Think back to the last time you bought travel insurance, took out a home loan or applied for a credit card.
Did you walk straight into a bank and ask the manager which loan was best? Or did you research home loans online, compare products from a range of providers and only contact the bank once you knew what you wanted to buy?
Chances are it was the latter.
B2B buyers operate the same way, especially when it comes to new technology and software purchases.
Over half of B2B buyers say they start their buying process with informal research about their business challenges. Around 74 per cent of that research happens online.
By the time a sales person enters the picture, most potential customers are at least two-thirds of the way through the buying process. They know what their problem is, and they know how you can solve it.
So how do you make sure that they choose your product over a competitor's?
All of a sudden, it's not enough to generate leads and hand them to the sales team. Marketers instead need to attract and support leads with relevant, helpful content that focuses on solving their specific business problem.
This is why lead nurturing matters.
In this post we’ll outline what lead nurturing is, how it works and how marketers can benefit. But first, the basics.
What are leads?
Before we discuss lead nurturing, let’s talk about leads. In simple terms, a lead is anyone who has expressed interest in your business. This includes newsletter subscribers, survey respondents and visitors who downloaded resources from your website.
What is lead nurturing?
Once you’ve captured a lead, you can either:
- Pass that lead to a salesperson, or
- Send the lead resources to support their decision-making process, so that when they talk to a sales person, they’re ready to buy. This is lead nurturing.
Unlike advertisements or sales that encourage leads to buy right now at this very moment, lead nurturing is a slow burn. It’s about showing leads that you understand their business problems, are generous with your knowledge and the right fit for their organisation.
How lead nurturing works
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to lead nurturing. A university will have a different strategy for nurturing leads compared to a recruitment firm or software vendor.
In our experience, most lead nurture plans will usually include three elements:
1. Resources that target leads at different stages
If someone is discovering your product for the first time, they probably don’t need an eight-page competitor comparison document. But they might benefit from a high-level introductory video, or a short ebook that highlights the problems your product solves.
Identify the information that buyers need most at each stage of their journey, and create content to match. Pardot has a great overview of buyer stages and corresponding content.
Most of this content should be freely available. Blog posts, videos and infographics, for example, should be easily accessible from your website, shared on social media and promoted in your internal and external communications.
This is great for search engine optimisation, and it also gives leads an insight into your knowledge and experience without sacrificing personal information.
2. Landing pages to capture contact details in exchange for high value content
Let’s imagine that an IT director, Steve, visits your website. His workplace is looking for a new intranet solution, and he’s found a great blog post by your SharePoint consultant about top intranet trends in 2016.
You don’t know anything about Steve, but you’d like to. So you make sure to include a link at the end of the post to a landing page offering a free ebook. The topic? 10 intranet implementation mistakes and how to avoid them.
All Steve needs to do is enter his name and email address, and the ebook is his. He doesn’t think twice – after all, the resource is both high value and targeted to his stage in the buyer’s journey.
Steve gets the information he needs, and you have another lead to add to your nurture campaign, which leads us to…
3. Lead nurture email campaigns
Once you’ve collected contact details, you’re ready to enter the lead into an automated email workflow. You’ll need marketing automation software to do this, but most products will do what you need: move leads through the awareness, consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.
Lead nurture email campaigns require a lot of content and planning to get right. They involve:
- Segmenting leads into lists based on industry, buyer’s journey stages, job title etc.
- Sending out automated emails at predetermined times – i.e. 24 hours after downloading a resource from a landing page
- Providing relevant, valuable content to support a lead’s journey
- Supporting leads until they’re ready to talk to a salesperson.
Here are some examples of effective email nurture campaigns.
Tips for getting lead nurturing right
If you’re considering a lead nurturing campaign, here are a few tips to ensure success:
1. Get your sales team involved in content development
Your salespeople work with leads everyday. As a result, they usually have an intimate understanding of a potential customer’s challenges, headaches and barriers to purchase. Ask them for blog post ideas, white paper contributions or to explain your product in a video.
2. Invest in good content
As a marketer, you’re probably already flat out. Planning and executing a nurture campaign can take months – or even longer if you’re responsible for creating content.
In many instances, it’s more efficient to come up with the strategy and let someone else produce the content. Find a writer who understands your industry and can take the hassle out of creating a winning nurture campaign.
3. Use data to guide your approach
We’re writers, but we love numbers too. Once your lead nurture campaign is up and running, measure lead behaviour and adjust your behaviour to suit.
Low email open rates may suggest that you’re sending emails too frequently, or that your content isn’t the right fit. On the other hand, high landing page bounce rates may indicate you need a more compelling offer.
It’s not enough to have qualified leads. With a robust lead nurturing strategy, any marketer can turn leads into customers more effectively.