With the majority of prospects choosing to self-navigate the buyer’s journey and delaying any direct engagement with a sales representative until the very last moment, marketers are encountering more and more prospects who just aren’t ready to buy.
These prospects can’t be discounted as leads but a premature encounter with someone in sales hoping to speak about money and contracts can tarnish any potential for a long-lasting relationship.
Out of all the potential leads identified, the vast majority are still in the early stages of the buyer’s journey and not quite ready to engage further. This means that a healthy sales and marketing pipeline requires an ongoing process for nurturing and development. With a nurturing process in place, prospect can be drip fed essential content needed to progress them from a stage of awareness through the journey of consideration, deliberation and finally to the decision to become a customer. This ensures that prospects are not overlooked and lost in limbo … or worse to a competitor.
With it's undoubted importance established we take a look at 4 key points which make up this comprehensive guide:
- Identifying which prospects require nurturing
- Creating a strategy that works
- Tactics to increase engagement
- Simplifying the process
A Guide to B2B Lead Nurturing for the Modern Marketer
1. Identifying which prospects require nurturing
While some prospects may be aware of and intrigued enough by your product or service offering and brand to continually engage with your content without any external influence others will require you to initiate and maintain an engaging dialogue. This means that the first step in integrating these processes into your B2B lead generation campaign requires being able to identify which prospects require the additional attention and which type of content will have the greatest impact.
Lead Scoring – Some organisations establish a lead scoring system which continuously classifies and ranks prospects on their ongoing behaviours and actions such as page visits, content downloads, email engagements and social activities etc. The methodology of applying a score (either positive or negative) based on certain attributes and characteristics displayed by your prospects enables the quick identification of a prospects previewed value to your organisation and their progress towards becoming ‘sales ready’. These scores allow sales and marketing to prioritise prospects in terms of receiving continued nurturing or ready to be handed-off to sales from marketing.
Buyer Personas – Buyer personas are fictional representatives of your ideal customers, complete with identifying characteristics, behavioural traits, needs and challenges. These personas can then be applied to your pool of prospects and used to extrapolate the most appropriate content and engagement opportunities required to nurture each. By combining a system of lead scoring and buyer persona development a template for an overall strategy for lead nurturing can be established. Within this overarching approach, these tools can be used to identify how the specific elements of the strategy should be applied to deliver the greatest impact.
2. Creating a strategy that works
There is a fine line between creating a strategy which offers your prospects a variety of opportunities to engage further and one which hounds your prospects.
Persistence – Your prospects are busy individuals and even those with the best of intentions can be easily distracted from what could be considered a perfect eBook, email or social message. It is for this very reason that persistence is a key ingredient of a nurturing process, providing your prospects with multiple opportunities to re-engage no matter what stage in the buyer’s journey they have reached. In addition to providing prospects with multiple opportunities, a persistent strategy is critical in keeping your brand ‘top of mind’ within your target audience.
Multiple touch points – Statistics from a study into lead nurturing show that on average, prospects receive 10 marketing touch points from the time they enter the top of funnel until they’re a closed customer. But more importantly that almost half of marketers surveyed include only 5. The touch points serve the purpose of addressing the most common challenges and questions, reassuring prospects of your brands capability of fulfilling their needs. Increased levels on engagement between brand and prospect strengthen the existing relationship by building increased levels of trust and transparency aiding the nurturing process.
Multiple-delivery channels – Nurturing processes are typically dominated by email marketing tactics with varying degrees of effect. Today, the changing digital landscape means that modern marketers are turning to new tactics and technologies to deliver their nurturing messages. By deploying multiple delivery channels, it becomes increasingly more likely that you will be able to deliver a comprehensive strategy.
Multiple content types – Pre-empting the questions and challenges of your prospects is a key component of a lead nurturing strategy and being able to provide valuable content which addresses these is critical. In order to have the greatest impact on your prospects is it important to be able to offer your content in various formats and styles creating a varied and dynamic buyer’s journey; increasing their likelihood of engaging. Similar to increasing the number of delivery channels in your strategy, move away from simple email tactics and incorporate a mix of content types such as social media, blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks and interactive landing pages to nurture your prospects into customers.
3. Tactics which increase engagement
Timely follow ups – Feeling like you’ve been made a priority is a positive feeling that leaves a long-lasting impression on the rest of the opinions you create about a product, service or organisation. Creating this reputation doesn’t have to be back breaking work and can be achieved simply by responding to prospects in a timely fashion. Responding to prospects queries, content requests, emails and calls in a timely fashion is a simple way to demonstrate that you value their continued engagement. What’s more, you can never be sure as to whose website your prospect has visited after they left yours, a quick response will ensure that they still remember you, resulting in a much more valuable dialogue.
Targeted content – Delivering the right content, to the right person at the right time is a basic principle of a B2B lead nurturing strategy. Getting this right depends on understanding each of your buyer personas and being able to identify the variations in the challenges and needs they face. With these insights content, can be created which addresses an overarching message but is repurposed to speak to and appeal to the unique interests, goals, objectives and marketing triggers of each specific persona and in a format which will resonate. By segmenting your prospects into each persona categories, you will be able to create a nurturing strategy which drip-feeds them the content that they need to progress.
Personalisation – Similar to the principles covered in the timely-follow up, adding personalised elements to your nurturing efforts can increase the effectiveness of the strategy as it increases the perception that you are speaking directly to your prospects and not just the masses. One of the simplest ways to achieve effective personalisation is through email, which can be tailored specifically to the prospect and the persona they represent. These emails can be triggered by content downloads, website visits, or other forms of engagement allowing marketers to deliver highly specific messages to the right people at the right time.
Another way to incorporate personalisation into the nurturing strategy is to include smart content on webpages and landing pages, displaying specific messages and content to returning visitors, determined by a pre-determined set of conditions. Tactics such as these can be used to promote targeted content offers or encourage progression to the next touch point.
4. Simplifying the process
Marketing Automation – There can be a lot going on in a strategy targeted at nurturing leads, especially as you increase the number of touch points, deliver multiple content formats and incorporate increasingly personalised messages. With each of these being central to the success of the overall strategy it can be difficult to devise an approach which can deliver each effectively without the use of a marketing automation tool.
With the power of an automation tool, modern marketers can now execute multi-dimensional campaigns without breaking a sweat or missing an opportunity. Scheduling emails, social media messages, blog posts and incorporating personalisation can all be managed centrally and a head of time, leaving marketers free to distribute resource elsewhere.
By developing a highly effective strategy to nurture leads, marketers are able to build relationships with prospects at each stage of the buyer’s journey and progress their movements through the sales and marketing pipeline. By integrating marketing messages and communication channels, marketers can deliver a unified experience which meets their prospect's needs. Lead nurturing is a vital component of any B2B lead generation startegy to ensure a healthy pipeline can be maintained and that prospects who aren’t yet sales-ready are not overlooked or lost along the way.
Integrate an effective lead nurturing strategy into your IT Lead Generation campaign with our downloadable checklist: