How CRM systems can help you turn leads into prospects and prospects into clients

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How CRM systems can help you turn leads into prospects and prospects into clients

In the last article, we discussed the concept of ROI and showed how using a CRM application can help you track the return on your marketing campaigns so you can more effectively allocate your marketing budget. In this article, we’re going to turn our attention to a more practical marketing application and focus on the concept of drip marketing - an incredibly effective way to build your client base and create opportunities to secure additional business from your existing clients.

What is DRIP Marketing?

If you conduct a Google search for the expression “Drip Marketing Definition” as I recently did, you’ll find that Google returns more than 2 million results. I’m going to be honest and will tell you that I didn’t work my way through all of these results - in fact, I limited myself to reviewing the first 2-3 pages. Even so, those first few pages were enough for me to realize that many of the definitions they contained were actually saying pretty much the same thing and allowed me to determine several core concepts about the nature of drip marketing. I’ve baked these definitions and core concepts down to a simple definition and for our purposes, will summarize drip marketing as follows:

Drip marketing is a strategy that involves sending out a series of messages at predetermined intervals to a defined set of contacts that not only have something in common, but also have opted-in to receive messages from you.

To further clarify this definition, “messages” will typically (but not always) mean emails while “contacts” will usually fall into one of the following categories:

  • Leads
  • Prospects
  • Existing customers

Why Implement a Drip Marketing Program for Your Practice?

The reason why you would want to engage in some form of drip marketing would seem to be fairly obvious – you want to close sales, grow revenues and build your practice. However, I believe that view is a little simplistic and would propose that a more appropriate reason for implementing drip marketing programs would be that they’re an excellent way to feed leads into your sales funnel, nurture those leads to the point they become prospects then subsequently move these prospects through the funnel until they become your clients. This is an important concept to understand and accept because it highlights another critical component of successful drip marketing which is, that when we talk about drip marketing, we’re not talking about implementing a single program of planned communication, we’re actually talking about creating multiple campaigns, each with their own specific message themes, each with their own goals and each targeted to a different audience. To give you an example, a drip marketing campaign could consist of the following components and themes:

·         Example 1

o   Message Target -> Leads

o   Message Goal -> Build awareness of your practice with individuals or businesses with which you’ve had little prior contact.

·         Example 2

o   Message Target –>Prospects

o   Message Goal –> Promote your practice as a viable option at a time when your prospects are evaluating different solutions and different solutions providers.

·         Example 3

o   Message Target –> Customers

o   Message Goal -> Provide them with timely and useful information that will encourage them to make continued or additional purchases from you.

As you read this article, I encourage you to consider drip marketing as an exercise in nurturing and relationship building. Unlike other forms of “one & done” message-based marketing which involves sending out huge volumes of messages and which has an uncertain return, drip marketing delivers a steady stream (or “drip”) of messaging that’s timely & which contains valuable information that helps to establish and build a relationship that’s profitable both for you and the recipient.

What Are the Consequences of Not Engaging in Drip Marketing?

If you don’t have a strategic drip marketing program in place for your practice, I would strongly encourage you to consider implementing one because not utilizing drip marketing concepts makes it difficult to capitalize on a number of important and profitable opportunities. These include:

  • Opportunities to build lasting relationships
  • Opportunities to improve customer or client retention
  • Opportunities to solicit feedback from you customers that can help you develop product or service enhancements
  • Opportunities to establish credibility by being perceived as a knowledgeable expert in your field
  • Opportunities to get your message in front of potential buyers
  • Opportunities to weed-out the “tire-kickers” who may distract you from talking to actual buyers
  • Opportunities to engage new leads and nurture new profitable relationships

And finally, the most significant opportunity of all:

  • Opportunities to make sales & grow your practice

Implementing Your Drip Marketing Campaign – What to Do & What Not to Do

While there is no definitive list of the dos and don’ts of drip marketing, there are a number of generally accepted best practices that you should consider as you develop your drip marketing program.

Drip Marketing - Things to Do

·         Give people a reason to respond.

o   Your drip marketing campaigns are an opportunity to learn more about your clients and prospects so ask them for their feedback on a particular topic or invite them to share their experiences in working with you or your practice.

·         Be informative.

o   You want to develop content that adds value for the recipient. Good examples of this type of content would include “How To” guides or “Top 10 Lists”.

·         Promote an event.

o   If you have an upcoming event, particularly an educational event such as a seminar, your drip marketing campaign is an excellent opportunity to provide your contacts with more information and get them excited about attending. 

·         Make your messages relevant and short.

o   Keep your messages on topic and keep them short. This will help to keep the recipients attention and increase the likelihood they’ll read future messages.

·         Develop a timeline of strategic messages.

o   You don’t want to send out random messages so you’re going to need a communications plan. Remember, drip marketing is all about nurturing a relationship with your contacts so think ahead and map out a series of messages that lead your contacts down a carefully planned path.

 

Drip Marketing - Things Not to Do

·         Don’t be Pushy

o   If your message recipients believe your emails are just there to sell them, they’ll quickly learn to ignore you.

·         Don’t Overwhelm Your Contacts

o    As we noted above, you need to have a communications plan. An essential part of that plan is to map out a message delivery timeline that doesn’t overwhelm people with tons of emails. A good rule of thumb is to send no more than one email a week.

·         Don’t Blast Your Entire Database with the Same Email

o   You should attempt to craft messages that resonate with the individual receiving them so be thoughtful and develop messages that are specific to each of your contact types.

·         Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Approach.

o   Occasionally, try to mix it up. Test and try new messages, formats and subject lines. Until you’ve tested a variety of content, you’re not going to know which messages will generate the best response.

·         Don’t Send the Same Email Twice.

o   Be original. Sending the same email out more than once is counter-productive and will impact your credibility. Also, sending out the same email more than once increases the chances that future messages will be ignored.

Using a CRM Application to Deliver Your Message

We’ve seen that CRM applications are incredibly powerful and not only include the same type of messaging functionality seen in standalone email campaign applications (such as Outlook), but also include a wealth of other functionality you can use to manage your practice. Making the investment in a CRM solution provides you with a single location that allows you to manage multiple facets of your practice. Not only that, CRM systems typically integrate email delivery and management functionality which means you can manage your drip marketing campaigns from the same location you manage your schedule - all this at a price point that’s more than likely the same or just slightly more than you might pay for a standalone email delivery program.

However, as we’ve noted in earlier articles, when looking for a CRM solution for your practice, choose one that was designed for insurance and financial industry professionals. InsurPro (www.startercrm.com/insurance-pro.aspx) is a great example of such an application. It was developed by Lodestar Technology Labs who used their experience in the financial services industry to build an application designed to meet the needs of insurance agents and financial advisors. What makes InsurPro so appealing is that not only does it come with everything you need to manage your clients, prospects and leads, it also allows you to create and execute drip marketing programs that can help you turn your prospects and leads into new clients for your practice.

Conclusion – Drip Marketing is the Best Thing You Can Do to Grow Your Practice

Using an application like the InsurPro CRM solution offers a number of tremendous benefits to insurance and financial professionals. It offers you a single location to store and manage your client data and provides you with the means to track and resolve client and prospect issues. Importantly though, it also gives you the tools you need to create an ongoing program of targeted messaging that’s delivered to your leads, prospects and clients. I strongly believe that this is the single best thing you can do to build your practice for a number of reasons. Specifically:

  • Consistently reaching out to your potential and recurring clients allows you to stay fresh in their minds.
  • Consistent delivery of targeted, relevant messages will help you to:
    • Build your credibility and establish you as an “authority” in your profession.
    • Develop relationships and build trust with your clients and prospects.
    • Reduce the time you currently spend educating your leads and prospects.
    • Unearth sales opportunities you might otherwise have missed.
    • Weed out non-buyers thereby allowing you to devote more time to serious prospects.
    • Increase your rate of conversion over time