If you’re having trouble converting leads, you’re not alone. We asked a few experts to share their insights on how they turn leads into customers
Too many marketers are stumped by this all-too-common conundrum: After working hard to obtain a steady stream of leads, conversion rates remain frustratingly low. On the journey from MQL to SQL, something is getting lost in translation. And, ultimately, if a lead doesn't convert, the ROI for your lead gen investment will be nonexistent. Your sales pipeline suffers, and your leadership team wants answers. What can be done?
When your team is doing all the right things to get leads but failing to convert, it may be tempting to simply blame the so-called quality of the leads. But, then, why do some marketers seem to have a knack for converting leads into customers? Many times, low conversion rates have less to do with the quality of the leads themselves, and more to do with how you’re following up on your leads.
We turned to four B2B marketing experts to learn their most effective, no-fail strategies on how to nurture leads in order to boost conversion rates. The commonalities were too hard to ignore. What follows is a list of eight habits all four marketers embrace when it comes to their methods for converting leads into customers.
8 habits for increasing your lead gen conversion rate
1. Follow up with value-adding touchpoints.
Tiffani Collins is the Senior Demand Generation Manager at NetDocuments, a document management solution for legal professionals. Collins knows that getting a new lead is the beginning of the process, not the end goal. Once a new lead is acquired, the lead nurturing process begins. Collins’ approach to lead nurturing is based on offering a steady cadence of valuable content that addresses the target’s specific pain points.
Collins and her team use educational content pieces as part of an ongoing nurturing campaign. The topics of the educational pieces are specifically aligned with the topic of the content the lead originally registered to download when they entered the marketing funnel. For example, if a lead originally downloaded a white paper on best practices for document management, the NetDocuments team may follow up with a case study on how another firm successfully implemented a document management solution to increase productivity.
Collins and her team see themselves as problem solvers. Each educational piece of content should focus on the prospect’s informational needs, the problems they are trying to solve, and the solutions that are available to them. Why is this so important? Simple – by offering value, NetDocuments is building trust, which is an essential ingredient when trying to convert leads into customers.
Lisa Pansini, Director of Marketing at Rocket Matter, a practice management software provider, believes in the personal touch when following up with leads. Pansini said her business development team personally calls to thank each individual who fills out a form to download Rocket Matter content. During that conversation, they will ask questions about the lead’s interests and challenges.
After that initial conversation, Pansini and team will build a nurturing stream customized to the prospect’s specific informational needs. Like Collins, Pansini’s goal is to move leads toward new, high-value content offerings, solving for pain points each step of the way. Only after the prospect has demonstrated a need for Rocket Matter’s software does the engagement become more sales-oriented. But by that time, they have likely earned the prospect’s trust. And the entire process begins with that initial, personal outreach to learn more about the prospect’s needs.
3. Make contact within 24 hours.
Following up by phone immediately can be challenging, especially if you have a lot of leads coming in at once. However, Pansini believes it’s best to strike while the iron is hot, so her team makes a point to follow up with incoming leads as quickly as possible. Professionals are busy, and they have short attention spans. If you wait to follow up with a lead, they may not connect your brand with the valuable content they downloaded when they first entered your marketing funnel. In other words, the longer you wait to make contact, the narrower your window of opportunity.
Chris McCullough, Growth Marketing Manager for Ser Technology, a technology company serving financial institutions like credit unions, reinforces the need to follow up with leads as expediently as possible. McCullough’s team reaches out to incoming leads quickly to find out what their goals are and to understand their challenges. To him, this initial touchpoint is particularly important for understanding how each lead will need to be treated going forward: Are they ready to make a purchase? If they’re not, where in the buyer’s journey are they? What informational needs can be served right now?
McCullough knows that being overly “salesly” with a lead not close to a purchase decision can turn them off of a sale entirely, so it’s important to assess their readiness early on. Connecting with a lead right away won’t always result in an on-the-spot sale, but it will initiate a process that can increase sales over time.
4. Let your leads set the pace.
When a prospective buyer downloads your content to become a lead, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re at the purchasing stage. Pansini cautions against being too aggressive right off the bat. Like McCullough and Collins, she views lead conversion as a process, not an event, so she and her team nurture leads with ongoing content offers.
Even while letting leads consume content at their own pace and not pushing sales on them before they’re ready, Pansini prioritizes staying in front of potential buyers with strategic content offers over the course of the entire sales cycle, which can often last for weeks or months. Her team wants their solution to be top of mind when a prospect is finally ready to make a purchase.
McCullough’s team utilizes the same strategy. In his words, “Don’t be a pest.” His team prioritizes providing value and being helpful, but not being overly sales-focused if the lead isn’t yet at that stage.
5. Create content for both ends of the funnel.
Pansini’s content team creates an engaging mix of content for buyers at both ends of the buyer's journey – those who are just beginning to investigate possible solutions to their challenges as well as those who are ready to make a purchase. Her team’s goal is to create content that builds trust, educates readers, and helps prospective buyers associate these solutions with her organization. That way, when a lead is ready to convert, Rocket Matter is the first solution that comes to mind.
Creating content for all stages of buyer readiness can also encourage leads to transition to the next stage of the buyer’s journey by providing the information necessary to make that next step. Buyers spend a considerable amount of time researching potential solutions to their challenges on their own. If your company is a source of the information that will help facilitate their investigation process, that puts you in an incredibly advantageous position once a lead is ready to make a purchase.
6. When creating content, focus most on providing value.
Jessica Veiga, Chief Marketing Officer at Botkeeper, is laser focused on leading with value at every touchpoint. Botkeeper provides automated bookkeeping support to accounting firms. Once her team understands the pain points their target audience is facing, they create and distribute relevant content offering new ideas and solutions.
First and foremost, Veiga wants to stay relevant to the buyer by being an ongoing source of useful information based on each prospect’s specific informational needs. As a lead continues to engage with Botkeeper-branded content, her team is well positioned to make contact once the lead is closer to making a purchase decision. Veiga, like our other marketing pros, is a fan of making a personal connection with a lead in the early stages of the lead lifecycle to find out what types of information will be most important to prospective buyers.
7. Get more mileage out of your existing content.
Veiga believes in repurposing high-value content in a variety of formats and contexts to get the most mileage out of it. In Veiga’s opinion, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for each new piece of content – She and her team prioritize getting the most out of existing content.
Veiga also believes one piece of content should lead seamlessly to the next. Her team may create individual blogs based on sections of an ebook or white paper. Content from the ebook and blogs may be repurposed into webinars that, in turn, create yet another touchpoint for attracting and converting leads.
Many marketers, Veiga said, produce tons of high-quality content that may not ever be seen by prospective buyers – it just goes to the blog to die. This is not an efficient strategy, and content teams are just spinning their wheels. By creating a few key, central pieces of content and repurposing them in strategic ways, marketers achieve two crucial things: They increase the likelihood of getting in front of and engaging their target audience, and they save their content team from getting bogged down in a relentless cycle of poorly-performing content.
8. Automate when possible.
When it comes to lead nurturing, many processes are repetitive. To increase efficiency, each of the four marketing pros uses marketing automation software, such as HubSpot or Marketo. Veiga explains that using marketing automation software allows her team to scale their marketing efforts significantly, while still personalizing outreach based on each prospective buyer’s topical interests.
Collins, too, makes sure that each new lead is placed into a nurturing stream based on their interests and individual needs. When a prospective buyer begins engaging with more sales-oriented content, such as case studies and reviews, it signals that the lead is closer to a purchase decision and ready to be followed up with by the sales team.
Lead conversion is a process
All four marketing pros, each with a successful track record of being able to convert leads into customers, share a similar philosophy in how they approach lead conversion: Lead conversion is a process, not a one-time event. In other words, getting a new lead is the beginning of the journey, not the end goal. Ultimately, a successful lead conversion strategy is a lead nurturing strategy. Having a well-planned, repeatable method to nurture incoming leads – and incorporating the best practices shared by our four marketing experts – will increase your conversion rates, as well as the ROI of your lead gen investment.
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