Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with your buyers at every stage of their buying process (and your sales funnel). Find out how to engage your B2B buyers throughout their journey in 5 steps.
B2B consumers are starting the buying journey on their own terms, gathering information, and doing research long before they’re ready to buy. In fact, according to Forrester Research, prospects wait until they are 65% to 90% of the way through their journey before approaching a vendor.
That shift in buying behavior has transformed B2B marketing over the last decade and given rise to solutions such as marketing automation. Your dad’s marketing strategies just aren’t enough, especially in industries such as manufacturing where you relied on catalogs and sales brochures handed out at a trade show.
These days, B2B marketers are getting superior results by using short- and long-term nurturing programs:
- Forrester Research found that companies excelling at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads, at a 33% lower cost
- Nurtured leads result in purchases that are 47% larger than those of non-nurtured leads, according to the Annuitas Group
However, launching a nurturing campaign can feel overwhelming. You have to map out the steps in your buyer’s journey, create and assign content to be delivered at the right time, develop a lead scoring strategy to identify where leads are in the lead nurturing funnel and create an action plan for leads that are ready to buy.
It sounds like a lot of work, but if you just take it step-by-step, you’ll find the automated nature of nurturing campaigns ends up saving you a huge amount of time and resources in a relatively short amount of time.
Taking the Leads
If you’re ready to dive in, let’s take a look at the basic steps for creating a campaign that nurtures leads throughout every stage of their journey – from the first moment they become aware they have a problem to solve or a need to fulfill, to the final purchase and beyond.
Mapping the funnel your potential buyers travel through is a great way to start the process. To go with your funnel, you can create a lead scoring matrix defining where a lead lands in it.
Here’s an example that demonstrates scores that align to each stage of the funnel, with a target qualification number of 40. Your scoring matrix likely will vary, but this a great foundational tool for identifying the qualification of a lead based on their engagement. You’ll also want to set up your lead scoring values used to target the actions your prospects would take as they travel through the funnel.
Your own matrix and lead scoring list will be customized based on the actions you want your ideal customer to take. Watching a webinar, viewing a pricing page, or downloading product data sheets are all potential lead-scoring activities.
B2B Lead Nurturing Programs in Action
Now let’s look at some of the ways your lead nurturing campaign could play out throughout the funnel based on our sample matrix.
Step 1: Capture Top-of-Funnel Prospects with High-Level Content: (Score 0 – 10)
- Send a series of messages that present helpful solutions related to the pain points your prospects experience – and that your company addresses. Prospects that open and click on the message will be sent the next email in the nurture stream. Those that don’t open or click will be sent a new message with different content or the same message with a different subject line (A/B testing is a good thing).
- Once the prospect takes key actions or achieves the appropriate lead score, they will be routed to step 2.
7 Steps Toward Setting Up Your Next Lead Nurturing Campaign
Step 2: Nurture Unengaged Top-of-Funnel Prospects:
- Long-term nurture programs can also be set up for leads that are returned to marketing from sales for additional nurturing, as well as those who continue to be unengaged with the program
- Send a series of messages presented at a slower tempo but similar in functionality to step one
- No engagement after six months in this program should permanently disqualify a lead from nurturing marketing
- Upon taking key actions or achieving the appropriate lead score, leads can be routed to step three
Step 3: Nurture Middle-of-Funnel Leads with Content about Your Offerings: (Score 11-29)
- Deliver a series of messages that present the products or services offered by your company with a specific call to action, such as a “view a demo” or “download the eBook.” Direct engagement with one of these actions removes the contacts from this program and converts them to qualified lead.
- Indirect engagement (like viewing a “view a demo” form but not submitting it) routes a lead to step four.
Step 4: Convert Bottom-of-Funnel Leads with Sales Engagement Audience: (Score 30 – 39)
- Send a series of personalized messages from a real person, such as a sales representative or a business development manager requesting a meeting and providing more information. While you want to use a real person for the sender, you may prefer to use an email alias for them. Your adaptive marketing platform should be able to manage this simple task.
- These programs are integrated with your CRM, and can be set to trigger alerts to the sales team when key actions or behaviors are taken.
Step 5: Keep Your Customers Engaged Audience: Existing Customers
- A series of messages sent monthly can develop relationships and build recurring business and referrals. Remember is it cheaper to keep a customer, than to acquire a new one. So, go out of your way to make your customers successful with your product or service through a customer nurture program
- Developing a referral program and incentives for repeat business is a great way to build loyalty and gain new customers
Early Exit Conditions
This step is up to you, but you may want to build your B2B lead nurturing programs with a “sales engaged” early exit condition. For example, a prospect is progressing as expected in your nurture program, but then also begins visiting your pricing page. That engagement history would be tracked in your AMP and that action would trigger moving them from a Marketing Qualified Lead to a Sales Qualified Lead and remove your automated nurture program.