Developing great demand generation campaigns that capture viable and targeted leads is a step in the right direction for any marketer, but your work doesn’t end there. In fact, for successful marketing departments and agencies, this is only the beginning.
In plain terms, our job as marketers is to generate highly qualified leads that eventually become lucrative revenue sources, but we all know it’s a little more complicated than that. The ability to create engaging and effective lead nurturing campaigns separates great marketers from merely good ones, and since you likely work in a highly competitive industry, every little bit counts.
That’s why, today, we’re going to focus on how to create automated lead nurturing campaigns that keep your audience’s attention, increase their lead scores, and result in better selling opportunities on your website and for your sales team.
Let’s get cooking!
1) Segment Your Leads for More Targeted Messaging
Your company probably offers several (or dozens, or even thousands) of different product and service lines that are designed to alleviate or eliminate specific pain points. Every lead is different, and every lead deserves personalized messaging. So if you’re delivering the same messaging, offers, and content to all of your leads, you’re not going to be making the types of connections that result in lasting and trusting relationships.
The days of batch-and-blast emails are over — at least they should be if you want to move customers through unique funnels that result in more sales and better revenue. Instead, you should create a system for grouping your leads into targeted segments. Doing so allows you to focus on specific challenges and solutions, which helps you relate with your prospects on a more personal level.
There are many different ways to segment your audiences, and this process will vary greatly by your industry. But regardless of your company’s vertical(s), you should be focusing on demographic, firmographic, and behavioral data to capture attention and generate clicks. For many organizations, this involves building out personas and then developing campaign matrices that include messaging and content that satisfies each stage of the customer journey (i.e., the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel) for each target audience. From there, you can use a marketing automation tool like Act-On to group your segments into organized lists that trigger relevant automated drip campaigns based on prospect and customer activities and engagements. This ensures that your communications are meaningful, useful, and targeted to the exact right audience.
2) Make a Great First Impression That Sets Expectations From the Outset
Your first email is always your most important email, so you need to make it count. A lot of companies send thank you emails after a customer completes a purchase or welcome emails when a prospect downloads a piece of content or signs up for a newsletter. However, not a lot of companies are sending these emails as part of a larger holistic lead nurturing strategy.
These initial emails serve as an introduction to your brand and are a great way to gain a foothold in the door toward an extended nurture campaign. At Act-On, our welcome and thank you emails set the stage for a long relationship that hopefully results in new customers and prolonged engagements.
First, we make sure to remind the recipient why they are receiving the email — whether it was triggered in response to a content download, demo request, pricing inquiry, or other engagement. From there, we offer additional information about other items of note that might interest the prospect (such as product add-ons, datasheets, etc.). And, in accordance with email deliverability best practices, we let each recipient know that we’ll be sending more messages with relevant and helpful content according to a predefined cadence. This last step sets expectations and helps prevent unsubscribes or, worse yet, having your emails cast into the abyss of the Spam folder.
It’s important to remember the value of a lead. You don’t want to spoil the relationship before you give it a chance to blossom by failing to follow up on an engagement quickly or coming on too strong with too many messages in a short timespan. Setting honest expectations and then delivering on your promises throughout the customer journey is a great way to establish trust and get leads interested in what you have to say and offer.
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Content creators and strategists should pay close attention to this section.
The most common mistake we see marketers make is being overly promotional with their content and messaging, especially in their email campaigns. I think a lot of marketing professionals are so eager to capitalize on their leads that they make the cardinal sin of promoting their products and services from their personal perspective. Instead, you should be taking an empathetic approach with a sympathetic tone that proposes to help solve challenges by delivering informative and educational materials. If you don’t, there could be negative unintended consequences.
Buyers don’t want to be sold. They want to feel empowered to make their own decisions, and it’s your job to guide them to the right choice — even if that means losing out to a competitor. This isn’t to say you can’t be persuasive, but the focus should be on the prospect and not the product. Therefore, your job is to provide meaningful and actionable information throughout your email program that follows a clear path through the funnel.
Here’s a rough outline of how we like to structure our automated programs for handraiser form completions or content downloads here at Act-On:
Email 1 (within four hours of lead capture): A follow-up email thanking our new lead for their interest in our marketing automation solution or collateral asset.
Email 2 (3 days after email 1): A relevant blog that highlights a specific use case relative to the recipient’s pain points or walks them through a process that helps them solve their challenge.
Email 3 (5 days after email 2): A recent and relevant eBook or infographic on a thought leadership topic that relates to their primary interests based on the data we’ve collected so far.
Email 4 (7 days after email 3): A marketing strategy webinar that dovetails into how our solution helps improve campaigns and initiatives or a success story proving the value of our marketing automation platform.
Email 5 (2 days after email 4): A round-up email with links to all of the content we’ve previously shared, as well as a datasheet giving a general or industry-specific overview of how our solution can improve their marketing efforts. We also like to include a primary CTA button inviting the lead to take further action, such as requesting a demo or setting up some time to speak with a sales representative.
Once the automated drip campaign is exhausted, we place any contacts who have not taken advanced steps to speak with Sales into related email campaigns based on intent, interests, industry, and other variables. If a contact takes a handraiser action but then goes silent, we place them into our return-to-marketing automated program to continue to foster their interest in marketing automation — specifically, Act-On.
This way, we remain top-of-mind without being too intrusive.
4) Score Your Leads Accurately for More Effective Sales Exploration
Every action your leads take (or, in some cases, don’t take) should influence their overall lead score. Once these contacts reach a certain score, you should have a mechanism in place to pass them along to Sales for more personalized outreach.
To get a clear picture of your leads’ intent, you should be paying close attention to email opens, clicks, conversions, unsubscribes, and other key performance indicators your team values. Having full visibility and understanding into these engagements is an essential part of accurate lead scoring, which is the best way to take advantage of prime sales opportunities. It’s also a good indicator that some prospects might need a little more nurturing before receiving any outreach from Sales.
If your emails include links to content hosted on your website or dedicated landing pages, you should also be incorporating engagements on the digital properties into your lead scoring algorithm. For example, visits to certain product or service pages might prompt higher lead scores than, say, a click on your About Us section. You should also exclude certain pages from scoring, such as your Terms and Conditions pages or your Careers pages. Additionally, you should be tracking engagements on social media and factoring those actions into your lead scoring model.
As companies grow and diversify, the way they interpret and prioritize leads is often subject to change, continue to review and assess the efficacy of your lead scoring program at regular intervals. Work with your sales team to get a clear understanding of their version of a truly qualified lead and optimize and augment your scoring model to align with their processes and goals for better efficiency and success.
Learn More About Act-On’s Marketing Automation Platform
Lead nurturing is an essential part of the marketing funnel — perhaps the most important of all! But without the right platform and processes, it’s nearly impossible to get it right. Worse yet, if you try to do all this work manually, your team will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to segment your leads and execute your nurture campaigns with no guarantee of success or even that you’re sending to the right person or account.
Act-On’s marketing automation platform is designed to help marketing departments of all shapes, sizes, and skillsets attract, convert, and nurture highly qualified leads that they can either sell to directly via their website or pass to their sales team for more in-depth purchasing discussions. If you’d like to schedule a demo to get a better idea of the capabilities and benefits of Act-On, please click here, and we’ll be in touch!
If you’re interested in learning more about lead nurturing but not quite ready to speak with one of our marketing automation experts, please download our eBook, “How to Convert More Leads Into Customers.” In it, you’ll find a comprehensive overview of lead nurturing benefits, best practices, and techniques that go beyond email marketing to include inbound, webinar, and social media tactics that help you maximize your marketing success.
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