nurturing to ease them along towards a sales goal.
Online lead nurturing requires the careful use of analytics data, and laser-focused PPC campaigns to identify and pre-qualify your leads upon entry. You’ll want to look for your analytics for any trends that indicate interest from a certain group of visitors. Should you build something into your website that pops an offer up in front of visitors after they read multiple product pages? Are you getting a large amount of traffic from a keyword you’ve optimized for?
Once you spot trends in your analytics, your next move should be to create promotions and advertisements that capitalize on those trends. For instance: you might find in your analytics data that you have a large number of visitors coming to you daily from the Portland, Oregon area. Do you have PPC ads that are optimized for Portland? Could you put a special promotional offer up on your homepage specifically catering to Portland residents?
That attention to geographic location, a seemingly minor detail, will focus your marketing efforts specifically towards a region with your most active leads. Those active leads will see your special promotions specifically catered to them, and will be encouraged to act on them. By encouraging more conversions through careful content targeting, you’ve successfully nurtured online leads.
Digging up trends in your analytics by yourself isn’t the easiest practice, and luckily there are a few free CRM and lead management solutions available that can do it for you. Salesforce.com Free Edition is a great start for small businesses that need to get more out of their analytics data. Zoho also offers a free version of their business CRM software specifically for small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs. We use Chartbeat at Content Equals Money, but it’s a paid service after your 30-day trial ends. These tools will make it easier than ever to keep an eye on your incoming traffic, spot which leads are hotter than others, and figure out exactly when you can reach out and close a deal between them.
Whether your business is online or down the street from your customers, it’s important to know when and how to seal the deal, and turn prospective leads into successful conversions. Lead nurturing strategies and lead scoring techniques help business owners and employees determine how “hot” a customer is, and how willing they are to make that purchase. Businesses that focus on lead nurturing throughout their entire content marketing strategy will rarely see themselves hurting for business, and will be more adequately prepared to stay afloat during rainy days.