How to Set Up Lead Nurturing Programs

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Lead NurturingLead nurturing. It’s one of those marketing phrases you’ve probably heard people buzzing about over the last couple of years. But what the heck does it mean, and how do you set it up? We’re glad you asked. Consider this post “lead nurturing 101.”

Lead nurturing, defined. You have a prospect – a lead – and the person is interested in your products or services but is not quite ready to buy yet. The reasons for this could be many: the prospect may be shopping around and looking for the best deal. Or she may be in the preliminary research stages. Or perhaps she’s stuck in Indecision City. Whatever the reason, your job is to nurture this prospect – this lead – towards a final decision (ideally, buying from you). Courting potential customers is not unlike the early stages of a romantic relationship. In other words, you have to woo them.

How a lead nurturing program typically works. How you nurture your leads will very much depend on the type of business you have (and the amount of time, money, and people-power you have available). Typically, you nurture leads by sending a series of emails over a specified amount of time.

For example, perhaps you send three emails over the course of 20 business days once someone becomes an official prospect. What makes for an official prospect? It could be someone calling your office and asking for a quote, more information, or a consultation. Or it could be someone taking some sort of action on your website, such as filling out a form for a free white paper.

Note: you could send a series of snail mail pieces over a specified amount of time. The difference between junk mail and “real” mail is the value the recipient sees in the mailing. If people perceive something as having high value, she’ll open it. Since the prospect contacted your company first, she has already expressed interest in your products or services. Following up with a series of mailings can help educate the prospect and lead her towards making a decision. That said, this is a pricier strategy, since it will involve postage, packaging, and printing costs. Because of this, we’re going to focus on email lead nurturing from here on out.

Why lead nurturing? Let’s consider some important info about lead nurturing from a recent HubSpot thought paper. HubSpot, the leaders in inbound marketing software and tools, offers these stats about lead nurturing:

  • “Lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate of standalone email blasts.”
  • “25-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.”

As you can see, it pays off to invest in setting up a lead nurturing program.

What should you include in your lead nurturing programs? Don’t think selling. Think wooing. Think valuable content. Think what’s in it for the recipient. Give away helpful information freely. This gesture accomplishes two goals: it provides the recipient with useful info she can use right now AND it highlights your expertise in a particular area. Ideas for valuable content include:

  • Checklists
  • Guides
  • Thought papers
  • Hints and tips
  • “Further reading” (and not necessarily articles you’ve written)
  • Statistics

For example, if you’re a photographer, and you’re wooing a prospect to use your services for her wedding, share a short guide on makeup application and things to think about for perfect wedding photos. Or provide a “color guide” tip sheet on colors that photograph best.

If you’re a landscaper, provide a brief “how to guide” on pruning roses. Or provide a one-sheet on identifying poison ivy.

How to set up lead nurturing programs. You probably realize by now that setting up a lead nurturing campaign requires some up-front work and an investment of time and (more than likely) money. The good news? Once you set it up and get all the pieces working, it can be pretty turnkey to run from that point forward.

Here’s your checklist.
1. Decide on the time frame for the emails. We recommend 2-3 “touches” over the course of 15 to 20 business days. Mileage will vary, however, depending on your business and depending on the typical sales cycle for your business. Perhaps your sales cycle will require more touches over a longer period of time.

2. Determine the content for each email. We recommend leading with a valuable offer, something tangible that people can download and read (and perhaps even print out). The second “touch” could be a simple follow up to see what the person thought of the valuable offer and then remind the prospect about all the different ways she can stay in touch with you online for more valuable tips (think Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest). The third “touch” can be your “hard sell” – your call to action to try to get the person to make a decision and to choose your company.

3. Decide who will write the content. As you can see, you – or someone – will need to do some writing. If writing isn’t your specialty, consider hiring a freelance copywriter to craft the content for your lead nurturing campaign. This will require a monetary investment, but you’ll be able to use the content over and over (especially if you create “evergreen” offers…in other words, offers that include timeless information. For example, how to prune roses isn’t a topic that will change over time).

4. Don’t forget about website landing pages. You’ll also need at least one “landing page” on your site where people can fill out a brief form so that they can download the valuable offer (this helps you track the success of your lead nurturing campaign as well). Your web person can help with this, or if your site is on a content management system that you’re comfortable using, you can handle this piece on your own (the freelance copywriter might be able to help as well).

5. Create a way to keep track and stay on schedule. Once you have all your lead nurturing pieces finalized (and tested!), create a simple spreadsheet in Excel (or if you use a CRM, like SalesForce, you can keep track of when you send each piece through the CRM). Here’s what you’ll need on the spreadsheet:

  • Add the prospect’s name and contact info.
  • In the next column, include the date the person became an official prospect.
  • In the next three columns include the dates when each lead nurturing piece needs to go out, which will be based on the date the person became a prospect. For example, perhaps your mailing is on a 3-7-15 business-day schedule. You could then have a “status” column (e.g. “completed”). And another column could be “Results” (e.g. “became customer”).

Whether you’re the one who talks to prospects or you have a sales rep, you or the sales rep could then hand this spreadsheet off to the person in charge of the mailing (and we realize for small business owners, this might be you!). If everything has a schedule and if everything is already written, sending the emails should be pretty straightforward and not too time consuming. (Tip: you could also use an email service provider like Constant Contact to help automate the email mailings.)

Note: Depending on how your website is set up, you may be able to automate lead nurturing emails, which means you never have to worry about sending the emails yourself…the system will do it automatically. But you can do it manually as well. This a great task for an office manager or even an intern.

Remember, lead nurturing is a commitment, but as you can see from the stats we mentioned earlier, the pay off can be huge. Besides, your prospects are worth it, right?

Do you currently have a lead nurturing program? What tips would you recommend people keep in mind? Share in the comments.

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