I wrote a blog post a few months ago that the start-up marketing plan can be summarize in four simple words: create content, get found. While I was trying to really simplify the marketing plan for companies that don't have a lot of resources, in looking back I was missing a key part of the equation. Once you get found, what's next?
So, I want to add to the start-up marketing plan the concept: generate and nurture leads. To generate leads, you can use tactics like the get found tactics I outlined previously so for this post I want to focus on lead nurture and revise my simple marketing plan to be: create content, get found, nurture leads.
I've seen many companies that are good at generating leads and sometimes have thousands in the sales funnel but then nothing is done with them. They either pass them immediately over to sales and when the prospect is not ready to buy, the lead gets discarded and the company never talks to them again. Or, even worse, they don't get classified as a qualified lead, so they are not passed to sales, and languish as a prospect forever.
It's no secret that a certain percentage of these initial prospects and leads that get passed to sales but quickly discarded will eventually need and buy a product that solves a problem similar to the one you offer. The sales cycle for some companies, especially in the B2B space, can be very long so the time between identifying them as a prospect and when they buy can be months or even years. That's why nurturing leads is so critical.
The good news for start-ups is that many of the tactics we discussed in creating content and getting found can be leveraged to nurture leads. In fact, compelling content is absolutely critical to nurturing leads and mapping that content to the sales funnel will help you know what to create and when to move your prospects along. I'll explore this mapping in an upcoming post.
Even though compelling content is critical, the cornerstone of lead nurturing is an email list. Even in this age of social media, email communications is how you build on the relationship in a more private setting and take the prospect through the funnel. If I had to collect one piece of info from every prospect it would be their email address. That's why you need to create many opporunities for the prospect to give you this critical piece of information.
Once you have this email address, then you can follow-up on an ongoing basis with eNewsletters, links to new content, updates from your blog, industry news that would be of interest, and the list goes on. However, this content needs to be valuable to your prospects and educate them through the buying process or give them additional advice to solve their problems. It cannot in any way be perceived by them as Spam or they will unsubscribe and be lost forever. So avoid product pitches and plan your timing of emails carefully.
Many marketing plans focus on generatng leads but some of your best leads may be prospects from previous compaigns where enough time has passed that they are ready to buy. If you don't nurture your leads though, when they are ready to buy it will be a solution from your competitor. That's why nurturing leads is as important a concept as creating content or getting found to the start-up marketing plan.