The word “nurture” probably conjures up a few different images, depending on your own personal experience. For some, images of a gardener’s loving hand might crop up as he or she tenderly nurtures budding plants to bloom. Others – parents, most likely! – probably think about nurturing their own children, guiding them thoughtfully through the various challenges they encounter. If you’re a marketer, though, your mind probably goes straight to sales – and for good reason. “Nurturing” your leads is a huge part of the sales process, and while it may take on a different connotation when discussed in a sales setting, it has plenty of similarities to the kind of nurturing that parents and gardeners might experience.
At its core, lead nurturing is the process of cultivating and growing relationships with leads at every stage of the sales funnel, from when they first enter into their transition to a paying customer to their role as an ongoing customer. “Well-structured lead nurturing takes into consideration each prospect’s unique place in their journey,” says Jason McCloud, Vice President of Digital & Integrated Strategy at SageAge Strategies. “Some prospective customers may be at similar stages, but each has unique characteristics that require careful consideration and – you guessed it – nurturing.”
Lead nurturing is a bit like dating. And just as the dating world has been rocked by the proliferation of the Internet and social media, so has lead nurturing for sales professionals. If you’re not paying attention to the online aspects of your lead nurturing efforts, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to cultivate richer and stronger relationships with your prospective customers. That’s why we believe online lead nurturing is not optional, even when it comes to marketing your senior living community.
Why Online Lead Nurturing Matters
You may be tempted to say, “But my customers respond to print and hands-on marketing efforts, like phone calls, direct mail and hand-held pieces,” and you’d be right, but only partially. Nowadays, virtually everyone has an online presence, whether they want to or not. Ignoring your potential customers’ online presence is to ignore a potentially powerful touchpoint.
- Your leads are looking for information online. More and more, people are going to the Internet to find answers to their questions. It’s no coincidence that the phrase, “I’ll Google it,” is so ubiquitous in our society today. Even populations that are traditionally less online, such as seniors, are seeing a huge surge in usage of social media and online resources. So, when your leads go looking for information, you want them to find you there!
- Your competition is already there. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your competition is already seeking out your leads online. And in this increasingly competitive market, with an audience at near-saturation, it’s important for you to not only be present, but to also rise above the fray (and the competition).
- Online lead nurturing is trackable and effective. Unlike some more traditional forms of marketing, public relations being one prime example, online lead nurturing is fast-moving and highly trackable. You can run an ad or email campaign and know within days, or even hours, if it has been effective or if it missed the mark. That lets you adapt quickly in order to learn what works and what doesn’t.
Online Lead Nurturing Best Practices
There are a good number of similarities between online lead nurturing and lead nurturing in a more traditional sense. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when developing your own online lead nurturing strategy:
- Be specific. We talk about it a lot on this blog, and for good reason: no two customers are alike. So, your follow-up with your customers needs to be specific and tailored in order to be effective. That being said, it would be impossible to treat every single lead as a unique entity, especially at the top of the sales funnel. So, you must segment your market into audience groups that have commonalities with regards to their place in the sales funnel.
- Be real. It’s easy to feel like a number when it comes to online marketing. Don’t fall into this trap; treat your customers with the same personality, care and attention online as you would in person. This means using first names, doing your due diligence with regards to their personal preferences and acknowledging that it’s a human being on the other end of the Internet wall.
- Be consistent. Online lead nurturing is only different from your existing efforts in the sense that it takes place on a different platform. Everything else, from your tone to your voice and your overarching messaging, should tie into your other nurturing efforts seamlessly. That way, your prospective customer is sure to experience a smooth and virtually unnoticeable transition when they move from online to print to in-person encounters with your brand.
When it comes to creating a genuine, consistent and (most importantly) effective relationship with your leads, ignoring the online part of the equation is a dangerous choice that leaves you wide open to massive missed opportunities and potential customer loss. Don’t make that mistake! Create a strategic marketing plan that includes a healthy dose of online lead nurturing to ensure you’re really firing on all cylinders, and if you need help doing it, don’t hesitate to reach out!