When marketers talk about "lead nurturing" I am shocked at how often that really just means sending out monthly, one-size-fits-all emails to their entire database of prospects with just different lead generating offers each month.
Lead nurturing is so much more than just automating "drip emails". Lead nurturing is about relationships. And relationships are about people, not emails. Relationships are about helping people solve problems, often with information. Relationships are about sharing and trust. Relationships are about conversations. Relationships are about social media.
To illustrate what I am talking about, here is a recent example of a true inbound marketing version of lead nurturing. This is the story of a woman who recently bought our product (HubSpot) for her company. Names and some details have been changed to protect the innocent. :)
I "met" Kristen in an online marketing forum, where she asked a question about Internet marketing that I answered. She thanked me for the response.
I emailed Kristen a link to the article, and established a more personal connection by giving some additional info I did not share in the forum answer.
After a couple emails back and forth, I asked Kristen to be a friend on Facebook. She accepted.
I then invited her to attend one of our free HubSpot webinars. Kristen registered for the webinar.
After the webinar, one of our salespeople (Heidi) called her. Heidi talked with Kristen, and she said they were not ready to buy yet, they had not decided how important Internet marketing was going to be for them.
I invited Kristen to attend an in person "SEO 101" class I was offering. She traveled some distance (about 45-60 minutes) to attend the free class.
After the class Kristen came to talk to me and we spoke for a short time. I answered some more questions. I asked her if she might want to see how HubSpot could help with Internet marketing. She said yes.
After a new call from Heidi, Kristen scheduled a demo of HubSpot.
Kristen watched the demo with Heidi and then quickly bought our product.
Now, there is not a product that automates all of this process. Why? Its very personal. But there are tools you can use. In fact, we used a lot of tools. I used our HubSpot blog. I used email. I used Facebook. I used a webinar. Her information was in Salesforce.com. I even used an in person event. Heidi used the phone and GoToMeeting.
What non-traditional (non-email based) lead nurturing are you doing? How are you leveraging social media for lead nurturing? Leave a comment below.
UPDATE: Brian Carroll has written about this article and added some comments at his great blog - Start With a Lead
Originally published Feb 13, 2008 10:21:00 AM, updated March 21 2013