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 software. We show you how to do it right……
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, have no fear…here’s our step by step guide to help you implement a successful lead nurturing strategy.
Step 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 “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-and-center – even when they’re not yet ready to buy – in order to win their business when they are ready:
- You’ll what buyers like, based upon their online behaviour
- You’ll provide relevant, timely information, based upon those preferences
- You’ll recognise when buyers are ready to make a decision – and engage with sales
Step 2: Create buyer personas
Every lead nurturing program requires a thorough understanding of your audience – your buyer personas:
- Buyer personas are fictionalised, generalised representations of your ideal customers
- Created through research, surveys, and interviews with your target market
- They help you to better understand your customers and prospects
- This makes it easier for you to tailor content to their specific needs
A fully fleshed out buyer persona includes everything from demographic information to career 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 wants and needs.
This post does not focus on buyer personas, but for loads of great information on how to create them please take a look at our Comprehensive Guide To Buyer Personas.…
Step 3: Segment your database
Now you have your buyer persona/s you’ve got to classify 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 lead list 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}?
NOTE: Sales leads & subscribers are not the same
People that sign up to receive your monthly newsletter should not automatically be placed into a lead nurturing program. Your time is better spent focusing on leads that come in through specific campaigns and lead capture forms. These have show a real interest.
Step 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:
- Late Stage
Some companies look at as many as five stages:
Here at Stampwood we use:
Step 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.
At this stage it can be helpful to produce a content grid, to assess what you already have in the way of content and what is missing. For information on how to create one take a look at our Comprehensive Guide To Creating A Content Grid.
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
The buyer finds you and begins comparing your solution to competitors. In most cases this is driven by the buyer, online, without interaction from your sales team.
Only after establishing a need and some possible suppliers do buyers move to more detailed research.
In the middle of your funnel 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 (estimates, free trials, etc.) for the next stage.
Buyers will start to perform in-depth comparisons of each supplier that they are continuing to consider so may be more interested in learning about your company specifically (history, employees, culture, and research).
- 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.
This is almost always 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.
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.
Stage 6: Set goals
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.
You can also implement lead quality scoring to determine worth of leads.
Your marketing goals should lend themselves to the business goals. Typically they will vary from campaign to campaign.
Some examples are:
- Form conversions
- Click through rates
Step 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.
High value, educational content typically brings in individuals who are early stage.
To begin your nurture:
- It’s best to start with a high value 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 buy cycle.
NOTE: Progressive profiling and lead nurturing
Lead nurturing involves prospects that are already in your marketing database.
So when you offer them a new piece of content as part of a nurturing campaign, the last thing you want to do is ask them for the same information over and over again.
But what if the information you have already collected has gaps, or you’d like to learn more about a prospect?
Progressive profiling uses dynamic (automatically updated) forms to gradually gather demographic data and preferences over time.
Rather than asking a prospect to fill out a form with 10 required fields, marketers can pose new questions each time a contact visits their website or landing page, allowing them to steadily gain deeper insights.
For example, a white paper offer might just ask a prospect for one or two new pieces of information; the marketing automation system then appends this new information to a contact’s existing record.
Step 8: Involve sales
When developing a lead nurturing program you’ll need Sales to help gather data, create buyer profiles, 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 define an opportunity?
- When 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” or “remarket”. 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 deeply integrated to CRM.
Step 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 a baseline with these and other indicators, you can look for problems in your nurturing campaign and try and find solutions.
Step 10: Improve
A basic lead nurturing campaign, using a couple of buyer personas, limited nurturre steps, and some performance metrics, is a good start. However there’s always room to expand and improve upon your efforts.
You could begin to add new content, stages and communication channels to your campaigns.
Here are some examples of future campaigns you could include:
Use nurturing to build deeper relationships with existing customers. This could include cross-sell and upsell opportunities.
Use lead nurturing to introduce customers to a new product or service.
Some sales-ready leads don’t work out. Some might get all the way to a closed deal, only to fall through at the very last minute.
Whatever you do, don’t write off these missed opportunities as “dead” deals. A buyer might suffer a setback, such as a tight budget or a change of management. They might have a last-minute change in their requirements. They might simply need more time.
Rather than throw these prospects away, the sales reps should return them to another nurturing program, to keep them engaged until they are ready to make a purchase.
You don’t have to have a marketing automation solution in place in order to do effective lead nurturing.
Start by following the steps above and when you reach a point where your lead nurturing scales consider implementing a marketing automation solution to help.
However, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Marketing automation can be a large investment and won’t be effective without the proper resources and planning.
For help with any aspect of marketing automation – from implementation to content creation – please visit the rest of our website www.stampwood.co.uk.
Or drop us a line on 01202 805655.