So, you’ve optimized your website, crafted great content, promoted your offers on social media and industry sites, and converted web traffic into some good-lookin' leads.
You're tempted to call each and every one of them, aren't you?
Don’t reach for the phone just yet: Research suggests that 73% of your leads aren’t sales-ready when they’re first generated, so delivering your sales pitch at this point could very well drive them away.
What you need is a well-developed lead nurturing strategy that keeps those leads warm and keeps your business top-of-mind. While channels such as social media, CRM applications and other tools can be leveraged to nurture leads, here we’ll focus on arguably the most effective: email.
What Is Lead Nurturing & Why Is it Important?
Lead nurturing is the process (ideally an automated one utilizing workflow tools) of sending additional, relevant content to your leads that draws them naturally down your sales funnel toward a purchase commitment. Admittedly, that definition may seem a little, shall we say, impersonal? The truth is, lead nurturing workflows are all about building relationships.
Think of lead nurturing as the dating phase of someone’s buyer’s journey — it’s the time spent building a relationship and building trust before making a commitment.
Nurturing is your opportunity to make a solid case that your product or service is the right choice but, more importantly, it’s your opportunity to build trust in your company’s ability to deliver. It's your chance to expand your message by educating leads about all dimensions of your solution, comparing your product to competitors', articulating your competitive advantage, showcasing compelling case studies, and showcasing your team’s expertise and care — all the information your leads need to come to the conclusion that not only is your product or service the one for them, but that your team is the driving force.
What Does an Effective Lead Nurturing Campaign Look Like?
Here are 5 essential elements:
1. A Campaign Goal
Your goal should be the first thing you think about when developing a lead nurturing campaign. Say you're an insurance company and your goal is to sell more auto policies to young families. Once you've identified that goal, you can design a nurturing campaign that regularly delivers relevant, progressively more in-depth content on the subject to leads who've shown an interest in auto insurance. Because your business development plans will have a variety of goals and KPIs based on segmentations of your consumer's product needs and life stages, you can create quality content and campaigns to meet those needs. As far as your goals go, you should make sure you’re able to measure your progress with defined outcomes, such as obtaining 25 marketing qualified leads (MQLs) or a certain number of closed sales per campaign.
2. A Meaningful Persona
It’s hard to offer effective content when you’re not sure who you’re creating it for. That’s where the prospect persona comes in. A persona is a model you create to help you "flesh out" and empathize with your best prospect — a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. It specifies demographics (age, household income, interests, education, etc.), their industry, professional role, challenges, pain points, obstacles, needs, buying behaviors and more. Depending on your service or product and its uses, you'll likely need to develop and target more than one persona. Among the best practices for nurturing leads is segmentation — by each phase in the buyer’s journey and by industry, or phase and job type, or all three.
With a clearly defined persona as your target, you have a clearer picture of how to reach your best prospects and the problems they need help solving. You'll also have a stronger sense of the type of case you need to make for your product or service. Knowing that your persona's budget is severely limited due to cutbacks, for instance, will help you focus your content on product benefits like cost savings, higher productivity or extended life.
Having a persona to "talk to" helps you effectively focus your content throughout the nurturing campaign and build an argument (and trust) that leads to a relationship.
3. The Right Content
It’s critical that the content offer you provide after the lead's first conversion is related to that original download and that it follows a progression from general to specific interest.
If your lead’s first download is a tip sheet titled "10 Ways To Save On Auto Insurance," you’ll want to follow that up with related content within an auto insurance lead nurturing workflow. Don't switch the conversation to business insurance — even though you may be more eager to promote those products. Doing so will not only confuse the recipient with irrelevant content, but diminish trust and potentially lead to a click of the dreaded unsubscribe button.
Content consumed (pages viewed and offers downloaded) is the best indication of where in the buying process your lead is – in other words, how ready they are to buy.
Leads in the top of the sales funnel — look for basic information and education in the form of tip sheets and simple how-to guides.
Leads in the middle of the funnel — are starting to gather and evaluate more detailed information about a solution to a particular problem; they'll seek and appreciate added detail, likely more quantitative and analytical content, in the form of whitepapers, eBooks and videos that provide head-to-head comparisons or case studies.
Leads in the bottom of the funnel — are poised to purchase and look for demonstrations, webinars and no-cost evaluations. Bottom-of-the-funnel content is sealing-the-deal content that provides the last reassurance that they can and should be confident as a buyer.
Don't make the mistake of offering bottom-of-the-funnel content to someone who's just downloaded a top-of-the-funnel tip sheet or subscribed to your blog; he or she has only given you a signal of general interest and typically aren’t ready to buy.
4. Nurturing Campaign Timeline
To get that first piece of content you offered, a lead gives you their contact information, including an email address. Now you're poised to use that address to send emails promoting another piece of related content, highlighting another compelling reason to buy the product or service they’re interested in. To set the timing for sending these subsequent content offers to your leads, you need to have a good understanding of your sales cycle.
Considered purchases with higher price tags, like capital equipment, typically have longer sales cycles than commodity products. This type of purchase may require an appropriations request that includes an ROI or payback analysis. The campaign design needs to reflect how the purchase decision is made (time + participants + decision rules) in creating the pattern and pacing of content. This might mean incorporating more content offers into the workflow, longer time periods between messages, or both. Obviously a campaign that is expected to span 6–12 months will have a different rhythm than a campaign of 4–6 weeks.
That's why understanding your various buyer personas and the decision points of the buyer’s journey is so important. Relationships are built when the prospect feels and trusts — through the content you offer and the pace you set — that you understand them and the world they live and work in.
5. A Method For Measurement & Improvement
One of the benefits of nurturing is that it allows prospects to "vote" and show what they’re most interested in through what they’re downloading and viewing. By contrast, content that doesn't get viewed very often is probably missing the mark. Tracking your content performance metrics allows you to make adjustments to your campaign to improve its performance. But you can only do that if you measure each campaign and the content in it.
If you're taking advantage of an inbound marketing software platform like HubSpot, you'll get real-time analytics on every email you send and piece of content you promote: when it was viewed, by whom, what that lead's next download or action was, time between visits, etc.
You can also track the effectiveness of email subject lines and calls-to-action and their conversion rates. If you find certain phrases generate more activity (like, “reduce downtime by 30%"), you’ll know you’ve hit on the prospects’ pain points.
Research shows that nurturing your leads by keeping them engaged with your content on an ongoing basis helps to draw them down the sales funnel. And, all the while, you're reinforcing your value, gaining credibility and building relationships.
Use these tips to set your goal and start giving leads what they need to make a purchase decision! Want more tips on using email to nurture your leads and build relationships with potential customers? Access our free Introduction to Email Marketing workbook below. Just click the link.
Posted by Meg Hoppe Meg provides creative vision to all client projects and serves as the agency's chief content writer. She has extensive experience writing for a variety of industries, including manufacturing, financial services, and healthcare. Meg started in advertising and has become a thought leader in digital content creation and inbound marketing.