Lead Nurturing With Brian Carroll
As author of the B2B Lead Generation Blog and the popular book, “Lead Generation for the Complex Sale“, Brian Carroll has long been a thought leader in the fields of lead management and lead nurturing.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Brian about the importance of a personalized touch in lead nurturing, the best ways to encourage a latent prospect to start an active buying cycle, and the ROI of thought leadership. An excerpt of my interview appears below.
Jon Miller: To start, can you briefly describe the type of work you do at InTouch?
Brian Carroll: Sure. InTouch provides a variety of services, including lead generation, teleprospecting, lead qualification, lead nurturing, and lead management. What makes us different is how we provide the human touch that is so essential to developing and converting leads into sales. This human touch is often an important complement to the lead management processes that marketers typically use tools like Marketo to automate. Personally, I also make myself available as a blogger and a resource to others, taking what I’ve learned about our industry and teaching it to others.
JM: You have long been a thought leader on the topic of lead nurturing — in fact, you were one of the first people to push the idea into the marketplace. What is your definition of lead nurturing?
BC: I can simplify the definition into a single sentence: lead nurturing is having consistent and meaningful communication with viable customers regardless of their time to purchase. One of the speakers at a conference recently said, “someone is a lead for life”. I would agree with that sentiment.
The mistake that most marketers make is trying to push relationship building activities to every possible lead, which I feel is a bit reactionary. Lead nurturing allows marketers to take the pull things we do as marketers, filter through the people that we think we can help and want to work with, and then be deliberate about adding value and being a plus to their day. If your lead nurturing activities are not truly valuable to the recipient, they’re not worth their time or yours.
If you know that someone can some day be a valuable customer or partner, why would you not want to build a relationship with them starting right now?
JM: I think a lot of companies just all take their contacts and send them the monthly newsletter once a month and call that lead nurturing.
BC: That’s truly not enough, especially as we move into a new marketplace focused on relevancy. I subscribe to a number of e-newsletters, and the reality is maybe one article out of five is relevant to me.
It would be so much more valuable if the content were filtered for me. If you know about me and have talked to me, we’ve had a dialogue before, then why not send me a single e-mail with a link to a particular article you think would be relevant to me and my role in the industry? In the case of nurturing, relevance takes precedence.
Also, consistency matters. How often do you reach out to people? If you do it once a quarter that’s not enough, I find that it typically takes 8-12 touches for you to start becoming familiar with someone.
It takes even more interactions for you to begin building trust with someone. Too many marketers are seeking instant gratification. If all you do is send generic marketing messages to them over and over and over again, you’re missing the point.
JM: So lead nurturing needs to be relevant and personalized as opposed to mass, and marketers need to be patient about the process. You need work the lead based on his or her own timing and buying cycle, nor your own rigid timing..
BC: Yeah, that’s the truth. In Minnesota, where I grew up, I worked on a farm with a seed corn farmer and he said “you don’t dig up your corn to check and see if it’s growing.” That’s the truth with lead nurturing, it’s something that you’re investing in over time and building a relationship with someone.
Realize that a lot has to happen before you finally see the fruit of that labor. You need to have a culture that’s willing to think long term because nurturing isn’t a short term fix, it’s a long term investment.
JM: I agree with that. The flipside, though, is there are times when there are going to be leads who could be ready to act but are just too busy to focus on the problem yet. In other words, the buyer could very well be ready but they need a “kick in the pants” to finally take some action.
What are some of the things marketers can do in order to prompt action for the lead that you’re nurturing?
BC: The key with nurturing is you want to influence people early before the buying process begins, so there is already a preference, based on your position as a go to resource and possibly a trusted advisor. At this point, as long as you can get a conversation started it’s a bit like physics, a conversation in motion will stay in motion.
One method that works to spur action and accelerate the conversion is to bring other people into the discussion. If you’ve been talking to just one person, trying bringing one of their colleagues into the mix. In other words, expand your database, or sphere of influence.
The other thing is that it really just comes down to trying to understand their point of view. What challenges are they facing? If you really understand their pain, you can usually draw them out. From here, customized, personalized, and targeted nurturing content can be shared to help create some quick momentum.
Frankly, if those two strategies don’t work, perhaps you should focus your attention elsewhere. Hopefully you are having nurturing dialogues with many other people, so focus your time talking to people where there is momentum.
JM: I think that’s great advice. Buyers at rest tend to stay at rest; buyers at motion tend to stay in motion. If you have to get somebody in motion, the best way to do that is to start other conversations in the company, or to show them how to solve their pain. I think it’s all great advice.
You’ve often spoken about the ROI of thought leadership. In your experience, what methods drive the best return on thought leadership?
BC: The most effective tactics are speaking at events and blogging. It was those activities which led to a publisher approaching me about writing a book.
My start came from wanting to help marketers do better. As I saw something useful, relevant or valuable, I started sharing it. I found that whenever I read something useful, I wanted to share it for the benefit of my colleagues and our clients, and would either email it to them, or simply hand them a copy.
The challenge was that only people who knew me would see it. What blogging did was allow me to take that passion to a wider audience, but really I was just doing what that I naturally did anyway.
The blog has brought great visibility. It’s helped bring in more relevant contacts, because they were looking to have questions answered, and with my blog, they found someone to help provide those answers.
JM: So, to summarize, you started by sharing what you’re passionate about, and that pulled people to engage in conversations with you. Did this also translate to ROI?
BC: A small percentage of people who read the blog actually become leads, yes. Usually, the ones that do have been reading the blog for a long time and they’ve attended webinars or events that we’ve done. What’s great about this is that we are no longer talking about “what can you do for me”, it’s like “I know you can help me, how can we work together”?
JM: Can you wrap up by telling people the best way to get in touch with you?