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3 Ways Automated Lead Nurturing Impacts The Length of Your [Software] Sales Cycle

Written by Fes Askari

Jan 20 2016


Software organisations with long sales cycles usually face a number of common challenges:

  • Sales teams are speaking with many leads but none are a good-fit / prospects aren’t closing, or they choose other companies
  • Content lacks direction, teams don’t know what content to create or when to send  it to prospects
  • Content and sales staff lack the information to address barriers to purchase such as perceived integration/adoption challenges
  • Strategies lack a lead qualification process
  • Sales teams don’t know when buyers are open to engagement/ have budget

Forming barriers to conversion, these issues stem from poor targeting, poor nurture and a lack of your prospect understanding your solution's value.

But with Automated Lead Nurturing as part of an Inbound Marketing campaign, software marketers can begin nurturing prospects to sales-ready qualification as soon as they become leads. Plus, by considering personas and the Buyer’s Journey marketers can determine exactly what content to target to who and when.

Lead nurturing is a crucial part of your marketing and sales success. Studies show that 50% of leads are qualified but aren't immediately ready to buy something from you. - Gleanster Research

What is Automated Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurture describes the process of building a relationship with a prospect and progressing them through the sales funnel.

In an Inbound Marketing campaign, an Automated Lead Nurture process sends relevant content at appropriate intervals to your persona, via automated email workflows. Solving your prospect’s challenges via educational content, this ensures they are qualified (purchase-ready) before being contacted by Sales.  This reduces the time needed to close, so shortens the sales cycle.

Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. - DemandGen Report

3 Ways Automated Lead Nurturing Impacts the Length of the Software Sales Cycle

1. Educate Your Leads and Address Common Pushbacks with Persona-Relevant Nurture

Ensuring personas understand the benefits and value of your software solution prior to the involvement of Sales teams will avoid a sizeable drain on time and cost, and therefore reduce the software sales cycle.

Basing a marketing campaign on detailed Buyer Personas ensures email workflow content and nurture activity is tailored to best-fit prospects from the outset. This means prospects are well informed prior to qualification, reducing the software sales cycle. Effective persona-based lead nurture should consider:

  • Best-fit leads. By creating content to suit defined personas, your marketing campaign will attract better fit prospects. This results in more effective nurture and a higher, faster close rate.
  • Workflow segmentation. Not all leads have the same challenges - you may be targeting multiple personas at once. To prevent leads becoming stuck in the nurture process, segment email workflows into contact lists then use the historical activity/interaction data you have about them to send the most relevant, targeted and personalised content. Automating emails ensures leads receive that content at exactly the right time.
  • Customised nurture. Facilitated by a Marketing Automation platform (such as HubSpot), Inbound Automated Lead Nurture campaigns benefit from access to complete historical marketing data about each lead. This allows personalisation of workflows to always send new, relevant content. As Marketing and Sales are aligned in Inbound campaigns Salespeople can also use this data to close more effectively.

2.  Know What Content to Share and When with Appropriate Stage-Based Progression

Automatically nurturing with persona-relevant content helps new leads quickly understand the value of your solution in solving their pain points.

But workflow content must do more than just match up to persona type. By also considering the Buyer’s Journey and knowing which purchase stage the lead is at, you’ll know exactly what content to send, the angle it should target, and when to send it.

77% of buyers want different content at each stage of their research. - Pardot

For example, if a lead has just downloaded an eBook on your site, they are in the Awareness Stage of the Buyer’s Journey. Lead nurture workflows should aim to move that lead from the Awareness Stage (top-of-funnel) to the Consideration stage by sending more Awareness content (blogs/ eBooks), then middle-funnel Consideration content (case studies/ webinars).

By monitoring responses, appropriate content can be drip-fed gradually, nurturing the lead toward Decision Stage content (webinars and free trials) and qualification.

From a Marketing perspective, automation saves time as it’s easy to send the right content to the right lead at the right time. From a Sales perspective, effective nurture ensures the prospects they speak to already understand why they need the software solution, saving time, increasing success and shortening the sales cycle.

3. Prioritise Higher Value Prospects with Lead Scoring

Nurturing leads with timely, appropriate workflows can result in higher profitability - as well as shorter sales cycles.

For example, 28% of marketing teams using marketing automation, report an increase in average deal size from a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)  that was due to there being a stronger relationship built through nurture and buyer education.

The Aberdeen Group report “Lead Nurturing: The Secret to Successful Lead Generation” has also found Best-in-Class organisations see double the bid/win ratio on nurtured leads, compared to peer organisations.

Lead Scoring

Including Lead Scoring as part of a nurture campaign ensures the most profitable, best-fit leads are prioritised.

Good marketing automation platforms allow lead scoring (or grading) based on particular actions a lead makes. These can be tailored to your own value criteria too, such as the lead’s company size or budget. Linked with your CRM, a lead’s score helps Sales teams understand both the purchasing stage and the value qualification of a likely buyer. Naming a score threshold then ensures only best-fit leads are qualified and prioritised for sales conversations.

Right Personas, Right Content, Shorter Sales Cycle

Allowing software marketing teams to automatically send the right content, mapped to address the right persona pain at the right time, Automated Lead Nurturing has a great impact on reducing sales cycle complexity and conversion time.

Plus, by building an automated strategy to prioritise highest value prospects, it’s a step toward cutting lead costs and building a more efficient sales funnel.

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