Defining Your Business’ Lead Nurturing Program

September 20, 2010

In 2008, Aberdeen Group released a report related to the statistics of lead nurturing programs at 213 companies. While I typically don’t like to reference articles that are over a year old, I feel that this data remains highly relevant to the expansion stage technology businesses that we target as venture capital investors.

The results of the report demonstrate that how a company handles their nurturing activities can be one of the key differentiators between an average company and a very successful company. In an review written by Amanda Ferrante of DemandGen Report, Senior Analyst of Aberdeen Ian Michiels is quoted as saying, “Lead nurturing is a way of extending the sales cycle to make sure a particular product or service remains top of mind until a prospect is ready to purchase. As a result, repeated communication with prospects is essential.”

Interestingly, the report found that within the companies that were surveyed, only 16% of the total leads were actually sales opportunities closed. So what happened to the other 84%? If nurtured properly, the percentage of closes would surely be higher.

At the end of the day, you’ve paid for your leads (whether it is through lead generation specialists/cold callers, SEM/SEO, trade shows, etc) so don’t let them fade into the abyss of your lost opportunities. Make lead nurturing a top priority to ensure a build a substantial sales pipeline.

Channels for Nurturing

Depending on the resources that your sales and marketing team has at their finger tips, here are some possible components of a Lead Nurturing campaign that your business should consider adopting (Courtesy of Brian Carrol of InTouch, Inc)

Okay, so great. You’ve got a newsletter, you’ve got a few case studies, and you’re hosting an event in the upcoming quarter. Now what? There needs to be a best practice process in place to maintain an effective nurturing campaign. That’s where the execution piece in the diagram above comes in.

According to the Aberdeen Report, there are four areas to focus on when it comes to lead nurturing best practices.

  • Process – teaching your reps how to handle leads that are partially qualified
  • Organization – understanding the different phases of the buying cycle, and then what is required content delivery-wise each step of the way
  • Knowledge Management – identifying gaps in the campaigns and capturing feedback from Sales and Marketing to make improvements
  • Technology – what service you will be using for your email distributions, etc.

Planning your Strategy

Designing a nurturing plan for the leads in each of our market segments will help you stay focused on what content is necessary along the way, and at what point in time you should be making the touch point.

Remember, each company’s plan will be different. Depending on your sales cycle, target audience, and quality/type of content you are using, you will need to design a nurturing campaign that works specifically for your business.

Just last week I spoke with a CEO of prospect company, who was interested in learning about OpenView Labs sales and Marketing support strategies. During the conversation the CEO explained to me that he found mailing content through FedEx to be a great tool for nurturing his best leads. His rationale: Executives are far more likely to open something that is FedEx-ed rather than sent through email, and your business is far more likely to leave a lasting impression on the recipient because the approach is so unique. The CEO was so confident in his product and supporting content, and was certain the executive would check out his company’s website after reviewing the direct mail.

Will this strategy work for every company? Probably not. However, the trick is finding what works for your business and capitalizing on it. Be consistent and get into a nurturing schedule that best suites your target audience.

The goal: When the time comes for your prospect to be in a buying position, you want your product to be the first thing that comes to his/her mind!