According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing are able to generate 50% more sales ready leads for 33% lower cost. Think about that; half again more sales ready leads for two-thirds of the cost of hard-sell cold-calling that only partially fills the very top of the funnel.
Lead nurturing yields self-qualified buyers that have moved towards the bottom of the funnel on the strength of content written specifically for them as they arrive at each decision point. These are leads that are nearly ready to buy.
This is the essence of inbound marketing – to provide solutions, not sell products.
The Website as Information Portal
Do not think of your website as a sales platform. It is an information portal for a searcher with a specific problem to solve. It is a tool for addressing needs, not for broadcasting product features.
Your website needs to be rich with informative, solution-oriented content that is handcrafted to delight your valued buyer personas. You optimize, not for the search engines, but for your ideal buyer. Your buyer wants to find answers to most of her questions before contacting you.
The Role of Social Media
Like your website, social media is not a platform for driving sales. It is a tool for engaging with people. The 50/50 rule applies here: you must engage others at least as much, if not more, than you talk about yourself. A better ratio may be 75/25 – 75% of the time you are sharing valuable content and engaging others. The other 25% may be used for more business centric interaction, but not hard promotion.
While you don’t optimize for search engines, your prospective lead probably found you through one. To draw that potential lead into the funnel smart businesses are creating premium content called an offer.
An offer is a remarkable piece of content that educates your prospect and helps solve a problem she has. This content can be a white paper, an e-book, a webinar, a video…any type of content that has been carefully prepared to appeal to this particular person.
The offer must be valuable enough that the prospect is willing to part with personal information to gain access to it. Content this valuable is created with a particular buyer in mind, who is represented by a highly researched buyer persona prepared specifically for this purpose. You need to develop a variety of buyer personas, each with its own targeted collection of content.
Offer (Content) Development
Ask yourself what you would need if you were in your persona’s shoes. Identify:
Their pain points
How you can help with both
Use the answers to these questions to determine the best topics for your offers. You can also look at what has been of interest in the past. Check out your analytics to identify likely subject matter. Make offers people want to read by keeping the content focused, fresh, and easy to read. You can, and should, allow your brand’s personality to show but avoid promotion. Keep it professional.
The lead generated by that initial offer must now be nurtured with further content that addresses the buyer’s needs at each stage in the sales funnel. The process is called content mapping, and gives a label to each buying stage:
Status Quo: The buyer recognizes a problem but isn’t actively trying to solve it yet.
Priority Shift: Something has occurred to make the buyer actively begin to seek solutions.
Research: The buyer is committed to solving the problem and focused on finding experts.
Identifying Options: The buyer has a business case and is making a short list of solution providers.
Step Backs: The buyer is hesitating and re-evaluating.
Validation: The buyer needs to verify assumptions before making a final decision.
Choice and Commitment: The buyer is ready to make a purchase decision.
Move a buyer through the funnel by developing specialized content to address each stage. With lead nurturing they are more likely to convert to a customer and at a much lower cost than previous methods.
The first advertising agency opened in 1786--people have been bombarded with advertisements ever since. From the first newspaper print ads to the highly produced spots of the TV and radio age, the public has been inundated with promotional material. They have long since learned to tune it out. The frenetic advertising of the internet age further antagonized prospects who now demand to be left alone until they give permission to be contacted.
This is why you should stop pitching and start providing answers; because nobody at the other end wants to play catch. They will play ball when they are ready, not before. In the meantime, make them welcome and don’t make a fuss.