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Lead Nurturing: How Do You Do It Right?

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Whether it’s B2C or B2B, moving leads down the funnel until they make a purchase is always a challenge. However, with effective lead-to-sales strategies that take into account the leads' interests and preferences, lead nurturing is one of the best marketing processes if done right. 

The common definition of lead nurturing is the process of developing and reinforcing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel.

Effective lead nurturing is accomplished by thorough organization of leads as groups with specific problems desiring specific solutions. Understanding the leads is followed by varying methods and levels of engagement based on their position in the sales pipeline, guiding them to understanding the problem(s) they have and to the conclusion the business they are being made aware of has the solution

When content for each is made and tested, companies must employ marketing automation to persuade their leads with efficiency and effectiveness. 

Maybe when explained that way, it doesn’t sound very difficult, but lead nurturing is actually very easy to get wrong. That’s why, in this guide, we will go through these:

  • Some of the most common mistakes marketing teams make with lead nurturing
  • Lead nurturing’s role in the sales pipeline  
  • Some of the best lead nurturing strategies to put into practice

Common Mistakes Made with Lead Nurturing

No matter how experienced the marketer is, there are a number of traps that are easy to fall into. As many as 61% of marketers in mid-2019 conceded that lead nurturing was a challenging process for them in some way. 

Most of them cited their lack of given resources, in some way, as the largest problem with nurturing success, and yet even when companies began to pay more attention to lead nurturing and provided more resources, many marketers still found it challenging as they found themselves implementing the wrong tactics or failing to follow through the entire nurturing process without even noticing it. 

Part of understanding how to conduct lead nurturing the right way is knowing the common mistakes marketing teams make when trying to accomplish lead nurturing. Below are only four of the most common mistakes. 

Getting confused on what Lead Nurturing really is

confused person

One of the biggest mistakes is actually not thoroughly understanding what lead nurturing is, resulting in it being combined with drip marketing, marketing automation, and lead generation.

In an attempt to avoid being aggressive in their promotions to leads, a CMO might strategize sending an email with a different offer every two or three weeks for four months. While this might be effective drip marketing - the practice of sending marketing material in different mediums to leads consistently for long-term exposure - it is not effective lead nurturing. Lead nurturing sends the best medium and the best-tailored message based on how the lead interacted with the company (purchase, contact form, email subscription, etc.).

As for marketing automation, marketing automation platforms can be utilized to create a successful lead nurturing program. While lead nurturing is a feature of marketing automation, lead nurturing is a complete and detailed strategy, not just a feature. Marketing automation is a tool for lead nurturing, not the other way around.

Lastly, lead generation and lead nurturing can be confused together because their end goal is the same: to generate more sales. However, how they arrive at that goal is with different techniques and methods and are two separate steps leading to that goal. Lead generation is the first step in the sales funnel and determines which leads show interest. Lead Nurturing is the next step that maintains relevant communication with the previously-vetted leads. 

Having a Campaign Mentality with Lead Nurturing

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with creating lead nurturing campaigns. After all, a campaign is a course of action with a series of organized steps to move a prospect from awareness of a product or brand toward a sale.

However, Carlos Hidalgo, one of the 50 most influential people in sales lead management, warns that campaigns are single events with a beginning and end, which is opposed to the nature of lead nurturing. While a lead nurturing campaign will temporarily reconnect and remind leads about the brand’s existence and what it has to offer with periodic offers and messages that may or may not be relevant to the lead and use the same exact system and process for each lead, lead nurturing molds and aligns the content sent to truly engage and interest the lead and eventually convert them.

To reiterate, campaigns tend to be a one-size-fits-all approach, while lead nurturing pays attention to the unique positions of the leads. This brings us to the next common mistake.

Pushing Leads to Sales too Quickly

The first thing to know about leads and prospects is that they are naturally suspicious because they know companies want to sell. 

No one enjoys being pressured to buy, so even if there is an incredible lead generation campaign that produces 60% more leads, most of them won’t make it to the bottom of the sales funnel and result into sales. 

The lead nurturing process through the sales pipeline should start slow and be adjusted according to the level of interest leads have. It will take some experimentation to determine the right times to apply persuasive pressure to leads with emails and targeted content⁠—from product info and then to demos and shopping carts, until you finally bring them to make a purchase.

Promoting too Strongly or too Weakly

Oftentimes, in an effort to keep the company fresh in a lead’s mind, a marketing team’s strategy will become aggressive, flooding them with information before they’ve had a chance to show interest. This is easy to do if automatic pop-ups and offer reminders are too frequent.

Conversely, a strategy can be too weak if a lead has proven their interest or is even close to approaching the intention to buy and there is nothing in place to give the lead the last push to sales. 

Lead Nurturing in the Sales Pipeline

sales funnel

The sales pipeline, or sales funnel, handily depicts a lead’s journey from the first moment they are aware of the company to the moment they complete a sales transaction. There are usually 5-7 segments with different labels that make up the funnel, with the label order usually resembling something like this: 

  1. Awareness 
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Intent
  5. Evaluation
  6. Purchase

These sections can be categorized into three groups: lead generation, lead nurture, and sales. Since the purpose of lead nurturing is to establish a trusting relationship through regular engagement with relevant information that maintains a lead’s enthusiasm and interest in the company, lead nurture concerns everything from interest to intent in the funnel. 

Even though you are undoubtedly familiar with the sales pipeline, it’s important to understand clearly where lead nurturing’s place is within it as it can be easy to confuse lead nurturing with lead generation, which we explained earlier. 

In order to maintain communication with interested leads, lead nurturing will most commonly employ these elements to help make the whole nurturing strategy as effective as possible: 

  • Lead scoring
  • Targeted content
  • Email nurturing
  • Multi-channels
  • Marketing automation

Effective Lead Nurturing Strategies

Now we understand that successful lead nurturing promotes the company and its products or services without being overbearing. It’s a very unique part of the sales funnel that needs to be treated as its own process, and there needs to be a patient and personal approach to leads after they have become aware of the company and are beginning to show interest. 

An effective lead nurturing strategy can be broken down into five sections with their own goals: 

  1. Understanding and targeting your leads
  2. Engaging the leads
  3. Retaining the leads
  4. Continuing to nurture post-sale
  5. Continuing to optimize your strategy

Understand and Target Your Leads

Identify the Ideal Leads

It’s impossible to try to be appealing to your leads and prospects if you don’t know them so your first goal should be to identify your ideal leads who will be the most prepared to convert. Your company will serve many unique customers, but by identifying pain points, their desired solutions, and their motivation(s), you can create prospect personas. 

Each persona created will become a segment for which marketing content will be organized. This ensures that content is actually created for the persona that will value it most. After the personas have been created, they need to be tested with your appropriate content to judge if the personas were accurate. Be aware there will be outliers who don’t fit your personas. People don’t fit well in boxes.

Score the Leads

Which leads are the most likely to convert? Which leads are the next ones to them? Begin scoring leads on their likelihood of converting based on the interactions they’ve made on the website. Each interaction shows a differing level of interest in the business, so score accordingly. Assign points for each behavior, the form of activity, buying stage, budget, demographic, and behavioral data. This will be important for preserving resources for the leads that have the highest value. 

This scoring will also help differentiate between cold leads who have given their contact information but haven’t interacted in any other way, warm leads who have interacted with products and listed services but haven’t made a decision (i.e. adding to shopping cart but not purchasing), and hot leads who interact with products and services and know when they want to purchase. 

Knowing who the cold leads are allows the team to determine which leads they should persuade more. 

Map Leads Along the Buyer’s Journey

Now, based on the personas you’ve identified and the data you’ve collected on your leads, figure out where on the sales funnel those leads are, and what their progress might look like. This will give the best idea of how to approach certain leads based on where in the funnel they are right now.

Using the same funnel description from before, lead generation is responsible for creating the initial awareness of the company to various consumers. After that, lead nurturing engages them with strategies that move them from awareness to interest, interest to consideration, and consideration to intent, where the intent moves to a sale. 

Engage the Leads

Prioritize targeted content

Having separated leads by their personas, there must be specially-created content for these personas. This personalized content throughout the buyer’s journey is precisely what brings results such as a 4-10x increase in email response rates and 47% higher purchase values. 

Start creating carefully-structured and written content for each persona at each stage of the journey. What each stage for each persona will have in common is that the interest stage of their journeys will require informational content that highlights the problems they’re facing and the solution the company has.

During the consideration phase, invite the leads to look at more engaging content and/or to attend events relevant to them so that they can evaluate for themselves the company’s usefulness to their problems.

Finally, lead the prospects to the decision phase via free trials or limited-time offers. 

Use Multi-Touch Methods

average number of touches within the buyer journey

Emails are extremely effective but they should not be the only means of reaching out to leads. The average amount of “touches” prospects receive from a business from the beginning to the end of the buyer’s journey to spur them into sales is between 5 and 10.

Include a mix of direct and indirect marketing through social media, white papers, website content, direct sales mail, etc. to address the common questions and worries each prospect will have throughout the process. 

Use market automation and lead nurturing tools for hundreds of similar leads

While marketing automation shouldn’t be relied upon to convert leads by itself, automation platforms should be utilized to save resources and connect to the hundreds or even thousands of leads that would be impractical to communicate with one by one.

In addition to sending your carefully-written emails to the various types of leads automatically, marketing automation platforms include behavior-based nurture marketing, and automatic social media campaign managing, to name a few benefits.

Five of the toughest aspects of lead nurturing for marketers to plan well are: 

  • Creating relevant content
  • Targeting by lead decisions
  • Targeting through prospect personas
  • Maintaining consistent nurturing workflows
  • Segmenting lead data

It’s therefore important to pay significant attention to these aspects.

Retain the Leads

Now that the leads are customers, it’s important not to label them as successes, drop them completely, and move on to the next leads. Retargeting is an essential part of lead nurturing because it’s easier to convince an existing customer who’s conducted business with the company before than to go through the process of convincing new prospects again. It’s also 5x cheaper for a company. 

Retargeting is also useful for leads who are showing signs of disinterest, such as unopened emails. It’s effectively done through the use of multiple channels. For example, If one lead or the majority of the leads for a given persona is unresponsive with emails, the company can switch tactics and give the same message to the group on social media. 

For both disinterested leads and successful conversions, the goal of retargeting is to stay close to the forefront of the minds of the customers, keeping their attention. 

Continue to Nurture Post-Sale

After a sale has been reached, a common mistake marketing teams make is to have the campaign mentality, as mentioned earlier, and cease contact with the conversions. Since retaining existing conversions is so important, there must be post-sale lead nurturing.  

Post-sale nurture includes keeping track of customers’ post-sale interactions with the site, emails, etc., placing focus on the customer’s experience, and mapping out post-sale stages such as loyalty. 

Implement the practice of following up immediately after a lead performs a conversion action. As quickly as within 5 minutes of the conversion, the company should make a phone call to introduce the caller and company to the lead, thank them for their interest, and invite them to put in their feedback or questions after they’ve had a chance to review what they showed an interest in.

Analyze and Optimize Your Strategy

Last but not least is to improve the strategies you had just finished putting together. After the strategies have been given enough time to provide results (good or bad), use the company’s software to analyze data and determine if there are improvements in certain parameters, e.g. whether or not the number of user interactions and conversions is growing, or if it is growing at an acceptable rate. There is always room for improvement and you should continue aligning and realigning sales and marketing teams’ strategies.

Conclusion

As you can see, once you clearly understand the role of lead nurturing, creating an effective strategy for it is much easier—and without wasting resources on strategies and techniques that already belong to lead generation or sales. 

Because of the distinct role that lead nurturing plays in a customer’s journey, it’s important to have a team dedicated to its success instead of having a lead generation team that tries to accomplish both. Since only 35% of B2B companies have dedicated nurture plans, this is a prime opportunity to get ahead of the competition and land more sales in the long-term.


Ronen Wasserman
Marketo Automation Expert
Former Company
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Ronen Wasserman
Marketo Automation Expert
Former company
About Author
Ronen Wasserman has been a Marketo Automation Expert for more than 10 years. He holds a Master's in business administration and is specialized in many aspects of marketing, especially with Marketo, Hubspot, and other platforms.
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