Earlier today the team at Marketo offered a great overview and comparison of Nurture Marketing and Closed Loop Marketing.  Both are strong & viable strategies for more effectively managing different types of B2B leads through a sales funnel through to close.  And Marketo’s right, nurture marketing is great but closed loop marketing is better, and typically generates better results by more directly matching sales touchpoints and messages to specific prospect intent and behavior.

But achieving lead follow-up nirvana is a long ways from reality for many organizations.  A survey earlier this year indicated that a mere 10% of companies were actively using lead nurture strategies as part of their demand generation and pipeline management marketing.  Even for those 10% of companies, implementing a more complex closed loop system may feel intimidating and out of reach.

But for the other 90% of organizations, going from whatever they’re currently doing (likely a variation of treating all leads equally) to executing a complex lead management strategy doesn’t have to happen in one giant step.  For these organizations, achieving a strong nurture marketing strategy (let alone the next step to closed loop) should be seen as a multi-step process.  Below are a few recommendations to start migrating to a better way of triaging and working leads, which should result in more opportunities and more sales over time without changing lead generation tactics or budget.

·         Define an ideal lead, and treat them differently:  Create a relatively simple definition of an ideal prospect, and start with two buckets – do they qualify or do they not?  For example, does an ideal prospect need to come from a company of a partiuclar size?  From a particular titled contact?  From a particular industry?  Set just 2-3 criteria, and start triaging leads accordingly.  Even this simple first step can ensure your sales team is working with the best leads more aggressively (and treating lower-priority leads as such)

·         Start a single nurture campaign for all leads:  Sure, it would be great to have different nurture segments by industry, expected close date, reason the deal may be delayed, etc.  But if you’re just starting out nurturing leads, start with a single nurture campaign for all leads.  A monthly newsletter, or a regular Webinar offer, or even an occasional free white paper offer can keep you top of mind with prospects not yet ready to buy.  Get complicated later, but get something going to those latent prospects right away.

·         Establish qualification questions to segment leads into status buckets:  Are you talking to a decision-maker?  Does budget exist?  Is there an internal compelling event to make a decision soon?  These are questions you can ask in a lead registration form, a follow-up survey, or even in a call script your sales team uses.  In any case, there are likely a handful of similar questions (no more than 4-5) that can be asked of prospects up front, recorded in your CRM system, and be used to triage leads further.  If nothing else, your sales team will love having this data to manage predictability of their short-term pipeline.

·         Be honest about expected close dates, and set sales team follow-up expectations accordingly:  As new leads get contacted and qualified, get your sales team in the habit of establishing an expected close date.  Your leads could fall into three buckets- immediate oppportunities, medium-term opportunities, and nebulous “future” opportunities.  Understanding how quickly your prospect may make a decision can help determine the strength and frequency of your follow-up communication.