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The Art of Lead Nurturing: 10 Top Tactics to qualify the people that really need or want your product or service

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process where you help and guide a person in understanding what their challenge is, how they can solve that challenge and ultimately make them see that you are the best possible choice to help them reach their goals when the moment is there for them to decide. Personally, I am not that keen of the term ‘nurturing’. It implies that we are in control of the process. That the lead is willingly following the path that we have plotted for them. The reality could not be more in contradiction.

Forget that you are in control. You are not. But you can be very helpful by guiding and assisting people in their buyer/customer journey. The more educational, informative and proactive your guidance and assistance is, the better the chance is that they will consider you as a good fit to do business with. In a world where products and services are becoming more and more on par, the real differentiator is customer experience. The better experience you provide them, the higher the chance is that they will award you with their money, time, attention and if you are really good/lucky their love.

I think a term like lead guiding would be more appropriate than lead nurturing. Whilst we are at it, I think it is time we got rid of all the hunting references in our terminology. It is all about the customer and they are in control. About time that we, sales and marketing people, operate according to this new reality. But enough on terminology, and for clarity sake I will continue to use lead nurturing in this article, because it is more important to understand the process of guidance and assistance than what marketing professional jargon to use.

Why is lead nurturing important?

Not everyone who visits your website is a buyer. Not everyone who downloaded your e-book is a buyer. And not everyone who requests a demo or does a trial is a buyer. And that is fine. From the hundred people visiting your website, you might have 5 people that show immediate buyer intent. Those are the ones that fill out the contact form or call you. Let’s assume that seventy people visit your website that will have no buyer at all (ever). That leaves twenty-five people that don’t have an immediate buyer intent, but may have buyer intent. Even if only ten of these twenty-five would consider really buying from you, you would have increased your buyer potential from five to fifteen. That is a two hundred pro cent increase!

So, that is why you do lead nurturing. To help these ten. And to leave a favorable impression with the other fifteen, so that one day they will choose you too. Or make recommendations to others. Not all lead nurturing is created equally. The fact that you do lead nurturing, does not necessarily say you will increase your bottom line. If you execute this process badly (being selfish, non-customer-centric, not relevant, spammy) it can really backfire, leading to a bad reputation with all negative consequences. Don’t go that way. Choose to be helpful. To be relevant. Here are 10 top tactics to master the art of lead nurturing.

1. Really understand who your customer is

Know your customer. If you don’t know who your customer is and understand what he or she really needs, how can you identify them and communicate with them? Ever heard of an ICP? That is the acronym for Ideal Customer Profile. It is the person that is your most valuable customer and prospect that are also most likely to buy. Let’s be honest, gathering 100 ‘leads’ of persons who are not buying from you – because they don’t have the budget or don’t show real buying intent – is a waste of time. Yes, you might not hit a quantity target of hundred and you might get only twenty leads. But if in the end 12 of them buy from you, whilst in the case of the 100 ‘on good luck’ ‘leads’ only 3 buy, then the quality approach yields better results.

Sounds logical, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, many organizations are still wired for the quantity hunt. But if you focus on your ICP you can outsmart the others. And your prospects will love you for that. So, go and reach out to your ICP. Meet them, talk to them, interview them, interact with them on social media.

2. Really understand the buyer’s journey of your customer

Knowing your customer is step 1, but we also need to know the route they follow to find answers to their questions, solutions to their challenges. Yes, I am referring to the good ol’ fashioned buyer journey or customer journey. There are multiple visualizations of these journeys, but I personally like the visual here below, as this gives a nice overview of all the various stages a person goes through.

And if you are able to find out this path of the journey in an early stage, you can start (pro-actively!) guiding them with educational and informational content at the beginning of their journey. People tend to stick with the ones that reach out the helping hand, so the earlier you can reach out that helping hand the better.

Don’t fall in the pitfall to think that this journey is a nice linear process. It’s not. Compare it with spaghetti. Organizations think that the journey is like uncooked spaghetti: a straight line. Whilst reality is more like the spaghetti dish for dinner: all curly and mixed up. Take in account that people sometimes follow a different pace in their journey: sometimes slower, sometimes faster. If your marketing efforts are geared to force your prospect in some kind of straight jacket, your efforts could backfire. Offer them flexibility and reach out to them when they want to, but step back when the signals indicate they want a slower pace.

As this journey is more complex than a straightforward process, it is even more important to focus on the ones that show real buyer intent. Those are the ones that you should reach out and guide them through their customer journey. Whilst the others you educate and feed them with information as they do not show signs of buyer intent (yet). If you play your cards right, they will remember you as that helpful company and when the situation arises that your product or service is more relevant for them, they will reach out to you. Or refer another to you.

3. Use a platform that gives you insight in the people that interact with you

A platform that gives you great insight in your customers is your Customer Relation Management platform, your CRM. But things get even better when you integrate your marketing automation platform with your CRM. Now, you can combine your sales insights with your marketing insights, creating insights in the complete customer journey with all its touch points.

4. Create content that is relevant and helpful for every stage in the buyer’s journey

Content is often the most important connection between the customer/prospect and you. But not all content is equal. Quite honestly, there is a lot of content that is not making that connection. Why not? Because it is not relevant. It’s relevant content that gets people engaged, that evokes a buyer intent. And relevancy changes per stage in their buyer journey.

In their first steps in their journey – their awareness stage – they find content relevant that helps them understand what their challenge is, that helps them answer their questions, that sheds a light on new trends and developments. Usually, this is content that does not have a direct relationship with your organization or product/service. That is why many companies are not investing time and money in that kind of content as they cannot see a direct relationship with sales.

But as stated before, the ones who build a relationship earlier in the customer journey are more likely to get the deal at the end of the journey if they are perceived helpful. With other words: offer a good customer experience. The ones who rely more on ‘bottom of the funnel’ content might miss out as people tend to stick with the ones that give them a good experience. Especially nowadays, when a lot of products and services look al like.

5. Use lead scoring to identify real buyer intent

Lead scoring is a method to mimic the buyer’s journey. Everything that indicates high buyer intent, you reward with a high lead score. By sending only the leads that have accumulated a high lead score, mainly through activities showing high intent, to your sales colleagues, you will give them leads that are more likely to convert. And just even important, you will not waste their time with people who are not likely to convert.

6. Use personalization

Let’s be clear: personalization is not just putting the name in the subject line and salutation. Personalization is all about relevancy. Personalization is all about what your visitor/lead/customer wants or needs. Think about tailor-made content and messages, so the receiver feels that you have created all of this especially for him or her. To do this, you really need tools that are fit for this work, like marketing automation. Combine that with your CRM and your personalization capabilities will get a boost. Your customers will appreciate that too, because why would you only do personalization with your leads?

7. Use marketing automation in a human-friendly way

Marketing automation helps you to send the right message to the right person at the right time. But beware that you do not put too much emphasis on ‘automation’. Because you might turn into an automated spam machine. Instead, focus on your customers and let the marketing automation be in service of providing them what they want and need. Use the information you gather to be more helpful. Focus on pain points, needs, questions and not on contact details, especially in the beginning.

8. Diversify your lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is not all about email marketing. You might get that impression when you focus mainly on your email marketing or marketing automation tools. But you need to think more out of the box here. Because your leads do not only read emails. Here are some suggestions:

  • use your social media channels – share your lead nurturing content on social media. Contacts that are in your lead nurturing process might also see your social posts.
  • use video – make videos that discuss and explain topics that you want to tell in your lead nurturing process. Make personalized video messages for the ones that show high buyers’ intent and invite them that way to have a ‘no-strings-attached’ (video)call with you.
  • use SMS texts – if your target group is not stuck behind their laptop or desktop, but are more mobile users, then consider using SMS text messages.
  • use postal mail (aka ‘snail mail’) – receiving physical post nowadays is less common than it used to be. So, it can be a way to stand out of the ‘digital’ crowd.

9. Involve sales in the process with high buyer intent leads

Getting customers and keeping them is a joint effort of sales and marketing. So, get your sales colleagues more involved in the marketing process and be helpful and understanding when it comes to the sales process. This sales and marketing alignment should not just surface when you are deciding the lead scoring or the hand over moment of leads from marketing to sales. An idea is to have sales reach out to contacts that have shown high buyers’ intent with more in-depth content that will help that person further in their buyer’s journey. It will provide your sales colleagues with a contact moment where they can introduce themselves without being salesy. And it will give them an opportunity to follow up on this contact moment via phone, email or LinkedIn or any other channel your target group prefers.

10. Remarketing

Remarketing is not a B2C-only tactic. Remarketing is just as important in B2B, it might be even more important due to the longer sales cycles. Whilst B2C is more geared to actions like ‘hey, you still got stuff in your shopping basket. Here is a coupon to buy now!’, B2B is more like helping people to go to the next step. And if that next step is to tell them more specifics on a certain feature of your product, you show them a remarketing message to watch a how-to video, to attend a webinar on that subject or download a pdf that gives more in-depth info and practical cases on that feature.

These were my tips to master the art of lead nurturing. I hope you find them useful and that they will help you to be as helpful as possible for people who have shown interest in what you do and offer, but not necessarily are ready to do business with you yet. Be helpful, be creative, but also be selective to whom you want your colleagues spend time and effort on. You will see that this will pay off in the long run.

Revenue marketing series

This subject was also part of the Revenue Marketing Podcast Series, to be precise episode 5. If you want to know how you as a marketeer can contribute to the revenue of your company, with other words being a revenue marketeer, I suggest you follow the Revenue Marketing Series.