July 16 2018 11:29 AM

Don’t lose track of shoppers before they convert into buyers.

Not every sales prospect is ready to buy immediately. Sure, we love the ones who show up primed to make a purchase. We quickly assess their needs, make a proposal and get the deal done. We even compliment these buyers for having “done their homework” and knowing exactly what they want.

But what about the group of buyers who take a bit longer to move from interest to decision? They’re still “doing their homework.”

Don’t lose track of shoppers before they convert into buyers. They’re your future customers. Consider this: over half of your website traffic is from browsers and learners, not people who immediately call you.

How do you stay in touch with these potential customers and make sure they don’t stray elsewhere?

Implement a nurturing program. Nurturing is the marketing practice of proactively cultivating relationships with clients when they’re not quite ready to make a purchase or make an additional purchase. Nurturing offers an excellent return-on-marketing investment because it focuses on clients who have already expressed an interest in what you do. Use nurturing in three ways:

1 Stay in touch with prospects who are “planning ahead:” gathering ideas, comparing features and generally deciding what they want. Communicate how you can help with their needs, challenges and goals.

2 Follow up on quotes and proposals, reminding recipients of your unique advantages. Let them know you’re patiently standing by and ready to get to work.

3 Maintain relationships with existing clients to cross-sell additional services or capture revenue from ongoing maintenance needs. If you’re good at keeping in touch, they’ll also become advocates for your company, telling their friends about your company — another source of new business.

Many marketing organizations know the importance of nurturing but struggle with the discipline required. It does require that you plan messages in advance and follow a schedule of customer touches. Knee-jerk or sporadic nurturing will yield only mediocre results.

Leverage new digital marketing technologies to nurture automatically. Common tools include:

• A scheduled series of emails that enable the customer to learn more and to stay engaged with your brand. These can link to articles, white papers and video content that educate and inspire.

• Direct mail information packets or samples sent to the most promising prospects (often those who demonstrate the most engagement with digital campaigns).

• Retargeting programs that essentially “tag” customers when they visit your website, and then display reminder advertisements on other websites. (Yes, even small businesses can take advantage of these sophisticated tools.)

Start small. You don’t need to use all of these to capture incremental sales revenue from nurturing. Even following up with a fraction of your website visitors or past quotes can yield significant results with very low effort. Often the same campaigns or messages can be used repeatedly with different customers, saving you time and effort. For example, every customer that receives a quotation could get the same series of automated follow-up messages.

Content is critical. Take care to make sure that your nurturing campaign brings value to the client. Tune your messages and the frequency of them carefully so your audience welcomes the contact rather than feels pestered by it. This can be a tightrope walk, so get professional advice from someone in your industry who is familiar with nurturing campaigns.

Take notice of the customers who engage most heavily with your messaging (clicking on things in your email, watching your video, etc.). Look for cues that tell you when to get a salesperson to follow up with that customer. Over half of the companies we’ve surveyed didn’t have a plan to get nurtured leads back into the sales pipeline. Make sure you do.

Jeff Carowitz advises landscape industry firms on marketing and business strategy. He can be reached at jeff@strategicforcemarketing.com.