In the past, marketers would stay connected to their potential buyers by using drip marketing, a program that sent out a series of messages (direct mail, email, etc.) at an interval selected by the marketer.
The problem? It was non-adaptive. It failed to factor in the behavior and activities of each buyer, ultimately sending out the same response to everyone, regardless of habits or actions.
Today, that is no longer the case.
Over time, drip marketing slowly evolved into lead nurturing—a more sophisticated, personalized process designed to build valuable relationships with potential customers throughout the buyer’s journey and sales funnel. Whether you’re fascinated with this minor history lesson or not, the big question you may still be asking yourself is, “Do I need a lead nurturing sequence?”
The answer is yes, you do.
According to Marketo, “50% of leads in any system are not yet ready to buy.” Even so, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to just let these leads move on -- in fact, it’s prime time to nurture a relationship with them. You can establish trust by addressing their problems or opportunities by developing targeted content, sending out personalized emails in timely manner, and setting up multiple touchpoints.
When done effectively, it can create 50% more SQLs (sales ready) leads at a 33% lower cost.
If that sounds great, then it’s time to dive into the lead nurturing best practices you should know to start building effective relationships.
Lead nurturing best practice: Develop relevant, targeted content
The goal of lead nurturing is to send the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
33% of B2B marketers, in fact, don’t think they are effective at it.
One reason these marketers may feel they underperform in this regard is because they don’t understand their unique buyer personas.
Buyer-personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. You can create them by interviewing customers and looking through your contact database to spot important trends. Also, make sure to research your personas’ demographic and firmographic information, pain points, and challenges—in other words, break down each persona’s age, work title, years of experience, company size, and identify what problem or opportunity they’re seeking more information on.
The more you know about them, the more you can create an array of relevant content such as blog posts, videos, webinars, podcasts, and white papers, to educate your prospects throughout their buyer’s journey.
But a robust content strategy consists of more than just content creation. It’s also about optimizing that content with clickable CTAs, strategic landing pages, and for search engines (SEO).
To learn more about how to optimize your inbound marketing strategy in general, check out this great post.
From a glance, can you tell which recently converted lead is ready to purchase, or who might need a bit more nurturing?
To figure that out, you’ll need to create a lead scoring system to qualify your leads.
The first step is to compare a new lead to your buyer persona to see if they are a good “fit” for your company to pursue. If they match up well, then the next step is lead scoring. Essentially, this process involves analyzing a buyer’s online behavior and actions to decipher their sales-readiness (or lack thereof).
There are two types of behaviors you should identify: latent behavior and active behavior. Below each behavior, be sure to list a series of actions that corresponds with that specific behavior.
Latent behavior is when a customer engages with your brand. A list of actions that showcase engagement, for example, would be visiting a web page, looking at a top-funnel blog post, or attending a webinar.
Active behavior, in contrast, is when a customer exhibits buying intent, by looking at mid-funnel and bottom-funnel content, watching a demo, or checking out a pricing page.
You’ll want to assign numerical values to these actions. While engagement is great, it doesn’t necessarily mean a prospect is ready to purchase from you. Values under this category are typically lower than the values listed in the active behavior category since the prospects in the latter are closer to making a purchase. Fortunately, there are many customer relationship management (CRM) tools out there that can assist you with setting up a lead scoring system.
From there, you can shift SQLs to the sales team and enter or re-enter marketing leads into a lead nurturing sequence.
Surprisingly, most B2B companies wait an average of 42 hours to contact a recently converted lead. At that point, you’ve most likely lost the interest of the prospect, essentially conducting a cold call with them upon contact.
Research has shown, however, that leads contacted within five minutes of converting are 21 times more likely to become a SQL, entering the sales process.
But despite the staggering difference, there are still only 37% of companies following this lead nurturing best practice.
64% of businesses believe email to be the most effective tool to communicate with their prospects, according to the Marketing Sherpa Email Benchmark Report—but that doesn’t mean you should just send out random email blasts.
Personalizing emails based on a prospect’s previous actions can be one of the most effective methods of reaching out to the right person at the right time. For instance, a personalized email can be created—and a lead nurture sequence activated—upon someone downloading gated content, viewing a specific page on your website, or signing up for a newsletter, just to name a few.
For prospects near the end of the buyer’s journey, it’ll become especially important to send out a personalized email. That one-on-one conversation, where they can ask questions and just chat, may be the biggest factor in determining if they convert to a customer or not.
Create multiple touchpoints
The point after a visitor finds your content, opts-in on your offer, and has it delivered to them marks the beginning of your relationship with them, not the end.
Realistically, you can’t sit back and wait for them to convert from just one touchpoint. On average, successful companies connect with their prospect 10 times as they move through the sales funnel, and that includes everything from top-,mid-,and bottom-funnel content to a series of personalized emails.
For example, say a lead filled out a form to receive a video marketing best practices guide. The lead can then be nurtured further by sending them a series of personalized educational emails on that same topic or links to similar subjects on your website.
However, your strategy doesn’t have to be confined to just your website or email. There are additional channels you can utilize to reach your target audience, like social media, paid retargeting, and direct outreach.
A lead nurturing strategy is vital to the success of your company, as it safeguards generated leads from being left on the table.
In other words, it ensures that your extensive marketing efforts are yielding a substantial ROI. But you can’t start to build an effective lead nurturing program without a killer content strategy behind it. If you're not sure if your content is working for you, then why not try a content audit?
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered there. Click the link below to get a FREE 30-minute content evaluation from Team Impressa.