This post reviews lead nurturing for small businesses, specifically what it is, why you should do it, the tools you need, how to develop a simple plan and what to measure to keep improving.
Will You Marry Me?
Would you marry me on our 1st date?
Our expectations offline are realistic.
You don’t ask someone to marry you on a first date, and you don’t expect to close a customer the first time you meet them at a networking event. So why do you think someone will stumble across your website and buy what you’re selling?
People operate on their own schedule. They’re not ready to buy when you want them to buy. Bridge Group found it takes 7-8 marketing touches before someone will become a customer.
As a small business owner, how do you create those touch points in a scalable and affordable way?
It’s simple: lead nurturing
What’s Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with potential clients (aka leads, prospects or contacts) and moving them down your sales funnel until they are ready to buy.
Lead nurturing allows you to capture the attention of someone who’s interested in what you do, regardless of their timing to buy, so that you earn their business when they are ready to buy.
Peanut Butter: Inbound Is The Peanut. Nurturing Is The Butter.
Remember inbound marketing?
It’s how you attract customers naturally and build relationships with them over time, until they become your customer.
It goes hand in hand with lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is the entire process from when they discover you to when they buy.
But despite what you might think, getting leads isn’t the hard part.
By far, the hardest part today is not just generating leads, but generating high quality leads. – Sergio Balegno, Marketo
Inbound helps you solve this problem. Instead of trying to drum up business in the line at Starbucks (I’m not saying I’ve done that), inbound marketing brings you better quality leads because they are people who have self-identified with a problem and are actively seeking a solution.
According to lead generation expert Brian Carroll, up to 95% of prospects on your website are there to research your company. While they’re not ready to buy what you’re selling today, as many as 70% of them will eventually buy from you or your competitors.
Lead nurturing is your best opportunity to capture that 70%.
The Business Case For Lead Nurturing
If you’re not nurturing, you’re not alone.
Most small businesses lack a lead nurturing process. But it’s important.
A study done by marketing leader Marketo showed that 48% of all customers from the companies they surveyed came from lead nurturing.
And lead nurturing helps close customers faster.
With lead nurturing, the companies surveyed converted 25% of prospects into customers within the 1st month (in comparison to converting only 8% within the 1st month without lead nurturing).
That’s 3x more customers in the 1st month!
You’re Not Coca-Cola
In bigger companies, the marketing department educates leads. When a lead is ready to engage with the company and discuss a sale, they’re passed onto the sales department.
In your business it’s the same, except you are every department. So unlike the big guys, your lead nurturing process doesn’t need to be as complex.
Forget about advanced segmenting and lead scoring. What you need is a simple process you can follow and a way to automate that process.
Email Is Lead Nurturing’s Best Friend
Why is email a great tool for nurturing leads?
It’s all about response time. And saving you time.
Responding to someone who said they’re interested in what you’re doing within 4 days significantly increases the likelihood that they’ll become your customer. After 7 days that drops 20%. (The Fine Art of Lead Qualification & Nurturing)
But you’re busy and can’t always respond in a timely fashion.
This is where marketing automation makes sense, so people can hear from you when you’re with another client, doing your taxes or even relaxing on the beach.
Automated emails are the perfect solution: set it and forget it.
What Are Automated Emails?
Automated emails are emails that are sent automatically when someone signs up to learn more about you. See the email box at the top right of our post? When you sign up there, you’ll be receiving automated emails.
You get to choose what you put in each email, how often you send them and when.
The beauty of automating emails means you can scale the entire client nurturing process – instead of talking to each prospect individually at every step, you can talk to hundreds and even thousands at different stages, without spending more time.
Your job is to automate the education phase, and lead them down the path so that when they’re ready to buy, you’re top of mind.
But sending 1 automated email isn’t enough.
Lead nurturing emails get 4 to 10 times the response rate of standalone emails. – SilverPop/DemandGen Report
You need to send more emails so you can educate your prospects and move them along funnel.
What You Need To Get Started
1. A Professional Email Provider
We recommend using a service like MailChimp – they’re one of the most popular email providers among small businesses, and they give you the ability to send professional emails without being a designer.
It’s free to set up an account and send emails, and affordable ($10/month) to set up automated email campaigns, which is what you want to do for lead nurturing.
2. Email Optin Box
You need a place for someone to sign up on your website or blog to receive your emails – this is an email optin box. For your optin box to work, you’ll need to connect it to your MailChimp or professional email service provider.
If you’re using Spokal, we do this automatically (simply tell Spokal what your MailChimp API key is). If someone built your website, ask them to do it. And if you put your site together on your own, there are lots of great resources on Google to help you figure it out.
3. The Right Optin Message
Set the expectations of what someone will get when they sign up for your emails. If you’re not sure what to say, check out your favourite blogs and see which ones incent you to leave your email. Those are the ones you want to mirror.
TIP: Avoid saying things like “We’ll send you an email once a week/month,” as it forces you to follow strict guidelines. Instead, you can say “on a regular basis,” or “as exciting things happen.”
What Do You Say In Your Emails?
As a small business owner, trust and authority are the biggest assets you can leverage to make a sale.
The easiest and most effective way to build loyalty and gain trust is to show you know what you’re talking about – focus your emails on educating people about what you do and what’s happening in your industry.
You’ve probably heard of the concept “being an authority or thought leader.” This is what we’re talking about.
But you don’t need to be using the most radical processes or know everything to be an authority.
If you’re in business for yourself, by nature of going out on your own you are a leader. If you keep sharing with your potential clients something new, they will be happy to receive your emails and engage with your business.
What Type Of Emails Do You Send?
The goal is to create a steady stream of automated messages that help you stay top-of-mind, educate potential customers and invite them to become customers as they become more familiar with your business.
Start by automating 4 emails, and build out from there.
This isn’t a complete guide on email marketing, as that’s another kettle of worms. Here are 2 emails I recommend including in your automated email pipeline, and if you’re looking for more information on email marketing, check out these 10 posts on effective email marketing.
1. The Welcome Email
This is the 1st email you send.
Thank your potential customers for joining you and give them a teaser of what to expect. Setting expectations for what will be in your emails has been proven to increase the number of people who actually open your emails. Bingo.
2. The “How Can I Help?” Email
It’s surprising how much this question helps you learn who you’re talking to.
Even with a clear optin message, you have no idea if someone who signs up is close to making a purchase decision, is curious about what you do, or even signed up by accident.
By asking them how you can help, you’ll get a better idea of who to follow up with immediately, and you’ll also learn what types of questions people are asking.
This is a great way to start the conversation and build relevance with your potential customers.
Send this email within the 1st week.
How To Speak, Bro
You don’t have to be cute or show that you’re cool.
Be yourself. The goal is to show people who you are, as you want to attract customers who want to work with you based on who you are naturally.
Keep it short.
Keep it simple.
Keep it sweet
Your emails should be centered around one topic and include a single call to action aka what you want someone to do once they’re done reading your email. It can be as simple as “Let me know if this was useful,” “Check out this blog post to learn more,” or “Schedule a call for your free consultation.”
The best marketing is focused around your leads and what they want and need, not what you and your company are looking to get from them.
How Often Do You Send Automated Emails?
Just like How Often Should You Blog, Tweet and Post On Facebook, there is no magic number on how many emails you should send to nurture your leads.
However, we can look at stats on how often other businesses send emails, and how successful those are.
“Clickthrough Rate” or CTR is a good way to measure how valuable your email is to your potential customers, as it shows how many of them opened your email AND took action by clicking on a link in your email.
As you can see by the chart above, the most successful companies send 1-2 emails a month. More frequent and the average CTR goes down. According to the Eloqua Benchmark 2010 Study, most businesses send emails every 1-2 weeks for maximum results, with is on par with the above graph.
You’ll see there is a slight peak for those who send daily emails. I’m assuming this is due to the Daily Deal Email trend, so unless that’s you, feel free to ignore that spike.
Be consistent and offer valuable thoughts. As soon as your contacts feel like you are taking advantage of their inbox, they will unsubscribe.
When Should You Schedule Your Emails?
MailChimp and a top marketer named Dan Zarrella partnered together to answer this question. They studied data from more than 9.5 billion emails, and their results surprisedpeople.
They found that the best time to schedule emails was early in the morning, between 5am-7am, and that more people opened and clicked through emails on Saturday and Sunday.
While it’s important to test what works for your business, start with what works for everyone else, and refine from there.
Clickthrough Rate and Unsubscribe Rate are 2 of the key metrics to track on a regular basis. A strong email nurturing program will generally have an unsubscribe rate of <5%. If your unsubscribe is bigger, you might want to rethink what you’re saying in your emails.
Is It Enough To Just Setup These Emails?
To start, yes.
To continue, no.
If you don’t decide what you want from your lead nurturing process, the results will decide for you. It would be like baking a cake with whatever’s in the kitchen, hoping you’ll get your favourite chocolate tiramisu.
Some examples of good lead nurturing goals:
- To capture leads from website and them turn into customers.
- To educate and build brand awareness among potential customers.
- To stay top of mind so you’re the first person they call when they’re ready to buy.
- To “stay in touch with” people after they’re customers, so you’re still top of mind.
These seem obvious,. The real trick is measuring to those goals, so you can see how well you’re doing and make changes to improve.
This can get complex.
What Should You Measure?
Without geeking out too much on data, you can do some basic calculations to see how you’re doing.
You can see what your website traffic is and how many people are signing up to get your emails, and then how many of those people are becoming customers – because that’s the real goal.
If 1,000 people a month visit your website (1,000 unique visitors/month) and 10 signup to receive your emails, 1% of people who land on your website signup. This is your conversion rate of website visitors to prospective customers.
Of those 10 people, if 5 convert to becoming customers, your conversion rate of prospects to customers is 50%. That’s really good! Chances are it will more likely be 1-2 people, or 10-20%.
You can measure these 2 numbers once a month.
I’ll do a post on more email analytics later, but this should be enough to get you started.
More isn’t always better. The goal is to get people who are interested in you and are “qualified leads” aka the 70% that will buy at some point. Focus on the outcome – getting customers – not the size of your list.
#1 Reason You Won’t Do Lead Nurturing
Lack of content.
You believe in the theory. It makes sense. But what do YOU have to say?
Don’t let content be a bottleneck.
Redefine what you think of as content. It’s more than blog posts, white papers and ebooks, it’s about you!
If we met at a coffee shop 1 or 2 times a month, what would we talk about? That’s your content.
Remember, someone who signs up for your email is deciding:
- Do they have a problem you can solve? (They’re interested, otherwise they wouldn’t have given you their email, so assume this is a yes, especially with more education from your automated emails.)
- Do they want you to solve it?
Help them make that decision.
Who are you? Why do you do what you do? What’s going on in your space? That’s what they want to know.
The Other Secret To Lead Nurturing For Small Businesses
You don’t need to create all the content yourself.
To be a source of knowledge, you need to show that you know where to go to get the answers, not that you can create all the answers.
A recent study by Marketing Sherpa reported that the content people like to read the most is news and articles. So find great articles and share them.
Maybe one of your emails will be 4 of your favourite articles you read that month (that are related to what you do).
As always, only recommend what you like to read.
Start Small. Just Start.
I hope you’re not overwhelmed.
Think about a few emails you’d love to receive, and schedule them.
Don’t worry too much about “trying to do such a good job” that you don’t do anything.
That’s a problem I fall into sometimes. I try to optimize something before I do it or test it, as I’m a perfectionist and want to get it right the first time. But by doing that it slows everything down, and I don’t necessarily get better results.
Set up a few emails, and go from there.
The 80/20 Rule Of Lead Nurturing
It’s the classic 80/20 rule.
The majority of return from your lead nurturing program will come from simply by addressing the problem and having a lead nurturing process.
So get started. Go capture some leads and nurture them.