Lead generation is a top objective for marketers and obviously sales. Driving pipeline is critical, but to truly be successful, lead gen should be a cycle, not a dead end. The disappointing truth for sales—and the reality for marketers—is that almost 80% of new leads do not result in a sale. The vast majority of leads cannot be automatically converted in more complex selling situations often found in B2B. What happens “after lead gen” is frequently overlooked, but it is a catalyst for driving sales and producing long-term engagements.
At its core, the post-lead-gen stage of marketing is about continuing the conversation. This means creating a mutually beneficial dialogue across channels. It could come in the form of a traditional email nurture campaign, a social media conversation, a retargeting effort—any touchpoint that keeps the customer journey moving. Consistency and engagement are critical.
To illustrate this journey and the marketing programs associated with it, let’s imagine a company from the not-so-distant future: RoboChef—the restaurant industry’s first automated cook. The company has completed its final iteration of the product and is ready to go to market. A demand generation campaign has successfully increased awareness and leads are beginning to flow into the pipeline. The next objective becomes: “How do we capitalize on these leads?”
Before leads are even generated, you need lead qualification criteria. If you welcome all leads indiscriminately, you will waste time and resources on buyers that do not match your target audience. For RoboChef, the product category is in its infancy and the price is high. Certain leads can be filtered out based on target customer revenue, and other factors like restaurant type or geography, narrowing down the ideal customer profile. Before sending a lead further down the buyer’s journey, there should be a lead scoring formula in place that determines the quality and fit level of the lead based on their characteristics and behavior. Then the prospect can travel to the next phase—whether it’s the sales funnel, a marketing nurture, or respectfully, off your CRM if they are not a fit!
When a person downloads a piece of your content to become a lead, you will hopefully have lots of relevant information about them like their name and contact information, their company, and their title. But one key piece of information not to overlook is exactly what piece of your content they downloaded. Why is this so important? It can give you key insight into your lead’s interest level.
Lead-generating content can be split into two high-level categories: general education and intent-based.
General educational content is catered towards a prospect who is in the exploratory phase and may not even know your company. This is an introduction to your industry, product, or service—an overview video, a thought leadership article, a blog—something that informs without being too salesy. Remember that a lead can’t just go from A to Z—they must be guided on the journey at a natural pace. If they do engage with educational content, then an intent-based nurture will be their next destination in the buying process.
“Intent-based” content could be a demo or an eBook on “How to Choose the Right Robotic Chef for Your Restaurant.” A person who downloads one of these offerings is implicitly showing intent to make a buying decision. They are firmly in the consideration stage—at this point, their diet of marketing content should be driving them towards a call to action. An experiential piece of content (a free trial, demo, consultation, etc.) will act as a proxy for your product or service and help guide them towards a decision.
Adopting the perspective of the prospect is an effective way of gauging what content to offer them. There are also many considerations that are specific to your individual business objectives and capabilities.
Sometimes, leads who come into your pipeline will be ready for a sales conversation—perhaps they have perused your marketing content, done some research on their own, and reached out for more information. To determine their readiness, you can use BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Time): an important consideration that occurs in between lead generation and the qualification process. Once you have defined your ICP, BANT will help you decide if a lead is ready for sales discussions:
As a marketing team, you won’t speak with these leads directly to ask them the BANT questions. But you can often infer the answer based on data and behavior. For example, a company’s revenue or a recent funding announcement might indicate that they have the budget for your offering. Your lead’s job title gives a good sense of authority. And behavior such as intent-based content downloads, amount of content engagement, or qualifying website page visits can indicate need and time priority. Based on these qualifications, it may be obvious that a given prospect is ready for the sales process. They have displayed intent to buy, they have the resources to do so, and they are ready to engage with your salesperson or business development team.
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In many cases, it is not so clear-cut. When qualifying a lead, it is critical to go back to the lead source. Sometimes, the specific channel can signal intent—in the case of a ‘Contact Us’ form or a direct phone call. In most cases, the prospect behavior needs to be analyzed more closely—at the level of what types of content they have reacted to, how often have they engaged, and across what period of time. These data points will help tease out intent and can help distinguish where a lead resides in the decision-making process—on the spectrum of awareness, consideration, and decision.
A RoboChef example: lead X has entered your CRM after downloading a whitepaper on “Automated Chefs.” Reading a whitepaper indicates that X is in the early stages of the buying journey. They may have just become aware of your product/service and are seeking initial information to acclimate themselves. Lead X is certainly not ready for the sales funnel, and they haven’t even entered the consideration stage.
To discern a fit between you and X, you need to bring them further down the nurture path. Lead X needs more general educational content to show them value and eventually, their behavior may indicate that they are ready to enter a more sales-oriented nurture program. Keep in mind that it’s okay to start simple: you may only have a few pieces of content to leverage in a nurture campaign, or you might prefer to keep the nurture stream short and sweet to avoid overcomplicating the email flow.
To maximize lead conversion with the given resources available, you need to ask several questions before mapping your nurture program:
These are questions of prioritization. You may be able to afford dropping a lead who doesn’t respond once—or that could be totally wasteful. In a lot of cases, a lead in a sales-oriented nurture may disengage and be sent back up the funnel—in which case they should re-enter the nurture flow or remain on the list for future emails. It is important for marketing and sales to agree upon a nurture protocol that makes sense for your company.
Again, try to adopt the point of view of the user. When you feel like a company is reaching out too often, do you typically get annoyed and unsubscribe? We live in the age of perpetual data—and to some extent, we are all desensitized to ads, email, etc. Formulating the right nurture cadence ensures that a lead has enough exposure to your product/service without feeling squeezed by information overload. The opposite problem is also true. If a lead is in the consideration stage of a big, complex purchase decision, then you cannot afford to lose touch, just be sensitive to the cadence.
To this point, we have discussed a model for nurturing leads through email marketing. It is traditionally the go-to medium for converting leads in B2B marketing. However, a nurture will typically fail to convert if it doesn’t engage with the lead across channels.
Social media is an important tool to keep your company top-of-mind. It is a touchpoint that is less direct and more personalized. Having your sales rep connect with leads on LinkedIn is its very own personalized drip campaign. It is not a bulletproof tactic, as social media is quite crowded, but it must dovetail with email programming to maximize lead conversion.
Another useful tactic is retargeting, which is a way of capturing leads that have fallen by the wayside. A lead who has visited your website but has disengaged is a candidate for retargeting—another approach that adds the ability to tailor your message based on accumulated data.
A common theme to nurturing leads is personalization, and sometimes, information needs to be delivered by a person rather than a corporate entity. At some point in the nurture, it may be appropriate for a sales rep to reach out directly—i.e. a custom sales video through Biz.me. Or, there may be an influencer or a thought leader in your organization to give the touchpoint even more authority.
The end of a nurture campaign should always segue into a really great sales campaign. It is the final step in the “after lead gen” journey that ultimately converts leads to customers and clients. This is where tangible value is created. Regardless of metrics, there is nothing automatic about converting leads—even the ones that are ready for sales. Optimizing your CRM, setting lead qualification criteria, segmenting your email nurture buckets, reaching out on multiple channels—these are all essential components of any nurture.
Need some help setting up a great lead generation campaign and determining what’s next? Magnetude can help with every stage of the process—from content development to sales and marketing alignment. Contact us for more information.