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10 Small Business Lead Nurturing Tools

lead nurturingLead nurturing is the act of following up with leads in a consistent and, hopefully, logical way moving them gently along the path of becoming a customer.

In some high end, long decision process selling environments it’s the only way a sale is made. “Hi, glad to meet you, call me when you’re ready to buy,” isn’t a very nurturing approach.

In today’s marketing world smart companies are tapping powerful nurturing tools and technology to help their prospects get to know, like, and trust them, make sales when competitors can’t get past the front lobby, and charge a premium for their products and services.

In some cases it’s a matter of automatically dripping more and more information, in others it’s case of knowing exactly when your prospect is showing interest and in still others it can come down to gaining greater knowledge about your prospect by simply using technology to understand their behavior. (Don’t worry, none of this need be done in a creepy way, it’s all a matter of using technology and the information your prospects willing share.)

The secret is to stay top of mind and continue to educate, but do it ways that have impact.

The following ten tools are ones that I would suggest to most any small business owner to use in tandem with a cadre of education based marketing content in the form of ebooks, audio, video, newsletters, surveys and seminars.

1. BatchBlue – a lightweight CRM tool with a twist. BatchBlue makes it very simple to add your prospect’s social media profiles thereby having access to their blog and twitter feeds right at the point of interaction. Really great for your journalist target market too!

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Now That’s a Lead of a Different Color

Leads, leads, leads, every business needs them, some are actually good at generating them, but . . . there’s a really important thing you must understand about leads – not all are created equal.

istock_000004521146xsmall.jpgNow, I’m not talking about leads that are different because your marketing is unfocused and sends mixed messages with mixed results. I’m assuming you have read and heard me stump for a narrow ideal customer focus and laser sharp message of differentiation. I’m talking about the fact that if you are marketing consistently and systematically leads will come to from different points of view, with different levels of education and in need of different solutions – and you need to intentionally address them all with differing types of follow-up.

    You need a follow-up process for leads that come to you by way of:

  • referral – this is a special lead with built in trust – treat it that way
  • public relations – this is a lead that has heard something about your story, there’s a connection, but little education
  • workshops – this kind of lead has usually experienced a lot, move them logically to the next step quickly
  • advertising – offer information of value and nurture this lead based on the actions they take (measure!)
  • search – this is the new yellow pages, this lead probably has a need, but doesn’t know you – follow-up with that in mind
  • trade show – speed of follow-up is key here, these leads were pretty amped up when you met them at the show, don’t let them get cold

One of the keys to understanding your follow-up approach is to understand what the customer is thinking when they find you, acknowledge where they are and how they’ve connected (tell a referred lead they are a special referred lead) and start moving them logically to the next step.

I know that follow-up, let alone the highly personalized type of follow-up I’m suggesting, is yet another thing you must do, so this is a great place to employ automation technology. Much of the follow-up you should be designing can be created ahead of time and executed with CRM like tools. Used properly, you can create email follow-ups, letter and postcard follow-ups, call lists and fulfillment requests and put your follow-up steps on autopilot

Here are some tools I would recommend for designing follow-up campaigns
Infusionsoft – Hi powered CRM and marketing automation tool that allows you to create sophisticated follow-up routines. (I use this tool in my business)
Swiftpage – Their new Drip Marketing add-on allows you to set-up letter mailing, emailing and call list creation. I love this tool for the individual sales person as it connects with ACT! or Outlook and allows you to easily determine the interest of your prospect during each follow-up step and focus your attention on the hottest prospects based on their action
Vertical Response – email marketing provider with the added integration of postcard mailing

Swiftpage Adds New Features

Email marketing service Swiftpage has added some nice new features. I had a chance to discuss the new Drip Marketing capabilities with Swiftpage founder Bob Ogden.

Listen to this brief overview and look for more as I try this promising new tool out myself.

Automation, the small business marketer’s friend

Marketing AutomationFrom a business standpoint, a lot of small business have some pretty distinct advantages over much larger organizations.

Not always, but in some cases, they can be more flexible, offer personalized options, provide faster/better service, and involve senior experienced level people in implementation.

From a marketing standpoint, I do see small organizations get out sizzled from the sheer wake of bodies and moving parts that a larger organization can throw at a sales pipeline.

This is a place where technology, and the automation it can afford, can come to the rescue.

Technology exists all around us today that allows any small business or one woman band to create robust, multi-part, segmented and personalized campaigns that rival those of the fully staffed marketing departments.

Lots of CRM software makers talk a about automation, but for most small businesses it’s just overkill. The key is to find the right suite of tools that allow you to create the engine to automate contacts, sales follow-up, tasks, email, marketing materials distribution, orders, upsells, referrals and campaigns. It’s about marketing automation, not customer relationship management.

When you take the time to design your lead generation, nurturing, and conversion processes like the big guys, and then hook the system together with the right moving parts, you can compete with any size organization.

And now for some tools to check out!

  • SwiftPage – email lead tracking and scoring that helps identify hot prospects
  • Infusion Software – the best all in one solution for contacts, sales, orders and email marketing
  • Vtrenz – automation for direct marketers
  • Get Friday – outsourcing that is automated
  • Wufoo – creates forms of all type on the fly
  • GotVMail – automates phone messaging, extensions and message deliverability
  • Jott – lets you post to Google Calender, post to blogs, Twitter and send email to yourself or groups from a phone.
  • TripIt – forward air, hotel and car reservations to an email address and get an online trip page with local info and maps added
  • TextExpander – automatically insert any amount of text into an email or document with a phrase – great for commonly written email responses
  • Basecamp and Backpack – automate collaboration with teams, vendors and partners
  • Create Space – on demand CD and DVD publishing and fulfillment
  • Amazing Mail – send pre-designed post cards to 1 or 100 contacts in 24 hours

What are some of your favorite marketing automation tools?