October 23, 2014

Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida business

Follow-up is the most overlooked part of marketing

A process that nurtures prospects will result in more sales more often.

Ron Stein | 11/25/2012

Successful lead generation can be summed up in one word: relevant. You might have thought "targeted" was a better choice. Yet, when marketing focuses on the target audience, their needs, and what will solve the problems they have, relevancy really does cover it all -- from the perspective of both your company and prospects.

Now, let's take it a step further. When marketing does its job and you have lots of qualified prospects, it's time to follow-up. Successful lead follow-up can be summed up in two words: relevant nurturing.

It turns out that nurtured prospects will buy more from you. Also, the sales cycles are shorter and less discounting is needed than for leads that are not properly nurtured. But it has to be relevant to what your prospects want and need.

Lead nurturing is all about building solid relationships in ways that are relevant. That also means that the timing is right. If you're not relevant and in sync with the level of readiness, prospects will tune out and eventually opt-out.

Imagine this conversation with a lead that just downloaded a white paper from your website: "Hi Sally, I'm Sean from Advanced Widgets and I wanted to thank you for requesting our white paper. Have you read it yet? No, then I'd like to ask you a couple of questions. When will your company be purchasing our product and are you the person who makes the decision? Hmm, right now you're just researching possible solutions, well I'll touch bases with you in a few weeks."

You see where this is going. How would you feel about this conversation and the company trying to sell you their product? This what can happen no matter if you have contact with your prospects through email, over the phone, or in person if you don't nurture relationships with a well-thought out system.

Here's how to put together a lead nurturing program that creates positive energy and maximum activity.

Timing is everything. Are you losing business because there is a mismatch between the willingness of prospects to buy and your marketing? Sometimes prospects are ready to make a decision right away, many times they're not. When a qualified lead isn't ready to engage, your risk goes beyond lost sales. A faulty notion will emerge in your company -- you'll begin to believe that your leads are awful. Avoid that by aligning the stage of the sales cycle a prospect is in -- theirs, not yours -- to your lead nurturing efforts. Have a program that helps your leads move forward by earning business when they are ready. For instance, early stage buyers usually are exploring their options and educating themselves -- pushing too hard for an order here is not wise.

Know what to do during each buyer stage. Think through your typical sales cycle and what you can do in each stage to engage prospects and move them to the next step. Start by defining the stages prospects go through when buying your products or services. They're different for each company of course, but generally start with prospects getting to know and like you. Then, as you begin to build credibility, trust will develop. Finally, it's time to convert them to a purchase. All of theses stages require a nurturing process that's in step with the prospect's buying process. What can you do or send to your prospects during each stage to accomplish this? Develop an arsenal of marketing content weapons to use at each stage. When you provide prospects with relevant, educational information for the stage they're in, they'll appreciate it. Plus, when they are ready to make a buying decision you'll be the top of their mind, over a competitor who stopped following up long ago.

Content Ideas for lead nurturing programs. When it comes to building lead nurturing programs, content is the way to go. You know what your target audience wants in the way of information -- and when they want it -- so give it to them. Work at the prospect's pace and feed them credible and solid content that they can use. Sure it will educate to your point of view, just make it relevant. Develop whitepapers, eBooks, special reports, webinars, videos, or a blog to engage with prospects. Regularly scheduled email communications is one of your best weapons. Build a short email "course" that prospects can opt-in to that your auto-responder will send out once a week. You'll still need an email newsletter as a key component of your nurturing program. You can repurpose content quickly from articles on your website and reports you've previously written into email newsletters. Also, include one or two relevant news articles and other useful content from across the Web in each email. Don't forget to interview existing customers and turn that into solution-oriented stores relevant to prospects -- which also gives you built-in testimonials. One other point -- keep self-promotion to a minimum particularly for leads in the early stages of the sales cycle. The rule is to have no more than 20% of your content promote your solutions overtly. An occasional "special offer" email is OK.

Invest in a system to follow-up and nurture. A customer relationship management tool is a must. Early in my business career I made the mistake of thinking that I could track leads and their stage in the marketing cycle with a spreadsheet -- don't do it! Instead, there are several simple to use, but powerful online customer relationship management (CRM) services that are low-cost and very effective. These task-management systems manage relationships by tracking the buyer's stage, following the history of interactions, creating tasks and reminders, and easily sending email that attaches to a prospect's record. A CRM solution will save you time and money, and create a total customer experience starting with your first contact. I use Capsule CRM and love it, but there are others you should explore.

The ultimate goal of lead nurturing is to build relationships that win the business of qualified prospects at the expense of your competition -- when they are ready. It must be relevant both in terms of content and timing. Stay in touch campaigns work. Put the necessary processes in place to increase marketing productivity, eliminate missed opportunities, and shorten your sales cycles.


Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's business coach, Ron Stein
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Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com

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