January 13, 2015

7 Steps to Lead Generation and Nurturing in a Long Sales Cycle

Know what drives your prospects.MarketingFunnel

As marketers, we need to help our sales teams with longer sales cycles face one of their biggest challenges: staying top-of-mind during a decision-making process that can drag on for months or years. At AB&C, we’ve come up with a process that uses strategy and technology to meet this challenge without breaking the bank.

Step 1: Work with your sales team to identify key drivers in the prospect’s decision-making process.

Your sales folks already know what the main selling points are (cost, features, reporting, etc.). They usually have to dig to discover which factors are most important to any given prospect.

Step 2: Create content related to these factors.

Once you know what drives a prospect, talk with the sales team to find out how they address each of these factors when they talk with prospects. Content marketing is a great way to give prospects useful information instead of more sales pitches.

Step 3: Develop a website with content related to these factors.

Make sure that content is available to visitors on the corporate site or a special lead-gen landing page. Also make sure you have a way — pages, accordions, tabs … something clickable — to track which factors visitors are checking out.

Step 4: Drive traffic to the content.

Great ways to generate interest and traffic include blog posts, social media content, paid media, and videos offering useful information that will make the prospects’ jobs easier.

Step 5: Track individual behavior on the site.

Use tools like Google Analytics to measure aggregate data on how well the traffic-generation tactics are performing and get information about site performance. These tools allow you to see a general trend of interest in factor X so that sales can start a call with something like, “Lots of people are interested in factor X.”

What Google Analytics doesn’t tell you is what an individual visitor is interested in. Individual tracking enables a salesperson to see who is interested in factor X. Then, he or she can reach out to those prospects and lead with, “Let me tell you about factor X.” This eliminates the fishing for information and steers the conversation directly toward something that you already know the prospect is interested in.

Step 6: Automate a marketing campaign with content related to other drivers.

Now that you’ve identified individual prospects and their main interests, you need to stay in touch with them until they’re ready to buy. Get them into a marketing automation program, feeding them content related to their interests and introducing Unique Selling Propositions they may not already associate with your goods or services. This ongoing nurturing keeps you top-of-mind between first contact and the time the prospect is ready to act. Again, you always want to create content that the prospects will find useful, not sales-y.

Step 7: Qualify leads and pass them along to the sales team.

A good marketing automation plan includes identifying some step that will qualify a prospect as sales-ready. Once someone takes that step, tag him or her in the CRM (Salesforce.com, etc.) and notify the appropriate salesperson to begin follow-up.

For an example of how this approach generated more than 4,000 leads for the American Nurses Association, download our free case study.