Lead Nurturing

Understand the benefits of lead nurturing to developing personalized B2B relationships with customers and prospects at every stage of the sales funnel.

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of developing and reinforcing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel. A successful lead nurturing program focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects and providing the information and answers they need to build trust, increase brand awareness, and maintain a connection until prospects are ready to make a purchase. According to Marketo, on average, half of leads in any given system are not yet ready to buy , and MarketingSherpa reports that almost 80% of new leads never wind up making a purchase at all. That’s why it’s crucial to nurture relationships with buyers through a strategic lead scoring system. Additionally, lengthening sales funnels fosters independence within prospects, creating a greater need for well-crafted lead nurturing programs. 

Marketing automation platforms can allow marketing teams to develop flexible, adaptive communications at scale by forming a lead nurturing strategy. In doing this, you create a pathway through which you not only create relationships with potential customers, but also maintain those relationships while the prospect moves through the buyer’s journey at their own pace. In creating a lead nurturing program, you will build lasting relationships, increase click-through rates (CTRs) and propensity to buy while building brand advocacy. Lead nurturing campaigns not only allow you to interact with buyers, but you can also use the data you collect to gauge their interest and monitor behavior to further optimize future campaigns and increase return on investment (ROI).

The more connected we become via technology, the more necessary it becomes to create a cross-channel experience for buyers. Today’s consumers also expect a level of personalization in marketing to catch their eye and allow a seamless web of engagement without bombarding them with ads or emails. Buyers do not want to be sold to, they want to be heard. When you get to know your potential customers and what they want, you can better serve them and earn their patronage through genuine understanding. Effective lead nurturing must encompass your entire marketing calendar to incorporate the total amount of communications your leads are receiving, including newsletters, product updates, database emails, and other cross-channel communications. Focus on making these interactions work harmoniously in a way that is relevant and gives customers the best possible experience, and you’ll earn the loyalty of your leads.

“Lead nurture is still primarily centered on email marketing efforts, but the customer experience needs to span all channels to foster engagement and point-of-sale—from in-store, to mobile, sales, referral, social, and support.” 

– Corinne Sklar, Global CMO, Bluewolf



Common problems that lead nurturing can solve

Longer sales cycles, self-directed buyers, and shortened attention spans can be a headache for marketers, but lead nurturing gives you a leg up when it comes to converting customers and building brand loyalty.

  • Problem: I have too many dormant leads in my database. Lead nurturing increases the propensity to buy by maintaining relationships with customers. These relationships are critical in today’s sales cycles, and by nurturing leads you maintain that relationship over time while building brand loyalty and trust. 

  • Problem: My sales cycle is too long. Buyers are taking more time to explore their options and educate themselves before making a purchase decision than they did in the past. It’s completely expected that today’s sales cycles will be longer, which is why it’s so important to nurture leads. In doing this, you not only shorten your sales cycle but you also convert more leads into buyers. 

  • Problem: I have a lead nurture program in place, but am not seeing good engagement. To have an effective lead nurturing program, you must engage buyers. When you nurture your communications with leads, you demonstrate value in the content and knowledge you share, creating trust and impact.

  • Problem: I’m not sure how to set up or measure the impact of my nurture program. Launching a lead nurturing program is the first step of a much more involved process. When you set up lead nurturing, you have to put goals in place before you can hope to see impact, much less measure it. Ask yourself how many leads you need to generate, what products you offer, and what audience you want to attract, and use that information as a jumping-off point to gather relevant data. 

  • Problem: I don’t have the technology in place to support my lead nurturing strategy.  Marketing automation is key to navigating today’s longer sales cycles, lead scoring, lead lifecycle management, personalization, and analytics. Today, implementation of a manual program is simply too costly and time consuming for most businesses.

Learn more about how to set up the right program with How to Create a Lead Nurturing Strategy.

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Components of lead nurturing

Lead nurturing consists of cross-channel communication that combines content marketing and marketing automation to create a system that builds and maintains relationships with customers. 

  • Lead scoring. To develop a successful lead scoring strategy, sales and marketing must come together to pinpoint where a particular lead is within the brand’s buying model. This common ground 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. Each lead scoring system will be unique to each brand and includes lead fit (demographics, firmographics, BANT [budget authority, need, time], lead interest (what content are they engaging with? how long are they on your site?), lead behavior (are they serious about buying yet or still looking for information?), buying stage, and time (what stage are they at in the sales funnel?).

  • Content marketing. If lead scoring is the backbone of a successful online marketing strategy,  content marketing is the muscle. Content marketing is the process of creating relevant and valuable content. This can include content in your emails, as well as on your website and your social media channels, including video, podcasts, and more. ComScore estimates that half of all online searches will be voice searches by 2020, so SEO-optimized voice search is on the horizon as well.  

  • Multichannel distribution. In order to implement a successful lead nurturing campaign, all your channels must be interconnected, so you can maintain contact with leads across the board.

  • Web. Your website is a great place to capture new email addresses, but it’s also a fantastic place to continue and start conversations. The web experience can and should be dynamically personalized to reinforce and extend the dialogue started in emails. 

  • Retargeting. Display ads and retargeting can be a large part of your marketing budget. But how can you create a consistent experience for your buyers across those channels? 

  • Social. Social is a critical part of cross-channel nurturing. Running social campaigns is great, but making every campaign social is better. When you connect your lead nurturing to your social efforts, they enhance one another. 

  • Direct mail. Consider adding direct mail to your lead nurture campaigns as a way to further personalize and add a human touch. 

  • Marketing automation. 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. 

Learn more about what lead nurturing can offer in our Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing.

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ROI of a successful lead nurturing program

Since today’s sales cycle is significantly longer, nurturing leads is crucial to conversion and maximizing profit.

  • Lead nurturing results in more sales. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost (Marketo). 

  • Lead nurturing motivates larger purchases. Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads (The Annuitas Group). 

  • Lead nurturing motivates leads to buy. Seventy-nine percent of marketing leads never convert to sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause for poor performance (MarketingSherpa).  



Learn more about how lead nurturing contributes to the bottom line in Calculating The ROI Of Lead Nurturing.

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Planning, implementing, and optimizing your lead nurturing program

Launching a lead nurturing program just lays the framework for what you need to convert new and returning customers.

  • Step 1: Define your leads. Once again, lead nurturing heavily leans on the cooperation of sales and marketing to work together. To define the perfect lead for your organization, you need to come up with a joint lead definition agreed upon between sales and marketing. Determine your market, who is already in your database, current prospects, which buyers are closing, and use these parameters to establish lead scoring thresholds, lead fit, and lead engagement points. 

  • Step 2: Build your lists. According to Moon Marketing, you lose up to 25% of subscribers each year due to email attrition, and not all engaged subscribers will become paying customers over time. To grow your business and set up a robust lead nurture program, you need to feed the top of the funnel with list building tactics. Regularly give your leads a checkup, identify and scrub duplicates, and remove inactive or junk contacts. 

  • Step 3: Segment your audience groups. Lead segmentation is essential to your marketing success—particularly with lead nurturing. The more you segment, the more relevant your lead nurture programs will be. If you are not relevant, your audience simply won’t pay attention. We recommend that your basic lead nurturing programs use two dimensions of segmentation— buying stage crossed with another measurement variable that is important to your business. This creates a happy balance: one is not enough, and each dimension beyond two creates an exponentially more complex framework. Think of it as segments and subsegments. Adding behavioral segmentation after the fact and targeting to your lead nurture campaigns increases relevance and engagement cross-channel. 

  • Step 4: Test and optimize your campaigns. Lead nurturing must be monitored and tested regularly to maintain the program’s health and effectiveness. Testing gives insights into the aspects of a nurture track that could be optimized, including how many touches within a specific period of time, the types of messages, the time of day, and so on. You need to optimize your lead nurture frequency, path, content and creative (including copy length and design), and content mix.  

Learn more about how to get lead nurturing working for you in What To Seek In A Lead Nurturing Solution.