Is "Nurture" Code for "Neglect"?

Jamie Grenney
Jamie Grenney



diamond-roughDo you ever wonder how much hidden potential is buried in your lead nurturing pile? The truth is, many businesses have leads that slip through the cracks. Maybe on the surface it didn’t appear to be a good lead, maybe the timing was off because they weren’t quite ready to buy, or maybe your inside sales team was just spread too thin at the time the lead came in. Over the last year, who knows how many good opportunities you’ve been sitting on.

We’ve all been in those situations when your sales team logs a couple calls before giving up and sending a prospect to nurture so they can move on to fresh leads. It languishes there for months before all of the sudden, your top competitor wins the prospect from right under your nose. This happens because once a lead is put into nurture, most reps forget about it. Let’s face it, there’s a sales recency bias. Reps would rather ask marketing for more leads than spend time prospecting “old” leads.

This begs the question: Is there a way for sales to cut down on missed opportunities without zapping productivity? The answer is not as daunting as you think.

The CMO Opportunity

Lead nurturing is a huge opportunity for CMOs. As a matter of fact, Forrester Research says companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost -- that means you can achieve big wins by preventing good leads from going dark.

The key to this is accurately assessing which leads are worth pursuing. In addition to continuing to collect lead intel through site conversions, you can collect external data on your leads --.things like employee count, technology vendors, website traffic, hiring patterns, advertising spend, spam detection, etc. That kind of information gives you a much richer view into your prospect and reduces the likelihood of a good lead getting overlooked.

The real breakthrough is when you take all of those signals and use data science to distill them into a simple likelihood-to-buy score (kind of like a credit score). With a programmatic lead scoring approach, you can look across thousands of leads sitting in nurture to see what you might have missed. Or you can apply the same predictive power to leads as they come, and use it for better determining MQLs so you're less likely to pass over a hot prospect.

Top 5 Tips for Igniting Nurture

Here are some ideas for companies that want to make the most of their lead nurturing programs:

1) Use automated research.

If you’re relying on time consuming manual research and human intuition to determine whether a prospect is a fit for your product, at least some good leads are bound to get ignored. Predictive lead scoring ensures that more leads are thoroughly examined and routed down the right path -- whether that’s straight to nurture or rushed to a sales rep. It works whether you have 10 leads or 10 million leads.

2) Overcome Sales’ biases.

As a sales rep, it’s hard to ignore that certain lead sources are more likely to convert than others. For example, a free trial lead might convert at 4x the rate of a webinar lead. But what if you end up neglecting a diamond in the rough just because it came through the “wrong” channel or had a “bad” title? If your reps trust your scoring, they’ll follow up with leads regardless of lead source, job title, or any other attribute that might have spooked them in the past. When the model says a lead is likely to convert, you want your reps to think twice before sending it to nurture.

3) Create a journey specifically for good leads in nurture.

While most marketers believe that designing a personalized journey for every lead is the right thing to do, it is hard to break the cycle of batch-and-blast email marketing. Campaign managers want to reach as large an audience as possible, so prospects get bombarded by often-irrelevant emails.

When leads with high scores end up in nurture, you’ll instead want to give them special treatment. Many of your best promotions might be prohibitively expensive if you blasted them to everyone, but become affordable when you can target them only to prospects that are likely to buy. A compelling journey for top leads might include special invitations to events, direct mail offers, or 1:1 consultations. Find ways to show them the love so they’ll come back and re-engage.

4) Dig where the ground is softest.

It's best to catch good leads while they’re still warm, but combing through archived leads is still worthwhile. By tapping into outside sources, you can get current information on your prospects even if they haven’t visited your site in months. Maybe they’ve added a bunch of employees, opened up a new office, or invested in a new piece of technology. Find those spots in your nurture fields where the ground isn’t yet frozen over.

5) Dedicate nurture-specific reps and develop new scripts.

Whether they’re working a fresh “contact me” lead or a year-old prospect, your reps need to feel confident that they can strike up a conversation. This means you need to go beyond your standard script when it comes to neglected nurture leads. In addition, it’s important to recognize that inside sales folks may not be best equipped to handle older prospects. Take a hybrid approach and carve off a couple reps to focus on your nurture pool. They won’t be distracted by low-hanging fruit, and you can set quotas for them that are more closely aligned with conversion rates.

From where I sit, there’s simply no reason not to try some of these techniques and find out what kind of leads have been hiding out in your nurturing pile. Let me know what you discover!

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