How SMS can supercharge lead generation and lead nurturing

How SMS can supercharge lead generation and lead nurturing

Leads, leads, leads. It’s the word drilled into the ears of every digital marketer and sales representative. We all want them, but how do you go about acquiring them? And how can you ensure your leads will stay, for that matter?

Converting website visitors into customers is a challenging feat for any digital marketer. It’s one thing to generate interest in a product or service, but to transform that interest into engagement and sales requires a creative and strategic approach. Nurturing customer relationships along the sales journey plays a vital role in a brand's conversion rate and reputation.

Communication is a must

Communication tools are fundamental elements in effective lead generation and lead nurturing. Thoughtful and useful communication facilitates a quality Customer Experience (CX), which is a key element of lead nurturing. Prioritizing valuable customer journeys and CX has been shown to have exponential effects on loyalty and revenue across 20 industries.

SMS is the most personalized and direct tool to integrate into your lead generation and lead nurturing strategy. Applying automated processes such as bulk SMS and email-to-text can streamline your approach to lead generation and lead nurturing. Ensuring your communication strategy is robust, seamless, and practical.

Back to basics - how do you define a lead?

Simply put, leads are potential customers or prospects that have expressed interest in a brand. This is usually expressed by sharing contact information, such as an email address, phone number, and social media handle. Brands collect contact details to open a dialogue and start the process of nurturing a potential customer into becoming a paying customer.

Lead generation is a method of capturing the attention of a prospect and converting their interest into sales. Using data and contact details provided by the lead, brands can tailor marketing and sales efforts to increase engagement.

Through lead generation and lead nurturing, brands aim to increase their customer base and customer retention. Acquiring new customers is important, but it’s not the only mark of a successful business. A brand’s ability to nurture leads into returning customers has a significant impact on the bottom line. Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can make profits rise 25-95%.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

A Marketing Qualified Lead is someone who has shown interest in a brand by engaging with marketing efforts and content. This could include browsing a brand’s webpage, downloading content, subscribing to the newsletter, and interacting with a brand’s online presence. While MQLs aren't ready to become a client yet, they have actively taken steps to demonstrate their interest. MQLs often transition into SQLs down the track.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Sales Qualified Leads have explicitly indicated that they are ready to spend money with a brand and talk to the sales team. Usually, this is expressed by a MQL directly contacting a business regarding its products and services. A brand representative then follows-up with a phone call, SMS, or email to determine the likelihood of purchase—transitioning the MQL to SQL.

When approaching SQLs, the sales team can access information gathered during the MQL nurture process to tailor their approach and help close the deal.

Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

A Product Qualified Lead is someone who has used a brand’s product or service for free and is interested in upgrading. Through a free limited version, trial offer, or beta testing, PQLs gain value from the product or service and show interest in pursuing a paid upgrade.

SMS hacks to apply to your strategy

Whether you prefer to send SMS or use OTT messaging apps such as WhatsApp, instant messaging is the most accessible and concise approach to communicate with leads. Over three billion people use smartphones worldwide, making it one of the most accessible ways to communicate. With the average person checking their phone around 96 times a day, you can rest assured that your messages will be seen.

Before you start sending, ensure your business messages are compliant. All of your contacts must opt-in and give consent to receive A2P messages from your brand. Otherwise, you risk damaging your brand reputation, credibility, and trust.

Related: ‘Are your mobile marketing campaigns compliant?

Building out a sizable contact list is easy with online sign-up forms, website landing pages, and opt-in incentives such as VIP program membership or exclusive discounts. This is an effective and ethical way to accumulate SMS subscribers, who are genuinely interested in being contacted by your business.

Invite prospects and leads to engage with your brand through SMS communication, such as:

  • Personalized welcome messages
  • Customer surveys and reviews
  • Loyalty programs
  • Customer support
  • Abandoned shopping cart reminders

More and more customers are favoring the immediacy and directness of text messaging from brands, with 48.7 million UK consumers predicted to opt-in to receive business SMS this year. Which is a considerable increase compared to the 37.2 million that opted-in to branded SMS in 2016.

SMS is efficient and cost-effective for businesses, too. SMS provides excellent flexibility to support several lead touchpoints. Engaging with leads through multiple steps of the customer journey can enhance the overall Customer Experience (CX) and ensure a greater increase in revenue.

Maintaining communication throughout the customer journey is essential. SMS provides the immediacy and personalization that customers prefer when being contacted by a brand. Leads are also far more likely to interact and respond to communications and calls to action (CTA) when sent text messages. The response rates for SMS can be as high as 45%, while the response rate for marketing emails reaches 6%.

Lead qualification with SMS

Lead qualification is an important step in the lead generation process. Because not all leads have a genuine intent to make a purchase. Brands must discern the quality of a lead and whether they are valuable to the business. First, deciding whether to engage with them or not and second, how to engage. With two-way SMS, companies can message prospects and ask for a response to further qualify their interest. When requesting contacts to respond with keywords such as ‘YES’ or ‘STOP,’ a robust SMS platform can easily filter responses and assign contacts into groups. For example, if a recipient replies with 'YES,' an automated trigger response is sent with a link to a landing page. Whereas if they reply with 'STOP,' their contact details are automatically transferred to an opt-out list.

Once a lead is qualified, you can tailor your SMS communications to help shift them to the next stage in the customer journey. A study by Franchise Help revealed that text response rates from leads were 209% higher than phone call response rates. SMS was also shown to have a higher, positive verification rate. Texts received 295% more responses confirming their contact information compared to phone calls.

Lead nurturing with SMS

Many brands make the mistake of spending most of their time collecting leads, while subsequently forgetting to follow up and nurture the leads they already have. Pursuing lead nurturing strategies can enhance CX, improve customer retention, and have a significant impact on revenue.

Lead nurturing is not merely a question of sending out generic bulk messages to your entire contact list. Marketing communications require more care and attention if leads are to feel valued as individual customers. With 67% of customers coming to expect highly personalized experiences from brands, it’s vital that messages are targeted and relevant to the recipient. By nature, SMS feels more personal. But further customizing messages can yield more benefits to you and your customers.

Personalization and segmentation

With automated marketing platforms such as an SMS gateway and CRM, segmenting your contact list is effortless. This makes your lead nurturing strategy highly efficient and appealing for your customers.

Contacts can be segmented by:

  • Levels of product interest
  • Source of contact
  • Website activity
  • Industry

Personalizing your SMS doesn’t have to mean crafting dozens of unique messages.

It could be as simple as modifying a few words in a template, which has been shown to have a big impact on the end recipient. Over 78% of consumers say they are more likely to engage with a brand’s offers if the promotions are indicative of previous interactions with the brand.

Related: 'Why Customer Experience (CX) is Vital to your Marketing Strategy in 2020'

Merge Send

Merge Send is the answer to the seamless personalization of bulk SMS. Using pre-configured templates and inputting custom fields, Merge Send delivers mass text messages that are customized to each recipient. With this SMS gateway feature, brands can effortlessly make customers feel valued as individuals.

Merge Send allows you to tailor messages with custom fields, such as:

  • Customer names
  • Local stores
  • Appointment times
  • Money owing

On average, nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities, with 47% of purchases being larger than non-nurtured leads. When brands put in the effort to communicate regularly, with valuable content, they can achieve healthy growth and gain authority with their customer base. SMS facilitates a brand’s ability to support sales targets and encourage transactions while enhancing the service and experience provided to customers. With instant messages, brands can educate, interact, and influence purchases, all while building sincere connections.