When you’re considering buying a product or service, you go through a process of decision-making (take another look at the buying decision flowchart from our December 7 post).
During this buying process, you look at different kinds of information to help with your decision:
- At first, you’re typically interested in general information: how do I solve my problem?
- Then, you look at different products or services to explore the ways that they approach that problem.
- You narrow your focus to the products or services that seem best suited to your problem, and examine them more deeply, looking at details of implementation or usage, reviews, risks, price, and more.
- You decide on one solution and go through the purchase process.
- Then you must implement that solution, make sure it works properly, keep it updated, and address any future issues with it.
As you use nurturing to move a prospect through the demand funnel from inquiry to closed sale and beyond, you should have one goal in mind: provide the specific, relevant information that your prospect needs at each stage. This is where you have to begin translating the buying stages into the stages of your demand funnel, so you can identify the right information to deliver at the right time.
This illustration shows the primary points where nurturing is needed to deliver key information to your prospects and drive them through the funnel.
Inquiry to MQL: Education
Moving your prospect from being just an inquiry to being a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a process of education, so your nurtures should be focused on educating the prospect about your solution, but with an emphasis on the prospect’s needs. This is sometimes described as welcome nurturing, but we feel it should be much more than that! This stage is your greatest opportunity to engage with your prospect and generate real, sustained interest in your product/service. Educational nurtures are the right place to use your exciting multimedia offerings, webinars, and the like as calls to action.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may need multiple nurtures to address the specific needs of different kinds of prospects, and within each of those nurtures may be numerous tracks or paths that your prospect may take, depending on the prospect’s digital body language. For example, a software company likely has several different software products, and each of those may be used by different kinds of businesses with different types of challenges. The more specifically you can address your prospect’s needs, the better success you will have at moving the prospect on through the funnel.
MQL to SAL: Connection
The next step for nurturing is to move the lead from MQL to becoming the Sales Accepted (sales-ready) Lead. The main goal of this stage is to get the lead and the salesperson together. The best offerings at this stage are tools like ROI assessments, consultations, and personal demos: anything that will result in a communication between the prospect and your firm to take the relationship to the next level.
SAL and SQL: Recapture
Think there’s nothing for Marketing to do after leads reach Sales Accepted or Sales Qualified stages? Think again!
What happens to leads that are accepted by Sales, but turn out to not be ready? In many organizations, these leads simply fall through the cracks, and that’s a waste. If they weren’t Marketing Qualified, they wouldn’t have gotten this far, so they still have value. Send these leads back through the funnel as recycled, and continue to nurture them.
What about lost business? Sales Qualified Leads are lost for a variety of reasons, and most of them don’t mean that the lead can’t have future value in one way or another. Your company may have other solutions that could benefit the lead. The solution they end up buying might not work out. It’s honestly very rare that an SQL should be trashed! Set up a nurture for these lost business leads, and continue to engage with them.
SQL to Closed/Won: Onboarding, Retention, Upsell
Woo-hoo, you’ve won the business! But don’t relax: your job’s not done. As we all know, it’s a lot more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an old one, so now it’s up to you to keep them through ongoing nurtures.
Start with a welcome nurture for net-new customers, followed by onboarding and training nurtures when your solution is complex, or anytime that customers can use help to benefit from it. Upsell and cross-sell campaigns are obvious nurtures to plan. Continuing nurtures for loyalty and retention often include ongoing trainings, invitations to events and webinars, user group communications, industry news and trends. The goal here is to keep your company top-of-mind throughout the customer lifecycle.
Next time, we’ll take a look at the impact lead nurturing can have on your marketing programs. . .and to your company’s bottom line.