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Written by Laura Jean Holton
on February 24, 2017

Generating leads is only the first step in an effective marketing strategy. To retain leads and turn them into customers, you need to focus on your lead nurturing process. This is especially important when your sales funnel is long, which is common for B2B companies.

 Around 65 percent of B2B marketers have no lead nurturing strategy in place, reports  MarketingSherpa. By adding lead nurturing to your own marketing efforts, you can turn between 15 to 20 percent of leads who are not yet ready to purchase into customers at a later date, according to data from Gleanster.

 

THE BEST LEAD NURTURING STRATEGIES

 

1. Targeted Content

 

Nurturing leads is all about providing them with content suited to their unique needs and position in the sales funnel. The concept behind targeted content marketing is simple, but it is difficult to implement without careful planning.

First, you need to turn to your buyer personas, categorizing each of your leads as one of these personas. Your buyer personas should be as detailed as possible — this will enable you to better picture the person you are creating content for. Include specifics, such as job title, industry, goals, and any other pertinent information that explains why the lead would be seeking your products or services.

The other requirement is to ensure that leads reach the content aimed at them and that they consume this content at the right time. A lead nurturing software will help you identify and segment leads, while an email campaign through an automation platform will allow you to deliver content when the lead is most likely to need it.

content mapping, inbound marketing

 

2. Identify Lead Buying Cycle and Needs

 

Leads have different needs and expectations depending on where they are in the buying cycle. Utilize this to your advantage by presenting information that will push leads closer to a purchase.

A buying cycle or buyer’s journey has three basic stages:

  • Awareness — when the lead either finds out about your new product or realizes the need to make a purchase.
  • Consideration — when the lead evaluates different options.
  • Decision — when the lead is ready to buy.

At the beginning of the buying cycle, leads are looking for information to gain a greater understanding of available products and to better define their own needs. Further through the buying cycle, leads actively seek assistance to finalize a purchase. If you use marketing tactics at the wrong time, you may frustrate your leads and push them to seek similar offerings with a competitor.

Furthermore, you need to understand each lead’s unique needs. By tracking activity and engagement, you can figure out what leads need from your organization. Look at the pages they visit, the content they download, and the questions they ask. This will not only help with conversions but may also enable you to encourage cross-sells and up-sells.

 

3. Multi-Channel Lead Nurturing

 

Email campaigns are just one way to bring leads targeted content. Different consumers respond to different types of content, and by expanding your inbound marketing strategy to encompass a range of formats, you can drive revenue growth yet further.

You may like to include content in the form of a regular newsletter, blog posts, social media content, PPC adds, dynamic website content, videos, and more. Turn to your lead nurturing metrics to find out what is most successful with your audience and how to best deliver this content.

 

4. Buyer’s Journey and Nurturing

 

The amount of nurturing a lead needs to become a customer will depend on what you are selling. A B2B strategy tends to require more contact with leads than a B2C strategy, as products and services often involve a bigger investment and require deeper consideration. However, a major problem across the board is that businesses try to gain sales after too few marketing touches.

You have a greater chance of success if you understand your buyer’s journey. Find out the queries and concerns leads have that influence their purchase decisions and use your content to answer these questions. Choose the type of content to use at each stage according to what your audience prefers and what allows you to best present this information.

For your strategy to work, it is critical you send sufficient content but avoid overwhelming leads. If you send too much, your leads will most likely see your marketing materials as spam, especially if they come in email form.

One way to approach this problem is to consider the average amount of time it takes for a lead to convert and how many pieces of content you want him or her to consume. You can use this information to create a schedule. Alternatively, you may like to give leads the opportunity to specify how much content they want to receive from you. Give them the option to change their preferences at any time.

A further consideration is what day of the week and time of day to send content. Find out what works best for your specific audience or even adapt delivery times for individual leads by looking at data such as click-through rates.

Awareness Consideration Decision 

5. Timeline

 

The sooner you follow up with a lead the better. A delay of mere minutes reduces the chance a lead converts into a customer. Ideally, you should make contact within five minutes; you should always aim for under an hour.

Most businesses fail to adhere to this crucial advice. Research from Harvard Business Review found that the average response time of B2B companies answering leads was 42 hours. Furthermore, only 37 percent answered within the hour. Another 23 percent never responded at all to their potential leads.

If you are dealing with a large number of leads, use automation tools, at least to some extent. You should still try to answer with a personalized email as often as possible, as this will garner a higher number of conversions. Plus, contacting qualified leads is a much better use of your resources than cold calling.

 

6. Personalized Email

 

Although email is the most effective method for lead nurturing (according to numerous studies), you can still improve your results simply by using personalized messages. Combining personalization with behavior triggers is more effective still. This ties into the idea of bringing leads the right content at the right time. A few ways to improve your emails include:

  • Followups. After a lead requests premium content, use the opportunity to send an email that does more than confirm the download. Add a call-to-action appropriate for where the lead is in the buying cycle.
  • Similar emails. It is no secret that most emails are never read. When you do receive a click-through, you know that your lead is interested in the content. The best next step is to send more emails with related information.
  • Encourage a return visit. Instead of giving up on inactive leads, remind them of your brand with an email. You can notify leads about new campaigns they may find interesting or send a special offer.

 personalized email lead nurturing strategies

 

7. Sales and Marketing Alignment

 

Aligning sales and marketing needs to be part of your lead nurturing strategy. Conversion rates are highest when businesses involve their sales teams as early as possible. This means including sales representatives in your lead generation strategy and giving them some responsibility for nurturing leads.

This collaboration method helps the sales team understand leads from the start, therefore increasing your chances of a conversion. Together, the two departments need to come to an agreement as to which triggers signify that a lead is ready to make a purchase. You need to be willing to continuously adapt your strategy if you find you are mistaken — this will allow you to maximize your marketing ROI. A close connection between departments will also enable sales to hand leads back to marketing if they find they are not quite ready to buy.

 

8. Establish Lead Scoring

 

Lead scoring should be a key aspect of the math marketing part of your strategy. It involves ranking leads according to their likely value to your organization. You can use various criteria to score leads, but you will most likely want to use at least the following:

  • Demographic information — such as job title, industry, and company size.
  • Type of activity — including pages viewed, premium content downloaded, and requests for information.
  • Extent of activity — how many pages the leads viewed or how many forms they completed.

Use all the above information to award leads with points and arrive at a numerical value between 0 and 100. Use this number to determine whether you should pass the lead straight to the sales team or if you should keep nurturing the lead. In the case of the latter, the score will also tell you what actions to take next to continue your nurturing efforts.

 

9. Track and Analyze

 

Tracking every aspect of your lead nurturing strategy is essential. This will allow you to make changes that appear small but have a huge impact on your conversions and marketing ROI. A/B testing is useful for tweaking aspects like email subject lines, content type, and timing — for example, what time to send emails or post to social media and when to keep nurturing a sale or push for a sale.

There are also several lead nurturing metrics you should pay attention to, including:

  • Lead score distribution. Lead scoring is useless if it fails to work as you intended. Check your scores match your nurturing data and do improve conversions.
  • Sales velocity. Your nurturing efforts should make it easier for your sales team to convert leads into customers. If they are having little or no effect, you have a problem with your current campaigns.
  • Cost per customer. This is an essential KPI — the nurturing cost per customer should be significantly less than the value of each customer.

 

10. Re-Nurture Leads

 

Once you have found out what is working and what needs changing, use the information to re-nurture leads that failed to convert the first time. You still have the contacts and they are still interested in your products or services — this time, use better targeted techniques to turn the leads into customers. This will ensure all the resources you have already poured into lead nurturing go to good use.

Start with your list segmentation. If you have a higher unsubscribe rate than 1%, it is clear the content you are sending is irrelevant to your leads. A low click-through rate is another indicator. Bear in mind that poor segmentation could be due to errors in your lead scoring or to miscalculations about the buying cycle.

You should also look at engagement with your content. If certain formats are receiving little attention, it would be worthwhile to remove them from your content strategy. For instance, you may find leads are downloading plenty of white papers and sharing many of your videos but are mostly ignoring your product reviews.

Finally, you may be able to re-nurture leads with more appropriate calls-to-action. There are many ways leads can take action other than making purchase. For instance, give then the chance to receive more premium content, sign up for a newsletter, share the information with someone else, or begin a free trial.

 

To Summarize

 

Nurturing leads does more than just increase conversions; it also enables both your marketing and sales teams to focus their efforts where it will make a difference. Using a variety of lead nurturing tools and methods is the best way forward. This will enhance all your campaigns and allow a maximum number of leads to become valuable customers.

It is critical to keep monitoring your strategies to ensure your efforts are always producing results. Remember, inbound marketing is always changing. By paying attention to your lead nurturing metrics, you can adapt as your leads behave differently online.

 

 Smart Inbound Marketing Strategy | iNBOUND iNTELLIGENCE

 

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