Let’s say you’re dining out, and you order chicken pad thai. The waiter immediately trots out with a raw chicken breast, a bunch of whole carrots, a pile of bean sprouts, a handful of peanuts and some rice noodles, dumps them in front of you, and then walks away.
You wouldn’t think much of the chef, yes?
Frankly, you could rightfully draw the same conclusion if you extended that analogy to marketers. Unbelievably, most are still sending only raw leads to Sales, and they aren’t making an effort to bring those leads to a place where they’re ready for Sales to bite into. Consider data from a new report released by our sister company MarketingSherpa, the 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link). The report compiled survey responses from nearly 2,000 organizations, of which 73% sell primarily to other businesses.
- 64% of marketers still send all leads that respond to marketing campaigns directly to Sales
This is a costly mistake. In contacting even qualified leads for hundreds of leading B2B organizations over the years, I have found that only 5 to 40% are ready to buy right now. And, leads that are ready to buy right now are the only kinds of leads Sales really wants – they have quotas to meet, after all. It’s no wonder 80% of Marketing-generated leads end up lost, ignored or discarded.
I am certain there are marketers who will read this and say, “Well, I would love to give Sales only qualified leads, but they are starving – they want every lead we get!”
If that’s the case, don’t let them discard the leads that aren’t ready to buy immediately. Make absolutely sure they give them back to you to nurture.
- 59% still don’t have lead nurturing programs
You see, most of those leads will eventually buy from either you or a competitor, just not at this moment. However, since 59% of marketers don’t conduct lead nurturing, a lot of companies are conceivably giving those sales to competitors that do nurture their leads.
Lead nurturing is not unlike using a slow cooker. You can start with ingredients that don’t seem promising, but time will produce the delicious outcome for which you’re looking.
In a nutshell, lead nurturing keeps prospects engaged through a consistent, easy-to-follow “conversation” in which they are eager to be involved. It’s a gradual process that guides them from where they’re at right now to where you want them to be in the buying cycle. This conversation is supported by content such as articles, videos and whitepapers – information they really care about and that can help them make the best purchasing decision.
Please note: This content must benefit them whether they buy from you or not. Never pitch products or services.
Find out more about lead nurturing here: “Lead Nurturing: Build trust, win more deals by helping prospects – not selling them”
Establishing a lead nurturing program is a powerful way to increase both quantity and quality of leads. Depending on the length of your sales cycle, it may take a few months before you start seeing results. However, it’s worth the effort: A strong lead nurturing program will remove the need to give raw leads to Sales and, instead, give them a steady stream of piping-hot leads that are ready and eager to move forward.
- Companies that nurture leads receive a 45% higher return on lead generation investment
Making the effort to nurture leads will pay off handsomely, according to MarketingSherpa research. Lead nurturing companies report a 125% return on lead generation investment, compared to a mere 86% for companies that don’t bother with it.
This does not surprise me at all because organizations that nurture leads do a better job of keeping every one of them in the sales funnel.
In the video, “15 Years of Marketing Research Summed Up in 11 Minutes,” Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director and CEO, MECLABS, illustrates this point.
As Dr. McGlaughlin says, people are highly unlikely to fall through your sales and marketing funnel with grace and ease; they’re much more likely to fall out of it. You’re constantly fighting against competitive noise and internal distractions.
If prospects make it to the other end and close the deal, chances are they’ve gradually moved on a deliberate path, overcoming intense resistance. Lead nurturing helps remove that resistance to progress them more easily.
In summary, the days of generating leads and sending them off to Sales are long over. Sales doesn’t have the time or resources to bring the 60 to 95% that aren’t ready to speak with them to a place where they are. Because of that, you’re losing potential deals. Nurturing leads can ensure the best return on your lead generation investment by helping you give Sales what they want most: Only the most well-prepared, juiciest opportunities.