You’ve perfected the top of your funnel, cultivating several well-designed points of entry. Visitors are pouring in to your website, drawn by top notch content and savvy SEO, and once they arrive they’re taking action. You have more leads than you know what to do with as guests sign up for newsletters and submit contact forms.
You’re halfway to success. What comes next?
I. Research the Lead: Are they qualified to buy? What other actions did they take?
You have leads in your hands now, but don’t rush. There’s a lot to do before these get passed on to your sales team (or salesperson). First and foremost, you need to determine what sort of lead you’re looking at: Where are they in the buying process? What else are they interested in? Do they belong to an identifiable market segment?
Depending on the inbound marketing principals you’ve applied thus far, you might be looking at a lead who needs only the slightest nudge to become a satisfied customer, or you might be looking at someone who has only the barest interest in you and your product.
If you're using a marketing automation tool like HubSpot, you'll be able to also see a couple different things for a lead:
- Which persona do they fit: In the beginning of your inbound marketing campaign, you created several personas so you could create content and offers specifically for those types of clients -- you did do that, right? (if not, check out our guide to creating personas). On your forms, you added a field for "role" or "title" that helped your lead self-identify with one of your personas. Knowing this will help you understand what their motivations are and what products or services they may be interested in.
- Which company they are from: This is equally as important as understanding who this lead is. The company they work at will tell you which industry they may be in, what kind of challenges or pain points are associated with that vertical, and what kind of budget that company may have. If you're targeting enterprise companies, you'll want to know if your lead is from a small shop down the street. If they are, they may not be qualified to buy.
- What they've interacted with: Likely you have far more than one entry point in your sales funnel. Where did they convert? This will tell you what they are interested in. For instance, say they downloaded a guide to finding the perfect office space off of an article regarding an introduction to working with a commercial realtor. You now know two things: They are looking for or are thinking about looking for office space, and they are considering hiring a realtor to help them do it.
- How many times have they interacted: People who download just one thing from your website or perhaps only subscribe are most likely not ready to buy. Using lead scoring, you can understand how qualified this person is in terms of their engagement with your content. If they're highly engaged, they probably wouldn't mind a phone call or email from your company.
- How did they come to your site: Did they come to your website from Facebook? Linkedin? Organic search? Knowing this can actually help you decide how you might reach out to connect. You can always make a personal introduction through social media without launching into a sales relationship.
II. Reach out: Best practices
Once you understand who your leads are, it’s time to reach out.
You’ll want to build upon your existing foundation, rather than throwing out generic offerings; you’ve pursued inbound marketing this far, so it would be foolish to abandon its principals at this late stage.
Make sure you reach out according to these best practices so that you can continue to cultivate a strong relationship with your target prospect. Done properly, this will result in even failed sales approaches pushing the prospect closer to a purchase down the line.
You need a good reason.
Don’t send a sales email if you don’t have a good reason to contact the prospect; something important and relevant to share, based on something the lead is or has done. Perhaps they downloaded an ebook that has a great follow up download you can offer, or maybe you have recently had great success in the industry of this lead and you want to share the results with them. Think about the value you can provide in communicating with this lead at the stage that they are at.
Bonus tip: Customize your outreach to the action they took on your site, such as "I noticed you downloaded our free office guide..." This helps your lead understand why you're reaching out and also reminds them of your company so you're not just "another" salesperson.
Do your homework.
Know as much as you can about the target person or group before you start writing by looking at your CRM data, relevant blog articles, social groups, or simply Googling the lead and their company. Know who you're reaching out to and what they may be looking for before dialing their number.
Aim for a response.
As you write your sales email, consider carefully how to provoke a response, as this is your number one priority. Whether that entails a return email or some action on your site or elsewhere will depend on your sales model, but an email that isn’t built for any action isn’t worth sending. Always end with some kind of request, whether a question or action to increase your chances of a response.
Them, not you.
People don’t care about you, even if they care about you. They care about you as you affect them. That means your sales email needs to focus on the prospect: who they are, what their problems are, why they should care, what they can get from you. Anything that can be phrased in terms of the prospect instead of your business should be.
It’s an excellent yet simple way to push a prospect to respond to your email. By capping off an excellent prospect-focused email with a simple question about what they want, how they want it, or the like, you greatly improve your odds of successful outreach. And if you don’t get a response, you at least get the prospect thinking.
III. Nurturing your leads
Whether your outreach results in a successful sale or simply tips the prospect closer, you still need to be putting out fresh content. Since they’ve already taken action, your best bet’s to send that content directly to them, that you might better tailor it to their particular interests, actions, purchases, etc.
You’ve been collecting data, you’ve been poking and prodding, now you’re at the stage where you can best refine your content and create a truly inescapable inbound funnel. Depending on what you’re selling and what your market looks like, this might demand heavy automation built around principals of market segmentation, or it might be tailored content for each individual prospect.
Nurturing a lead means understanding where that individual currently sits in his or her buyer’s journey. Since you already have their contact information and a decent understanding of who they are at this point, you can refer them to relevant third-party reviews and white papers, or even arrange a one-on-one consultation to get into the nitty gritty of their problem and how your solution suits it.
Focus on super-specific offerings as much as possible; even if your model doesn’t allow for truly personalized approaches, you should be segmenting as best you can.
Stick With It
Overall, the most important thing you can do with a lead is stay the course. Keep providing them relevant, interesting content that provides them with more valuable information. Cultivate a relationship instead of rushing to sell. That's the inbound methodology. Don’t take leads for granted, and your business will thrive.