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Lead Nurturing: Keeping Prospects Engaged During Your Sales Cycle

Closing deals and making sales is what keeps the doors open and the lights on for any business. But what do you do when your sales cycle isn’t immediate? How can you continue to stay top-of-mind with the prospects who have shown interest but aren’t quite ready to commit? I’m glad you asked.

Perhaps you’ve been in a situation where you’ve had a great initial phone call with a prospective customer. Then, a few days later, you sit down with them to further understand their needs and pitch them on your service. Just when you’ve moved in to close the deal, the prospect hits you with the Heisman stiff arm and says they aren’t quite ready to commit. It happens in business, often.

Many business owners make the mistake of assuming “they will get back to me when they’re ready.” Believe me, they won’t. Instead, hedge your bets by creating a system to ensure you’re not forgotten as your prospect is evaluating their options and considering your proposal. How do we do that? Marketing Automation.

Marketing Automation is simply using software to automate marketing activities such as email. It allows you to nurture your leads – that is, you will be able to send a series of emails to your prospects at predetermined intervals. When done correctly, these emails remind your prospects that you are a thought-leader – an expert in your field – and they allow you to provide value-added content with the click of a button.

There are several platforms and providers that focus on marketing automation - Hubspot, Marketo, Salesforce. We won’t get into them here, but at the end of the day, they all provide a similar service – they allow you to send emails at a predetermined time based on certain actions. Below are three simple steps to nurture your leads.

1. Determine what content you’ll send.

In my experience, it is always best to provide value-added, educational industry content to your prospects rather that continuous hard sell messages. You’ll want to develop a series of emails in your new platform. A good way to start is to include a welcome message reminding prospects who you are and what service you provide. Then, include a link to a blog article, an industry highlight, an infographic or a video. All of these should also reside on your website because that is your home base - the place you want to direct all traffic. Always conclude with a call to action inviting the prospect to schedule a follow up or to contact you for more information.

Generally, having a series of four to five different emails is a good way to start. Companies with much longer sales cycles may have dozens of emails spanning a year or more.

2. How often will the emails be sent?

Depending on your company’s sales cycle, the frequency of the emails that you send will vary. A good rule of thumb is to stagger the emails by a few days, say, three to four. This will allow your prospect time to review the content but not overwhelm them. There is a fine line between the appropriate number of emails and being spammed, so use your best judgement and be sure to monitor the results of your nurture campaign, including the open and click through rate as well as the unsubscribe rate. If you find that your unsubscribe rate is increasing with each email, it’s likely a good idea to scale back the frequency to weekly, as an example.

3. Test, follow up and close some deals.

While marketing automation is a convenient way to deploy emails, the best approach is not necessarily “set it and forget it.” In addition to monitoring the metrics we discussed earlier, you will also want to see what your prospects are clicking on and optimize that.

For example, let’s say you’ve sent three emails in your series. If one of the emails is getting a much higher click rate than the others, this can signal to you that that piece of content is highly relevant to your prospects. If so, you can consider developing additional content around that same theme to further drive engagement.

For prospects that are of particularly higher value, it’s a good idea to still follow up with a phone call or personal email. After three to four emails to your hot prospect, shoot him or her a personal email or pick up the phone to touch base. The value-added content that you’ve been sending is a great conversation piece and can serve as a reason to reconnect with the prospect after several weeks. Ask the prospect if they found the content helpful and if they have any questions about how it applies to their business. This conversation is also an ideal time to get an update on their plans and whether they are now in a position to move forward with the project you’ve discussed.

The Takeaway: Marketing automation is an efficient way to keep your prospects engaged with your business when they are not quite ready to commit. Creating educational, thought-provoking content will help your business be seen as an industry leader. It also serves as a reason to reach back out to a prospect to reignite earlier conversations. Be sure to create enough content that your prospect will receive something new every few days over the course of several weeks. Review your metrics consistently to determine effectiveness.


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