From Ripe to Ready: Nurturing Leads Increases Sales Conversion

There are few ways you can increase your sales.  Spend more on advertising.  Spend more on outbound sales reps.  Spend more on partners, distributors, etc.  But sometimes spending more isn’t the smartest thing to do.

Many businesses are already doing a decent job of attracting traffic and driving leads.  Actually, most people who educate businesses on Internet marketing focus solely on traffic.  SEO, PPC, social media – all of these tactics are about driving traffic and building an audience.  The problem is, if your sole focus is traffic, there’s a good chance you’re flushing much of that traffic (or at least the money spent to get it) down the toilet because your conversion skills aren’t as good as your traffic-getting skills.

If you focus on conversion before traffic, however, you can get your sales funnel operating to the point that you buy traffic at a much cheaper rate and have it produce much more profit.

ripe fruit

Let’s talk about how that works. Dan Kennedy (marketer extraordinaire) has been known to say, “Leads are like salad.  The difference between salad and garbage is timing.” Salad turns into garbage pretty quickly if it’s left out.  Leads are the same.  If ignored, a ripe lead will go stale pretty fast (or they’ll buy somewhere else).  Timing also comes into play later.  Sometimes people know they’re going to need a product or service down the road.  Just because they don’t buy right now doesn’t mean they’re a bad lead.  It’s all about being there when the time is right for them.

Lead nurturing is the process of building a long-term relationship with each lead that comes in the door so that when the time is right for them, they buy from you.

Here are three ways to turn ripe leads into ready leads through nurture marketing:

1.  Adapt Your Message to Their Needs
You should be able to adjust your message to each lead based on their behaviors and interests.  If a lead clicks on a link for wetsuits in my monthly surfing newsletter I’m not going to send an offer about surfboards.  I’m going to send valuable content about wetsuits – maybe a wetsuit evaluation guide.  Then I might send an offer for wetsuit discounts.

Being able to adapt the message based on what people are clicking on, or which webinars people attend, or which reports they request, or what questions they ask when they call the sales line is crucial to being able to turn a ripe lead into a ready-to-buy lead.

If they always receive relevant content from you (because you’re adapting to their behaviors), they’ll consider you the best resource for whatever you sell.

2.  Provide Great Content
Many businesses try to use marketing for selling. Yes, marketing is selling, but it’s not sales.  If all you do is sell in your marketing messaging, no relationship is built, your credibility is not increased in your prospects’ minds, and, in the end, you train your audience to ignore you.  (Remember the boy who cried wolf?)  But, if you are continually providing great content, you become the trusted source for your customers.  If you’re doing this in conjunction with adapting your message to their needs, it’s a double whammy.

One question that arises often from service providers (like lawyers or landscapers) is, “Won’t they just go do it themselves if I provide them the content?”  NO!  No one wants to mow their own lawn.  They want to know how, and they want to know the best ways to keep it green.  But, eventually they will realize that it’s so much better to pay someone else do it.  And who are they going to hire?  They’re going to hire the guy who provided them all the best tips on how to keep the lawn green, when to seed, when to fertilize, etc.

Give your best content away.  Do it all day long.  Your customers will love you for it.  (Hint: Customers who love you buy lots of your stuff.)

3.  Set Expectations and Be Respectful
If your customers sign up for your monthly newsletter and then get bombarded by sales messages every other day, they’re going to unsubscribe, mark your emails as spam and ignore anything you send in the future.  Part of your marketing job, especially if you plan to nurture leads for a long-term relationship, is to build trust.  Your list will not trust you if you don’t abide by the expectations you set at the beginning.

The key to making this successful is to be very clear about what customers should expect and then honoring that expectation.  That doesn’t mean you can’t send more messages.  All you have to do is use the expected communications to give your list more opportunities to engage further.  If you put a link in your monthly real estate newsletter offering a seven-day email series on how to sell your house for more than it’s worth, that’s an easy way to have interested people tell you that they want more.  Send them the seven-day email series and then provide another option.  If they don’t bite, you still have more opportunities in your monthly newsletter.

The key is to get permission, set expectations and stick to them.  The more trust you build, the more leverage you have in your relationship to sell when the time is right for your prospects.

Nurturing leads is simple at the core, but implementation can get complex.  Focus on the relationship at all points.  Don’t make your lead nurturing sequences more complex than you can handle (chances are your prospects and customers won’t be able to handle it, either).  As the relationship develops you’ll find more and more ways to build upon it and use lead nurturing techniques to take the relationship deeper.


Tyler Garns Tyler Garns, Business & Marketing Strategist at Tyler Garns Marketing LLC, has over 10 years of experience in the field and is a recognized expert in Internet marketing. Tyler specializes in building "done-for-you" campaigns. You can follow him on the Tyler Garns Blog.

10 Reactions
  1. As a PPC manager for several clients, I agree that lead nurturing doesn’t get the love it needs. I regularly consult with my clients on how leads are being nurtured/converted because even if I’m sending great traffic I’ll get fired if that traffic doesn’t turn into sales/revenue/profit. You have to merge the conversion mindset with the traffic generation to really get the ROI.

  2. A great way to adapt messages to your customer’s needs is by having a few pages on your site that is tailored to the type of consumer looking at it. For example, if you are a company that has product offerings for both agencies and small business owners (like us at, then have a page for each that highlights the importance of your business to them. This will make your message more accepted to more people.

  3. I try to convey this message to my clients time and time again. I often get told “My leads are not converting, it must be the quality of leads you are sending”. However when I compare 2 similar companies who have similar lead levels but very different conversion rates it is always apparent that one has a much better sales team and message than the other despite similar products.

  4. Nurturing leads is the key. The money’s already been spent on advertising. The traffic has already arrived. Strive to convert more of the traffic and nurture their commitment to you.

  5. Thanks for the comments. Nick – you hit it on the head. that’s what people need to understand: You’ve already invested the time, money, & effort to get traffic & leads – lead nurturing helps you increase your ROI.

  6. Good advice. It makes sense to nurture those precious leads so that you can reach a focussed, targeted market.

  7. Tyler, great read! Our world has shifted from sales centric to serve centric. Business today takes longer, because of the time it takes to build a trustworthy, mutual, authentic relationship. If I don’t like and trust you, then it ain’t gonna happen, right?

  8. These are great points on a subject that is dear to me. The most critical factor in lead conversion is arguably “speed to contact,” ie, how fast you respond to a lead. Its so important we built a business around it to automate the sales process.

    Hot leads cool off very quickly so its really a team effort with your sales staff and the SEM guy to get the best results.