A few months ago in our weekly meeting, I asked my sales team how Marketing could help them communicate with leads already in their pipeline. They answered, “we’d like to be able to select a lead nurturing process based on where the leads are in their buying process. Some leads we speak to are not even really sure what the solution to their pain point is, while others have taken a demo and are in the process comparing us to our competition.” This is a common scenario for many sales teams, especially those selling complex solutions with long buying cycles. To ensure leads do not fall through the cracks, lead nurturing after the sales-handoff is necessary throughout the buying process. To meet my sales team’s request, I needed to identify the buying phases, determine what information buyers were looking for in each phase, and select or create content for each lead nurture based on the results. I found the Google/TechTarget Research Project: How IT Pros Search Online During the Purchase Process particularly helpful for identifying buyer phases and determining the typical information they were seeking in each one. The graph below summarizes the findings of the research project showing what search phrases were used consistently by IT buyers throughout the buying process.
Using the buying phases identified in the graph and the search phrases used in each to determine the content, I developed the following 3 lead nurturing processes for my sales team:
1. Awareness Phase Nurture: This is an 8-week nurture process with 8 offerings and follow-ups based on decisions. It offers problem-to-solution focused content - helping the recipient identify their pain points and address them. This process would be ideal for leads who have expressed to a sales rep that they are just doing research or do not currently have a project timeline or budget. Below is an example of a few steps in an Awareness Phase Lead Nurturing Process:
2. Consideration Phase Nurture: This is a 4-week process with 4 offerings and follow-ups based on the recipient’s activity. Since the recipients in the consideration phase have most likely identified a solution to their problem, and are now searching for a product that fits their needs, brand-focused content – customer case studies, online demos, analyst’s reports discussing your product - is appropriate for this nurture. This process is a good fit for leads with a project budget and timeline. Because leads in this process are closer to the decision phase, sales reps should be monitoring activity closely and following up at every opportunity.
3. Decision Phase Nurture: This 3-week process should be coupled with one-on-one interaction with the sales rep. In this phase, your recipient has most likely narrowed down their choices and is heavily involved with several sales reps at a few organizations. Therefore, this nurture should deliver comparison charts, customer reviews of the product, customer success stories, positive news articles, etc. At this point, your sales rep should have close personal contact with the recipient - the content should be as personalized as possible and appear to be a communication directly from the sales rep.
Sales-driven lead nurturing is slightly different than lead nurturing focused on qualification. Since a lead entering these nurtures has already been deemed a “quality lead” and is in the buying process, the purpose of these nurtures is to solidify your position and relationship – human touch points should be frequent in sales-driven lead nurtures. Since contacts may discover your company at any point in their buying process, having 3 separate processes for each major phase ensure you deliver the right message at the right time.