Now more than ever, the B2B marketer is responsible for a successful lead nurturing strategy.
If you don’t, you risk making the divide between marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) even greater than before – and no business can afford that. It’s why we’ve developed this lead nurturing strategy guide, with the top 4 lead nurturing strategies to adopt.
As the digital age progresses, nurturing sales leads into buyers has become more important to businesses worldwide.
While technology has connected us together, it hasn’t necessarily streamlined the sales process. If anything, it’s made the sales cycle longer. In just two years, the sales cycle has reportedly increased from 6.4 months to 8.1 months. In that time, 43% of businesses have seen a rise in the length of their sales process and 90% of them have a sale cycle longer than a month.
The approach to lead nurturing in the B2B world is changing, and you don’t want to fall behind. In order to keep up with the times, you must change with them, marketer. You need to be able to nurture potential prospects wherever they fall in the buyer journey.
1. Use technology to help advance your lead nurturing
While none of us like the thought that robots might take over our jobs, using technology to help advance your lead nurturing isn’t as silly as it sounds. There are a number of tools that have already been developed to enable the B2B marketer to automatically nurture leads without any human interaction required.
With time constraints and many demands on the busy marketer, using technology to nurture leads is becoming more and more common.
Advanced IP lookup technology
Take IP lookup tools such as GatorLeads, for example. Using a tool that can identify up to 90% of your website traffic and what they are looking at on your website is an excellent starting place for your lead nurturing strategy.
Knowing what a prospect wants before they tell you is key to coming across as an expert in your field. Using visitor tracking technology, you can understand where these leads go on your website and, as a result, where they are in the buying journey. Combined with lead scoring methodology, you can justify what qualifies as an MQL and SQL too.
Auto nurture email sequences
In addition, if you use email marketing tools such as GatorMail, you can automatically nurture these website leads. Buy their email addresses and feed them into a nurture stream based on where they are in the buyer journey, which web pages they’ve looked at or what topic they are interested in.
With 79% of website leads claiming they are not ready to buy the first time they land on your website, this technology is vital to warming up leads for your sales team.
Contrary to previous best practices, lead nurturing is not drip marketing. It’s not just about the speed at which you send information, but about WHAT information you send. Marketing workflows, like GatorWorkflow, are excellent tools to make sure you are sending the right information at the right time to the right lead.
Workflows take the complexity out of creating many different email campaigns to cater for all possible buyer journey scenarios and every individual lead’s needs.
Workflows allow your leads to automatically move through different campaigns depending on which content or email they engage, or you can even base it on their “lead score”. With wait times and conditions, each lead will feel like they are experiencing their own email journey that is relevant to them – rather than being mass marketed to.
2. Put your prospects first
Many B2B marketers will argue that if leads don’t know what they need then they need to be told by the marketing team. Not so.
Prospects will know immediately if you are sending them irrelevant information and be quick to label you a spammer. If you want to be successful, try implementing a ‘prospect first’ lead nurturing approach.
What do we mean by putting your prospects first?
Invite your prospects to opt-in to your communications
Double opt-in audiences engage more, convert higher and generally perform better overall. Yes, a double opt-in audience will be smaller than a normal audience. This is where marketers have to prove their worth. Prospects will opt-in if they know you are offering them something of value.
Let your prospect set the pace
We all know that if you send emails too frequently, you’ll be labelled a spammer. Dreadful thing. So let your prospects set the pace. Whether you define that by they need to get to a certain “score” before you send them the next email or you want to take a weekly approach. Make sure you don’t overwhelm your leads with too much information before they are ready.
And if your subscribers are sleepy and unengaged – ask them what information they would like to receive and how often! Using a preference centre, you can start to record how your leads like their information and, indeed, what information they want. The more relevant and timely your messages, the more agreeable your subscribers will be to tuning in to what you have to say.
3. Understand Your Prospects
It’s pretty difficult to know if you’re contacting a prospect at the right time. Whilst they might be a top target client, perfect for your business, it’s still possible for them to refuse your offer. That’s where insights into your prospects buying behaviour comes in as the most important skill you can have.
So how can understanding your prospect help increase sales? Well, in a number of ways. It can improve your contact timing, customer relations and make personalising pitches much easier, to name a few. Here are some of the best ways to get into your prospect’s head.
Firstly, you need to know what your prospects are looking at on your website. See which pages and topics have got their attention. Then you can gather some idea as to what they’re interested in and have pain points around. Once you have felt that they have interacted enough to warrant a sales call (perhaps they’ve gone on your demo page twice but not filled in the form), get in contact to usher them through that sales pipeline.
Next, you need to figure out where your website lead came from. Were they warmed up in an email campaign and already know a lot about you? Did they come from a competitor PPC campaign? The more information you know prior to your phone call, the more you can tailor your sales pitch to their specific needs. They’ll think you’re a mind reader and the solution just for them.
Discovering more about the company isn’t just a way to understanding your prospect, it’s a way to understand how the sales process is going to work with them. Are they the key decision maker, for example, or will someone else have to be involved in the discussion? Knowing who to call from the start is a quick way to get passed the gatekeeper and get started on building that sales relationship.
Once you know what the company is interested in, where they’ve come from and who the key decision maker is, there is only one thing left. You need to know what the individual you’re selling to is interested in. By sending a PURL in your email, you can track an individual back to your website with cookie technology. That way, you’ll see how often they visit and if their priorities change.
Remember, while one lead might take a month to come to a decision, another might take 7 months to reach the same conclusion. Lead nurturing is not an overnight success story. It takes time.
You need to monitor results and progress so you can see which marketing campaigns are working, and which could use some adjustments to become effective. Don’t change your campaign tactics weekly just because you don’t see an improvement straight away. Monitor results monthly, change tactics quarterly if you have to…but remember, lead nurturing is a long-term goal. There is no short term solution.
4. Mix and match your lead nurturing tactics
There is no longer one strategy that fits all. As we’ve established, each prospect is unique and individual. Of course, there is no one strategy that suits all. That is why our final top lead nurturing strategy is one of mix-and-match. Where, before, lead nurturing fell into sales hands, now it is marketing’s responsibility to nurture leads. However, if both sales and marketing worked together to nurture leads, there would be a more effective cross-over and smoother pipeline. The result? Leads wouldn’t feel like they are being passed from team to team.
Nurturing cold contacts
Of course, we recommend that you nurture website leads with auto-nurture email campaigns. However, we know there are still SMEs out there using cold call lists and purchased data to try and engage with a wider audience.
For sales, we would recommend sending them an email with a PURL. If the contact clicks on the PURL, you’ll then be alerted to their engagement and be able to track what they are interested in on your website.
For marketing, we would suggest creating a marketing workflow with plenty of different content topic ‘touch points’. Personalisation and individuality are key to engaging with cold data, but you can’t write manual emails for a whole purchased data list. Workflows, at least, allow the lead to feel like the emails they are receiving are dictated by their needs.
Nurturing based on content
As we all know, content marketing is still going strong. In fact, used correctly, it can be the foundation of your lead nurturing strategy. Both sales and marketing can use content to effectively nurture leads.
For example, if your prospect engages with a handful of blogs, send them a whitepaper on a similar topic. If your prospect has engaged and built up a lead score, but won’t commit to a meeting with sales – send them a case study that could sway their opinion.
Content marketing isn’t just about generating interest – it can be used to convert your prospects into customers too.
Nurturing inbound leads
Often, marketing teams tend to throw inbound leads at sales and tell them to convert them immediately. After all, inbound leads have come to you. They MUST be interested in buying. While PPC adverts have a typical conversion rate of 3%, sales teams often find that these leads aren’t ready to convert to a sale on their first visit either.
Therefore, there is a mix-and-match approach to take here too. Yes, by all means, if the inbound lead is asking for a pricing request or demo then pass them straight over to sales.
However, using lead scoring, if the lead has simply downloaded a whitepaper from a PPC advert – perhaps it would be best to send them through an auto-nurture email campaign before passing them to sales. Use your common sense here to judge what is best for your target audiences.
Lead nurturing isn’t hard if you do it right. It’s all about anticipating lead’s needs and having something in place for wherever they might be in their buyer journey.
Lead Nurturing Blocks to Avoid
Lead nurturing has been one of the top 3 goals for B2B marketers for a number of years now, and 2017 is no exception. However, we have noticed a worrying trend over these past 3 years. The same lead nurturing roadblocks are stopping marketers from achieving the lead nurturing results they want. So we examined the top 4 lead nurturing roadblocks, and how B2B marketers can avoid them to ensure conversion success.
Sending too often
The more frequently you send emails, the more likely you are to be marked as spam. The more likely you get marked as spam, the more likely you are to get blacklisted. It’s a vicious cycle, once you’ve become trapped. To succeed, you must schedule your communications in order to not overwhelm your interested leads with too much information too soon.
In order to do this, stagger your content levels, introduce wait times and conditions within your email campaigns. I.e. don’t send email 2 until a prospect has gained a lead score of 10 points. (Which means they’ll have interacted with at least two blogs before receiving an email on a whitepaper they might enjoy.) It’s about sending relevant emails at the relevant time.
Not double opting-in contacts
With the EU General Data Protection Laws coming into effect in May 2018, you’ll want to start looking at building up a double opt-in database. Prospects who give their consent to your marketing communications will be far more receptive to your email campaigns, meaning you’ll see an improvement in your engagement and conversion rates in the long run.
If your subscribers aren’t engaging with your emails, you need to wake them up. Change up your design and approach. Personally, we’ve found emails that look like they come from an individual in a plain-text, Outlook style performs better – but it depends on your audience.
Most importantly, the more relevant the content you send to them, the more likely your subscribers are to sit up and take notice. Using a preference centre you can reconsider what email information would actually interest your leads.
Wanting results NOW!
Lead nurturing is not an overnight success story. If you want to see results, you must invest and constantly monitor the process. Those who check in with their lead nurturing progress monthly or quarterly are more apt to improving their campaigns and, as a result, their conversion rates.
The marketer who is constantly changing their tactic weekly will not be able to truly measure campaign success.
Let automation work in the background for your colder leads, while you run more targeted, high-value campaigns for hot, sales-ready leads. Then focus on performance and improvement – you’ll see more measurable results at the 3, 6 and 12 month marks.
Want to start passing on quality leads? Choose one of the below guides to download and take away: