May 30, 2012

The Long Road From Lead Generation to Sales Conversion

Marketers face lengthy time spans as they progress from lead generation to conversion, making it difficult to nurture prospects while moving them through the pipeline. This chart highlights the percentages of leads in each stage of the pipeline that are likely to advance to the next stage.


One of the most challenging obstacles to marketing is the time span from lead generation to sales conversion.

These long sales cycles put pressure on marketers to streamline the lead nurturing process.  When prospects first enter the pipeline, they may be months away from defining specifications, a budget or purchase timeline.

It is marketing’s responsibility to identify and fulfill the information needs of prospects at each stage and to advance prospects through the pipeline to a sales-ready stage as rapidly as possible.

What percentages of leads in each stage of the pipeline are likely to advance to the next stage? As this chart shows, on average, nearly four in 10 leads move from initial inquiry to being sales-ready, and approximately the same ratio advance from sales-ready to qualified prospect. As might be expected, the trend deteriorates moving to the next stage where only three in 10 qualified prospects convert to a sale.

The internal sales force has an edge – albeit slim – over top channel partners in percent of distributed leads closed. An organization’s own sales force is also three times as likely to close leads distributed to them as are their average channel partners.

The Deal. The Close. The Win.
Ultimately, making the sale is up to your sales team, but by implementing a sound nurturing and scoring process, you have helped them by establishing a relationship and positioning your company as a leader with the prospect. The Tools Just as a nice haircut and a manicure prepare you for that first date, every marketer should prepare for that introduction. You’ll need easy to use tools to help you nurture leads, including email, landing pages, forms, and lead scoring: essentially, a lead management solution.

Send triggered emails
Send a series of emails as part of a drip marketing campaign, or triggered based on specific prospect activities. Each email offers a document (or webinar, or trial software, etc.) that helps move your target along in their decision-making process.

Use custom landing pages
Don’t forget that custom landing pages can increase conversion rates by up to 48% during your lead nurturing as well as your lead generation activities. You only have eight seconds to get their attention, so use bullets, short forms, and no external navigation. And have only one call to action!

Use smart forms
You will get better response rates by using a form as the call to action on your landing pages, but why use the same form with the same fields over and over? Just like you wouldn’t ask your date for his or her name every time you see them, you shouldn’t ask for contact information again and again. Smart forms recognize known visitors and can fill in the fields you already know. Since you don’t have to ask for this, ask for other info, such as company size, time until decision, etc. Building the profile over time will help you in scoring the lead.

Use web analysis and lead scoring
Knowing which pages your prospects visit on your site can be very beneficial to determining their interest as well as their level of engagement. Being able to connect anonymous visits to actual prospects? Priceless.

Automate and measure
Salesforce.com and other customer relationship management (CRM) products are great, but they typically fall flat in their marketing capabilities. As marketers we need to automate the everyday tasks of building and managing lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns. We also need to more objectively score leads according to their company demographics as well as their activities on our websites, landing pages, emails and other campaigns. And a single lead source doesn’t cut it when lead nurturing. It’s great to know where we first encountered the prospect, but knowing what happens between that first meeting and closing the sale is imperative in these days of marketing accountability.

Evaluate
As you move through the nurturing process, you’ll probably discover that some of the assumptions you made are incorrect; for instance, that downloading a particular white paper means that they are close to buying or that sending a particular email would elicit a good response. Don't forget that lead nurturing – and marketing in general – is constantly changing. You'll want to stay flexible and be ready to change your lead nurturing process as you experiment with new tactics and learn what works.

What are you doing to lessen the cycle from lead generation to conversion?


By Jennifer Pricci

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