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Acquiring high-quality leads has become quite easy. However, according to Forbes, brands only manage to touch base with 25% of the leads they generate despite being able to contact 92%. MarketingSherpa further confirmed that in 2012 by reporting that 79% of marketing leads weren’t converted into sales. Moreover, 61% of B2B marketers sent all their leads to sales only to have 27% qualify for the next stage. One of the reasons marketers tend to lose out on so many leads is not establishing lead nurturing.
What is Lead Nurturing?
In the world of inbound marketing, lead nurturing is the process of preparing potential leads for a sales callthrough a steady, but not overwhelming, flow of information that is relevant to the initial correspondence. Basically, marketers will be in charge of educating and moving leads through the marketing funnel with the help of a series of communications, typically emails.
As a result, they can determine how to convert leads to customers and reap the following five benefits:
- Increasing the Number of Client Touchpoints – Lead nurturing allows marketers to increase contact with potential clients. According to Aberdeen Group’s 2013 report ‘Alchemy of Intent: Content Marketing in the Lead-to-Revenue Cycle’, prospects receive 10 marketing touches on average through a successful buyer’s journey. Therefore, by increasing the number of times you connect with a client, your brand will remain on their mind once they’re ready to make a purchase.
- Building Relationships – Lead nurturing allows marketers to maintain relationships with current clients while creating new ones with potential leads. The process allows you to understand your clients’ needs and tailor your messages to address their needs. That way, you can prevent them from choosing the competition instead.
- Positioning the Brand as a Leader – By nurturing a lead, you get to showcase your knowledge and, eventually, establish your brand as a leader in its niche. In addition to indirectly marketing your product or service, you can present valuable, practical information which your users can make use of. Even if your contacts are not in the sales funnel just yet, your leads will think of you first since they trust you and don’t believe you will misguide them.
- Quicker Results Thanks to Automation – Just like marketing, lead nurturing can be automated. By customizing certain tools, you can trigger email actions, sent through personalized messages, and communicate on-time and with less effort. As a result, you can free up your resources for other tasks, such as lead generation. If you need a little coaxing, here’s a small tidbit for you to chew on: Carlos Hidalgo from the Annuitas Group created an infographic called ‘Marketing Automation by the Numbers’, which revealed that using automated tools to nurture prospects allows businesses to enjoy a 451% increase in qualified leads.
- Generating Sales – Lead nurture is very important for marketers because it generates sales. According to Forrester Research, companies that understand lead nurturing are capable of generating 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost. CSO Insights further confirms this by revealing that businesses with mature lead generation practices enjoy a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate. In addition to generating sales, nurtured leads profit companies by making larger purchases. The Annuitas Group reports that they tend to make 47% larger purchases than their counterparts.
So if you haven’t yet embraced lead nurturing, you’re missing out on these benefits and even more opportunities that will help you convert leads into customers.
Methods for Nurturing Leads
According to Statista’s infographic ‘Most Effective Lead Nurturing Methods in Business-to-Business Marketing in the United States as of July 2013’, 57% of marketers used sales calls while 53% resorted to e-mail newsletters and 50% relied on white papers. Videos (43%), social media (29%), blog posts (27%), and infographics (21%) were also used. Of these methods, however, marketers most frequently use email to reach out and pass these other materials (videos, white papers, etc.) on to contacts.
Known as lead nurturing campaigns, this form of email marketing allows marketers to target segmented lists of their leads based on criteria such as persona, demographics or interest in the brand’s offerings. The campaign comprises a series of emails that are sent automatically at intervals. Through each email, you can provide a new piece of content or add a link to the brand’s blog to further educate your target audience.
On the other hand, if you want something out-of-the-box and not listed above, you can opt for content personalization. With the help of your marketing automation system, you can record the lead’s interactions with your content. Then, the next time he or she visits your company’s website, they can be presented with content that provides them with information they may like. With the arrival of the New Year, you may want to consider this approach, especially since Real-Time for the Rest of Us by Evergage uncovered that 81% of marketers acknowledge personalization’s ability to increase customer engagement. Furthermore, 46% of B2B customers pointed out that tailored offers are a good way of maintaining or developing relationships with business providers.
Best Practices for Nurturing Leads
Before you start nurturing leads, be forewarned: you have a lot of work ahead of you. You won’t be able to lay back and let the sales staff handle the rest until you’re truly sure that your leads have you in mind most of the time. However, you can rely on the following five tips to make the process easier.
Tips for Lead Nurturing Campaigns
Lead nurturing campaigns will require time and a lot of testing before you can achieve the maximum results you seek. However, there are a few rules which you can use to start your first campaign.
- Establish the Goal of Your Campaign – Determine what you want to accomplish through this series of emails before you start. Are you trying to reconnect with contacts who have been on your list for long or do you plan to go after new leads through content which addresses solutions your prospects may like? While contemplating all this, find out what your leads will be more interested in. For instance, are they ready to download an informative eBook or will they opt for the free demo?
- Learn About Your Prospects – In addition to their readiness, you shouldunderstand your prospects’ persona first. That way, you can decide which content you should create or re-purpose for your current campaign. Understanding your audience will also help you with the timing aspect and presentation.
- Plan the Timing and Quantity – The timing and quantity of emails should be based on the duration of the buying cycle and the stage you’re creating the campaign for. For instance, if your buying cycle is one-year long, but you notice that a lead takes two months to move from the top funnel to the middle funnel, your campaign should be 2.5 to 3 months long. This way you can target your leads at the time they seek your information.
- Write an Intriguing Subject Line – The subject of the email should ‘click’ with the persona of your email recipient. For instance, if you’re targeting male teenagers and offer refurbished iPhones, you can opt for age-appropriate topics such as ‘Get Your New iPhone Model and Keep Up With the Trends’ or ‘Great iPhone Apps for Today’s Teens’. To come up with a good subject line, put yourself in your clients’ shoes and decide what they would be interested in the most.
- Avoid Bombarding Readers with Salesy Content – As tempted as you may be, don’t start off your correspondence with a sales piece. Instead, provide valuable, educational content that’s related to your original offer. You can include videos, eBook and even whitepapers to convince your leads and drive conversions.
Tips for Content Personalization
Personalization allows brands to address the differences between their audiences, which are traditionally divided into first time buyers (spontaneous clients with no brand loyalty), regulars (seasoned online clients with low level of loyalty and brand familiarity), and addicts (clients who need information and exhibit high levels of loyalty due to rewards, membership incentives or trust in expertise).
To help you with this relatively tricky approach, use the following five tips.
- Limit Personalization to Needed Information – Personalization isn’t about making everything custom tailored to your clients’ needs. It is about providing the right information at the right time. Take for instance Monsoon and Accessorize, the British retail chain. According to Qubit, the company was losing on sales because its clients didn’t know when its items went out of stock. As a result, it started showing stock levels only to those about to buy their merchandise, increasing conversions by 10%.
- Continuously Change Your Call to Action – Rather than showing the same call to action to all your visitors, consider using marketing automation software to display different calls to action. This is especially important if a particular lead has already acted on one. Intuit Quickbase has used this technique and reported more than 10% in click through rates for personalized calls to action. Meanwhile, it revealed that its click to submission rates have reached 100%.
- Create Content Based on the 3Ws – Copywriters usually focus on 6Ws – Who, What, Where, When, Why, and Whatever Else. However, for personalizing websites, the first three are the only ones you need. Software vendor Panaya was able to boost its conversion rates to 113% after it customized content according to whether the site’s visitor was using the product or not.
- Consider Keyword Personalization as Well – Keywords have always been a marketer’s best friend; and they continue to support them even during website personalization. Basically, your website should display the keyword at the top rather than force visitors to hunt all around the page. Another way to boost trust levels is by creating cookies which detect important details such as the location of the visitor and the type of device they use. For instance, Avast Anti-Virus can detect whether you’re using a Mac or PC while searching for software, directing you to the page you want automatically.
- Nurture Leads with Displays – To personalize the brand experience, consider engaging anonymous visitors via display and social ads. However, make sure that these are highly relevant to push leads through the funnel.
Tips for Nurturing Leads Using Other Methods
If you decide on another method because it suits your brand and efforts, here are five general tips to help you succeed.
- Never Compromise on Quality – Whether it’s the script of sales calls or social media follow-up posts, you should always deliver high quality, relevant and useful content. Anything less than the best may leave a negative impression on your potential customers and drive them away.
- Maintain Permission to Establish a Connection with Your Leads – One of the important goals of lead nurturing is maintaining permission. After all, you can’t achieve the rest of your goals if you can’t contact your clients. So keep your prospect interested at all times to prevent them from blocking you or unsubscribing literally or emotionally (i.e., just ignoring your messages).
- Track Your Success – You’ll need to watch your clients’ digital body language to determine how far along they are in the funnel. Do they open? Click? You may need to implement a lead scoring system in this case, but that’s story for another post.
- Be Thankful – Regardless of which lead nurturing program you’ve chosen, make sure to thank your clients. You can do so at the end of the call, through your last email or via a pop-up message on your site. Though you want to look like an industry leader, you need to remain humble to avoid coming off as egotistical. Besides, our clients bring us business, what’s not to be thankful for?
- Test – Always test your efforts to ensure that you’re on the right track. You should especially test the topics, offers, frequency, design and length since these are the most important elements in any campaign.
2015 is hardly a month old, so make sure to embrace lead nurturing soon to make it a successful and highly profitable year. A lead nuturing campaign is a great one to add to your 2015 marketing goals template. However, step into it with care and constantly test and analyze your efforts to truly make your campaigns, customization efforts, etc. worth the resources you put in.