Although nurturing leads is an important activity for increasing sales, it can become a costly undertaking. Therefore, it pays for your lead nurturing program to be both efficient and effective. If you budget is tight, you might like to concentrate on mining the maximum value out of your pre-existing lead database. That resource may be worth more than you think: a quarter-million lead database at a $20 cost per lead represents a $5 million investment. It’s therefore important to create a strategy for exploiting this database to the hilt. That means you can’t get by with random acts like the occasional email – you need an efficient plan.
Lead-nurturing efficiency can be measured by return on investment (ROI). Here are some compelling research statistics regarding companies that are proficient at nurturing leads:
It seems that when prospects are nurtured, they tend to increase purchases, demand fewer discounts, and buy more frequently.
If you’re now convinced that lead nurturing is worth the time and effort, your next concern is how to get started. Whether you are starting fresh or already have some experience in this area, you will want to follow best practices to receive the maximum return on your initiatives. You must first understand the two types of lead-nurturing campaigns that are required:
1) Campaigns for processing incoming leads: your chance to make a good first impression. You do so by fostering trust and respect, listening to your contacts, and offering interesting and valuable material. If you blow this, you might not get a second chance to establish a sound foundation with a potential customer.
2) Campaigns to stay in contact with existing leads: if your prospect is not yet ready to speak with a sales rep, you can nudge them along by maintaining contact and dribbling out additional valuable content over time. In this way, you educate the prospect and build your credibility. By reminding the lead about your offering, he or she will be more likely to think of you when ready to make a purchase.
In our next post, we’ll explore incoming lead processing campaigns in more detail.
Today the topic is lead-processing campaigns – the first part of nurturing leads. As we pointed out in earlier posts, lead nurturing is type of relationship, and as such requires trust, respect, attention and offering something of interest. Your lead-processing campaign is like an initial handshake – a time to form (hopefully positive) first impressions. The immediate question in a marketer’s mind is whether a contact is ready for an interaction with Sales right away, or rather the contact would benefit from nurturing, or (sadly) that the contact is a dead end. Often, Sales and Marketing work out a quantitative rating system, called lead scoring, to make these determinations. Here are a few criteria that go into a lead scoring methodology:
Using this data, you then categorize the contact according to an agreed scheme. You can use letter or number rankings, assign them groups like hot, warm and cold, or whatever else works for you. The sort should reveal which contacts are sales-ready and which ones need more attention from Marketing. You can use contact and company information to score the contact:
1) Was your website visited by the contact? Did the contact visit frequently, and if so, how many visits occurred before and after registration?
2) If the contact found your website via a search, what search terms were used and how relevant are they?
3) Did the contact check out the pricing or contact pages?
4) Is this contact the first from his company to visit your site, or have others preceded him?
5) What response did you receive from the contact to your offers and emails?
6) Has the Sales team interacted with the contact, and if so, when did that occur?
Here is a concrete example: I am aware of a software services company that uses a lead scoring system based on points. When a person makes contact, he is assigned between zero and 35 points based on demographic information. Additional points are assigned based on behavior: for example, one point for each webpage viewed or emails opened; up to 15 points for searching out the firm’s name on a search engine. You are called a prospect and receive nurturing until you accumulate 65 points, at which point you become a lead and are handed off to Sales for additional qualification. By following this method, Sales only applies resources to the leads who have displayed the highest levels of engagement.
In this, the final installment in our series Optimizing Your Website, I discuss newsletters and ways to get more people to subscribe to your email. Your great new optimized website deserves as much traffic as possible, and one way to get and keep visibility is through a newsletter subscription. A call-to-action (CTA) on your website can offer a free newsletter subscription in return for an email address – the first step in converting visitors to leads. Your challenge is to get readers to opt-in to your offer and then to provide them with email worthy of their time.
Here are seven tips for increasing email subscriptions:
1) Give your newsletter subscription form prominence. You don’t want to make it hard for people to subscribe. Besides featuring a sign-up on your website, put links to the form in social media sites and in your signature block.
2) Offer value. The CTA shouldn’t say something lame like “Subscribe Now”. Instead, point out the value proposition: “Our email newsletter will keep you up-to-date about events in our industry”. In this way, visitors can easily discern what’s in it for them.
3) Give a special incentive to subscribers. By giving them exclusive access to free content, resources, coupons and discounts, not available to non-subscribers. For instance, you could advertise special whitepapers not available on the website. Make sure you make the incentive worthwhile.
4) Tease ‘em a little. If you offer, say, a five-step program, let them get a sneak peek at Step One. You could do this with a short video presentation. The accompanying CTA could ask readers if they want to see the rest and direct them to sign up to gain access. This is a great lure for new subscribers.
5) Be authoritative. Point out how many subscribers you have and include testimonials regarding the value of your newsletters. This is a form of customer proof, which we discussed in an earlier post.
6) Share your email. Put in a “Forward to a Friend” link in your emails. You can take advantage of online tools to help you set up sharing via social media. If you have a landing page, add this functionality there as well.
7) Test alternative subscription options. You can vary the offers, form placements, headlines or incentives. There is free A/B split testing software available from Google that can help you sort through the alternatives and identify the best one.
Well, that’s it! I hope you’ve found this series informative and welcome your comments and suggestions.
We are at the penultimate topic within our Optimizing Your Website series: the design and use of forms. In the last couple of postings, we concentrated on calls-to-action (CTAs) and landing pages as means of converting traffic into leads. Today we’ll zoom in on the proper use of forms for gathering important data about potential leads. Forms are an essential part of any landing page. What will visitors do when they reach your landing page if they don’t have a form to fill out? You need visitors to complete a form so that they can sign up for an offer or subscribe to your site.
The proper amount of data to gather on a form is somewhat subjective. You need to strike a balance between brevity and completeness. The ultimate answer is to collect only the data you really need. Remember, there is an inverse relationship between the number of fields on a form and the chances you will convert a reader into a lead. Put simply, visitors don’t like nosy forms that take too much time to complete. The phenomenon is known as “friction”, and you want to minimize it. If in doubt, test different forms and see how much data you can collect without turning off potential leads.
Here are some tips for designing forms for your landing page:
In addition to optimized calls-to-action (CTAs), it is very important to create an effective landing page for your website. The landing page is literally a page a visitor lands on when they click on one of your ads. As such, a landing page must be effective in order to turn your site into a machine for generating leads.
Some important tips:
Here are some common landing page problems we have seen:
We recently cleaned up a landing page that had all of the above defects. First, we removed the main navigation from the page. The company logo was moved to the top left of the page. We clarified the headline to make the offer clear, and added an image of the offer. The offer description was changed to bullet points so that it could be easily scanned. We put a lead form on the page and added a sub-heading to emphasize the offer. Then we changed the focus of the page to talk about the value of the product, not all its bells and whistles. Finally, we removed extraneous text and shortened the page.
By following these tips and examples, you too can create a killer landing page that sweeps visitors into your collection of leads.
Congrats! With our help, you’ve taken the steps necessary to optimize the contents of your website. But don’t break out the Champagne quite yet. Attracting a lot of traffic isn’t enough – you’ve got to convert visitors into customers. At the very least, you’d like all visitors to leave behind some identifying information so that you have a chance to deepen the relationship. It usually takes some nurturing to turn a prospect into a sale. The first step in that direction is to optimize your calls-to-action (CTAs).
An effective CTA motivates a visitor to take some action he or she wouldn’t take in the absence of the CTA. To that end, you should always place a CTA “above the fold” and in clear sight, allowing visitors to figure out how to proceed. A good CTA is the key to converting traffic into leads. Here are some tips:
The CTA button is probably the most important element. One change to a button can yield dramatic results. Here are four variables to consider when crafting your CTA button:
1) Size: Make it BIG! You want to get noticed, don’t you? A small button is too easy to ignore. We recommend something like 225 by 45 pixels.
2) Location: As we mentioned above, put it above the fold, where it naturally follows the path of your eye. You can use the Browsersize utility from Google to discover how much of the page will be seen without scrolling.
3) Color: It should contrast with its surroundings.
4) Text: Make it a command, like “Download Free E-Book Now!” Studies show that people respond more when CTA button text is forceful.
And remember: test, test, test. There are no absolutes when it comes to web page design, so test your ideas and see which ones perform the best.
Now that you have developed great content for your website and are converting visitors into leads, how do you convince leads to make a purchase? Marketing experts speak of confirmation: proof to potential customers that previous purchasers were satisfied with your product or service. There are several powerful ways to convey confirmation, including case studies, customer reviews and testimonials. All of these techniques help convert leads into buyers.
Customer stories can be persuasive if they seem authentic. It’s very tempting for website owners to invent stories about satisfied customers, but our advice is not to do it – your leads are not stupid and will quickly detect a phony story. If you are offering something valuable, you should be able to accumulate positive feedback that you can use. Don’t hide these stories behind log-in screens or customer forms – make them available throughout your website.
Testimonials should be short and powerful. Here are some tips:
Peer influence is a powerful marketing tool. It has been estimated that word-of-mouth referrals are 20 times more effective than marketing events such as media appearances or press releases. A case study is a perfect way to amplify positive customer experiences. Basically, a case study tells the whole story behind a purchase decision, including the factors leading to the purchase and the aftermath of a transaction. Case studies will help your sales team close deals, allow you to spread content across different channels, and provide leads with human stories from passionate evangelists. Case studies encourage a genuine dialogue with your customers – start creating one today!
Let’s expand our discussion about content to look at multiple forms of content that can be used on your website. When we consider content, we have to extend our thinking beyond the written word. Naturally, what first comes to mind is media: pictures, videos, audio, flash, etc. Integrating video content helps your blog engage with more people for longer periods of time. Videos can be just simple introductions or they can contain advanced material – you build your library as you go. You should think about establishing a YouTube channel for your videos, upload them and then embed them in your blog posts. Don’t worry if your first videos aren’t top quality – you’ll get better with time.
A popular way to create videos is to interview people relevant to your website or industry. If you can record an industry expert, thought leader, or even just one of your (satisfied) customers, you may very well end up with compelling video content. Try not to rehearse your interview or to work from a written list of questions. It’s much more interesting to keep the interview spontaneous. Ask three or four questions, and allow time for follow-up. A real conversation is always preferable to a question-and-answer session.
By the way, it’s alright to occasionally post lighter content. An off-topic post can add comic relief and perhaps increase your traffic. Every industry experiences an offbeat story from time to time – use these to liven up your blog.
Another form of valuable content is an online utility program, such as Domain-Pop’s Backlink Checker. We can tell you from first-hand experience: if you build an excellent utility, they will come. Domain-Pop.Com‘s traffic volume increased exponentially as word of the Backlink Checker circulated. Team up with a programmer and provide a useful utility to drive new traffic to your website. Keep in mind the parameters of a good utility: it should be easy to use, operate reliably and efficiently, and give the user something valuable for free. As a website owner, you want to convert traffic to leads, and a good utility is an efficient method to attract uses to your product. The output from a utility can be the first step towards establishing a deeper relationship with the user. For instance, we offer to help users of our Backlink Checker improve their keyword rankings. Your conversion strategy will depend on your product or service, but a little creative thinking can provide a pathway that ends in loyal customers and a source of revenue.
Social media can have a profound effect upon your website. Their exponential growth in the last decade bespeaks their impact on all aspects of communication. Just the act of “Like”ing a blog post or product can cause friends to explore the liked material, and possibly leaving behind a link or bookmark to the material. You want to encourage this kind of behavior for your own website by making it easy for visitors to share your content and exchange social commentary about it. In this way, you drive traffic to your website, where you have the opportunity to convert visitors to leads and ultimately customers. And as links to your site proliferate, your web search visibility increases, creating a virtuous circle of content and reaction.
Here are some tips for making your site shareable and sociable:
We’ll expand our discussion about content next time to look at multiple forms of content and how to convince visitors to believe in your product.
We’ve now reached the part of our topic concerned with blogging. Obviously, I love this subject as it’s how I make my living. Without a doubt, blogging is a primary asset for your website and is important for any inbound marketing strategy. Here are some reasons why:
Blogging is not rocket science, and just about anyone can do it. It helps to have a decent grasp of spelling, syntax, grammar, sentence construction, etc., but there are many resources out there if you need remedial training. Assuming you are sufficiently confident in your writing skills (or you have the budget to hire a professional writer), you can get started for essentially no money by creating a blog on a free service such as Google Blogger – you don’t even need to purchase your own domain name. However, if you are marketing a product or service, you probably already have a website up and running. You can add a blog to your website or you can blog elsewhere and include backlinks to your website. Or do both!
If you are curious as to the effectiveness of blogging in boosting your website’s visibility, consider the fact that companies that blog have on average 55 percent more website visitors and 88 percent more business-to-consumer leads per month.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when posting blogs:
Now, if you are all fired up and ready to go, remember that you want to maximize the impact of your posts. That is, you need to make your content shareable and social. We’ll explore how to do so in our next post.