There are few ways you can increase your sales.\u00a0 Spend more on advertising. \u00a0Spend more on outbound sales reps.\u00a0 Spend more on partners, distributors, etc.\u00a0 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.\u00a0 Actually, most people who educate businesses on Internet marketing focus solely on traffic.\u00a0 SEO, PPC, social media \u2013 all of these tactics are about driving traffic and building an audience.\u00a0 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. Let's talk about how that works. Dan Kennedy (marketer extraordinaire) has been known to say, \u201cLeads are like salad.\u00a0 The difference between salad and garbage is timing.\u201d Salad turns into garbage pretty quickly if it's left out.\u00a0 Leads are the same.\u00a0 If ignored, a ripe lead will go stale pretty fast (or they'll buy somewhere else).\u00a0 Timing also comes into play later.\u00a0 Sometimes people know they're going to need a product or service down the road.\u00a0 Just because they don't buy right now doesn't mean they're a bad lead.\u00a0 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. \u00a0Adapt Your Message to Their Needs You should be able to adjust your message to each lead based on their behaviors and interests.\u00a0 If a lead clicks on a link for wetsuits in my monthly surfing newsletter I'm not going to send an offer about surfboards.\u00a0 I'm going to send valuable content about wetsuits \u2013 maybe a wetsuit evaluation guide.\u00a0 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. \u00a0Provide Great Content Many businesses try to use marketing for selling. Yes, marketing is selling, but it\u2019s not sales.\u00a0 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.\u00a0 (Remember the boy who cried wolf?)\u00a0 But, if you are continually providing great content, you become the trusted source for your customers.\u00a0 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, \u201cWon't they just go do it themselves if I provide them the content?\u201d\u00a0 NO!\u00a0 No one wants to mow their own lawn. \u00a0They want to know how, and they want to know the best ways to keep it green.\u00a0 But, eventually they will realize that it's so much better to pay someone else do it.\u00a0 And who are they going to hire?\u00a0 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.\u00a0 Do it all day long.\u00a0 Your customers will love you for it.\u00a0 (Hint: Customers who love you buy lots of your stuff.) 3. \u00a0Set 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.\u00a0 Part of your marketing job, especially if you plan to nurture leads for a long-term relationship, is to build trust.\u00a0 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.\u00a0 That doesn't mean you can't send more messages.\u00a0 All you have to do is use the expected communications to give your list more opportunities to engage further.\u00a0 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.\u00a0 Send them the seven-day email series and then provide another option.\u00a0 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.\u00a0 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.\u00a0 Focus on the relationship at all points.\u00a0 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).\u00a0 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.