Today we’re going to talk all about how to close your leads into clients.
This episode is all about the third part, the third phase of the Inbound Marketing Methodology.
Reviewing the Inbound Marketing Methodology
In case you're new to the Inbound Marketing Methodology, let's take a few moments and just review its four phases:
- Attract -- where we attract strangers into visitors
- Convert -- where we convert visitors into leads
- Close -- where we close leads into clients (the focus of today’s episode! how to take leads and transform them into paying customers are paying clients)
- Delight -- where we delight clients into promoters (that help us repeat the cycle and attract more strangers)
Avoiding Close Phase Oversimplifications
Now, a lot of times the Close phase of the Inbound Marketing Methodology is oversimplified. And that’s good and bad.
The good part:
It's easy for people to get their minds around.
The bad part of oversimplifying closing leads into clients:
It's only super-simple when you're selling something that's very heavily commoditized -- a product or service that's like a commodity -- or you're selling something at a relatively low price point that's an impulse purchase.
The reality, however, is that if you're selling something that's heavily commoditized or you're selling something at a very low price point, that's like an impulse purchase, you may not be able to afford to do Inbound Marketing as aggressively as you'd like to.
Why? You may have pressure to keep your cost of customer acquisition (COCA) very low because your average customer lifetime value (LTV) isn’t very high.
Why Use Inbound Marketing to Close Your Leads into Clients
We're going to go with the idea that you've already decided that Inbound Marketing is very important for growing your business for
- Differentiating from the competition
- Improving your competitive positioning
- Being seen as a thought leader
- Closing sales faster
- Growing your revenue
The goal with remarkable, Inbound Marketing is two-fold. I talk about this a lot:
- Differentiate to command and maintain above-average profit margins -- Gain strong pricing power with little to no discounting, or very minimal discounting if any at all.
- Close sales faster without compromise -- By knowing the buyer's journey that a particular buyer persona goes through, you can anticipate questions and concerns, and proactively answer those -- which can make an enormous difference for sales cycle acceleration.
For the bulk of today's episode, let’s focus on the tactics and the strategies to close more of your leads into clients.
First up, if you're going to do Inbound Marketing successfully, you need to segment in at least two ways. The two predominant ways are:
- By buyer persona -- A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of one of your ideal clients based on actual research and educated speculation. For most companies that are new to Inbound Marketing, start out with a primary buyer persona and a secondary buyer persona -- based on your most important and second most important economic drivers of your business: Who's the most profitable and generates the most revenue? Who's the highest priority to get more of? If you have an idea of a third, fourth, or fifth different kind of buyer persona you want to attract, put them in the parking lot and come back to them in 6 to 12 months. Also, think about negative buyer personas: who do you know is never going to be a fit for your company because there's something fundamentally flawed about that particular kind of client. And you can certainly segment by negative buyer personas to get them out of there faster. But in terms of your basic segmentation for closing more leads into clients, segment by buyer persona.
- By lifecycle stage or buyer’s journey stage -- Also segment by lifecycle stage or buyer's journey stage. HubSpot by default, out of the box, is setup to support lifecycle stages including Lead, Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL), Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), and Opportunity. But you certainly could set up of a contact property in HubSpot to be able to track by buyer's journey stage. Usually most of the time there's a pretty close relationship between the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision stages of the buyer’s journey and where they line up with particular lifecycle stages.
To accelerate and close more of your leads, definitely segment by both buyer persona and stage where that particular contact is within the lifecycle or buyer's journey.
Email Lead Nurturing
The second tool or tactic, besides segmentation, is email lead nurturing.
One of the best ways to improve the performance of your lead nurturing program, to get more of your leads to become paying customers or clients, is to use personalization.
Make sure that those messages are customized by who they are (their buyer persona), as well as the stage of where they are in the buyer's journey or the lifecycle.
One of the things that we usually start with, right out of the gate, if you've been doing Inbound Marketing for a while:
Your best performing pieces of content by buyer persona: your best performing blog posts and your best performing premium content.
- If you know your best performing content, put that first in your email lead nurturing. Think of it almost like your greatest hits album or compilation.
- Then after that, add some of the newer, untested content to the end of the lead nurturing sequence. Let it run for a couple of weeks or a couple of months.
- Make sure that what people see first, at the top of the sequence, the 5, 10, or 20 messages -- whatever it is -- are your best-performing messages, preferably in order of which are doing best by click or conversion.
- Iteratively optimize that lead nurturing sequence --- always going back to find additional opportunities to make the lead nurturing even stronger by taking the best-performing content and moving it to the front of the sequence.
For each email message, don't try to do too much. Each message should have one goal. Let your website assets do the heavy lifting. The goal of each email message in a lead nurturing context is to sell the value of visiting the page to get what's been promised in the email message.
Workflow automation, especially with HubSpot, tends to go hand-in-hand with your email lead nurturing.
But workflow automation is so much more and can be used for a lot of other facets of Inbound Marketing and inbound sales besides just email.
For example, people that are doing Inbound Marketing frequently will use automation to change contact properties. If you know that when somebody fills out a form on a landing page for a specific kind of premium content, that matches up to a particular buyer persona. Workflow automation can set the buyer persona contact property.
Along the same lines, if someone fills out a form on a landing page for something that's an offer for a particular lifecycle stage -- for example, “Schedule a Free Consultation” or “Book a Free Demo,” workflow automation could set the lifecycle stage to be at Sales Qualified or something like that -- whatever you think is appropriate for your particular buyer persona and buyer’s journey.
To close more of your leads into clients, behavioral emails are another big area that people tend to use workflow automation for. Behavioral emails are sent automatically when the workflow sees some kind of behavior on your website where it makes sense to immediately trigger an automated email.
Perhaps a known contact visited your Contact Us and didn’t fill out the form. Perhaps that same known contact comes back the following day and visits your Pricing page or Services page.
When you want one of your sales reps to manually assess the situation before an email gets sent out, you can instead opt to send an internal notification email or similar SMS message.
That way, rather than sending an automated behavioral email, your sales rep can decide whether to follow up by phone or email.
So there are a lot of different things that you can do with workflow automation beyond just email lead nurturing.
We talked about the importance of segmentation, email lead nurturing, and workflow automation. Next up for converting leads to clients, think about lead scoring.
To be able to do lead scoring effectively, you need a critical mass contacts in your HubSpot database. But the volume depends on whether you're setting up manual lead scoring or using the automated predictive lead scoring in HubSpot Enterprise.
Many times, the buyer persona selection that somebody picks on a drop-down list, may give obvious clues. In other words, if you give four or five different selections on a drop-down list for “Which of the following best describes you?” And one of those choices happens to be a negative buyer persona for your company. You’re probably going to take away a bunch of lead scoring points if somebody picks that -- because they're disqualifying themselves.
If the value of the lead is potentially high enough, many companies will want to add a human review to make sure that you're disqualifying that person for the right reasons. But in terms of scoring that lead and prioritizing yes: they're either not going to get points, or you take away points.
For a lot of companies, things like location -- based on reverse IP address lookup technology for IP Country, IP State, and IP City -- can be used to add or reduce lead scoring points.
Company size, as well as a contact property such as role within the company, on a drop-down list can also be used to add or reduce lead scoring points.
In some cases, we’ll reduce lead scoring points based on the provided email address being a free email address.
Behavioral activity can many times impact how you decide to add or subtract lead scoring points.
Many people will add points based on how many pages somebody has looked at on their website, or how many times someone visited their website, or how many times that someone has filled out a landing page form and converted or reconverted on their website.
So that's the value of lead scoring: to help your sales team decide which of your hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of leads that they should work on first and go after more aggressively.
Social Nurturing and Social Selling
To move more of your leads into clients, think about social nurturing and social selling -- using social media to get closer to your leads, opportunities, and clients.
You can follow your leads, opportunities, and clients -- and their companies on Twitter.
You can connect with your leads, opportunities, and clients -- and follow their companies on LinkedIn.
And where it makes sense, you may want to Friend your leads, opportunities, and clients on Facebook -- and Like their companies on Facebook.
The only caveat with the strategy: There are some people who are kind of schizophrenic with social media -- especially on Twitter and on Facebook -- where they have their public persona and only say things that are business appropriate. And then they have kind of their “private” persona (apparently not-so-private if you found it) where they're going all wild and saying all kinds of all kinds of polarizing, controversial things about religion, sex, and politics. Basically all the stuff that can easily offend. Different companies have different policies on what's appropriate for people to share on social media. But just tread carefully.
If you work it in a business to business (B2B) context and you see that somebody on Twitter or Facebook is sharing potentially controversial, polarizing, or otherwise offensive posts, that’s probably not the place to follow, friend, or engage in social selling. LinkedIn is usually pretty safe across the board for B2B.
Regarding social nurturing and social selling, you can read all of their posts and status updates -- and when it's appropriate, interact with them. Comment, but make sure that you're always adding value, rather than just sucking up to them to try to catch their attention. Because after a while, that can become annoying to the lead, opportunity, or client that you’re trying to build a relationship with and ends up sabotages that intended purpose in a very much self-defeating way.
The flip side: hopefully the leads, opportunities, and clients follow you back -- formally or informally -- and want to read what you’re sharing. Hopefully, you’re sharing enough remarkable content that’s helpful in their eyes to attract their attention and their future interactions.
If you're not currently doing this, if you don’t have enough of the right kinds of thought leadership content, make sure that you get your inbound strategy right -- in particular the first two phases of the Inbound Marketing Methodology; where we Attract strangers into visitors and Convert visitors into leads.
In terms of the HubSpot Marketing software, HubSpot Inbox and HubSpot Social Monitoring can certainly help you quite a bit.
With social nurturing and social selling, just bear in mind that most of HubSpot Social Monitoring and even Social Inbox is primarily for Twitter.
There are certain things that will show up in HubSpot Inbox that have to do with the other social media channels besides Twitter. And we expect over time for this to improve.
But one of the biggest request and complaints of HubSpot Social Monitoring is that it's only available for Twitter. From what I understand, a lot of it has to do with API limitations -- and not getting cooperation for that kind of information from the other social media platforms.
So far we've talked about the importance of segmentation, email nurturing, workflow automation, lead scoring, and social nurturing and social selling as ways to close more of your leads into clients. Also, think about using events.
Depending on your business model, proximity to clients, and average client lifetime value, people that are diving deep on Inbound Marketing and inbound sales are typically hosting, sponsoring, or producing at least some kinds of events.
There are two broad categories of events to think about:
- Online events
- Offline events
Online events include
- YouTube Live events
- Facebook Live Events.
Offline events include
- Speaking at conferences
- Sponsoring conferences
- Exhibiting at conferences
- Holding your own seminars including breakfast seminars and lunch-and-learn seminars,
- Hosting your own cocktail party receptions, open house events, or sporting events box parties at baseball games or football games
The more you can focus on customizing and personalizing those events by buyer persona and by lifecycle stage, the easier it is to come up with events that resonate not only with that kind of person but where they are in the buyer's journey and their lifecycle stage.
Another big tool that's especially helpful in the HubSpot software, for people doing Inbound Marketing and inbound sales, are the notifications capabilities:
- The lead revisit notification emails
- The Sales Professional notifications stream
So you can get notified in real-time or near real-time that somebody has visited or revisited your website and the specific pages that they're looking at on your website.
You can also use the Notifications technology to track emails being opened, clicked on, and forwarded around. It’s a very helpful tool to understand who's engaging with your content and who’s an active buyer vs. who’s a more passive buyer.
Deal Stages/Pipeline Management
Coming down the home stretch, another really important tactic or strategy for converting more of your leads into customers or clients is keeping track of your deal stages.
When it comes to having a good handle on pipeline management, that's where we're crossing over from marketing more into sales. If you use HubSpot CRM, you can set that up.
CRM Integration (If Not Using HubSpot CRM) and Closed Loop Reporting
My final recommendation, for closing more of your leads into clients, is to make sure that you have your CRM system integrated with your marketing software -- if you're not using the HubSpot CRM.
If you are using the HubSpot CRM, there's nothing to integrate. It's the same database; it's the same.
If you’re using different CRM software such as Salesforce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, or a PSA systems for IT services providers like ConnectWise or Autotask, or any other system with a compatible API, make sure to integrate that.
Why? Because without that integration, not only can you have missed opportunities if you have data in two, three, or four different databases, you can also do some pretty embarrassing things by sending people contextually inappropriate messages.
Tying that all together, in terms of reporting, is the idea of Closed Loop Reporting.
When your CRM system is talking to your marketing automation software, you're able to see exactly what the marketing activities are in the beginning, middle, and the end of the journey that led to closed customers. You can go and make sure those are the kind of customers that you wanted in the first place, that are profitable, ideal fits.
And conversely, you can look at all the activities that you are doing where you’re just spinning wheels, and they’re not resulting in closed deals.
Closed loop reporting is a really big part of being able to do that.
As I've alluded to a couple of times during this podcast episode, Inbound Marketing works best when you bolt on or attach inbound selling, where you’re:
- Identifying the right leads
- Connecting with your leads in a way that adds value
- Exploring their true needs and deep motivations
- Advising on a recommended solution
The Bottom Line on Closing Your Leads into Clients (With the Inbound Marketing Methodology)
So just to recap what we talked about today:
- Reviewing the Inbound Marketing Methodology (Attract, Convert, Close, and Delight) -- This episode has been all about closing leads into clients.
- Remarkable, differentiated content -- We talked about the importance of remarkable, differentiated content.
- Close sales faster -- We talked about the importance of using Inbound Marketing to close sales faster.
- Segmentation -- We examined why this requires a deep understanding and deep implementation of segmentation by both buyer persona and buyer’s journey or lifecycle stage, the context of where they are.
- Lead nurturing and workflow automation -- We detailed why lead nurturing and workflow automation are supercritical. Because unless you have a bottomless army of sales reps that can babysit your database seven by twenty-four, and never miss an opportunity, you need some automation to be a lot more productive proactive. So when somebody converts on a Saturday afternoon, when your staff is not available, the lead can get nurtured with the right information for their buyer persona and self-accelerate themselves along their buyer's journey.
- Lead scoring -- We looked at how lead scoring can be helpful if you have a large volume of leads, to help your sales team decide which leads are inherently more valuable than others.
- Social nurturing and social selling -- In a world where so many buyer's journeys are beginning on social media, use social nurturing and social selling to get closer to leads, marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, opportunities, and clients. When you're doing social nurturing and social selling the right way -- commenting and adding unique insight -- and not just harassing, annoying, and spamming people, this can be a game-changer.
- Events -- Events can be a hugely helpful way to continue educating and building trust, regardless whether an event in online or offline.
- Notifications -- Notifications give you give insight into which of your leads and opportunities are most into your content -- either because they're visiting your website more often, opening up and clicking on your emails more often, or sharing emails with others.
- Deal stages -- We talked about the importance of deal stages in your CRM to accurately forecast your pipeline.
- CRM integration and closed loop reporting -- You cannot get any of this right -- to close more leads into clients -- if your CRM can't talk to your marketing automation software. So if you’re using the HubSpot CRM with HubSpot Marketing software, there’s nothing to integrate; you’re already there with the same database. If you’re using Salesforce, SugarCRM, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM for example, make sure that you have a bidirectional integration so you can keep the data in-sync in both places and get a much better handle on all of the marketing activities, in the beginning, middle, and end of the journey that leads to your ideal clients -- and conversely what are the things that you're doing that are wasting a lot of resources, but not producing closed customer outcomes.
And that's what it's all about, right? Closing your leads into clients -- the third step in the Inbound Marketing Methodology.