If your business is spending precious advertising and marketing dollars to generate leads, and you have prospects calling or clicking just as you hoped, that’s great. But what now? As most local business owners know all too well, leads must convert to sales – either now or in the future – before they can benefit your bottom line.
How you respond to your leads is critical – especially the ones who aren’t quite ready to buy … yet. This is where “lead nurturing” comes in. Basically, lead nurturing is the process you use to follow up on leads and turn those prospects into customers. How well businesses do this varies radically — and so do the results.
The goal of lead nurturing is to keep your prospects engaged and moving through the purchasing funnel. The best way to do this is to keep providing valuable information about your products and services in drip-like fashion (gently, with a light hand), in a way that’s memorable and has impact. Before you even start trying to “nurture” leads, however, you should have a firm grip on where your leads are coming from, and how much they are costing you.
Here are nine steps to effective lead nurturing for your local business:
Establish a plan
The best approach to lead nurturing is to have a detailed plan that begins immediately (think real time) and shepherds prospects down the path to conversion in a consistent, logical fashion. That is, of course, easier said than done. Local businesses regularly lose leads because they lack solid follow-up policies.
Be quick and nimble
When it comes to converting leads, speed is a huge factor. Most lead conversions go to the businesses that respond first. Quick response should be at the top of your list. If you don’t respond quickly, you lose.
Nurture the “not yet ready” prospects
While some leads may be ready to make a purchase immediately, many others must be carefully cultivated over time. To succeed you’ll need to anticipate the prospect’s needs based on who they are (using characteristics such as age, income, etc.), and what stage they are at in the buying process.
Provide information in bite-size pieces
Give your prospective buyers the information they will need to make a wise purchasing decision. But keep it simple. Provide the information in snack-size increments. Keep in mind that nurturing is about helping prospects throughout their buying “journey.”
Tap tools and tech
There are many terrific tools and web-based services that can help you nurture leads. A few examples include VerticalResponse.com, SwiftPage.com and ConstantContact.com (all for email campaigns); AWeber.com and SendPepper.com (auto-responder services); Enthusem.com and Thankster.com (for sending greetings and thank you messages).
Track prospect behavior and respond
The tools mentioned above can help you do this via customized reports and metrics. Use features that automatically track and respond in an appropriate way when a prospect opens an email, fills out a form, clicks on a link or performs another action.
Vary your format
People respond differently to different types of communications, so you should include different formats throughout your nurturing process. In other words, don’t just keep hitting them with emails. Also include newsletters, personal notes, white papers and other types of content. Make it a series of communications where each step has a clear goal to move prospects along to the next stage.
Segment your prospects
For most businesses, prospects fall into different categories. Look for ways to build unique prospect profiles and customize your nurture messages to their needs. Segmenting will ensure that your messages resonate with the recipients.
Make it personal
This is another way of saying keep it customer-focused. Use a personalized approach, addressing prospects by name when possible. Try to design each message so it answers one specific question related to what’s in it for the customer. Remember: This is about converting contacts you already have, not generating new ones. If you don’t have a detailed plan and execute it, you will be wasting your marketing money and ultimately paying more for the leads that do convert.