What is Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects, and providing the information and answers they need.
- On average, 50% of the leads in any system are not yet ready to buy (Marketo).
- Almost 80% of new leads never become sales (MarketingSherpa).
- Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost (Marketo).
- Nurtured leads makes 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads (The Annuitas Group).
Effectively developing leads in today’s buyer-driven marketplace means establishing and nurturing buyer relationships with a strategic lead scoring system, and then filling out that framework with a thorough content marketing plan.
How to Score Leads for Nurturing
Marketing and sales need to get together to develop a lead scoring strategy, to pinpoint where a particular lead is within the brand’s buying model. It is the backbone of a strong lead nurturing system, because it identifies when and how to address each buyer with the most timely and relevant communications.
The details of any lead scoring system will be specific to every brand, based on your industry, niche, and unique audience. There are, however, four dimensions of lead scoring that should be evaluated as you develop your strategy.
1 - Lead Fit
Lead fit describes how well a particular buyer matches the brand’s ideal prospect, or usual buyer. This introductory-level data will tell you if a lead is worth pursuing at all, and breaks down into three categories:
- Demographics—The buyer’s job title, company size, location, years of experience, etc.
- Firmographics—The company’s name, size, location, annual revenue, etc.
- Budget, Authority, Need, Time (BANT)—Can the lead afford you? Do they have the authority to purchase? Is there a need you can answer? What is his timeline?
Most of this information is easily collected with forms in front of gated content, email subscriptions, and/or a quick Google search.
2 - Lead Interest
Tracking online behavior to determine how attractive your brand is to a buyer is the next stage of lead scoring. Is the lead spending a lot of time on your site? Engaging with social networks? Assign numerical values to some of those behaviors.
3 - Lead Behavior
More closely monitoring lead behavior will indicate if a lead is serious about buying, or just grabbing info. Assign lower values to introductory behaviors like clicking through blog posts, and higher values to actions like downloading gated content or registering for a webinar.
4 - Buying Stage and Timing
Scoring for buying stage helps determine where a buyer is within the brand’s sales model. One way to score buying stage is to align behaviors with the top, middle, or bottom of your sales funnel. Attach higher scores to clicks on pricing sheets and product demos.
Nurturing Leads with Content Marketing
If lead scoring is the backbone of a successful online marketing strategy, then content marketing is the muscle. In a marketplace where buyers are increasingly wary of ads and increasing self-educating through the funnel, content marketing has stepped up to the place to give brands a voice
Simply put, content marketing is the process of creating relevant and valuable content—from blog posts to infographics to video—that attracts, engages, and serves your audience. Buyers are already scouring the web for answers to their questions and solutions for their problems that brands are uniquely positioned to provide. Content marketing welcomes them at every stage of the buyer’s journey, and helps move them through the funnel
Content Marketing and Email
Despite the Wall Street Journal’s preemptive obituary, and the Gmail tab scare of 2013, email marketing is still one of the best ways to communicate with an audience
Email is the most direct way to get specific content to a specific lead, but effective email marketing needs to be five things
- Trusted—A smart opt-in process sets up accurate and happy expectations, which means your content will be well received in someone’s inbox.
- Relevant—The days of email “blasts” are over. Segment your audience as much as possible, and send small, highly-relevant campaigns.
- Conversational—Give your buyer a chance to respond, and make sure your next round of content takes that response into consideration.
- Coordinated—Email content should be the hub that connects social and website content.
- Strategic—Opens and CTRs are good, but you want sales. The system you use for emailing content needs to be able to deliver some kind of ROI metric.
For more on email marketing, check out the ebook The Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing, or scroll through The Email Marketing Cheat Sheet slide deck.
Content Marketing on Your Brand’s Website
Your brand site is, of course, your online home base. With a robust SEO strategy, it will be the first impression your audience gets of your brand, and should be a constant, continual resource for leads at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
There are three areas of your website that should be the focus of a content marketing strategy:
- Strategic landing pages—Develop strong landing pages that make strategic use of keyword/user intent combinations, and that demonstrate authority on a topic of interest (as opposed to just one keyword).
- Blog—The branded blog is a key tool for keeping website content fresh and updated.
- Resource Center—An online library, your brand’s resource center collects all of your content on every topic, and strategically organizes and presents it to create a killer user experience.
Need some inspiration? Check out the Marketo resource center and/or blog
Content Marketing on Social Media
Taking a content strategy to social media requires a different kind of creativity, but every social channel is another outlet for branded content
Strategic social marketing doesn’t mean producing all the content for all the channels. Match your target audience demographics to the demographics of the major networks, and determine which types of content (images, video, ebooks, etc.) work best to tell your brand’s story. Focus your social content strategy where the two overlap, and remember the golden rules of social marketing:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously.
- Inbound is not enough.
- You must have good content and solid offers.
- You will need a strong CTA.
- Always add value.
- Never forget that social is a two-way street.
- Peer-to-peer sharing is the best way to get your message heard.
For more on those golden rules, download The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing
How Marketing Automation Helps Nurture Leads
A single entrepreneur can build trust and maintain authentic conversations with maybe two dozen leads. A small marketing team, with good time management skills, can stay on top of maybe 50. But you need more than 50 leads in your funnel to keep growing. Marketing automation is a technology solution that allows brands to streamline and automate their marketing efforts across various channels, to improve efficiency and drive more sales.
Automating a workflow helps align all of your marketing efforts and messages, and makes sure that each lead receives the most relevant messages at the most opportune times.
Small business and startups can usually keep track of a short list of leads in order to create meaningful, conversational campaigns, but as the business scales and the top of the funnel gets wider, nurturing leads in an authentic way becomes impossible for one person—or even a small team of marketers.
Lead Nurturing Can't Wait
As sales funnels lengthen, buyers become more independent, and attention spans shrink, the case for strategic, effective lead nurturing continues to grow. If your brand isn’t nurturing a buyer, your competitors probably are, and you will lose sales and market share to the more attentive voice.
Get sales and marketing together this week to develop, or review and hone, your lead scoring process. Then, start building content to deliver to each of your personas in a small range of points. When your spreadsheets get out of hand, or you decide there are other things you need to spend time on, consider a good marketing automation system to help nurture leads effectively while you continue to work on growing your brand.