How to nurture new vs. existing leads
Now that you've got your leads lined up, what's next? Contributor Seth Price discusses how to segment brand-new from already existing leads so that you can build on those relationships and ultimately close more sales.
Leads — they drive business forward. We advertise, blog, curate social accounts, use social networks and directly pay for leads because they are a means to profitable ends. Then why does collecting leads often create more questions than it answers?
In my more than 25 years in marketing, I’ve come across countless people who struggle with lead nurturing. In most cases, there isn’t an established process for treating diverse types of leads with different approaches, so a lack of productivity arises. The most basic version of this dilemma comes from deciding how to segment brand-new from already existing leads.
You can’t simply expect that new prospects will understand how your business can help them right away, or that existing contacts will suddenly read your newsletter or blog and identify themselves to you as someone who is ready to buy now. Segmenting leads should begin the second they arrive on your doorstep.
While new and existing leads are different animals by nature, managing them comes down to a simple law: Always keep them moving.
The biggest difficulty with new leads comes from the sheer volume of them, along with unrealistic expectations about knowing which of these prospects are actually worthy of your sales funnel.
When it comes to new leads, the most important thing you can do is to qualify the information. Make sure the email, phone number, name — and any other criteria you require — are accurate and ask for their buy-in to hear about opportunities from you. That’s it.
- Failure is progress
Think of it this way — failure is often a winning outcome. When you find out the information isn’t there, be satisfied and move on.
Depending on the industry and sales cycle that you work with, set yourself a cutoff for when a lead is simply not worth your time. That might be something as simple as six attempts to qualify the lead over the course of two weeks, for example. Otherwise, you’re likely to spend four times the amount of time and energy to create a profile for a person who isn’t qualified to be in your sales funnel to begin with.
- Move an inch at a time
One mistake I see across industries is that when a lead is successfully qualified, many businesses try to do too much and too quickly. Remember, you’ve already done your job. Your only aim should be to inch the conversation forward.
In that first touch, gather metrics about their goals, how motivated they are to buy and their timeline. From there, it’s all about segmentation for marketing.
Nurturing existing leads is where your true business skill comes into play. Beyond creating a first touch point, to truly nurture a lead, you must understand and align directly with your business’s goals.
It all comes down to timing and movement. Many businesses do themselves a disservice by breaking all leads into some version of hot and cold. In reality, that doesn’t provide the insight you need to truly nurture. So how do you break that chain?
- Watch their clock
Examine your sales cycle. Where can you add value to leads who are ready to buy? How can you educate those who are close to buying but aren’t there yet? What can you say to those who are really far off from a purchase but you want to keep within your sphere of influence?
However many of these categories make sense for your organization, be sure to time each to your best prediction of when a given lead will be ready to buy.
- A goal at every stage
For leads that require you to focus more on nurturing than on selling, determine a cadence of quarterly, bi-monthly or weekly planned communications that cements them into a staged process with you. For businesses that focus on high ARPU (average revenue per user), perhaps this comes in the form of planned physical touch points: coffee, lunches or swag.
The goal for nurturing should be to continue a relationship that helps you stay current on a person’s initial qualifying information: what they want to accomplish, how motivated they are to buy, and their timeline. As a bonus, collect additional information that can be used to make the nurture experience fruitful.
When you identify that nurtured leads are getting closer to buying but still not quite ready to pull the trigger, upgrade them with your segmentation. Change your approach to focus a bit more on product. Think about sending case studies, inviting them to webinars or sharing product news.
Regardless of their “readiness” to buy, your goal is to get their real feedback on what they see — how it does or doesn’t fit their needs — and determine a strong prescription for what they will be looking for when they are ready to buy.
When leads are hot, communications become a whole different ballgame. Touch points should move from automated to personal. Phone calls, texts or personally crafted emails become your tools. They can focus directly on the product, price, what’s available and customizations.
At this point, you know how to do your job — give them everything they need to close the deal. Most importantly, once the deal is closed, then place them back in your lead nurture cycle.
Whether you’re making your first or twentieth contact with a lead, the most important thing you can do is to segment them as quickly as possible. From validating initial information to inching forward, focusing your segmentation process on how far that lead is from making a sale aligns you with your organization’s overall business strategy.
From there, it’s about using that timeline to keep everything in constant motion. Rather than trying to get leads to make large jumps, successful lead nurture programs focus on the incremental movement of turning a first contact into a sale.