Getting high-quality, intent-based leads is only half the battle. Now you need to convert your leads into customers. We’ll explain what lead nurturing is and walk you through the most important principles for any successful lead nurturing campaign.
Fresh, intent-based leads are the lifeblood of a successful B2B company, but leads themselves don’t equate to success. Ultimately, an organization’s growth is not dependent on how many leads they’re able to generate, but how many leads they’re able to convert into paying customers. Put simply, lead conversion determines the success of your lead gen campaign.
At Lead Marvels, we work closely with B2B marketers every day. Some seem to have an uncanny knack for converting leads into customers, resulting in a higher ROI for their lead gen investment. What’s their secret? Do they sell superior products? Maybe they offer bargain basement prices? Or maybe their sales staff is just more talented?
No, not necessarily. Based on our experience, the common denominator that separates the companies that are better at converting leads into customers is that they are adept at “lead nurturing.”
To understand what lead nurturing is, we’ll first explain what it’s not. Lead nurturing is not the act of contacting a prospective customer who just filled out a form to download your white paper or ebook and asking them if they want to do business with you. When you get the inevitable “no” from the prospect, what do you do? You log a task in their CRM to contact the prospect a few weeks later to ask them again. And on and on.
Maybe you eventually get a sale borne out of a combination of sheer persistence and a well-timed need on the part of the prospect. But this is not lead nurturing. This approach not only has low conversion rates but, over time, it can result in a frustrated and even demoralized sales staff.
On the other hand, in its purest sense, lead nurturing is the process of creating and strengthening relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel to move them closer to becoming a paying customer. And to build a relationship, you have to offer value because when you offer value, you build trust. Trust is a key component, perhaps the key component of a successful B2B sale.
Lead nurturing results in more sales, more customers, and more growth for your business. The proof is in the numbers. According to studies, marketers who nurture leads generate 50% more sales-ready leads than those who do not. Further, a lead nurturing campaign results in 45% higher ROI.
If it is so effective, then why do less than half of companies have a lead nurturing strategy in place? Well, for one, it takes time, patience, and effort to nurture a relationship with a prospect as they move closer and closer to becoming a paying customer. But if lead nurturing exponentially increases the ROI of your lead gen investment – and trust us, it does – everyone would be doing it, right?
Companies that don’t have a formal lead nurturing track often lack an understanding of the fundamental principles that govern the lead conversion process. Below, we’ll explain the three principles behind every successful lead nurturing campaign.
At the heart of any effective lead nurturing strategy is an understanding of how the sales funnel works. The sales funnel is a visual representation of the journey from a prospect’s first contact with a business until a completed purchase.
Understanding how the funnel functions will help you conceptualize the stage of the buyer’s journey your prospect is at and what their needs are at that stage, so that you can provide value to them and build trust at each stage until your “prospect” eventually into your “customer.”
The traditional sales funnel hierarchy is made up of four stages: Awareness, interest, decision, and action, or AIDA. The idea is that awareness leads to interest, which results in decision, motivating a prospect to take action.
However, for our purposes it is more important to think about the sales funnel as a customer journey. Yes, there are subtle nuances between the “interest” and “decision” stages, but for the purposes of your lead nurturing strategy, let’s collapse them into a single step we’ll call “consideration.” Likewise, “action” is when a customer makes a purchase decision. From a lead nurturing perspective, that’s “conversion.”
Let’s take a closer look at each stage:
Awareness (top of the funnel): The objective in this stage is to enhance the visibility of your business and make customers aware of your brand. Potential customers are facing a challenge and are looking for ways to overcome it, making it crucial that you find ways to connect with them with information they find relevant and useful. This puts your company on your prospective customers’ radar.
Consideration (mid-funnel): Once you have your prospect’s attention, now is the time to begin showing them how your products and services can help them address their challenges and solve their problems. At this point, they will be doing research, making shopping comparisons, and assessing their options. It’s important at this stage to offer information that is valuable to your prospects so that you can build trusted relationships with them.
Conversion (bottom funnel): You’ve successfully built a relationship with your lead and, now, conversion is the point where you finally convert a prospect into a customer. But, like any relationship, you need to continue to nurture it. Once you’ve converted your lead into a customer, your goal is to build loyalty by fostering trust by continuing to offer value.
Once you have a lead and understand what stage they’re at in their buyer’s journey, the best way to move your lead to the next stage is to position yourself as a trusted expert and offer your prospects value. And the best way to offer value is to provide your prospect with useful content that’s targeted to the specific stage they’re at within the sales funnel.
At the awareness stage, for example, you’ve likely already generated a lead by offering content that targets a specific informational need of your prospect with informative, relevant content. Useful content formats to use at the awareness stage include:
Once your lead is in the consideration stage, their informational needs have evolved. They’ve shifted from exploring a problem or challenge they may be experiencing to researching specific solutions and considering the various options that are available to them, such as your products and services. You can offer value and build trust for leads at the consideration stage with formats that include:
Conversion is the point at which a lead becomes a customer, but that does not mean your lead nurturing campaign ends. Continue to offer valuable information to your customers to increase loyalty and customer retention. At this point, your goal shifts to making your customer an advocate of your brand. To accomplish that, you can offer:
Integrating a lead nurturing process will provide you with a firmer grip to influence the trajectory of each lead. However, each lead will follow their own journey at their own pace. If you’re working with leads numbering in dozens or even hundreds, the lead nurturing process can get pretty complicated pretty quickly.
To nurture your leads at scale, we recommend automating as much of the process as possible. One way to do this is to create automated sequences. For example, if a prospect provides their contact information to download a white paper, there are automation tools that will allow you to send the prospect a pre-scripted message, thanking them for their interest and letting them know you’ll be checking in with them to see if they found the content helpful.
The system can then generate a follow-up email one week later inviting them to download a case study about how a similar company utilized your products to solve a problem. If a prospect clicks to download the case study, that could trigger an invitation for them to schedule a demo or a consultation with you to learn more.
This is just one example of how an automated lead nurturing process can work. There are numerous approaches available. Sometimes a simple email message or a link to a topically related article can be an effective step within an automated sequence as well. It’s important to experiment with different messaging, discover what works, and refine your process accordingly.
There are several useful tools for automating your lead nurturing campaign. You’ve likely heard of the big ones, such as Pardot (from Salesforce), HubSpot, Marketo, and others. However, if you’ve purchased a lead gen campaign with Lead Marvels, you can nurture your leads directly within our platform. Lead Marvels can help you automate your follow-ups with your leads to increase your conversion rate through customized email sequences to nurture leads.
Nurturing emails can link to additional content as well. And, if needed, Lead Marvels can create original content specifically for your nurturing campaign. Our team of lead gen experts can also coach you on nurturing best practices and help you set up a sequence customized for your typical sales cycle.
Converting leads into customers involves more than just turning heads, sparking interest, and making special offers. Your lead gen campaign’s ROI is dependent upon your ability to strengthen customer relationships through effective lead nurturing techniques.
Lead Nurturing is a methodical process that requires an understanding of the sales funnel and how you can facilitate your prospects’ progression towards a purchase decision using automated processes.
If you’d like to learn more about how Lead Marvels’ lead gen and lead nurturing capabilities can help you grow your business, simply head over to our free demo page.