Customer Lifecycle Metrics, Part 3: Nurture, Score, Repeat


This is part three in a series of five blog posts that examines the metrics you should measure throughout the five stages of the customer lifecycle: attractcapture, nurture, convert, and expand.

So, you’ve attracted the attention of your prospects and captured their information. Now it’s time to nurture those prospects and turn them into qualified leads.  In part three of this series on customer lifecycle metrics, we’ll focus on the metrics that measure how well you’ve nurturing leads, building their trust, and bringing them along on the journey to buy.

Depending on the business you’re in, the lead nurturing road can be a long one. According to the Aberdeen Group, prospects receive an average of 10 marketing touches from the time they enter the top of the funnel until they’re a closed-won customer. And if you think you’ve got a long path to conversion, consider this: marketing agency Starshot manages nurturing campaigns for sales cycles up to three years long! Read the case study to see how they do it.

Of course, the key to success is to reduce the manual labor of continually communicating with your leads and quantifying the results of those communications by each individual. And the secret weapon is marketing automation. Gleanster found that 74% of top-performing companies use automated lead nurturing. Among average- or lower-performing companies that use marketing automation, two-thirds of them fail to leverage the platform’s lead nurturing capabilities.

Let’s take a look at a few of the marketing automation tactics B2B marketers use to nurture prospects and keep them coming back for more:

  • Automated Email Programs: Email campaigns can deliver timely content and offers to leads based on where they are in the funnel, their attributes, what actions they take, and more. Instead of blasting a lead list with one-off emails, automated drip marketing campaigns give you the ability to plan out interaction pathways that take prospects on a customized journey based on their behaviors and preferences.
  • Trigger Emails: These automated emails are triggered based on specific events or dates, such as an action taken (or not) by a website visitor, or a meaningful change in a customer’s behavior or profile. You can set up trigger emails to be sent to prospects or customers based on specific actions, like filling in a form, registering for an event, or abandoning a shopping cart. You can set up emails based on birthday, anniversary, or expiration date triggers.
  • Lead Scoring: Leads are not created equal. Some are ready to buy right now, some will likely be ready soon, and some are just entering the funnel. Lead scoring makes it possible to discern how sales-ready a lead is. A good lead scoring system watches for online and offline buying signals, then increases marketing’s ability to pass qualified leads to sales and helps sales focus time and effort on the most likely buyers. For more information on how to effectively score your leads, take a look at our eBook, How to Prioritize Your Leads by Segmenting & Scoring Your Audience.
  • Smarter Segmentation: When you create well-defined segments by combining profile attributes (such as industry, title, or company) with observed behaviors (such as attendance at a specific webinar), you can market highly personalized, highly relevant offers to each distinct segment.

Before we dive into the metrics for measuring the success of your lead nurturing programs, we should mention a key feature of every good marketing automation solution: funnel reports. They make it possible to watch the progress of your leads as they travel through the path to conversion. These do more than provide instant insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns – they also make it possible to uncover gaps in the process, forecast sales, and determine which campaigns are driving revenue.

Customer relationship management (CRM) integration is also key to lead nurturing success. Connectivity between marketing automation and CRM makes it possible for marketing to pass qualified leads to sales in a timely way, and that’s obviously important. But it also means sales can send leads back to marketing if they aren’t quite ready to make a purchase. And those leads can continue to be nurtured until they’re finally ready to buy.

Nurture Metrics

During the nurture stage of the customer lifecycle, your primary focus is to build interest and increase engagement. Questions to ask at this stage include: Which nurturing programs are most effective? Where do leads stall or drop out during the nurturing process? Which activities drive up lead scores? Which don’t have any effect? Which assets foster engagement? How many marketing qualified leads are created? The goal is to answer questions and educate the prospect, while building trust and reinforcing need, so that the lead continues to consider your solution as well as your brand.

  • Number of new leads: Prospects who qualify for active marketing.
  • Number of reopened leads: These are older leads who had been deemed not ready and had been put into a drip program of some kind, but who have recently demonstrated some kind of engagement that indicates growing interest.
  • Open rate and click-through rate of email programs: Open rates can be deceptive. As an example, if someone reads your email without enabling images, that read will not register as an open. Click-through rates are a better indicator of active engagement from an email recipient.
  • Lead score profile of new leads: This metric helps you observe lead quality over time. For this, identify all new leads opened in a month, and look at their lead scores at the end of the month. This could be a very valuable tool while communicating with sales reps (who tend to raise lead quality as an issue from time to time).
  • Number of marketing qualified leads (MQL): This is the target metric of nurturing programs. Keeping track of it allows you to gauge the effectiveness of nurturing programs. Note that it’s critical that sales and marketing together define the metrics that identify the MQL. If sales has input at this stage, it enhances their trust in lead quality and often results in better follow-up rates.
  • Cost per MQL: The marketing program cost to create one MQL. This metric is generated by dividing the program cost (which could include prorated labor and technology costs) by the number of leads generated. By itself, this metric can be misleading because it highlights marketing costs, but it gains more meaning later in the process when you can compare it to value generated.

The best part about the lead nurturing process is that it improves return on investment as well as conversion rates. B2B marketers who have successfully deployed lead nurturing programs average a 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads versus non-nurtured leads, according to DemandGen Report.

What other metrics do you track in order to measure the success of your lead nurturing campaigns? Share your thoughts in the comments.