For most businesses, regardless of the industry or the products and services being offered, lead generation is a critical component of a successful sales and marketing strategy. But not every business understands the difference between lead generation and lead nurturing, and the importance of implementing both tactics into their overall sales process.

 Did you know that “79% of marketing leads never convert into sales? Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance?” (Source: MarketingSherpa)

Marketing Strategy

You have a great business website, with the right calls to action, lead forms, and detailed information about your products and services. When it comes to lead generation, you’ve got it down. You’ve captured the interest of many, and you’re driving visitors to your website like never before. So what’s the problem? Why aren’t more of your visitors making purchases? It’s simple, really:

Not everyone who ends up on your website is ready to buy.

You can generate leads ‘til the cows come home, but it will take more than that to increase sales. You’ve got to stay with those leads, to nurture them, until they’re ready to buy. You have to remind them that you exist, that your products and/or services are the solution to their problem, and that you are better than the competition. How do you do this? By forming a strong relationship with each of your potential customers, and then by nurturing that relationship through various forms of consistent communication. HubSpot is a great example of a popular platform used for both lead generation and lead nurturing.

The Importance of Lead Generation 

Lead generation is undoubtedly an integral part of the overall sales process, but what is it, exactly, and why is it so important? Lead generation is the process of generating excitement around specific products and services in order to bring potential new customers into the sales pipeline. This can be done by way of inbound or outbound marketing, each of which has its advantages and disadvantages, and so should be used in combination for the highest success rate. 

Outbound marketing is a somewhat invasive form of lead generation, and may not appeal to certain types of buyers, so it’s important to research your specific market before diving too heavily into this type of campaign. Examples of outbound marketing include cold-calling, face-to-face direct marketing, television, radio and print advertising. The disadvantages of outbound marketing are that it is difficult to measure, can be off-putting to certain buyer types, and can be quite costly with the potential for little return on investment.

Inbound marketing is a less aggressive form of lead generation, which allows potential customers to find their way to information about your products and services, and encourages them to request additional information via a lead form or other method of capturing contact information for follow-up. Examples of inbound marketing include content marketing by way of blogging, e-books, whitepapers, email-marketing, social media marketing and peer reviews, as well as digital marketing tactics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Pay-Per-Click Campaigns (PPC), or a combination thereof.

One advantage of using inbound marketing strategies is the ability to track performance as it occurs, which allows for tweaking campaigns in real-time. Inbound marketing also allows for developing a two-way relationship with your leads, which brings us to the next essential step in your marketing and sales strategy.

Lead Nurturing: Forming a Relationship with your Leads

Now that you have some leads, all of which are at various stages of the buying process, what can you do to increase the likelihood of turning these leads into sales? The answer is: lead nurturing. It is not enough to simply gather leads and hand them over to sales. It’s important to understand that each lead is different, and must be handled as such.

Because not all leads are ready to purchase this instant, it’s important to interact with your leads and to determine which stage they are at. Are they just hearing of your products and services? Or, have they been searching for the right products and services for some time and are comparing your offerings to those of your competitors? Just because a lead isn’t ready to buy this very instant, it doesn’t mean they aren’t almost ready to buy. The only way to find out where they’re at is to ask, but first, you must establish trust.

In order for buyers to trust you, you have to show them that you are listening, and that you are talking to them, specifically. If you send the same exact email or post card to every one of your leads, they will know you aren’t being genuine. By personalizing your emails and other content and customizing it to meet the needs of the specific person you’re trying to reach, you’ll have a much better chance of catching and keeping the lead’s attention, and more importantly, their trust.

Nurturing Leads Throughout the Sales Process

If you’re trying to talk about pricing with someone who still doesn’t fully understand the benefits and features of your product, you could scare them away or turn them off to the product all together by seeming too pushy. It’s all about listening to your leads and letting them take you through the sales process, versus pushing them when they’re not ready. Be sure to check in regularly, but not so often that you drive your leads crazy. By sharing relevant and appropriate content at the right stages of the sales process, your message is more likely to reach the right people at the right time.

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