Lead Management

What's Holding Back Your Lead Nurturing Efforts?

By Bob Johnson, VP & Principle Analyst 

Considerable attention today is focused on generating leads. There are more competitors in most markets, larger buying teams to influence and fewer deals. Marketing and sales strives to make every one of those opportunities count and increase the likelihood of connecting leads to revenue.

Today, there is a constant influx of new list sources for lead generation as anyone with names to sell tries to build a business around it. This leads to price erosion but to choose based on price is a mistake for campaign managers and agencies as you’ll look good on paper and poor on performance. Price driven leads have questionable quality and salespeople quickly consider them suspect. So, of course, you’ll do your best to ensure your lead partner has a quality and qualified target audience to offer in addition to a fair price. But that is just the beginning of the journey. Next are decisions about how much effort goes to nurture initial leads to make them what some call “sales ready.” The degree to which sales ready leads are important varies by what you are selling, the audience and product/service price point.

This raises a key decision. How far will you take a lead prior to person-to-person pursuit? You can generate leads and treat them the same simply based upon asset consumption or offer acceptance. That is simple lead generation. The next level of pursuit is qualification. That means that the lead has the right demographic attributes such as company size, buying role or other target audience characteristics. Some of that is understood prior to generation through the use of lists that meet certain criteria but other insight is gathered through custom registration questions. The next level is validation where need and readiness are understood, scoring is employed and you strive to confirm the degree of interest and engagement intensity. In sum, your decision is what level to pursue: generate, qualify or validate.

Validation today has a higher bar than ever before, enabled by advances in content delivery, outbound and inbound technologies and fresh efforts to truly understand buyer and organizational dynamics. But to obtain adequate understanding is not a one point in time, once and done exercise. It takes multiple touches where the buyer builds confidence in your organization and solution. So to define nurturing as follow-up within a certain time frame it is ineffective in all but the most commoditized, impulse purchase-driven products and services.

Nurturing is a multi-touch process over a time period defined by the buyer, not you. Effective nurturing requires excellence in multiple organizational aspects to turn each point of contact with the prospect into a point of value where they see relevant benefit. Here are five areas that can significantly impact nurture success. Consider them as you define your readiness against resources and tools.

  1. Sales Lead Pursuit: What do salespeople do with the leads you generate? Map the process and realize that across many organizations up to 50% end up untouched or pursued. Understand what really happens with leads after a pass-off.
  2. Supporting Technology: What marketing automation and sales automation solution do you use and in fact do they talk to each other? If activity is not captured and integrated as insight into the sales process considerable knowledge, usefulness to sales can be lost. Determine the degree of process integration related to leads. It is critical to maintain and share as full a picture of the buying process as possible.
  3. Business Intelligence: How do you analyze prospect activity for tendencies, intensity, reaching activity thresholds, interests and needs? It is critical, especially today, as so much can be learned from simply observing behavior. The world is moving towards the use of emotive behavior, taking and making sense out of unstructured data. But we suggest you take a foundational approach to intelligence and analysis and first focus on the most important things and measure their use and value. Your goal is to see that intelligence become part of the fabric of the pursuit process.
  4. Lead Generation MBOs: There are two major categories of leads, marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that meet certain qualification criteria and sales quality leads (SQLs) that are both nurtured and validated. If your team is goaled to simply hit quantity targets, at the end of the day, many people don’t care how they get them, they have a quota to fill. A quantity and low-price model hinders the chance to move towards quality. Consider current objectives around quantity vs. quality and build a case for higher quality leads by tracking leads to close as you confirm or refute that a higher quality lead generates a greater proportion of revenue.
  5. Available Content: The root of all nurturing success is the content you offer. If you don’t have good content you’ll rely too heavily on sales interaction, driving up your cost of sales. If the content portfolio has gaps in stage, buying role, focus and topical coverage you’ll see nurture efforts stall as information relevance declines over time.  This is the bottom line. If you don’t have relevant content aligned with buyer needs none of the above considerations matter.

Take a look at these five areas, as they each impact the ability to nurture. Those who continue to nurture leads the same way as done even three years ago, risk competitive impact from others who better coordinate, engage, pursue and nurture. Oftentimes opportunities will be taken away before you even know they’re there.


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Bob Johnson

VP & Principal Analyst, IDG Connect

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