10 Step Lead Nurturing Strategy
Despite the widespread use of lead nurturing to create demand, few marketers are seeing the success they’d hoped for. To really gain control over the customer journey marketers first need to develop a solid nurture strategy and then enable this using their marketing automation software.
Marketing automation and lead nurturing seem to come as a pair. In fact, according to Marketo & Ascend2’s Marketing Automation Strategies for Sustaining Success report (2015), marketing automation users believe lead nurturing is its most valuable feature. Yet despite the widespread use of lead nurturing as part of they demand generation, only 2.8% of respondents stated they are seeing the success they’d hoped for (ANNUITAS’ Enterprise B2B Demand Generation Study, 2014).
You must understand, lead nurturing is not a feature, it is a strategy that is then enabled by technology. Marketing automation can certainly simplify the lead nurturing process, but marketers need to first develop a strategy to nurture leads and then enable this using the software.
So if your not seeing results from your efforts, and don’t know what steps to take next, here’s our 10 step guide to help you implement a successful lead nurturing strategy.
1. Understand Lead Nurturing
Your company probably spends a lot of time and money generating qualified leads, but how many actually become customers? There is a big difference between a “qualified” lead and one that is actually “ready to buy”.
In fact, according to SiriusDecisions, 70% of the qualified leads that make it to sales get discarded BUT up to 80% of those “dead” prospects will ultimately go on to buy from you, or from a competitor, within 2 years. The challenge is holding onto those qualified leads until they are ready to buy.
Lead nurturing is the process B2B marketers use to build relationships with these prospects, keeping your brand front-of-mind in order to win their business when they are ready.
With the lead nurturing functionality of a marketing automation platform, you’ll:
- Know what buyers like, based upon their online behaviour
- Provide relevant, timely content, based upon those preferences
- Recognise when buyers are ready to make a decision – and engage with sales
2. Create Buyer Personas
Every lead nurturing program requires a thorough understanding of your audience. These are your buyer personas.
- Are fictionalised, generalised representations of your ideal customers
- Are created through research, surveys, and interviews with your target market
- Help you to better understand your customers and prospects
- Make it easier for you to tailor content to their specific needs
A fully fleshed out buyer persona includes everything from demographic information to goals, all written as if the persona was a real person. With this information you can tailor everything from the words you use during phone conversations to website content – allowing you to speak to them in a way that’s likely to resonate with their needs and wants.
It can be helpful to involve sales in the process of creating personas. They will be able to share a lot of information about your prospects as they speak to them on a daily basis.
3. Segment Your Database
Now you have your buyer personas you’ve should classify your prospects accordingly. It is best to use a CRM or marketing automation system with a custom picklist field that allows you to select from your buyer personas. Once classified, you can segment your email list and tailor your marketing materials as closely as possible to the type of prospect you’re dealing with.
Reclassifying your database may take some work, especially if you’ve been building your it for many years. But if you make the effort you’ll then be able to run reports based around this data – such as whether one buyer persona is resulting in more closed-won opportunities than others. This could give you some valuable insights that could alter the way you spend your budget or the methods you use to engage prospects.
Just make sure that new prospects are categorised appropriately from the beginning. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask prospects a clarifying question during your first interaction for them. You could ask these questions by phone or add them to opt in forms on your website.
Here are a few examples:
- What do you see as your biggest business challenges?
- How do you see our solution helping solve your problems?
- Are you more concerned about or [characteristic of other buyer persona}?
4. Define Your Buyer Journey
In addition to knowing who someone is, you need to know how close they are to purchase in order to supply them with the relevant content. This means identifying all the stages of your buyer journey. These stages could be different depending on your company – it completely depends on your buyers, the length of the buying cycle and how complex your process needs to be.
Some companies start simple and only define three stages:
- Top of funnel
- Middle of funnel
- Bottom of funnel
Some companies look at as many as five stages:
Here at Stampwood we use:
- Advocate (after purchase)
5. Identify Preferred Content Types at Each Stage
Certain types of content work better at some stages than others.
As people move down the buyer journey they go from asking “what is?” and “why is this important?” questions to “how do I do it?” and “how much does it cost?” By combining buyer personas with lifecycle stages, you can really hone in on specific segments of your audience and tailor content to resonate with each of those segments.
Understand that today’s modern B2B buyer does a lot of self education online, with little interaction from your sales team. With this in mind you can craft nurture campaigns with marketing automation that will move prospects down the buyer cycle much quicker than if left to their own devices.
Funnel stages and preferred content examples:
Top of funnel:
This is predominantly an online activity that is initiated by the buyer.
As a marketer, your first job is to create awareness of how you can help your prospects. Your content should be focused on your buyer’s pain points, so don’t try and give them lots of product-focused content. Instead, use your content to inform prospects further about their problem in general, and you’ll find that they continue moving down your funnel as they search for solutions. This stage is all about building trust with your prospect and establishing your company as a credible source of information.
Appropriate content is educational, but can be digested quickly:
- White papers
- White papers
- Analyst reports
- Industry reports
Middle of funnel:
Only after establishing a need and some possible suppliers do buyers move to more detailed research.
The buyer finds your solution and begins comparing it to competitors. In most cases this is driven by the buyer, online, without interaction from your sales team. As a result, your content can more explicitly mention how your product or service could potentially solve a problem. But keep in mind that at this point in the buying cycle, people are still evaluating their options. So while testimonials are fine to help confirm the value of your solution, save your more sales-focused content (case studies, estimates, free trials, etc.) for the next stage.
- Data sheets
- Higher value assets
- Industry research
Bottom of funnel:
The buyer is now directly engaged with your sales team and is evaluating your solution and pricing. There is almost always some human-to-human interaction.
At this stage, buyers are prepping for purchase. They’ll start thinking about planning, implementation, set up costs, and after sale care and support — the final items that will determine which solution best fits their business needs and budget. Now is the time to get brand-specific with your content. Have a number of case studies and customer testimonials on hand to show prospects what others have achieved by choosing you, and their positive experience. In addition, any purchase that involves an investment is going to require sign-off by executives. Therefore, your buyers are going to focus on content that contains information about pricing and ROI to justify their spend.
- Case studies
- Product trials
- Product videos
- ROI calculators
- Implementation checklists
- Pricing sheets
Remember that content isn’t just for your prospective buyers.
You could create a nurturing program for your customers with helpful content on the advanced features of your product and tips for using your product more effectively. If you can help them gain more value from your product, they’re far more likely to remain your customer when it’s time to renew.
6. Set Objectives
Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish can help drive your lead nurturing strategy.
Your business objectives should focus on the percentage of business revenue that you expect to come from your lead nurturing program.
Your marketing goals should lend themselves to the business goals and will typically vary from campaign to campaign. Some examples are increased form conversions, opens and click through rates. Make sure you include exact figures here so you can see exactly how close you are to obejectives.
7. Design Your Lead Nurturing Program
Now that you have a set of buyer profiles, and your buyer stages you need to plan your specific lead nurturing process.
To begin your nurture:
- It’s best to start with a high value education asset such as a white paper or eBook
- Put this behind a landing page form with minimal questions – name and email is enough
- Cast a wide net with PPC, social, email and sponsored ads. You want to pull in as many people as you can to this asset and begin a conversation with them.
Once you have pulled in some prospects:
- Choose how many times do you want to contact a prospect? Every week? Every two weeks?
- Plan out your content. Perhaps you start with a white paper, then invite the prospect to a webinar before moving on to a set of case studies.
- Choose your contact methods. Does your entire campaign revolve around email, or do you want to include other methods?
A simple lead nurturing workflow may involve a series of four or five email messages sent over several weeks. A more advanced workflow may include multiple touch points, content offers, and communication channels, all over a much longer period. It’s a good idea to start with a simple workflow, and develop your campaigns over time.
Trigger an alert to a sales person to make a call when someone opens/clicks the follow up emails. Additional details gathered during the call will help determine how far along they are in their buying cycle.
A simple front-of-mind nurture campaign might look like the following:
- Email 1: Welcome email to introduce your company
- Email 2: Top of funnel asset 1
- Email 3: Top of funnel asset 2
- Email 4: Top of funnel blog post or infographic
- Email 5: Middle-of-funnel asset 1
- Email 6: Middle-of-funnel asset 2
- Email 7: Middle-of-funnel blog post or infographic
- Email 8: Datasheet
- Email 9: Customer testimonials
- Email 10: Pricing sheet and demo request
Step 8: Involve Sales
When developing a lead nurturing program you’ll need sales to help gather data, create buyer personas, develop nurturing campaign workflows, and find or create content.
There are two major reasons to build a lead nurturing team that includes representatives of both sales and marketing:
The goal of a lead nurturing campaign is to move prospects down the funnel, turn them into opportunities, and hand them off to sales.
Therefore you sales and marketing need to agree on some common definitions to make sure they’re communicating effectively:
- What criteria, or behaviours, define an opportunity? Perhaps they clicked a specific link in an email, or perhaps they clicked over a certain number of links?
- At what point in the nurture does the sales team take over the messaging and contact process from marketing?
React to sales cues
Make sure there is a lead status in the CRM that allows sales to add prospects back to the nurture – perhaps labelled “renurture”, “remarket” or “recycle”. Sales can use this if they have made contact with a prospect too early, and will tell marketing the lead needs further nurturing. Marketing should also react to what sales tells them about the prospect from their calls.
This simple process is enabled by marketing automation systems that are integrated with CRM.
9. Measure your Results
Lead nurturing, especially when combined with a marketing automation solution, allows your company to measure its effectiveness.
Here are some key performance indicators in a lead nurturing campaign:
- Email opens
- Click-through rates
- How long does it take to move your leads between nurturing campaign stages?
- How long does it take to move nurtured leads across to sales?
- How many nurtured leads that enter the sales pipeline turn into closed deals?
- What is the average revenue associated with those deal?
- How long do they take to close?
Once you establish your baseline metrics with the above indicators, you can look for problems in your nurturing campaign and try and improve.
You might also begin to add new content, stages and communication channels to your campaigns.
ClickZ: How To Optimize Buyer Journeys With Nurture Programs, by Kevin Miller
Act On: Introduction To Integrated Marketing, Lead Nurturing
Oracle: The 3 Biggest Problems With Lead Nurturing
Top Rank Blog: 5 Elements of a Successful Email Based Lead Nurturing Program, by Ashley Zekman