8 Steps to Optimizing Your Lead Nurturing Program: Part 1
Takeaway notes from a BtoB Magazine webinar. By Aliza Bornstein, copywriter, Melissa Data

Lead nurturing is about fostering an ongoing dialog with your prospects and customers. But in a landscape filled with noise from email, social media, and a variety of outlets, how can you make the most of your efforts?

How can you cultivate better relationships with your prospects and leads? There’s an ocean of prospects that require nurturing over time, along the path to sales ready status. Moreover, unique B-to-B sales leads are complex constructs, involving multiple decision makers.

Lead nurturing requires a human touch component. Sales people need to be aided by tools that make it easy for them to continue conversation and make appropriate offers based on behavior and engagement.

Lead nurturing automation tools must support lower volume, ad hoc delivery (drive conversations), and track multiple touch points (phone, email, online, in person).

Ultimately, you’re going to be looking for leads to nurture that would normally go to your sales team, but your sales team is focused on who can convert in the next quarter or two. What you’re trying to do is cultivate them in a different way, at a different level.

With your lead nurturing process there are five categories to go through:

1. Search
2. Landing page
3. Form submit
4. Lead qualification
5. Sales
For those who are sending prospects immediately to sales after they submit their form, you’re missing out on potentially 60-70 percent of your revenue. This is because, most of the time, leads are not free to talk to sales people. So you need to have nurturing in your sales process, until they’re ready to move through the sales organization.

In order for you to nurture, you have to have people to nurture, and to do that you need to qualify all of your leads and inquiries.

This article will provide you with the strategies you need to make your program more effective. Here are the first four steps.

Step 1: Ideal Customer Profile
You can’t nurture everyone that’s in your database and do it well. So you need to develop an ideal customer profile, and to do that, you need to have a clear way of how you’re segmenting your data so you can look at who your first, second, and third tier are. The amount of effort and energy you’re going to put into each of these tiers is going to be driven by things such as:
• Industry code

• Revenue

• Employee size

• Trigger events

• Sphere of influence
The idea is you need to nurture companies that can buy from you. If you don’t have that intelligence to know whether or not an organization is an asset, then you really need to put them in a qualification process to research that. You’re not trying to build the biggest database of nurturing campaigns possible. What you’re really trying to do is drive relevancy. That will ultimately drive conversions.

Step 2: Your Universal Lead Definition
Going into 2010, 60 percent of companies still do not have a clearly defined definition of a lead between a marketing and sales organization. The problem with this is that you don’t have a clear definition of when a sales lead is ready to be handed off to your sales team.

Allow your leads to be scored and prioritized (BANT):

Authority (Economic buyer; Influencer; End User; Information Gatherer; Champion).

Need (Identify problem; Look for solutions; Evaluate options; Select shortlist; Buying decision).

Time frame (Less than 3 months; Less than 6 months; Less than 12 months).
When three of the four are known, the lead is qualified.

Spectrum for sales readiness

Level 1: A response from an individual to a marketing campaign or someone who has taken proactive steps to demonstrate interest in your message, product, or service.

Level 2: A meaningful interaction (via phone or email) with an individual meeting fulfilling the requirements of a fully qualified company and audience.

Hand off to sales

Level 3: Level 2, plus the individual demonstrates a specific need for and interest in your products or service.

Level 4: Level 3, plus the individual is in the process of defining a requirement for your product or service.

Level 5: Level 4, plus the individual has the responsibility, budget, and a defined timeline for purchase.

Step 3: Lead Qualification

Inquiry Form—First Step (Welcome)
Looking at your current lead qualification process, examine your “contact us” forms. Is there enough quantity information?

Inquiry Form—Second Step
A confirmation page allows you to ask for qualifying information that your sales team needs to know.

Inquiry Form—Confirmation (Thank you!)
Instead of just a confirmation of information received, an automated inquiry email response is one of the most overlooked ways to open dialog with your customer. The goal is to connect right from the onset.

Step 4: Understand & Capture Your Audience
Unless you have an ideal customer profile, a definition of a sales ready lead, and a lead qualification process, you can’t perform nurturing because you don’t have the baseline infrastructure to know what you’re nurturing to.

Whom do you nurture?
Whose involved in your buying process? As you’re thinking of your marketing database, your goal is not to build the widest list possible, but to go deep—because the goal of nurturing is to start conversations.

What you need to determine is two things:

1. Who is involved in your buying process?
The best way to do that is to go to your sales team and talk to them about recent sales they have had and ask them who was involved in the first step, the middle step, and the later stages of the process.

2. How deep do you want to go with your nurturing?
If you know how deep you want to go, you can then start to determine how many different types of communication (phone, email, etc) you’re going to use with people.

Make sure that your database is the hub, so that every touch point that you have, regardless of source, gets into your lead nurturing and marketing database, and that becomes the hub for all nurturing communication.

Check back next week for the last four steps in optimizing your lead nurturing program!

---Source: BtoB Magazine webinar on Nov. 10, 2009 ( Brian Carroll is the CEO of In Touch and the author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. Reach him at


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