List Building – Refining the Lead Funnel


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We have built our business on customer acquisition in its many flavors — building mailing-list strategies for major catalogers, developing databases for software manufacturers, conducting hefty lead-generation campaigns for various high-tech companies, and now we are assisting the small-business owner in growing their lists and attracting new customers — another way of saying lead generation. But whether the enterprise is huge and complex, or a mom-and-pop, the lead funnel stages are the same. I want to take a minute to focus on the lead nurture aspect. This is the part that is too shortened or ignored in the larger enterprises, who are so focused on quarter-by-quarter performance that they may not have the time to nurture a lead properly. Smaller companies and entrepreneurs frequently don’t undertand or spend enough effort in the wooing process.

The classic lead funnel has 4 stages — brand awareness, lead generation, lead nurture and finally the sale. Let’s look at fishing_kids_1it another way, from the prospects perspective — the Know/Like/Trust/Sale continuum with a focus on the inner 2 stages. One of the best-kept secrets of converting a prospect to a buyer is making sure that the bait used to hook them is in alignment with what they are expecting, wanting, and needing AT EACH STAGE OF THE FUNNEL. That will differ, and there is the difference.

1. Know – The prospect first has to know your brand, company or product. Awareness, branding, is the first step in any purchase decision, absolutely. Here is where first impressions are made, and an initial opinion established. This is probably the most formal features-and-benefits oriented, strictly informational aspect of communications to come in to play. Formal white papers about the product capabilities, PowerPoint presentations, spec sheets — all of that formal credibility-building collateral is right on target here and should be used. Social Media plays an important role here as well, but done with an eye to creating the right image.

2. Like – Stages 2 and 3 are really the important pieces, in my mind. You are now building a level of involvement and increasing intimacy with your prospect. This may sound like a romantic, consumer-ish, and odd concept. But buyers are people. And people make decisions more with their emotions than with their brains, whether they are buying blade servers or scented soap. Knowledge about the product, features, and benefits, are all part of what needs to be communicated. But that is truly not what makes a sale happen. This is the time to provide value at no cost; white papers about a pain point in the industry, resources for problem solving, a free e-book pertaining to a specific concept of particular interest to your prospect. Give all this away. Give lots away, and give it frequently and often. If you are providing truly valuable (to your prospect) information, frequent contact will not be perceived as harassment, so don’t be shy. But don’t ask for the sale, not yet.

3. Trust – This is an even more intimate stage, and the nurturing process should reflect that. Podcasts and interviews tend to be more personal and more involving, and this is the perfect stage to integrate them into the lead-nurture process. There is something about having an ear-bud plugged in to your ear that creates a very intimate relationship between the listener and the presenter. Emails with a brief embedded video create direct interaction and conversation (if comments are allowed) with the viewer. Here is where personal stories from the sales rep or CEO, or longer off-topic lunches (in old sales parlance) make a difference in the quality of the relationship. You are building trust. Use Social Media at this stage as well on a more intimate level; invite prospects into your blogging community, internal wikis or mini-sites to gain a more human perspective on your company, brand or people. Invite them to participate as a guest blogger, interview them for an internal video, and involve them in the social media community. Envelope them with social media love and you will be holding them very closely.

4. The sale – If you have done steps 2 and 3 in a truly nurturing way (this is a Mom speaking, but it’s still true), then asking for the sale is easier, and more comfortable for all concerned — almost a natural and expected progression.

Think again about levels of intimacy and how and where to include social media into the nurturing stages of the lead funnel. Your close rate will certainly improve.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Cooke
I leverage my 25 years experience in sales and marketing to create and implement strategic initiatives and develop educational programs that increase both revenues and profits. I take great pride in my experience in turbulent, chaotic, and transitional work environments. It is from these experiences that I have developed my commitment to collaborative teams, strong internal and external relationships, effective communication, decisive leadership, and a cohesive, collaborative strategy as keys to sustainable revenue growth.


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