Mar 2018

You've put the effort into generating some interesting content for your target personas. They've taken an interest in your business -- whether they downloaded a key bottom-of-the-funnel piece of content, requested more information, or contacted you directly -- congrats! You have a new lead.

But now what? Your new lead isn't going to immediately impact your bottom line. This is where inbound marketing makes the hand-off to sales initiatives. How does this occur? How do I ensure a seamless transition?

I'm going to walk you through the steps you need to take to keep that lead engaged and turn them into a paying customer.

1. Research Your New Lead

You're in the B2B space, but there's a face behind your new lead. Who are they? It's your responsibility (or your sales team's) to research as much detail as you can find on your lead.

What kind of email address do they have?

A personal email like @gmail or @yahoo might indicate they're researching for another purpose other than finding a vendor. But not always! Sometimes leads that are shopping for a new vendor will use a personal email address in order to remain discreet.

What does their business do?

Browse their website and social media channels to get a sense of their offering and why they're in business. This might help you uncover the lead's intent behind why they expressed interest in your business. Then, start brainstorming: how does your product or service address their pain point? The earlier you can recognize this, the better the trust will be between you and your new lead.

Use social media (with caution!)

Social media can tell you a lot about your prospect's interests and needs, but be aware that some platforms (such as LinkedIn) have the ability to detect who's visiting your lead's profile and reveal that information. Note that it may be too early to reach out to connect on social media so at this stage, use it solely for research.

How have they interacted with your brand?

Most CRMs and marketing automation systems will tell you how your prospect has been engaging with your website after they became a lead. What pages did they visit? How often do they return? What was their original source? Did they do a search on Google or stumble upon your site on social media?

The information you'll collect in the steps above will arm you with the data you need to keep your lead engaged and better understand their needs.

2. Follow Up

Assuming at this point that you've qualified your prospect as someone who's "sales ready", it's time to follow up and it's time to act fast! But it's super important to ease into communication at this stage where your prospect may be sensitive to messages from sales reps. If they're shopping around for vendors, they're likely getting multiple follow-up emails or phone calls. Follow these tips to engage with your new lead in a manner that's non-creepy and positions you as being helpful:

  • Don't call (yet). Stick to email unless the lead has expressed interest in scheduling a meeting or demo.
  • Send more information related to the content your lead showed interest in. This is where having a wide variety of blogs and content offers that cater to various needs comes in handy!
  • Personalize your follow up. Mention the company name, the industry, the content offer your lead downloaded. The more relevant the message, the better it will resonate.

Don't have time to follow up with every "hot" lead? That's where marketing automation can save you a ton of time while still sending personalized emails to your leads. In fact, when done well, your leads will usually have no idea they're receiving an automated message.




3. Nurture

By now you've followed up, so your chances of staying top-of-mind are greater, but don't let your lead slip away as a few days pass. Create an automated drip email campaign (a.k.a. lead nurturing emails) that align with your particular buyer's journey. What's the next natural action a prospect should take? Book a demo? Schedule a consultation? Download a comparison guide of competing products on the market? Map out your buyer's journey and the content aligned with each stage.

A few words of advice to optimize the performance of your automated lead nurturing emails:

  • Unless your typical buyers work over the weekends, avoiding sending emails during this time. The chances of getting buried are greater and you want to appear respectful of your prospect's time.
  • Avoid promotional language. The intent of these emails is to build a relationship, not scare them away.
  • Be conversational. Lead nurturing emails should feel casual as if you were writing a friend or family member. Overly designed templates with flashy GIFs will tell your reader they've been subject to an automated email real quick.
  • Make sure the emails come from a real human -- not your company name.

4. Pick up the phone

After your prospect has raised their hand and engaged with your emails for a few days/weeks (depending on the length of your sales cycle), now is a good opportunity to pick up the phone. Follow these best practices:

Do call if...

  • The prospect opened at least one of your drip campaign emails
  • The lead has returned to your site to read a blog, view website pages, or download a piece of content

Don't call if...

  • The prospect ignored your drip emails.
  • He or she opted out of email or unsubscribed.
  • It's been months since they converted. They may have forgotten about your business.

Be sure that....

  • The sales rep calling the lead is the same one that was corresponding by email.
  • You schedule a second follow up meeting during your first call together.

While inbound marketing has become a proven method to generate quality leads, it's only half the battle. Ensure you've got solid sales practices in place -- whether that's you handling those efforts or a different team.