woman on phoneA long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was a salesperson. To be specific, I sold health and wellness training materials (videos, posters, booklets) to enterprise organizations that used them to educate employees, with the goal of lowering health care costs and raising productivity and satisfaction levels. When I began, my tools were a telephone, a stack of 3×5 cards, and a pencil. By the time I segued into marketing, we had computers and an early version of the ACT! contact management software.

Every big sale I ever made was the result of nurturing. I’d have an initial discovery call with a prospective buyer, and I’d make notes on a file card. By hand. I’d slot that card into a file box organized by date (called, oddly, a “tickle file”), and when the date rolled around, I’d pick up the phone and call that person. Over the course of a year I’d send the prospect three or four or eight pieces of information or samples by mail, and follow up by phone. For the really big sales, you had to wait until the budget cycle was coming up before you could actually close anything. But by the time we got there, that prospect had, over the course of a year, learned a lot about my company and my products. And I knew what their problems were, what they’d tried and failed with, what they hoped for, and what they were prepared to spend to get it.

It was nurturing. And I was pretty good at it. My Achilles heels were organization (I tended to have a lot of paper flying around at any one time) and lead qualification (I thought if I just educated people enough they would buy, so I spent ungodly amounts of time on stone-cold leads).

My, how things have changed. Today, a marketing automation system would shore up my weaknesses and solve those problems for me. I wouldn’t even see a lead until the marketing department had used automation to qualify it for me. And they’d have nurturing programs set up that would replace all those envelopes I licked and packages I sent.

Automated nurturing not only makes life easier…it’s a lot more effective.

  • Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (The Annuitas Group)
  • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Forrester Research)
  • Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (The Annuitas Group)

Janelle Johnson, Act-On’s director of demand generation, is a nurturing expert. Over the next few weeks, she’s agreed to pen a series of posts about how to do it well, so if you’re eager to get started with nurturing, please stay tuned for upcoming solid information and tips.

To get started right now, you could begin with this white paper: Introduction to Integrated Marketing: Lead Nurturing or just explore Act-On’s entire lead management resource section for more information. Or contact us for a demo that we’ll customize to focus on how you could create your own focused nurturing programs using Act-On.

And if anyone knows where the expression “tickle file” came from, please let me know.