The road to lead nurturing is certainly paved with good intentions, but along the way, there are a number of friction points that can set leads off their path quickly. Many companies are baffled when a seemingly hot prospect suddenly goes cold. The reality of lead nurturing, however, is that nothing is set in stone until leads convert into customers.
Understanding common friction points and knowing how to navigate leads through these points is your best defense in preventing dead leads. In order to understand how these friction points can be avoided, it is always useful to understand the typical stages that leads will reach between initial contact and conversion. The most important of these stages are as follows:
- Recognition. This is the very first stage. Leads are aware of a problem and know that they need to find a product that will solve this problem.
- Research. Once recognising their need, potential leads will begin to do their homework, looking for potential solutions to their problem. This is not a buying stage but more of an information collecting stage. Potential leads will look at a few different websites, do a few online searches and possibly ask friends and family for referrals on social media.
- Evaluation. In this stage, potential leads will compare offers from different businesses, to evaluate their options and determine the best solution.
- Decision. Once choices have been scaled down to a small number, a purchasing decision will be made.
- Purchase. At this point, the lead will convert into a customer.
While these stages appear simple on paper, in reality, they can take a fair amount of time, second-guessing, website visits, abandoned carts and form submissions. A lead may go from being warm to cold to recycled to hot. A lead may go from hot to cold. In today's era of instant information and enhanced technology, difficult decisions need to be made in real time. Pain points can easily cause leads to jump ship to a competitor if it seems like the process will be easier somewhere else.
Likewise, leads are more likely to continue to the next stage if they have an easier experience. Simply put, the fewer friction points along the customer journey, the easier each stage will become for leads.
The biggest, and most serious points of friction could include any or all of the following:
- Confusing website navigation
- Generic content and offers
- Poor website user experience
- Unresponsive design
- Uninformed sales teams
- Apathetic sales teams
- Horrible customer service
- Negative reviews
- Poor brand reputation
- Ignored emails
The best way to avoid friction is to focus not only on data but also the customer journey. When you learn how to think like a customer, you will soon begin to understand the stages of lead nurturing and how leads may feel at any given stage.
Keeping your focus on your leads will help you reduce friction, which in turn will ensure that you get the best possible results from your lead generation efforts.
Reducing Friction in the Lead Nurturing Process
How do you go about reducing friction in the lead nurturing process? For starters, you can consider the following nurture strategies:
- Meaningful content
Marketing automation is a powerful digital marketing tool that helps you engage leads at every stage. But, without the right content, you may end up wasting valuable time and resources automating in a way that does not drive engagement. Understanding common barriers to entry, problems and potential questions will help you craft powerful content across all of your channels – website, blog, social media, email, and mobile.
This could take the form of education email campaigns that help reassure leads, answer common questions, address common needs that leads may have and subtly being to position your offer.
This is also where segmentation and email personalisation comes in handy. If you are able to create meaningful content that is also personalised, you will be able to avoid one of the biggest friction points, which is generic content and offers.
- Customer experience
Remember that true branding is not what you tell consumers, but rather what consumers tell other consumers. Reputation is everything. The single most important way to improve your reputation and reviews is to provide a consistent customer experience. Think about the last time you were genuinely impressed. It could be a personalised offer, a thoughtful thank you email, a well-written abandoned cart email or even simply excellent customer service from someone who genuinely seemed interested in what you had to say.
Consider the areas that have the most potential for friction. This could be your customer service department, your initial emails, your response to reviews, your website responsiveness or layout, or even a common complaint you receive relating to customer experience. Now, consider whether leads would experience the same pain points when interacting your competition.
What can you do to stop your leads from going somewhere else? Once you have the answer, focus on strengthening and improving potential gaps.
- Aligned sales, customer, and marketing teams.
You could have an otherwise-perfect customer journey online, only to lose leads when they are assigned to your sales team. Many sales teams and customer service teams are focused on different goals. This is why it is crucial to align your sales, customer care and marketing teams so that they share common goals.
Leads may be sent to sales as warm prospects, only to go cold when they are not treated in a way that is nurturing. The best way around this pain point is to schedule regular meetings with all of your people and set common goals so that everyone is on the same page.
- Smart email prompts.
Lead forms can be a murky grey area. On one hand, it is essential to encourage leads to sign up in order to get them to the start of your funnel. On the other hand, if this prompt happens too quickly, or too aggressively, people are less likely to want to sign up. You will need to approach this very carefully, in a way that is not over the top of in your potential leads' faces. Make sure that pop-ups are only displayed once readers have had time to read the page they have arrived on when visiting your website for the first time. You could also display your lead form in a sidebar, where it is less obtrusive.
Things to avoid include vague, flashy banners demanding an email address, pop-ups insisting that readers need to register to access content, or any other pop-ups that are more off-putting than inviting. It's also worth noting that email sign-ups without an offer can also be less effective than those offering something. This could be a download or some other opt-in material. The danger of aggressive lead forms is that people are just as likely to get off your page as quickly as they are to sign up, if not more likely.
- Clever form completion.
Form completions are often a major pain point. Many websites ask for far too much information, most of which consumers do not feel comfortable providing on their first visit to the website. By its very nature, lead nurturing takes a different approach to lead generation. This approach entices gently in a way that does not scare or put consumers off. Before digital marketing platforms such as CRM and marketing automation, forms were essential to track the movements of leads.
Now, however, leads are sourced from emails and various other behaviours. Forms are no longer as important. All you really need to get leads into the cycle is a name and email address. Trying to get too much information from leads will end up doing more harm than good. Many new leads will opt out of filling out forms completely because they are still in the research stage. If you try and force too much information, they will likely not move into the decision making stage, let alone the purchase stage.
- Strategic free trials.
Free trials are a great way to give leads a taste of what to expect. With that said, the biggest mistake that many companies make is asking leads to try a free trial before they have learned anything about the products on offer. Asking too soon can be very off-putting – especially during the research stage. Instead of trying to force a free trial on new or prospective leads, focus on what they may need at their current stage. You could offer related content, for example, or a pop-up email prompt that appears a few minutes after they arrive on the website. You could try a virtual assistant that answers questions that may need answering.
But, while it is essential to showcase solutions as early as possible, be very careful about trying to rush things along with a free trial offer just yet. You could trigger a free trial offer on the second visit, or even a few minutes into the first visit, or after a click to the contact page. Understanding intent is key to how you time this offer.
At the end of the day, without the ability to understand pain points, it will be far harder to reduce friction. This has a trickle-down effect, affecting your chances of conversion significantly. Make sure that your lead nurturing process is always rooted in empathy and understanding, and you will soon find that these friction points are easily avoided.