Lead Nurturing – Is It Part of Your Strategic B2B Marketing Plan? Should it Be?
For many businesses it is necessary to bring prospects or clients through a sales cycle to get revenue in the door. Sometimes the cycle is short, sometimes it’s long; sometimes there is a fully staffed BD team to work leads; sometimes there is a call center or even a single person responsible for managing all lead activity; and sometimes there is no live interaction at all.
Regardless, if multiple touch points are required to move someone towards a revenue-producing action, it is probably a good idea to consider lead nurturing programs as part of the strategic planning process. As well as decide how Marketing and Sales departments can 1) form an integrated strategy and 2) be equally accountable for the program’s success.
Consider the potential benefits:
- Improved efficiency for the sales team by allowing them to focus on the warmest opportunities
- Potentially faster movement of the warmest leads
- Potentially higher retention or SOW among existing clients
- Improved marketing ROI
Consider what it would take:
1. Alignment and shared accountability between Marketing and Sales (particularly in B2B), for the plan and its dependencies — Is everyone on board?
2. Understanding the average sales cycle and workflow of a lead, and the rules/requirements to keep leads warm and moving through the funnel; as well as a vision for the ideal lead experience — How many touch points does it take; what type of touch is needed (referrals/ testimonials, more product information, more face/phone time with Sales or Customer Service, drip emails, online engagement opportunities)?
3. Requirements for Marketing vs. Sales’ role in delivering touch points, and the role of automation and online marketing to support interaction and engagement with the sales team/person — Is it better for Marketing to develop the communications and infrastructure for delivery, and allow Sales to execute? Is it better for Marketing to drive until a scoring trigger deems a lead worthy of hand off to Sales?
4. Requirements for marketing automation, resources and costs — Can you support data flow of online leads to the CRM; does the CRM contain an indicator to decide when Sales vs. Marketing is owning communication with the lead; can your systems capture a record of all touch points, scoring metrics and funnel movement? How much will it cost to develop the necessary infrastructure? What resources are required?
5. A content development and delivery strategy aligned to the sales funnel and the changing mindset or interest of the lead — This is where lead scoring infrastructure can be beneficial, as well as targeted online communications and tools that directly support a sales person’s outreach and ability to continue giving the lead a reason to care about the company’s value proposition.
The point is – the evolution in online “engagement marketing” and the plethora of marketing automation solutions now available in the marketplace, make it easier than ever for Marketing and Sales to build integrated plans that drive revenue goals. So if your business has a complicated or long sales cycle, strongly consider the opportunity for integrated lead nurturing programs and the required infrastructure to support them.