6 Steps to Running a Successful Lead Nurturing Campaign
There is a lot of truth to the sales metaphor “what we plant today we’ll harvest tomorrow.” Sales people have to plant a ton of seeds (qualify leads) in order to harvest their anticipated yield, yet planting the seeds is the easy part. The hard part is nurturing those leads through careful planning and executing each interaction via telephone, email, text, and face to face meetings. Suffice it say, it’s a daunting task for sales professionals and sales leaders to build and execute a lead nurturing campaign that not only shortens the sales cycle and has a measurable impact on the business, but actually compels the prospect to want to engage with the sales professional.
In this blog post I’m going to share with you the basic components that make up a successful lead nurturing campaign and then I’m going to share with you 6 steps you can take to implement successful lead nurturing campaign
Lead nurturing is the process of engaging a defined target market (qualified leads) with the relevant information at each stage of the buyer’s journey, while positioning you and your company as the authoritative leader and smartest (and safest) choice for them to achieve their goals. It should be noted that a lead nurturing campaign is much more than simply sending email blasts or doing monthly (or weekly) newsletters or making bi-weekly “check-in” calls. When executed properly, lead nurturing is done with specific intent and follows a clearly defined process. Below are the basic elements to setting up a lead nurturing campaign.
Organizing Your Lead Nurturing Campaign
Before you start campaigning any prospect you first must decide who needs lead nurturing and why. This is why it is critically important that you have a clearly defined target market. Every year I travel the country and visit with dozens of IT staffing firms and sit with their sales reps to understand how they sell. 90% of the reps I sit with are working really hard nurturing leads (prospects) they know little or nothing about. Step one is to define your target market and establish basic lead qualification criteria for who is worthy of your lead nurturing campaign. Remember, 90% of sales is simply segmenting the real buyers from the “window shoppers.” Don’t waste your time on the “window shoppers.”
Next you will need to define your buyer personas. Chances are you’re calling on many different types of buyers. Most likely you call on Managers, Director’s and Vice Presidents. Functionally speaking you also probably call into the Human Resources department, the Procurement department and various groups within the IT department (application development, data management, program management office). Each one of these buyers needs to hear a different message. Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content including your messaging such as email, voice mail and content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups.
Now that you have built your buyer personas you need to understand the buyer journey. Trust me when I say that lead nurturing is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, so you can’t take a “cookie-cutter approach. I have spent countless hours trying to master the art and science of executing a lead nurturing campaign and have learned through trial and error. I have learned (and been taught) to organize and align my lead nurturing campaign with the stages of the buyer journey. The buyer's journey is a general representation of the process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. The journey is a three-step process: Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem. ... Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it. Decision Stage: The buyer chooses a solution.
The most common mistake IT staffing sales (and marketing) professionals make is they either don’t share relevant content to their audience or the content they share is offered at the wrong time (more on this in a minute). Below is an illustration (courtesy of my friend Dave over at Bristol) who helped me with my original content strategy highlighting how I organize or align my lead nurturing campaign to the stages of the buyer journey.
Creating Your Content & Messaging-Offering Something of Value, Not a Pitch
Educate: Especially at initiation, lead nurturing focuses on educating the prospect by sharing your insights, ideas and point of view (it doesn’t start with a pitching a candidate or a price quote). This may also include teaching (sharing through experience) your prospects how to make better, more informed decisions to advance their initiatives and/or agenda.
Engage with Compelling Content: By sharing compelling content that is relevant and important to the prospect you gain the engagement of your prospect and change the conversation. This is how you build value into your sales process and begin to position yourself as a thought leader. When sales people do this they no longer feel the pressure of “having to sell something” or the need to “go into pitch mode”
Awareness Stage: This is the stage where your buyer visits your web site or does a search in Google to get an answer or solution to a problem. Buyers are researching solutions to their current and/or upcoming problem or challenge and their search results lands them on a blog or in a discussion group (discussing the problem). This is also when sales people call a prospect and the prospect says “we’re going to be launching “X” later this year” or “were planning to upgrade “Y” next quarter.” Buyers in the awareness stage are typically looking for answers, resources, education, research data, opinions, and insights. This is why it is so important to understand what your prospects are working on today and what they plan to do next month, quarter and year. Building your buyer persona will also help you understand what information and content you need to create. By the way, the Awareness stage is where 90% of your buyers (IT hiring managers) reside. Earlier I mentioned that the common mistake sales (and marketing) professionals make is they either don’t share relevant content to their audience or they share the wrong data at the wrong time. Most IT staffing sales professionals share content aligned with the Consideration stage when their prospect is still only in the awareness stage. This is how the buyer and seller quickly get out of alignment and how the seller quickly loses credibility. Chances are your IT staffing firm needs more awareness stage content.
Consideration Stage: You know when your prospect is in the consideration stage because this is the stage when they visit your product pages, view your “About Us,” and/or “Why Us,” page or area of expertise (on your web site). They start asking sales people questions about their service offerings. This means you and your company are being considered as a potential solution. Keep in mind that up until this point you should only be sharing educational based content. Not until the buyer has reached the consideration stage, in which they are seeking to learn more about your specific offerings, should you start sharing information on your service offerings such as pitch decks, data sheets, case studies.
Decision Stage: You know when your prospect is in the decision stage because they will visit your pricing pages, case studies, and “Contact us” pages. Keep in mind that for the staffing professionals reading this blog I’m speaking in the context of the buyer trying to select a vendor or solution for their staffing needs or a specific project. I’m not speaking in the context of the hiring manager who just interviewed your candidate and must make a hiring decision. In that case the information you provide is much different. You can tell when buyers are in decision making mode when they start asking about your pricing or ask for case studies or to speak with references.
Establish Clear Goals.
Before you launch your lead nurturing campaign you should clearly define the goals of your campaign. Without clear objectives your lead nurturing campaign will most likely lose steam because you will never know if you are seeing success or not. I suggest you start with small incremental goals. For example, I would not have a goal of “receive X number of job orders” or “receive X number meetings.” If only it were that easy and buyers would move that fast! Remember, you’re trying to go from an unknown commodity to known entity and authoritative thought leader. Leave the transaction sales behavior at home because were trying to build long term relationships and that takes time.
Evaluate & Iterate
There are a lot of so-called experts out there who believe sales is an art. While I do believe there is some truth to that, I have found that there is actually a ton of science to selling including lead nurturing. As you run your lead nurturing campaigns, be sure to experiment with the content you share, your email subject lines and any call-to-action offers within your emails and/or messaging. I’m constantly tweaking my campaigns because there is always room to improve your results. This is where you need to think of yourself as a mad scientist always testing and experimenting to improve your results. I assure you, nobody has the silver bullet answer to this which is why you must constantly evaluate and iterate to improve results.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.