Real World Examples of B2B Lead Nurturing

February 14th, 2011 by Sean Dwyer

Finally, we are up to what everybody has been waiting for – examples of B2B Lead Nurturing from Implementing Lead Nurturing – A Practitioner’s Perspective.  We asked Andy Ellicott, a B2B marketing expert, to describe some of his lead nurturing programs.  Here’s what he said:

Ellicott:  “We have different lead nurturing campaigns in place to do different things based on who’s being nurtured (by industry, by role) and where they are in the buying process (gathering info, using a free trial, or inactive).

Here are some examples of campaigns used to nurture new and existing leads.

Nurturing to process new leads

Here’s a simple lead flow I used to nurture users of a free trial:

Simple Lead Flow

The picture above shows what the lead flow looks like in Loopfuse. It only took half a day to set up, including time spent writing the nurturing emails and testing. Hopefully, it’s pretty self-explanatory; there are a few things worth noting:

  • Emails don’t come from sales people – Since we’re dealing with leads who are technical, we send our emails from a technical support director, not a sales person. We found that reply rates rose by 30%;, presumably because the prospects feel the relationship is more “peer to peer.” The technical support person brings the sales person into the loop when prospects reply to an email. We also feel that giving them free access to named technical support people during the trial — pre-sale -sends a positive message about the kind of customer experience we want to create.
  • The “Is Sales In Contact with the Lead” steps – These checks are really important to include in lead nurturing campaigns. In these steps, Loopfuse checks the lead’s status in our CRM (Salesforce.com) to see if the sales person has set the status to “Contact Made.” This means the sales person reached the lead via phone and already has a dialog going; if the status is NOT Contact Made, then the flow sends an email. This avoids looking uncoordinated if a sales person manually checks in with a trial user and then the lead flow sends a similar email.
  • The “Just Checking In” email – we send this 7 days after the person started their trial, and there are two important things to mention:

o   Be sure you can control when the email is sent. The emails are meant to come from our sales reps, so they should be sent during business hours. If the seven-day anniversary of their trial start occurs in the middle of the night or on a weekend, Loopfuse will wait until 10:00 a.m. the next business day to send the email. People will see through the personalization attempt if the email arrives from a sales rep at 2:00 a.m. Sunday.
Leadflow Node

o   We keep “just checking in” emails very simple, text-based and straightforward to look like a person actually wrote a personal note to the prospect. Our assumption is that people feel a greater responsibility to reply to a personal note than they do an email with that branded-graphics-laced-marketing-newsletter look to it. Here’s what the email looks like:

Hi @@[email protected]@

I’m checking in to see how you’re doing so far. Have you been able to to get the trial software installed and running? Please let me know if you need any help with your evaluation.

Nothing fancy. No special offers. No trying to schedule a meeting. No sales qualifying questions like “what’s your interest” or “what’s your time table?” Our focus is simply to open a dialog with the prospect.

Here’s the type of response we get:

Thanks a lot for the mail. I went through your website and few online articles to get me started. It would be really helpful to go through written material first and then probably have a call around the doubts rising from the study. Let me know your thoughts!

Now the communications channel is open and we’ve earned the right to further the conversation with the lead and find out more about that lead’s needs, plans, etc.

We get a 26% open rate on this email and a 10% reply rate. We haven’t played with the timing of the email to see if that makes a difference, but plan to see if sending it three days after the trial starts instead of seven improves the metrics.”

Nurturing existing leads

A qualified sales lead is the right person (with a need and authority to purchase) at the right time (with a budget and a deadline to meet). Since “the right timing” can occur months after we capture a lead, we continuously reach out to our marketing database to make sure they keep us top of mind for when a newly budgeted and scheduled need/project arises.

Therefore, we email existing leads about once a month (sometimes twice) to let them know about new content. The key to successful “stay-in-touch” campaigns is placing great content in front of people so that:

a)      They consume it, and maybe offer some new qualification info up in return (e.g., in a webinar registration form or survey).

b)      They don’t unsubscribe from your mailing list(s).

Regarding “great content”: I’ve read quite a bit on the topic of lead nurturing, and I’ve heard many marketing experts advise you not to promote your product in stay in touch campaigns; just provide thought leadership to build your brand. Personally speaking, I’m not so on board with this. Nothing against building brand and offering thought leadership – nor am I suggesting you take an aggressively salesy tone – but I don’t agree that you should actively avoid promoting your offering within these campaigns.

Here’s why: The B2B leads you capture—the people-are responsible for evaluating, buying, and using whatever type of solution you’re selling. It’s their job to make buying decisions. So, help them do their job: don’t be shy about pushing out customer testimony (to help them feel safer about a purchase and to reference sell internally), pricing specials (might now be in their budget), new product news (you might have just filled what had been a show-stopping gap in your product). Promoting thought leadership is fine as long as you relate it back to why your offering is the fastest/best/most economical way to apply it and benefit from it.

So, with that said, here’s what content I usually promote in stay-in-touch nurturing campaigns:

Content
Webinars

(~1 per month)

Webinars are great not only because they draw nice-sized audiences (dozens to hundreds), but also because you can use webinar sign-up forms and audience polls during the webinar to draw new lead qualification info. out of people. Sales can use that info to prioritize their follow up with event registrants.

For example, for a webinar on modernizing legacy IT applications to the web, I’d cite an industry expert “XYZMarket Analysis says IT modernization is a top priority for 67% of CIOs polled” and then ask the audience or registrants: “How important is modernization to your firm” and allow them to select from the following:

a)      We’re actively addressing it

b)      We plan to address it within 12 months

c)       It’s not a problem for us

Somebody who answers b) is a better lead than the others. They are more likely to be in considering what they’ll need to buy to complete their project. We use the answer to this type of question to tailor our phone and email event follow up.

Customers presenting their case studies are my favorite topic. Webinars on relevant new technical, market, regulatory trends are also effective. In both cases, be sure to explain why your offering is the best/only way to achieve great results.

We promote webinars via two invite emails to the whole mailing list (or a list subset if it’s a very narrowly focused webinar topic).

Customer success stories As soon as new customer case studies or customer-related press announcements are published, we push them out to leads that would find them relevant (same industry, region, etc.) with a cover note from a sales person asking whether they’d like to set up a meeting to discuss whether they have a need or initiative to achieve similar results.
White papers As new papers are published, we push them out to mailing list sub-segments that would find them relevant, along with an FYI-toned email from their sales rep.
New Product Announcements As new products or product upgrades are released, we’ll email our list about the new functionality. There might be new features that fill a product gap that turned them off when they were a new lead.
Just checking in emails from sales About once a year—usually during prospects’ budgeting and strategic planning season (between October and December), we’ll help sales email cold, in-profile leads a personal note asking whether they have new projects planned for next year for which our offering might be a fit. It never hurts to ask.

Stay-in-touch email timing –Limit the number of monthly nurturing campaigns to two (three max) per month.

Permission-based lead nurturing – Emailing people who have not opted in to receive emails is risky; it could negatively impact your ability to mass email and also result in negative publicity (I’ve seen people call out spammers on Twitter). Therefore, always include an unsubscribe link within your nurturing emails and follow other CAN-SPAM act compliance best practices.”

For the complete interview with Andy Ellicott, download Lead Nurturing Best Practices for Small to Medium sized Businesses (SMBs)

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