(Editor’s note: Serial entrepreneur Scott Olson is president of MindLink Marketing. He contributed this column to VentureBeat.)

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a colleague about the challenges he was having with his company’s leads pipeline. He had the contacts, but the opportunities weren’t growing fast enough.

I’ve actually seen this many times. The assumption is that once an initial outreach has been done to new contacts, the conversion has to happen fast. If it doesn’t, they’re considered a dead lead and the general thinking is that spending too much time on them is wasted effort. This can also apply to leads that convert to opportunities but get stuck in an early stage in the pipeline.

While a strong contact database can be a real asset to the company, tapping into its value depends upon having a good strategy for lead nurturing. The best way to do that is to think like an editor, not a marketer.

The key to success isn’t abandoning these highly valuable contacts, but rather spending time organizing them and building a relationship based on relevant, interesting content.

Think of your job as the publisher of a niche magazine of news, commentary and insights into your company’s technology domain and prospects industry. This allows you to connect to your audience and become their trusted source of information and solutions to address their problems.

Here are some good strategies for publishing your niche magazine and implementing a successful lead nurturing program.

•    Understand and group your audience – Don’t treat your audience all the same. Identify the most common characteristics among the companies in your leads database and group them accordingly. These groupings can be by industry, size of company, key problem they are solving and many other characteristics.

•    Identify an editorial content strategy – Don’t just send e-mail blasts with marketing promotional offers. Report and comment on relevant industry news and events. Understand what industry news is interesting to your audience. Some news merits an immediate, personal campaign vs. waiting to include it in a newsletter.

•    Blog to your content strategy – Blog about relevant news and topics that map to your content strategy. Most companies should be posting a minimum of 1-2 times per week (and, as you grow, even more). The trap companies often fall into with blogging is that they think every post has to be a deep thought leadership piece. If you have this attitude, your blog will die on the vine. Creating this content regularly with variety is too difficult. Blog about anything and everything that may be interesting to your audience. Blog about a new government regulation. Blog about the tradeshow you are attending. Blog about a customer problem that you discussed in a sales call (no names have to be mentioned). All of these things are interesting to your audience and they can learn from them.

•    Promote your content with social media – Use social media to connect in a variety of ways to your prospect list. Use Twitter to promote new blog postings and publish your corporate twitter accounts on your site, in your email and business cards. Create and use LinkedIn groups and have your employees update their status to reflect interesting posts. Whatever social media you are investing in should promote your content.

•    Your newsletter is your magazine – Highlight your top tracking blogs from the month and send a custom newsletter to each contact group. Make sure the content is relevant to them and coordinate any calls to action in the email appropriately. If you have blogged regularly, then your newsletter content is already written – meaning the hardest part of the job is already done.

•    Use marketing automation tools for distribution, lead scoring and follow up – Using marketing automation tools is an absolute must to get the most out of your lead nurturing programs. There are a number of tools that meet a wide variety of budgets and have a range of features. The key is that whether you use Eloqua, Loopfuse or another tool, you need to have the capability to easily manage your contact lists, publish regular targeted content to those contacts, and score and follow up with them appropriately based on their subsequent actions.

Too many companies have valid contact lists that go untapped. Today’s sales process takes time and relationship building. Thinking like an editor and delivering interesting, relevant content to your audience will establish a connection with them, create thought leadership and keep you at the top of mind when it comes to solving the problems you address and they are ready to buy.

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