3 Ways Generative AI Will Help Marketers Connect With Customers
3 min read
The deeper the relationship, the more we can ask for. It’s why we often ask to split dessert on the first date and move in together on the hundredth. This relationship-building is the force behind lead nurturing. We match the interest level of the prospect and earn the right to ask for more, one small step at a time.
I learned the importance of lead nurturing back in 2008. It was the Great Recession, but I doubled my growth that year because I was focused on the people in front of me, with no ulterior motive other than to strengthen every connection I had.
What worked for me then still works for me now. Here’s how I reach more leads, zero in on the ones that matter, and woo them until they close.
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Lead nurturing is the process of providing valuable offers and resources that persuade prospects to advance through the sales funnel until they’re ready to buy. Sales reps capture a lead’s attention and interest with useful information, then convert leads into customers by deepening the relationship and showing how their product or service can help address critical pain points.
Lead nurturing is how we make authentic connections with our target customers, learn about the challenges they face, deliver information and resources they find valuable, and earn the right to pitch our solution. It takes time, effort, and heart, but it’s worth it in the end. Here are a few of the benefits:
Learn more about your target customers. Because lead nurturing is focused on digging deep to uncover pain points, needs, and interests so you can deliver value, it’s one of the best ways of understanding your prospects. For example, I used to pitch my sales training services to Black and brown women, thinking their biggest pain point was about making quota. In fact, I learned that they were more concerned with being seen and acknowledged by leadership. I made a shift in my sales pitch to center around that idea of recognition, and my client list quadrupled.
Build relationships that last beyond the initial sale. When we’re out there every day, working on helping our leads and solving their problems, we build trust, respect, and authentic relationships that can last for life. This leaves the door open for future sales.
Be more efficient by discovering the most important prospects. The truth is that not all leads are equal. Based on their engagement during lead nurturing, we can determine the most valuable prospects in our sales funnel based on their likelihood to buy and whether they’re a fit for our product. Focusing on these prospects improves the chances of hitting quota and sales targets.
To nurture leads, deliver value that’s relevant in the moment, such as sending information that helps the lead understand trends in their industry, or provides insight on how to overcome their challenges. Then, close each interaction with a call to action that encourages them to move on to the next stage in the sales funnel. Here’s a simplified version, going from product awareness to consideration, evaluation, and purchase:
Before they enter the awareness stage, a lead is cold. They haven’t entered your funnel yet. So target them where they are, reaching out to help them understand what pain points you can solve, but without going into the nitty-gritty details of your product. Conclude each interaction with a call to action that pulls them deeper into the sales funnel, and requests their contact information if you don’t already have it. For example, you might include a form in a blog post that invites the reader to download a guide in return for sharing their email address.
Marketing and sales work together to pull leads into the awareness stage, using tactics like the following:
A lead will often require many different touchpoints in the awareness stage — clicking on ads, downloading gated assets like ebooks, and having initial conversations with a sales rep — before they’re ready to consider your product as a solution for their problem.
When a lead shows initiative and starts taking proactive steps to learn more about your solution, they’re ready to advance to the interest stage of your sales funnel. Share more about your point of view with downloadable guides and company events, and end with calls to action to learn more about your product in greater detail.
Here are examples of activities for this stage:
Once the lead has learned about your point of view and agrees that you might be able to help, they begin to consider you as a company that can provide a solution. Walk them through the features of your product, showing how you can deliver results and relieve their pain points.
Here are examples of lead nurturing activities in the consideration stage:
In this stage, the prospect has indicated a serious interest in buying. Your task now is to go into concrete detail about how your product stands out from the rest of the pack, showing differentiation from the competition and giving your prospect the chance to get their hands on your product to test it for themselves. You’ll also need to create urgency around switching to your product versus not doing anything by going head-to-head against the status quo. Consider these offers:
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Lead nurturing strategies all boil down to one thing: prioritizing your time on the ones most likely to close. Here is how I approach it
Invest your time on the leads that have both a high interest level and high revenue potential.
To identify leads with high interest, look at who’s completing enough activities in a given sales stage to become ready for the next one — especially those that do so faster than other leads. For example, a lead who has downloaded a guide and registered for an event is probably ready to move from the interest stage to the consider stage. You might reach out to schedule a demo.
You also want to know that a lead is worth your time by measuring their revenue potential. Look at specific sales metrics to flag this: the dollar amount of the product you plan to sell to them, the dollar amounts of upsell opportunities, and the amount of time that you expect to retain them as a customer — a quality that becomes particularly valuable in a subscription model.
When a lead is both interested and shows high potential revenue, that lead calls for high-touch engagement, or activities that deliver more frequent, personalized interactions and resources. For example: taking time to do research and craft a personalized email about a unique insight showing how you can help. Another example: putting in the work to create ROI calculations of how your product will deliver value long-term, not just for the company as a whole but for individual teams and departments.
Continue to nurture your less engaged and low revenue-potential leads with less personalized offerings that you can deliver with minimal effort. For example, pre-schedule a monthly newsletter with timely updates about your company, or weekly blog posts about topics that are relevant to common buyer pain points.
There will also be leads who fall in the middle — those who have low interest but are great fits for your product with high revenue potential, and those who show interest but have lower revenue potential. You won’t have enough time to give these leads the same level of personalization that you give to the high-touch leads in the section above. But there is a middle ground. Create targeted campaigns that involve light research and little to no personalization but that can also be sent out at scale, like a batch of Inmail messages sent over Linkedin, delivering a relevant and timely message.
Remember that a low-touch lead can become a high-touch lead in an instant. Keep an eye on engagement and prioritize a lead who raises their hand.
There’s no such thing as a bad lead. That’s why we focus on the hottest leads, but never neglect the rest. Someone can be a bad fit for your product but refer you to your next greatest customer. Someone else might work for a small company that can’t afford you now, but what you don’t know is that in six months they’ll switch to a larger company that can.
The tactic is to build and deepen relationships across the board, even if there isn’t a clear reason for it yet. Every great sales rep can tell a story about a time when focusing on the relationship, without an ulterior motive in mind, turned into a big sale. Veteran seller and trainer Sunita Gill spent a discovery call bonding instead of talking about the product. John Dao, a leading account executive at Grubhub, found his big break by chatting with a stranger at his grandma’s barbershop.
Be sure to experiment with new lead nurturing tactics for each funnel stage and track success metrics. You might find a new tactic that blows your previous strategy out of the water.
Every week, I review the analytics for my nurturing activities. I look at email open rates, event registrations, and free trial sign-ups. When an activity is tracking worse than expected based on past performance, I make changes until it succeeds, or I retire the activity altogether. And when an activity performs well, I continue to invest in it.
I’m also a big fan of A/B testing. When I host events, I create two different videos to promote them, with different scripts and messages. I send them out to different groups, measure which video has a higher conversion rate, and then I throw all my promotional spend behind that video as I send it out to the rest of my network.
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Ground your lead nurturing in a CRM, which gives you a foundation of data and visibility for tracking every lead as they advance through your sales pipeline. Also look for tools that help you work faster and smarter — using automation that does busywork for you, and AI that guides you to make better decisions right in the flow of your work. Here are the tools I recommend:
A CRM brings all your customer data into one place, and with the help of automation, updates records with interactions like emails to give you an updated view of your leads. This single source of truth lets you track leads as they cross channels, gather data on every relationship, and take action that fits the moment.
Use software that automatically scores inbound leads with a numerical value to indicate their interest, assigning points to the most valuable actions, like visiting a pricing page or requesting a demo. Use snapshots of lead scores to prioritize your leads and take relevant action.
Make stronger connections with AI that prospects for you. Buyer Assistant from Sales Cloud, for example, can qualify and pass leads to sales reps from your website, giving them the option to connect with a rep instantly or schedule a meeting.
Predictive AI analyzes health and behavior signals of your leads and sends you recommendations for the next best steps to take. Ideally, this is part of your CRM, as in the case of Sales Cloud. This tool helps you prioritize the most critical leads based on revenue potential and relevant sales activities.
Advance your pipeline faster by connecting with your leads wherever they are by email, phone or the web. Sales Engagement, part of Sales Cloud, helps you engage with your buyers across their preferred channels, all from a single location.
It should be clear by now that lead nurturing is the beating heart of sales. Give the lead something that helps them in that moment, and offer them your hand to guide them to the next step. A connection can be built in a moment, but the deepest relationships take time and authenticity to build. Take it one step a time.
Learn how Sales Cloud can help you nurture leads to close using automation, real-time data, and AI-driven insights, taking busywork off your plate and delivering AI-crafted copy that resonates with your target buyers.
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