Why You Need Lead Nurturing

Enterprise Technology Sales Cycles are Too Long
Many enterprise software and technology companies suffer from long sales cycles, especially when their prices approach 6 figures. It’s typical to have 9-12 month sales cycles for traditional perpetual license models. Although SaaS delivery has helped to compress this timeframe significantly, larger enterprise deals are still extending sales cycles for SaaS solutions. These long sales cycles present a significant challenge for marketers because the ROI may not be realized for 9-12 months after an investment is made. Imagine not closing a deal for 12 months after spending $30k-40k on a turnkey webinar sponsored by a top-tier industry magazine. Explain that to your CEO and you’re likely to get lambasted, or even worse, lose your marketing budget, job, or both. Businesses simply cannot afford to operate with this type of cash flow model.

Lead Nurturing Reduces Sales Cycles, Builds Credibility & Trust
This is where a sustainable Lead Nurturing program can help. By touching prospective buyers with high value content on a regular basis (e.g. every 2 weeks) through drip campaigns, you can keep your brand in front of them so that when they are ready to buy, they will come to you first. The key to any successful lead nurturing program lies in your ability to build confidence and trust with each drip campaign. By delivering high value content, prospects will continue to engage with you because they will perceive your company as a market leader. This high value content may include case studies of companies that are in the same industry, white papers, press articles, analyst reports, surveys, best practice guides, templates, blog posts, webinars, product demos, contests, or monthly newsletters. Each of these must be carefully designed to provide value to prospects – show them how to do something by offering tips, tricks, best practices, sample templates, checklists, or how-to guides.

5 Lead Nurturing Best Practices
Here are some best practices to consider for your Lead Nurturing program:

  1. Leverage Marketing Automation Tools – Although lead nurturing emails can be sent out individually through corporate email systems, Marketing Automation tools can automate the process to ensure that new drip campaigns are launched on a regular basis to a targeted contact list. These systems also include the ability to incorporate custom landing pages, lead nurturing rules, website visitor tracking, lead scoring, and reporting on campaign ROI.
  2. Use a Targeted Approach – A Lead Nurturing campaign should incorporate a series of drip campaigns, each building upon a central theme and targeted to a specific audience. For example, targeting CFOs with a series of articles on best practices for finance transformation would constitute a sound Lead Nurturing campaign. Each drip campaign would incorporate a new article, blog post, webinar or white paper on a specific aspect of finance transformation – all built around the central theme of what’s important to the office of the CFO. Be careful not to confuse your target audience by including information on products that may be irrelevant to this central theme.
  3. Always Deliver Value – An effective Lead Nurturing program builds credibility a trust with prospective customers by engaging them through high value content. This is the hard part because you have to know something about the people and business process end of the equation. My recommendation for technology companies is to engage an industry or domain expert or consultant because they often have experience in helping companies with implementation projects and know some of the best practices. Engaging experts in helping to create high value content can help you can position your company as the expert by sharing best practices with prospective buyers.
  4. Align Your Solution with Strategic Objectives – Understanding the strategic objectives of your buyer is another critical success factor in Lead Nurturing. If you know what these strategic objectives are, then find a creative way to align your technology solution with those objectives. Strategic objectives are typically high level goals designed to increase business performance such as increasing efficiency, mitigating risk, improving compliance, or global expansion. What are the top 3-5 strategic objectives your economic buyer/decision maker is concerned with? Nail these down, and tell a story through your high value content that allows the buyer to achieve those goals by leveraging your technology solution. When you look at selling in this light, you’re actually partnering with customers to deliver solutions that enable them to meet their strategic objectives. It becomes a win-win scenario for both buyer and seller.
  5. Measure & Track ROI – A Lead Nurturing program is all for naught if you don’t have an effective way to measure its effectiveness. At a minimum, you’ll need a few reports to track leads, including lead score, response rates, and lead follow-up activities. Make sure you can track how much money was spent on a particular campaign, which leads were turned over to sales, which ones resulted in closed sales, and how much revenue was brought in for each deal. A campaign ROI report should be created to track the ROI for each campaign over time. If your organization is using a CRM system to track sales opportunities, then make sure your marketing automation system has an integration with the CRM system so that you can run a campaign ROI report on a periodic basis.

In summary, if you’re organization suffers from long sales cycles and needs to spend extra time educating prospective customers, then consider incorporating a Lead Nurturing program into your marketing mix. It is a best practice for marketing to enterprise decision makers and can significantly shorten sales cycles, thereby increasing revenue.

If you have any comments, thoughts or suggestions, please send me an email.

Good luck!

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  1. July 19, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Thank you Eric for the post. Shared it with both our SVP of sales and Co-founder…very much applicable to our sales cycle in a number of ocassions.

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