When it comes to goals and KPIs for B2B marketing, lead generation tends to receive the most focus. In fact, Hubspot found that it was the “top priority” for marketers in 2020.
There are likely to be historical reasons for this. In the past, once the leads were generated most of your average marketing department’s job was done: you generated leads which you passed on to your sales team to go to work on. However, most modern B2B companies have moved away from such a distinct division between sales and marketing processes, and now a big aspect in the role of B2B marketers is lead nurturing.
Nurturing leads can play a big role in a company’s success. On average, nurtured leads generate 10% greater sales opportunities by producing warmer, sales-ready (or sales-qualified, also known as SQLs) leads for your sales team. Studies in the past have shown that the most effective companies in nurturing leads can generate 50% more sales for a third of the cost, and that nurtured leads can spend up to 47% more than unnurtured.
And yet, 49% of B2B marketers state their company’s lead nurturing processes need work, with only 8% considering them to be excellent.
In this article, we’re going to define lead nurturing, before outlining some of the most important tactics and things to consider in an effective lead nurturing process.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is all the actions you take to move your leads through your marketing funnel. Basically, it’s how you turn your leads into SQLs or even customers.
It can take multiple forms:
- As a part of your lead generation content strategy. A robust content strategy doesn’t just stop at generating leads. It includes content for every level of your marketing funnel. Sometimes content that you produce for lead generating can also serve a role as lead nurturing materials, however, you should make sure it’s optimized to fulfil that role if you plan to do so.
- By providing materials for your sales team to use. It’s often that the marketing department will be involved in the production of materials and content for your sales team. This can include presentations, printed brochures/one-pagers, and more. It can also include pieces of content that your sales team can potentially share with leads.
- Dedicated lead nurturing. This is content and marketing that is specific to individual sections of the marketing funnel. This works best if you have some kind of gate in place to make sure your leads are accessing the right content at the right time in their journey through the funnel, for example as subscribers to your mailing list, or if your site has some kind of membership/sign-in feature.
Now that we’ve defined the term, we’re going to take a look at some of the key principles/best practices that make for effective lead nurturing.
Align your sales and marketing teams
Lead nurturing is probably the clearest intersection of sales and marketing, so you have to make sure these departments are working together.
You’ll need to make sure both departments are dispensing the same information so your leads aren’t receiving contradictory messages. You’ll also want to make sure they’re aware of the information they’ve already received from your lead nurturing, so they know any gaps they need to fill or topics to avoid.
If you’re looking to nurture leads effectively, personalization is one of the best steps you can take. 77% of marketers and sales professionals state that they believe it builds better customer relationships, with 55% stating it increases conversion rates.
In an ideal world, you’d have the time and resources to craft personalized content for every person in your marketing funnel. Unfortunately, that’s beyond the majority of marketing departments. Instead, you can create content that’s specific to each section of the funnel and ensure you’re distributing that content to leads in that section, a practice that can increase conversion rates by 72%.
You can go further and produce content that targets specific business types your company targets, breaking it down by things like the size of the company (e.g. startups to large corporations), the industry they’re in, and much more. For more on how to segment the businesses you target, check out our handy guide to B2B marketing segmentation.
Many companies are now looking into Machine Learning and AI software, which allow them to produce marketing materials that effectively target the direct interests of their leads. Whether through analysis of their actions and interactions with your site, social media, or even their products, or just plain old asking them to highlight their interests when they sign up for things like their email newsletters.
Speaking of email, it’s one of the best ways to distribute this content, as you can segment your mailing list fairly easily using the majority of email marketing tools, and have more direct control over what content your leads see.
But you shouldn’t just rely on one channel for distributing this content as you really should be using an omnichannel strategy as much as possible, which leads us to…
You can’t just rely on one type of marketing and content distribution channel. Even with minor purchases and deals, B2B buying cycles can last 3 months, with the majority taking 6 to 9 months. That’s a long time with plenty of potential for your leads to lose interest in your company or just plain forget about you, especially if you’re relying on just one type of marketing and channel.
Instead, you should be distributing a variety of marketing and content across all the channels your leads frequent.
This serves a couple of different purposes:
- It keeps you top of mind. Nurturing your leads across multiple channels decreases the risk that they’ll miss your messaging, with each piece of marketing acting as a continuous reminder to the people who see it that they need to continue checking out your business and moving a potential deal forward.
- There are a variety of people involved in the process, so you should have a variety of content. Unlike B2C, where usually a single person makes a purchasing decision, B2B often involves multiple people. Each person involved in this decision-making process will have different motivations and priorities when it comes to purchasing or hiring new services. By distributing a variety of content across multiple channels, you’ll be able to target as many of them as possible. For more on how to target different decision-makers in the B2B buying process, check out our guide.
Besides email, you can use retargeting ads on social media, so that you’re frequently touching base with leads on the channels they frequent.
Be timely with your responses
Nothing’s going to frustrate your leads more than not receiving a timely response to any questions they might have or interactions they might have with your brand, as such you need to have a system in place ready to respond.
An extremely resource-heavy way of doing this is to have a 24-hour team ready to respond to any inquiries. Having this human response is great, but isn’t exactly cost-effective, especially for smaller companies or startups.
A much better method is to use marketing automation so that each time a lead interacts with your brand they get some kind of response. With sophisticated enough data, you can set up the responses to answer the vast majority of potential inquiries, but even just having an email stating something like “Thank you for your inquiry, a member of our team will be in touch between [office hours]” can do wonders as it at least lets your leads know that their request for information has gone to the right place.
For more on how to effectively use marketing automation, head to our guide.
Besides keeping track of your lead’s progress through your marketing funnel, it can be incredibly useful to score your leads. This is a process of ranking attributing points to your leads against different scales.
Potential scales you can use for lead scoring include:
- The potential value to your business. If a lead has the potential for a big deal or a strong customer lifetime value (CLV) you’ll want to make sure they’re a high priority for your lead nurturing actions.
- What they’re looking to gain from you. This is pretty simple if you only provide one product/service, but if you have multiple offerings, it’s a good idea to keep track of what your leads are interested in.
- Their interactions/engagement with your lead nurturing actions. Keeping track of how much they’ve interacted with your marketing, along with the specific pieces of content, can be extremely useful in determining which lead nurturing tactics to target them with next, or provide a strong foundation for your sales team once they reach that stage.
Lead nurturing, when done right, can be extremely effective. The above best practices are great to get you started, but you’ll want to be continuously evolving and testing your methods, possibly through A/B split testing.