Unleash Your House Database with Lead Nurturing

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Posted: January 6, 2009 | Nurturing

Five Tips for Effective Lead Nurturing

Like most companies, you have probably built a significant database of prospective customers. It’s not uncommon to have 100,000s of contacts, or even millions, in a B2B company’s contact database.

That database is a significant asset that gets undervalued at most companies. Think about it: if your average cost per new contact is even just $20 (a low assumption) and you have a modest database of 250,000 contacts, then your house database is a $5 million asset. Do you treat it as such? How many other assets of that size do you have in your company? How much revenue does that asset generate for your business?

At most companies, the answer is: very little revenue comes from the house database. Here’s what most companies do:

  1. New prospects are generated, often in a lumpy “feast or famine” fashion, e.g. when you get a big batch after a tradeshow and then almost nothing else the rest of the quarter.
  2. Fewer than 25% of them meet the criteria for “sales ready” and fewer than 5% have an active opportunity. (Another 25% are either duplicates or should be disqualified.) The remaining 50% aren’t interested in or ready for a sales contact, yet the company attempts to contact each just to “see if they’re interested in talking”.
  3. Finding out that most of what marketing calls “leads” are not really sales leads reinforces the sales team’s impression that marketing-generated prospects are not worth their time.
  4. The 50% of qualified leads that aren’t sales ready get put into the house database for “lead nurturing”, which often means a semi-regular newsletter and “random acts of marketing” — not true lead nurturing.

As a result, the house database becomes a place where leads “go to die” and most (or all) of them never make it back to sales. This critical marketing asset sits idle even as the company spends new money to generate new contacts, perpetuating the inefficient process.

Using Lead Nurturing to Unlock the Marketing Database

True lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy. Unlike the popular perception, however, it is not a process but a conversation. Building relationships by definition cannot be mapped out in advance on a Visio diagram. Imagine going to a dinner party or on a date and having all your conversations mapped out before you even arrive! Instead, true lead nurturing means staying in touch while listening and reacting and adjusting appropriately. Only with this conversational view of lead nurturing will you reap the benefits.

Done well, lead nurturing can lead to much more efficient and effective demand generation. At Marketo, when we nurture leads that are not immediately sales ready, they are three times more likely to become a sales lead in a given month than if they are not nurtured. Overall, that means we generate 50% more qualified sales leads each month at 33% lower cost per lead.

To help you design your lead nurturing processes, we’ve made our recent webinar, Getting Started with Lead Nurturing (click to play), available on-demand and without registration. In this webinar, we shared some key tips to effective lead nurturing:

  • Make it valuable — to them, not just you. Each and every lead nurturing interaction needs to be relevant and useful to the recipient. If it’s too promotional or not helpful, then severing the relationship is usually just a delete button or unsubscribe link away. In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, Anne Holland shared the five key topics that people care about: safety (keep my job), ease (make my job easier), power (get more power), greed (make more money), and ego (raise their awareness).
  • Make it bite-sized. The internet has changed how buyers make B2B purchases, and it’s affected how they consume content. Rarely does a business buyer have time to print out and read an entire whitepaper, watch a 60 minute webinar, or read more than a few bullet points on a website. Instead, today’s buyers have become accustomed to consuming bite-sized chunks of information in small free periods. I call this the YouTube approach to lead nurturing.
  • Match your content to buyer profiles. Prospects find content targeted to their role or industry much more valuable than generic content. According to MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm, 82% of prospects say content targeted to their specific industry is more valuable and 67% say content targeted to their job function is more valuable. 49% say the same for content targeted to their country size, and 29% for content targeted to their geography.
  • Match your content to buying stages. Different types of content will appeal to buyers in different stages of their buying cycle, e.g. awareness vs. research vs. negotiation and purchase. Thought leadership and best practices work best during the awareness stage; comparisons, reviews, and pricing information appeals during the research stage; and information about the company, support, etc. will work best at the purchase stage.
  • Get the timing right. It’s always difficult to say exactly how often you should send nurturing contacts. My general advice is that more than once a week is too much and less than once a month is not enough, and the right answer for your company is somewhere in between. One tactic we use at Marketo is to let our prospects determine the pace themselves, choosing between one a week or twice a month.

For more about these ideas plus an inside look at how Marketo designed our own lead nurturing program, watch the webinar, Getting Started with Lead Nurturing (click to play).

Jon (@jonmiller) is a VP and co-founder at Marketo. He is the author of multiple Definitive Guides including Marketing Automation, Engaging Email Marketing, and Marketing Metrics & Analytics. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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