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.” Salespeople have to plant a ton of seeds 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 6 steps to running a successful lead nurturing program.
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 6 steps to running a successful lead nurturing program.
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 four-step process: Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem. Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and researches options to solve it. Commitment Stage: The buyer decides they are committed to changing and leaving their status quo. 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 with their buyers 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 awareness, lead nurturing should focus 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”
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.
What does your lead nurturing campaign consist of? Are you happy with your results? Let's start a conversation in the comments section below.
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.