A Primer on Lead Nurturing

I’m pleased to feaure my friend Michele Linn as a guest blogger on {grow}. Michele is a freelance marketing writer (http://www.linncommunications.com/) specializing in creating buyer-focused B2B marketing content, such as white papers, research reports, feature articles and case studies. I got to know who her through her contributions to the excellent blog Savvy B2B Marketing.
Mark and I were trading emails, and he asked me what I am passionate about in B2B marketing. My answer was immediate: helping marketers create content and experiences that align with what prospects want (not what we think they want).

There are many ways to be prospect-centric, but nurturing leads is one of my favorites. If this a concept that is new to you, read on to understand why this is something you want to consider and what steps you can take to get started.

In general, I think too many marketers are focused on getting proficient at generating leads. Instead, I challenge you to focus your attention on what happens to those leads after the initial contact.

Consider the typical scenario: someone registers on your site when they download a white paper or a webcast, and the leads are then collected into CRM system. Typically, there are a few common approaches to following up with the leads:

  • The prospect receives an automatically-generated email thanking them for their download and possibly providing links to additional material a user would find interesting.
  • Leads are passed to sales, and they may follow up on a few, but if they don’t get a positive response (which is likely as most people who read a white paper or watch a webcast are not sales-ready), they ignore the rest and believe that what marketing is producing is “junk.”
  • Telemarketing contacts individuals to follow up, but, unless you get someone at the exact time the want to buy, they’re probably not going to have much luck.
  • Leads sit in a database in case you want to reach out to them at some point.

A much better approach is to nurture your leads, which means having a process in place to continually provide touch points to your prospect to move them along the path to purchase (Note: you need to get the customer’s approval to send them additional emails).

There are ways you can make your nurturing programs very sophisticated and use tools to help you automate the process, but you can also start simply. Making a few changes at a time will continually improve your organization’s interactions with prospects; small steps OK! If you are new to lead nurturing, I suggest this two-step approach:

Step 1: Map out your typical buying process and the key people involved in the purchase decision. Then, determine what content would be useful for each person at each stage of the buying cycle, filling in gaps by creating content to use for each person at each stage. (It all comes back to really understanding your prospects.)

Step 2: Create the actual nurturing program, which includes deciding how long you want to communicate with your prospect (ideally, it should be as long as the typical buying process) and developing the customer touch points throughout the process (e.g. emails, direct mail, possible phone calls, etc). In short, you want to continually provide your prospects with targeted content that moves them through the buying process and keeps you top of mind.

Want to learn more?

There is a ton of information available on lead nurturing, but here are a few of my favorite posts on the subject to help you get started (I’d recommend all of these blogs as well):

Unleash Your House Database with Lead Nurturing (Marketo)

Detecting Buyer Roles in B2B Marketing (Digital Body Language by Steve Woods)

Payoff for B2B Content Marketing is Movement (Marketing Interactions by Ardath Albee)

Losing Touch with Leads? 7 Suggestions for Nurturing Programs (This is a post I wrote for my blog, Savvy B2B Marketing)

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  • Anonymous

    A good refresher. Always need to hear good points like this. I will check out some of the links as well — SL

  • Maria Pergolino

    I think this is a great post. It is very hard for many marketers to move from 'batch and blast' emails to targeted nurturing campaigns. I don't think this is because marketers are lazy or don't see value, instead I think it is exciting when you have a new whitepaper or webinar coming and you just want to tell everyone about it. What convinces many two switch is the results they start seeing from nurturing campaigns. Buyers are now more educated about your product, and know the right questions to ask to make a good buying decision. It also saves time because sales doesn't have to struggle with prospects who do not know your company. And prospects will listen to your sales reps because your company will already be thought of as a knowledge leader.

    Also, my favorite benefit of nurturing campaigns is that you get more out of great content you created. Before I would create a white paper and email it to everyone so it couldn't be promoted again. Now, I can send that content to every new registrant, ensuring everyone in my list has seen the content relevant to them.

  • Michele Linn

    Thanks for the comments, Maria. I think you make a great point that marketers can get so excited when they have something new to share that their instinct is to tell the world. Of course, instead of thinking what works best for them, they need to determine what works best for their prospects and customers.

    Most customers, especially if your company is large, do not want to see every new white paper and webcast you publish; it could be overwhelming and they may tune you out. A better approach is to dish our information in digestible, logical chunks to tell your story. And you're right – sales will thank you for this!

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