When I question marketers about this practice, the typical answer is "we simply don't have the time and resources to call every lead." This answer often leaves me to ponder how much waste there probably is in a typical lead generation campaign. With a simple long-term follow-up strategy, I am confident you can squeeze the remaining value out of your lead gen budget using inexpensive technology such as a time released email campaign or personalized postcards.
Using one of these tools means the typical excuse doesn't hold much merit. Just think about it, you spent the time and money to educate a prospect on a product or service who indicates they aren't ready to buy -- only to allow a competitor to take your future sale because you didn't follow up. Yes, these leads are tire-kickers, but tire-kickers do eventually buy, and research has it that after these laggards are armed with enough knowledge they will buy from whoever is the most convenient and matches their purchasing criteria.
To implement a quality follow-up campaign, you may first need to define what a good follow up is and then determine the good times to do it. Some companies fall short with their efforts by placing their cold leads on their house e-newsletter list hoping that that if they get in front of the prospect enough times they will be top of mind when they are ready to convert. This misconception only leads to confusion and contempt by the prospect, since most of the time they didn't opt into the newsletter list and the information presented is irrelevant to their initial inquiry. Cold follow-ups should be personal, friendly, have a call to action, and most important, be relevant to the prospect's initial inquiry.
Once you figure out what a good cold follow-up should be, the next step is to determine the time intervals to execute them. Time intervals should be based on feedback collected from your sales team's experience with longer sales cycles. The idea here is to try to mimic an offline follow-up approach as much as possible, while gaining the efficiencies of an online follow-up.
Once you have developed quality follow-up messages and determined good time intervals, the next step is to test. Just as with any other campaign, the follow-up campaign needs to be tested at every time interval until a sale or a death can be determined. This is easier than it sounds, since you'll be testing messages and intervals, not lists. Eventually, you will hit a eureka moment when the right combination of message and intervals start yielding maximum conversion rates from your cold leads.
Implementing a solid follow-up campaign shouldn't take more than a few days with a good email service provider, as long as its messages and intervals are well thought out. The time invested in this exercise will not only yield higher conversion rates but also greater goodwill, as prospects are reminded that you care enough to follow up.