The What, Why and How of Lead Nurturing For Small Businesses Lindsey Stroud Let’s say you are car shopping. Are you going to buy the first car you look at without searching anymore? Probably not… Chances are you going to shop around with a checklist, do some research, ask for opinions, and negotiate costs.Why would you think that a prospect is going to stumble onto your website and immediately do business with you? The “Rule of Seven” says that is takes approximately 7 touches to close a deal, and THIS is where lead nurturing comes in. What is “Lead Nurturing”Lead nurturing is a marketing process designed to educate and build relationships with your leads and prospects who are not quite ready to buy yet. Why Do Small Businesses Do Need Lead NurturingThe Rule of SevenAs already mentioned, the “Rule of Seven” claims that it takes approximately 7 touches to close a sale. If you are doing marketing well, then you are targeting your ideal customer with customized, targeted messaging on a regular basis. So why isn’t your ideal customer ready to buy RIGHT NOW? For a lot of reasons… they don’t know you well enough, they don’t need what you offer at this very moment, or you simply haven’t earned their respect. Lead nurturing helps you establish those relationships, build trust, and stay top of mind over time.Automate your follow upFollowing up with new leads and maintaining communication with current customers is a problem that all small businesses face. It is easy to only focus on “hot” leads and let all others fall by the way side. By using a system that will allow you to send automated email marketing campaigns and trigger tasks and reminders to you, you minimize the time and effort on your part to follow up with all of your contacts, which gives you more time to focus on those ‘hot’ leads and make more sales.Score your leadsWhether you meet leads at a networking event or they come in through an online web form, all leads are at a different part of the buying cycle. Tracking behaviors such as email opens, link clicks, white paper downloads and webpage visits will give you an idea of who is most interested. You should be focusing on contacting people who have indicated that they are interested with behaviors like these. Ideally, using a sales and marketing software than can track and score this information for you will save you time and the headache of trying to keep track yourself. How do I start nurturing my leads?Use current marketing materialsYou don’t want to use material that sounds salesy and chances are, most of your current marketing material does. Your current marketing materials can make a good outline or starting point though. Use what you have and do some additional research if necessary to write a few short and educational articles about your industry. Give the prospect tips on buying but don’t mention your product or service.Leverage other people’s contentStart following blogs and publications that write about your industry. They need to provide good, educational information (but isn’t written by a competing business). Keep and archive good ones that your find (I like Diigo.com for keeping track of articles that I like).Start a blogA blog is a great way to not only attract people to your website, but to keep ideas in writing. Old blogs can be revamped into a new e-mail marketing campaign so it’s great to have content like this on hand.Send your content out to current prospects via e-mailYou should develop an e-mail marketing campaign with your new content. Don’t put long articles into your e-mail, no one will read them. Stick to a short introduction and then a link to the article or blog. Again, this can be a link to someone else’s article as long as it isn’t a competitor.Give new leads your content via socialLinkedIn groups are a great place to post your content. Find groups that make sense to post your content (writing about group insurance? post in small business groups) and write a short description with the link. Also, post your links on Facebook and Twitter. You never know who may click to read and become a prospect in the process.