Marketers are making great strides in developing their marketing campaigns to include email-based lead nurturing components — powered by marketing automation. And in doing so, they are doing a better job of addressing those buyers at the beginning of the buying process who need more time — and more information — to make a well-informed decision. But while the nurturing of prospects is something many organizations have adopted as practice, many are still falling short with their nurturing programs at a ‘holistic' level — i.e., as part of their larger lead management strategy.
Why is this?
One big reason is they are nurturing their prospects only to the point of getting them 'sales ready,' and once in the hands of sales, i.e. loaded into the CRM system, the communication stops. The communication flow then becomes the responsibility of the sales rep and the development of the relationship slows at an abrupt pace — not a good way to build continuity of the relatoinship and of the dialogue with the buyer.
Organizations that want to get the most from their nurturing programs need to look at lead nurturing beyond just the marketing/pre-sales phase and continue this practice throughout the entire prospect and customer lifecycle. Just like an inter-personal relationship, continue an ongoing dialogue where information is shared and where the organization has a united relationship with that buyer and his/her organization.
If you consider the various stages of the buyer prospect/customer lifecycle represented in the chart below, lead nurturing should be taking place at the various stages once the contact information is qualified as valid. Notice the nurturing does not stop once it has been passed to sales. However, the nurturing approach changes in this new sales phase - the communication changes, the content changes, the dialogue takes on a different form. The content used to get the prospect sales-qualified is no longer useful; the buyer already knows it, and as a result of that previous nurturing, the relationship is changing, so it's time to give them more. The goal of this next phase of nurturing is to move the buyer to a purchase and shorten the sales cycle i.e. Sales Acceleration Nurturing. This is done throughout the sales process until the moment the prospect buys.
However, the nurturing should not stop there, it should continue post purchase. In all reality this may be the most important nurturing you do. Most customers will have some kind of buyers' remorse (it's human nature). They will want to be reassured they made the right purchase, so you will need to continue the conversation. As they mature as a customer, the conversation and content of the discussion will change (much like an interpersonal 1-1 conversation). As you build this relationship with your customers, it will allow you to retain your customers, and keeping customers is paramount to an organization's longer-term success — especially to maximizing cash flows and thus the customer's lifetime value.
Let's take this back to an interpersonal level. Imagine the process to marriage. First you meet someone, then you go on a date (several dates) while you build the relationship and then you get engaged. But what if once engaged, you started to communicate sporadically or just check-in periodically to see how things are going? No doubt the relationship would tail-spin and fall apart. But organizations are doing just that to their buyers and as a result are losing deals and customer retention rates are falling. The one bright spot is there is a simple fix and it's creating a dialogue.