Lead Nurturing: Qualifying Prospects and Timing Interactions

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Lead nurturing helps guide prospects through the buying cycle, allowing businesses to reach out to them at just the right time. There are many steps involved with lead nurturing including generating awareness, having relevant marketing content, engaging with the lead regularly and propelling the lead to the next stage in the buying process.

As an example, imagine you are on a fishing trip, sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake. The bait is on the hook and you’ve just cast the line into the water. Now you wait patiently for the fish to bite with the goal of catching as many fish as possible.

In order to fill your marketing funnel so that you have leads to nurture until they are sales ready, businesses must first focus on lead generation. Therefore, it is imperative to find prospects when they are in the first stage of the buying cycle. The first stage of the buying cycle is when the prospect realizes that they might have a problem, but they are not quite certain where to start in order to find a solution.

At this stage, businesses need to use various inbound marketing efforts like company blogs, social media, SEO and others to create awareness that draws prospects to their organization. Inbound marketing helps businesses generate leads to fill the marketing funnel to create a supply of leads to nurture until they are sales ready.

Remember the fishing expedition you are on? This is the part where you want to have the best worm on the line to attract all of the fish. To do this you find the biggest, squirmie worm to put on your hook to catch the fish’s attention.

Inbound marketing efforts in lead nurturing are no different. Businesses need to position themselves as thought leaders, having the most relevant information and offering the most enticing reasons why a prospect should choose to do business with them.

After finding and researching organizations, prospects in the next phase of lead nurturing may start to download white papers and case studies or even attend a webinar. They may even submit their contact information giving your organization permission to contact them; however, it is still too early to contact the prospect at this stage. Just because they have downloaded a white paper and have attended a webinar does not necessarily mean they are ready to talk to anyone.

To compare this phase of lead nurturing to our fishing trip, this is the part where a fish is starting to nibble on the bait and the bobber is starting to move. They are interested, but not quite engaged. If you pull on the line too fast the fish will swim away. Buyers in this phase of the research process are very hesitant about making a purchasing decision and therefore need to be treated delicately.

You have to be certain the prospect is going to bite prior to moving to the next phase in lead nurturing. If you push too hard during this time, it can potentially turn a prospect away.

At this point in the lead nurturing process, automated marketing can help further qualify the prospect for lead definition. By tracking the prospect’s website activity and determining how long the prospect stays on each web page, it can help sales decide what topics may be relevant. The same goes for tracking the types of marketing resources the prospect is downloading from the company website.

Some marketing automation tools even allow for lead scoring. All of these factors help move the prospect through the lead nurturing cycle and help determine the appropriate time for contact.

Generally once the prospect has researched their options, provided their contact information and has requested contact, it seems that they are engaged and ready to make a purchase. At this point a lead development professional should reach out to the prospect to further qualify the lead, prior to passing it on to sales. It is now time to pull on the line, setting the hook to catch the fish.

Do keep in mind that not all prospects will follow this lead nurturing path perfectly. Sometimes prospects seem engaged but do not convert into a customer. This happens when business needs or department budgets change, preventing the prospect of the ability to move forward. These prospects should not be discarded, but instead continually nurtured to ensure your organization is able to reach them once they are ready to buy again.

Compare this to what your company is currently doing. Do you find that you are able to catch the majority of the fish that nibble on your bait? If not, where are you losing your prospects’ attention in your lead nurturing efforts?