If you ask the sales team what defines a lead, they’ll tell you “high quality.” That translates to “ready to buy decision-makers who have a budget in place”. Sure, piece of cake — let me snap my fingers.
If you ask the marketing team what defines a lead, they’ll tell you “high volume.” They want to deliver enough leads to sales so they will stop whining.
The challenge, of course, is these two objectives are at odds. Yet, when working with many marketers, they have not budgeted to take the extra time and expense necessary to help cull down leads from simply being aware of the product/service to actually be sales-ready — ready for a conversation about the possibility of making a purchase.
That missing link is called lead nurturing, and it’s why so many companies are failing at converting leads into warm prospects.
Lead Nurturing: The Holy Grail
According to a 2011 article in the Harvard Business Review, 23 percent of firms never follow up on leads at all. A more recent 2012 study published in Forbes showed that 73 percent of leads never get contacted. But, why not?
Marketing Sherpa claims a whopping 68 percent of B-to-B organizations have not even identified their sales funnel — the buying process that companies use to lead prospects from awareness to interest, interest to desire and desire to purchase.
Lead nurturing is an art and more often than not, companies get it all wrong.
When an individual downloads a whitepaper, it’s signaling an interest in a topic. If that whitepaper is based on good old fashioned research, it addresses a pain point that’s common in the industry.
The first challenge is too many whitepapers are written as either self-serving brochures or are plastered with marketing hype so the reader is turned off immediately. For some insight into what makes a good whitepaper, read my previous blog, “Have Whitepapers Lost Their Strategic Purpose.”
But, after the document is downloaded, then what? Please, I beg you, don’t call. Your prospect is not ready to have a conversation. They are probably at the start of their buying journey — they are in information gathering mode. And your job is to help them get educated so that they ultimately reach the right conclusion — your product or service may be the answer.
To get them to that point, you need to nurture them. Follow up with an email and a link to an additional asset — another whitepaper, a helpful video or an executive briefing. But, definitely don’t send a brochure.