Lead nurturing begins as soon as a phone rings or a Web form gets submitted. Whether your initial contact came from someone looking to buy now or from someone opting in to your subscriber list, you need to have a basic nurturing process in place for each new contact:
Hot leads come first. These are the folks who are contacting your business via phone, Web form, or some other method with immediate needs. These hot leads should obviously be priority number one for you and your staff. However, many small businesses fail to properly capitalize on these leads due to a lack of a clear intake process.
More often than not, the early bird gets the worm when it comes to Web and phone leads. It’s critical to treat leads like the golden opportunities they are and follow up as quickly as you can, if not immediately!
While I was working with one large silicon valley start-up, we did an analysis, modeling the outcomes of thousands of Web and phone leads, measuring their value based on a number of factors including follow-up time and which percentage were reached, engaged, and eventually became customers. You’ll be astounded by the conclusions of the study:
You must ensure that everyone in your company values the importance of responding to and measuring inbound leads. If you can’t answer calls or greet walk-ins in real time, train a staff member or outsource this to someone who can. Train whoever answers the phone on how to greet, screen, and obtain information from callers. If you run a retail or dining establishment, the same rules apply.
If your business is in the early stages of online marketing, with little website traffic or content, lead nurturing may not seem like a priority. While this assertion may be true for the most part, it’s critical to start building a subscriber/nurture list right away. Since all you need to do is choose an email marketing/list building service and slap an opt-in form on your site, it’s worth doing as early as possible.
For most small businesses, basic email marketing software will work just fine. Each of the services listed below works the same way: you simply sign up, paying from $19 to $100 per month depending on the size of your list, create Web forms to capture leads on your site, and set up “sequences,” or automated email campaigns. Any of the following four providers will work just fine:
If you want to do more than simple email nurture campaigns, such as accept payments online, monitor your prospects’ Web activity, and integrate direct mail and other “offline marketing” into your nurture programs, I recommend the following two providers:
If you’re new to the world of lead nurturing or are on a tight budget, you’ll be fine using one of the four basic services listed above. I use InfusionSoft and can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re more advanced in lead nurturing or need a more powerful solution.
There are two primary ways of sending email communications to your nurture list:
Broadcasts are one-time emails sent to your whole database or segments of your list. The ability to reach your entire list at once makes broadcasts especially powerful for sales promotions, news, or events. Here are a few ideas you can use to generate broadcasts.
Sequential mailings are a series of emails pre-set to get delivered over time, allowing you to keep in touch with your prospects for weeks, months, or even longer. Consult with your chosen email marketing provider to learn more about setting up campaigns.
Here are a few ideas for sequential mailings that have proven to be extremely effective:
As the old saying goes, “It’s much easier to keep a customer than acquire a new one.” If you recall from Chapter 9, it’s important to measure the lifetime value of a customer (LTV). When you focus on this bigger picture in terms of revenue, you can spend more to acquire a customer. If your clients visit your place of business, offer incentives to join your email list. If you provide services elsewhere, add email fields to your invoices and implement staff incentives for email acquisition. You can even use direct mail to build your list, sending low-cost postcards with a special offer in exchange for opting in. Here are several ways to leverage your customer relationships:
I have yet to encounter a stronger source of leads than customer referrals. When a customer recommends your business to a friend or colleague, a magical thing happens: You get to skip the first several steps of the online marketing funnel, as each recommendation comes pre-packaged with trust and authority. The best way to ask for referrals is to do so with class and sincerity. Just send your new client a brief and sincere message similar to this one:
SUBJECT LINE: “Hi Jim, It’s Aaron—I Have a Favor to Ask”
It’s our great pleasure to have you as a new customer; we really hope you enjoy your new bicycle. We hope you found your experience with us to be exceptional and we look forward to serving you and your family for years to come. Please contact me on my personal line anytime if I can be of service in any way: 760-777-7777.
Secondly, I have a favor to ask. As you know, Gotham City Cyclery exists for one reason: we are extremely passionate about helping people live happy and healthier lives through the joy of riding bicycles, and we’re always looking for more families like yours to help. If you have one or two friends you think would enjoy working with us as much as you have, we would be honored if you would help us spread the word.
To make this easy, I have included a link for three 10 percent off coupons for our store for you to hand out to anyone you wish. I’ve also included a 20 percent off coupon for you as a gesture of thanks for your time and consideration.
Thanks so much for your time, and keep riding!
To set up a nurture campaign for client referrals, send two or three emails every week or so using this gentle but effective approach. If they don’t respond the first time, send a reminder or two the next week. You’ll be amazed at how much new business you can generate using this simple approach.
KEY CONCEPT: Use List Segmentation to Target Your Campaigns
One of the common mistakes people make when first using email marketing and lead nurturing tools is placing all their contacts into one huge “bucket.” It’s important to segment your list into separate categories (“customers,” leads,” “former customers”), allowing for targeted communications down the road. Most popular email marketing software programs accomplish this using “tags,” which are easy to create and set up. Start with the following three list segments:
Depending on your reputation and point of view, online reviews sites have become one of the best or worst things to happen to small business owners. In our modern, connected world, people have become accustomed to reading and leaving reviews for everything. If you recall from Chapter 4, reviews are also a great sign of “social proof.” Whether your customers are ecstatic, infuriated, or somewhere in between, you can expect to find reviews on your business. Search engines also view reviews as evidence of “trust.”
Just as with referrals, there’s a good way and a bad way to ask for reviews. Instead of saying something like, “Please fill out a review, we really need more reviews for Google to like us!”, use the same direct, service-based approach you would for referrals:
SUBJECT LINE: “Hi Jim, Aaron Here—Please Tell Us
How We’re Doing”
Hello again! It’s Aaron from Gotham City Cyclery. It’s been a few weeks since you purchased your mountain bike and I hope you’ve found time to get on the trails and enjoy this great weather.
I am writing to gather some quick feedback about your experience with Gotham City, and your level of satisfaction with our customer service, pricing, and the bicycle itself. We place a great deal of emphasis on getting feedback from all of our customers, as this allows us to provide the best possible services, train our staff, and decide which bicycles to carry.
You’re the type of customer we want to attract and your feedback would mean the world to us. To make it easy, I have included links to our reviews pages below. Please pick one or two and tell us how we’re doing—good or bad, we appreciate your feedback:
LINK TO YOUR HELP PAGE
LINK TO YOUR GOOGLE+ PAGE
LINK TO YOUR MERCHANT CIRCLE PAGE
P.S. I really do appreciate your time. Once you’ve completed a review, I’ll leave a free inner tube here at the shop for you to grab during your next visit.
Can you see how friendly and non-promotional this approach is? Once you view reviews sites as critical customer feedback channels, you’ll find the process of getting more of them much easier.
For your review acquisition program, stick with a short list of social sites and build from there. It’s important to note that your niche might have separate, industry-specific directories that are great for reviews, such as Avvo.com and Lawyers.com for lawyers, and Caring.com for senior care providers. Start with the top three to four of the following established local directories:
Unless you run a funeral home, repeat business or customer renewals should be a cornerstone of your business and marketing plans. If you did no other marketing but launch a great customer renewals campaign, you’d likely see a dramatic increase in bottom line sales. Sometimes all your customers need is a gentle reminder that your business is right around the corner.
Whether your business has a very long sales cycle (tax accountant), or a very short one (coffee shop), it doesn’t take much to communicate with customers on a regular basis, prompting them to patronize your business just a tad more often.
Many businesses approach renewals way too late in the game, contacting customers right before their services expire, or worse yet, after. The better approach is to stay in contact often, adding value to your customers’ lives, maintaining your position of authority in their minds.
KEY CONCEPT: Use Facebook to Reach Existing Customers
Your nurture campaigns can reach beyond your website and personal leads database. Social media sites like Facebook provide their own lead and customer nurturing ecosystems that can greatly enhance and supplement your email marketing efforts.
One great lead nurturing activity is to send messages to your Facebook fans and groups, following the same best practices listed in this chapter. You can place Facebook ads (https://www.facebook.com/advertising) targeted at only those who have “Liked” your business page. Here’s a powerful use for this:
Offer an incentive to get your customers to like your page on Facebook. This can be done via electronic means (Web form or email) or in person (“Like us from your mobile phone for a free beer!”).
Place an ad for a special promotion targeting only your followers. For example, if you’re doing a Taco Tuesday special in your restaurant, you can place a display ad targeting only your followers within a specified distance from your business.
Like a blog article, video, or online ad, your emails should be written with the online copywriting funnel in mind (Chapter 11). Use attention-grabbing headlines, engaging copy, and calls to action in every email message you send. Also, remember to be personal and concise with a basic format/structure, to contact regularly (once a week), to request permission from clients to be on your list, and to avoid spam filters by not including “spammy” keywords and links to questionable sites.
Your email marketing tool of choice should provide metrics related to each campaign and broadcast you send. The main metrics you want to pay attention to are:
Once you’ve sent your first few email campaigns, you should start testing different subject lines, messages, offers, and sending times, always trying to beat your best open and click-through rates.
For more on email marketing tips and best practices, check out:
In the end, marketing success is graded on a pass or fail system: either dollars came in or they didn’t. By implementing a clearly defined intake process for “hot leads” and setting up nurture campaigns for leads and customers, you’ll close the loop on your marketing systems, resulting in a growing and self-sustaining ecosystem of new referrals, reviews, and renewals.
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