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Drive In More Leads

    Picture of Bill Viau
    By Bill Viau in November, 2019 | 11 minute read

    Email Marketing - Inbound Marketing - Lead Nurturing - Automation

    How to Develop a Lead Nurturing Strategy That Boosts Sales & Advocacy

    Your lead nurturing strategy has two primary goals: to convert leads into sales and to build positive, long-term customer relationships. Follow these lead nurturing best practices to craft a nurture campaign that will shore up the cracks in your funnel and create an army of brand advocates.


    It’s a simple (but oft-repeated) tidbit of business wisdom: half of your qualified leads are not yet ready to buy.  This is where lead nurturing comes in.  

    Like any good, sustainable orchard of money trees, your leads (seeds?) take careful watering and TLC as they grow to eventually bear the leafy-green revenue your company desires.  It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. After all...

    A Quality Lead Nurturing Strategy Boosts Sales

    • Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Forrester Research)
    • Nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (DemandGen Report)
    • Companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate (CSO Insights)
    • Companies that automate lead management see a 10% or more bump in revenue in 6-9 months (HubSpot)

    Despite persuasive statistics like these, only 35% of B2B marketers have established a lead nurturing strategy.  Oh, the untapped sales potential! But lead nurturing isn’t solely focused on converting leads into customers; it’s also about building trust and loyalty that lasts long term.  The best leads become customers, and the best customers become evangelists. If you’re looking to develop the perfect lead nurturing strategy, this calls for a two-prong approach:

    1. Develop a process that closes more deals by warming up leads over time (and uses multiple touchpoints).
    2. Build a positive relationship with those nurtured leads so they’ll become loyal customers.

    Sound good?  Great! Here’s how you do it.

    Phase 1: A Lead Nurturing Strategy That Closes More Deals

    There are five dials that will set your lead nurturing strategy’s potential to convert leads to sales:

    1. The channels you choose
    2. The value you offer
    3. The tone of your message
    4. Your follow-up speed and cadence
    5. Your persistence

    Automation will help a ton with follow-up speed, cadence, and persistence. Value and tone are often up to your content team — they’ll need to be on their A-game.  Channel is a strategic choice, but in general, it’s best to go wide. Be everywhere, and fewer leads fall through the cracks. That said, email is still king.

    Lead Nurturing With Email

    Email is cost-effective (especially compared to advertising), easy to automate, and has a median ROI of 122% — more than four times higher than any other channel, including social media, direct mail, and paid search.

    The goal of an email nurturing strategy is to provide relevant, helpful content that meets inbound marketing leads where they’re at in the funnel while keeping you top-of-mind.  Use these email lead nurturing best practices to get started:

    • Segment Your Email List: How many leads are opening your emails?  Clicking links? Create different messages tailored to each segment of your contacts based upon how they interact with you and what’s spurring the most engagement. Segmented email nurturing campaigns can generate a 760% increase in revenue.  Your email nurture campaigns have got to be personalized to the leads’ interests, though — a one-size-fits-all approach can leave opportunities on the table.
    • Attach Relevant, Useful Content: Emails that promote your business sound salesy and will be quickly deleted.  Instead, prove to the lead that you understand them, care about their needs, and know how to help.  Offer links to blogs, videos, eBooks, or whitepapers that you genuinely believe will help accomplish the leads’ goals.
    • Send Event Invitations: Have you got a trade show, conference, webinar, or speaking engagement coming up?  Emails are a great way to drive traffic to the event and nurture your relationship with the lead.
    • Try Adding Video: Tools like HubSpot’s Vidyard integration can put high-quality video content into your emails to make your message more personal, accessible, and digestible — not to mention more fun! Track how leads interact with your videos to see whether they’re piping hot and sales-ready.
    • Don’t Overdo Your Cadence: You don’t want to be forgotten, but you also don’t want to seem desperate or pushy.  An email (or maybe two) each week with relevant, interesting content is a good baseline.  Databox polled marketers to see how they handle cadence, and it broke down like this:

    Screen Shot 2019-11-06 at 2.20.30 PM 1

    (Source: Databox)

    Lead Nurturing With Retargeted Ads

    96% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy just yet. Retargeting is all about bringing those “window shoppers” back once they’re prepared to close the deal.  Cookies on your website can help you follow the leads out the door and remind them about the recent interest they’ve shown in your business, even as they continue their journey to other areas of the internet.

    You might retarget leads who subscribe to your newsletter, visit a product page, open your content on social media, or click your website link in a Google search.  Retargeted ads encourage those customers to complete (or go further with) their buyer’s journey once they’re ready.

    But you’ve got to know how to take advantage of the retargeting channel you’ve chosen. Consider social media ads, for example.  You’ll want to devote ad spend to social platforms based on the demographics of your leads (which your tracking data can likely shed some light upon). Baby Boomers and Gen X leads are easier to reach on Facebook and Twitter, for example, whereas you’ll have much more success on Instagram or YouTube with Millenials and Gen Z.  

    PRO TIP: Video ads tend to autoplay on mute, so closed captioning can lead to a significant bump in clicks — about 25% more in the case of mattress seller Slumber Yard

    Use an Omnichannel Approach

    Leads who are exposed to your company wherever they turn to have that many more opportunities to build a relationship.  Email, social media, ads on search engines and other websites...the more the merrier. A sophisticated email lead nurturing strategy alone can’t follow the lead to the websites and social platforms they access next.

    Also consider the value of mobile marketing, which only becomes more important each year.  The majority of online traffic in the U.S. is now on mobile devices.  How do your retargeting ads and email templates look on smartphones and tablets?  Be mobile-friendly to boost interactions (and sales).

    Follow Up Fast

    Your reaction time has a massive impact on whether a lead goes cold. The odds of a lead entering the sales process, or becoming qualified, are 21 times greater when contacted within five minutes versus 30 minutes after an inbound lead converts on your website.  That first touchpoint needs to be lightning quick. Set automation triggers to get leads into an email or retargeting campaign without your manual intervention.

    Give Up Slow

    Leads might take a long time to make their way through the funnel, but keep up the personal touch.  Even if it’s been months, one personalized message on LinkedIn (to let the lead know you’re thinking about them) can keep the relationship alive.  Find an excuse to reach out — birthday, sports, a new job. It doesn’t have to be related to your product or service. In fact, it will be more sincere if it isn’t.

    The Beginners Guide to Generating Inbound Leads

    Phase 2: How to Nurture Leads Into Loyalists

    The more touchpoints you have with a nurtured lead, the more chances you’ve got to create trust and loyalty with them.  Loyal customers that value their positive relationship with your company are some of your best marketing and sales resources — they’re doing your job for you every time they say something nice about the company.

    Happy, loyal customers are the natural byproduct of a lead nurturing strategy that keeps these four priorities in mind:

    Personalize

    According to an IDC study commissioned by Salesforce, 83% of B2B buyers only want to hear from you if you can be relevant and contextual.  A generic, boilerplate response feels insincere. We all like to feel understood. The more you show that you know the lead, personally, the more your touchpoint will nurture a positive relationship.

    Data can help.  Use data insights to determine:

    • What kind of content (topics, format) the leads want to consume
    • What time(s) they prefer to interact
    • What language or talking points will resonate the most (for emails, ads, and landing pages)

    You might even use dynamic content that displays different versions to different leads.  Each segment of your audience can have their own personalized experience — all in the same nurture campaign. Leads appreciate it when each touchpoint shows awareness of their industry, pain points, interests, and desires. 

    Across the board, though, an authentic voice is critical.  Keep a friendly, conversational tone that makes your brand feel human and real to your leads.

    Entertain and Inform

    Your lead nurturing strategy wants to sell...eventually.  But that should wait until the end. First, you’ve got to show leads that they can trust you, and develop a bond.  The best way to do that is to offer them value, rather than ask them for money.

    Build your lead nurturing campaign around high-quality, attractive content that educates and entertains — for free. Over time you can show the lead that you’re:

    • Trustworthy by being transparent about your intentions
    • An authority on the subjects they care about
    • Interested in their life and experiences with content that’s helpful, relevant, empathetic, and/or humorous

    This doesn’t mean avoiding CTAs, of course.  Ask the lead to react, comment, ask questions, accept more value, or interact with new content at every touchpoint.

    Build a Community

    If you want to build advocacy, your customers will need a place to talk about you and foster conversations.  Build an active community on social media, your blog, and in the real world through your nurture campaigns. Viral marketing is a great way to keep the conversation going and stay top-of-mind in a positive way as leads wade deeper into the funnel.

    Be Consistent

    Alignment between marketing and sales shores up the holes in the sales funnel.  No lead nurturing strategy is complete without a serious effort to make a smooth, seamless handoff with a consistent voice and message between marketing and sales.

    Try “smarketing” alignment strategies like these, which facilitate communication and synchronicity:

    • Collaborate on an SLA that clearly defines MQLs and SQLs. The teams should sit down together and ask questions or share opinions so that everyone is on the same page with who owns what leads and when the time should come to hand them off.
    • Expose marketers to sales calls. When the marketing squad sits in and hears actual prospects describe their problems and goals, it’ll help them grasp the decision process and appreciate the objections or pain points that their leads are (or will be) facing.  Have the teams talk about this experience and work together to build a consistent voice for customers.
    • Use a shared CRM system. Sales and marketing personnel better understand the stages of their sales funnel and the experiences of their leads when they have shared access to notes and touchpoints from throughout the lead nurturing process.

    Now Get Started!

    A multi-channel lead nurturing strategy that combines high-value, personalized content with proper cadence can set you well on your way to boosting sales and building customer advocacy.  The research has shown that most sales come from a long, complex cycle with multiple touches.

    Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 2.12.46 PM

    (Source: Ascend2 Survey Summary Report)

    Take this to heart and develop a lead nurturing strategy that maximizes each touch, both to nudge the lead towards a purchase and to foster a positive relationship.

    The Beginners Guide to Generating Inbound Leads

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