What Is Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with your buyers at every stage of their buying process. Staying fresh on the minds of prospects who aren’t ready to buy allows you to turn otherwise lukewarm leads into added revenue. These days, B2B marketers are getting superior results by using short- and long-term nurturing programs.
Lead nurturing is a proven tactic for savvy marketers looking to drive more high-quality opportunities into sales pipeline that later results in more closed/won deals.
According to a 2018 Lead Nurturing and Acceleration Survey Report by Vidyard and Demand Gen Report, 66 percent of marketers reported that automated nurture campaigns drive additional sales opportunities:
- 24% saw a 10 percent increase in sales opportunities
- 23% saw a 20 percent increase in sales opportunities
- 19% saw a 30 percent increase in sales opportunities
But getting those results can be frustratingly hard.
In the same survey, 86 percent of marketers rated their current lead nurturing initiatives as average or below.
Too often, this can be attributed to not segmenting your lead nurture lists; not matching actionable content to the customer’s journey (or updating stale content) in your nurture program; and not mapping out a lead nurture workflow that results in successful exits for your prospects to either a new campaign or to scheduling a call with a sales account rep.
“Truly nurturing is taking somebody who’s already engaged, who’s already shown an interest, and advancing that interest, expanding that interest, and expanding that awareness,” said Phil Bosley, CEO of Tactical Marketing, an Act-On partner, in our recent Lead Nurturing Guide: 7 Steps Toward Setting Up Your Next Campaign eBook.
Why do you need a lead nurturing strategy?
For most B2B businesses, the person coming to your website for the first time is not looking to purchase. Instead, they are gathering information, learning more about what you have to offer, and seeing if it helps resolve the problem they may have.
Also, it’s more likely than not, they are just one voice in a buying committee of 5 or more people. In fact, according to Ascend2, 48 percent of businesses say most of their leads require “long cycle” nurturing with many influencers.
So while they are not ready to buy now, they will be ready to purchase at some point. According to SiriusDecisions, 80 percent of prospects deemed by sales teams to be “bad leads” go on to buy within 24 months.
That’s why lead nurturing strategy is critical to capturing that otherwise lost revenue. When executed properly, lead nurturing can result in as many as 50 percent more sales-ready leads at 33 percent lower cost per lead, according to Forrester Research.
Also, nurtured leads result in purchases that are 47% larger than those of non-nurtured leads, according to the Annuitas Group.
Most of the new leads you generate should probably go straight into a nurturing program you’ve created –or will create soon — where you can keep them engaged and progressing with little effort.
How digital marketing automation helps nurture leads at scale
Lead nurturing software is critical to educating and converting your initial lukewarm leads into hot, ready-for-sales prospects at scale. According to a Ascend2 survey, 57 percent of marketers say lead nurturing tool is the most valuable feature of their marketing automation software.
If you’re using an adaptive marketing platform, like Act-On, you can take advantage of the latest technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, that can automatically segment, lead score, assign content, and predictively send your emails.
What to consider when creating a lead nurturing automated program
What we’ve found at Act-On as best practices for creating a lead nurture process can be grouped under three pillars:
- Segmentation: Creating segmented nurture campaigns for your prospects and customers
- Content: Matching relevant, actionable content with the customer’s journey
- Workflow: Regularly testing and evaluating programs to ensure you’re optimizing your automated nurture campaign workflows
Segmenting your nurture programs
Lead nurturing, at its best, is done first with segmenting to your audience.
It begins with understanding your ideal buyer and buyer personas. If you don’t have an updated persona, you can reverse engineer your closed/won deals over the last few months, the last year and the last two years. What types of companies and industries are purchasing from you? What is the title of the champions for your product or service within that prospective companies? How big are the buying committees? Who is making the final buying decisions? Who will be using the product or service day to day? What trends are you seeing?
Additionally, you want to look at your own company and industry over that period. Has anything changed with the product, for the good or bad, that would have changed your typical buyer? What macro trends may be changing your marketplace? For example, the European Union’s GDPR and proposed legislation in California are changing how marketers and organizations think about privacy, ranging from how they market to prospects to how they will be in compliance with new laws.
Still curious on how you can segment your nurture lists? Start with customers and prospects. According to the Vidyard study, marketers are segmenting by:
- Title/role (55%)
- Industry (54%)
- Buyer persona (41%)
- Account (34%)
- Company size (31%)
One of the wonderful things about creating lead nurture programs is that you’re only limited by your capacity to think about what to segment. You could (and should) create nurture programs for onboarding customers, for customers that are not actively using your product or service, and for customers who are heavy users and ripe for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. The more programs you currently have integrated into your overall marketing strategy, the more ways you can engage with prospects via your lead nurturing program.
How to use content marketing in your lead nurturing programs
Look, your content was, is and will always be the key to your overall marketing success, as well as specifically your lead nurturing success. A first step would be to take an inventory of the content you have: eBooks, on-demand webinars, original research, customer success stories, product reviews, industry reports and so forth.
The next step is to begin matching your content your audience’s buying journey and segmented interest. For example, a user will be interested in an on-demand webinar about how to use your product or service, but the CEO or executive in with buying authority will be more interested in content that talks about how your product or service integrates with their existing processes.
You can reuse content in very effective ways by breaking them into series pieces. Also, less is more with delivering content. People don’t have time for long emails. It’s better to present your content in 150 words or less, perhaps in list form, and include a CTA to a landing page that can go into greater detail.
Now is also time to recognize what content holes you may have and need to fill. Often, this is bottom-of-funnel content (although a quick remedy for this can be testimonials from customers that match however you segmented the list).
Often, when folks are inventorying their content, they are thinking only about what can be sent in an email. But advanced lead nurture strategies will include trigger events that will send direct mail (a postcard or a gift bag) to a prospect or customer. You can also create triggers that can prompt a sales rep to reach out to the prospect with a “soft open” piece of content. This could be a 1:1 custom video that is sent to prospects whose lead score is approaching being qualified to send to sales. It could also be invitations to upcoming events or webinars.
My pro tip is to include videos in your nurture programs. People like watching video testimonials, feature or use cases, industry trends and more.
How to optimize your lead nurture automated programs
According to the Vidyard report, 49 percent of marketers report that one of greatest challenges they have with their lead nurture programs is building the right timing and workflow for their campaign.
Your workflow can be simple or very advanced, it really depends on your segmented list, your typical sales cycle, the quality of your content, and a host of other factors. Below is an example of a simple workflow.
As you begin developing your workflow, below are some questions you’ll want to ask in choosing your touch points:
- How many times do you think you need to contact a prospect for this lead nurture program?
- Do you contact a prospect every week? Every two weeks?
- Match content to touchpoint: maybe you start with an eBook, move on to a case study, and then invite your prospect to an on-demand webinar
- Does your entire campaign revolve around email, or do you contact some prospects by phone, direct mail, or other methods?
- What does success look like? What happens to the prospect if they graduate out of the program? Do they go to sales or another program further down the funnel?
A very simple lead nurturing workflow may involve just a series of four or five email messages sent over a period of several weeks. A more advanced workflow may include multiple touch points, content offers, and communication channels, all over a much longer period, and with multiple variations. It’s a good idea to start with a simple workflow, and then allow your campaigns to evolve over time.
At Act-On, the content, ops, and demand gen teams meet weekly to review one or more automated nurture program to review performance, consider any needed tweaks, or set up A/B or other testing.