The relationship between customers and marketers is ever-changing. Further, making a purchase takes more time for buyers than it has in the past, as that process now includes self-education and a need to build trust with the company they are looking to buy from. In order to successfully navigate these ever-changing challenges and movements, your lead-nurturing plan must be complex, intuitive and mindful in its engagement with the customer.
Lead nurturing, by definition via Marketo, is the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. A collaboration between marketing, communication and sales is required to focus on listening to customers’ needs and providing information to populate your database.
Before jumping into setting up your lead-nurturing structure, you need to carefully consider several qualitative goals. What business outcomes do you hope to get from setting up a tracking system for your lead nurturing? Consider some of the following goals to get you started:
- Engage in personalized conversations with your buyer
- Educate and build trust with existing leads
- Acquire more business with current customers
- Turn inactive leads into active leads
- Increase sales productivity by distributing sales-only leads
- Convert any sales inquiries into qualified prospects over time
- Move buyers through their buying journey at an accelerated pace
- Stay in close touch with existing leads, so they can depend on your company when they need to
It’s important to set qualitative goals, because then you and your team can discuss timing, frequency, segmentation and, of course, strategy.
TIP: Revisit the goals you set in place. The more they are at the forefront, the more your team will succeed in developing your lead-nurturing program.
In addition to the partial goals listed above, you are going to want to set quantitative goals — ones you can measure. Setting estimates up front will help develop your goals, even if you aren’t sure what your metrics are initially. These goals will help you and your team divine success, and they will also help you determine how big or small you want your overall lead-nurturing efforts to scale. Consider some of the following quantitative goals to get you started:
- Increase number of sales-ready leads per month
- Increase upsells with current customers
- Complete a faster sale cycle
- Reduce the number of rejected sales
- Improve the percentage rate from new leads becoming qualified customers
TIP: When implementing all your goals into your lead-nurturing strategy, make sure these goals are launched in a phased form, and not all at once. It’s important to not blast all your leads at once with all of the tangible ideas, but instead strategize how you want your efforts to look over a period of time. Making goals and benchmarks within a timeline to see what works will help minimize the risk of error over complex solutions.
When creating your lead-nurturing phases, think about how your strategy fits into other marketing communications you send. On average, 50% of leads in any system are not yet ready to buy. However, companies that excel in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost, according to Marketo. So, to strategize an effective lead-nurturing plan, you’ll need to take a look at your entire marketing calendar to determine what other communications your leads receive. For example, you could be sending monthly newsletters, product updates, automation emails and other cross-channel communications. Are these interactions working together cohesively, without overstimulating? You want to deliver coordinated and relevant customer experiences across all of the channels your buyers use.
Your communication needs to be relevant. Who is your audience? What do they want from you, and when? How are you improving? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, ask. Get input from your customers via a survey or analysis, or even get social involved to host a live Q&A to get those answers. Then, categorize your leads according to their needs, position in the buying lifecycle, and industry or position at the company they work for (targeting the ones that can make decisions). Creating robust personas can help you nurture leads with increasingly customizable campaigns.
TIP: Set up a marketing calendar that has all of your campaigns in one place — so you’ll know the exact nurture campaigns and emails going out in a given week. (Here is a list of systems you could use to develop your calendar: Top 10 CRM Systems by Capterra.)
Lead scoring is the shared sales and marketing methodology for ranking leads in order to determine sale readiness. By scoring and organizing leads based on their interest in your company, current place in the sales lifecycle, demographic fit and position within their company, you get a better idea of where each lead is in the buying cycle and can segment according to these characteristics.
Here are six different lead-scoring models from Hubspot based on the data you can collect from the people who engage with your business:
- Demographic Information — city, state, region, country, phone number, gender, age range, etc.
- Company Information — size, type, industry or title
- Online Behavior — engagement on website, downloads, page views or forms
- Email Engagement — open rates or clickthrough rates
- Social Engagement — likes, shares, reposts or views
- Spam Detection — feel free to give negative scores to those who don’t fill out a form correctly, and pay attention to type of email addresses leads are using
TIP: Your lead-to-customer conversion rate is equal to the number of new customers you acquire, divided by the leads you generate. Use this conversation rate as your benchmark. Read Hubspot’s Lead Scoring 101: How to Use Data to Calculate a Basic Lead Score as a great cross-reference tool.
In order to successfully nurture prospects, you need to grow your list of engaged subscribers and collect contact information for your database. To grow your business and set up a robust lead-nurturing program, you need to feed the top of the funnel with list-building tactics. Here are some sources you could use to build your list:
- Website Registration Page
- Social Media
- Offline/Online Events
- Purchase Communication
- Blog Subscription Page
Before you can fulfill and maintain expectations with your nurture process, you’ll need to set up the leads by having them opt in. There are various tactics for building a list of opt-in email addresses, but the two main ways to collect this information are by asking for them to opt in via a check box when they place an order or sign up for a service, or by requesting that they opt in to receive some sort of gated content, such as an e-book or white paper. One of the best ways to establish trust with your audiences is by allowing them to take control of communications — they should never feel trapped or overwhelmed — by giving them the option to opt out at any time.
TIP: When subscribers click “unsubscribe,” they should be taken to a landing page and given the option of changing their communication preferences, because hopefully they still like you, and would just like to see less, instead of totally opting out.
Today, marketers are looking for new lead-nurturing tactics, along with technologies that go beyond email. With the help of powerful marketing-automation platforms, savvy marketers are now executing multichannel lead strategies. Listen and pay close attention to a buyer’s behavior across channels to create a single, integrated buyer persona view. Manage, personalize and act on conversations with buyers across multiple channels.
Effective multi-channel lead nurturing most commonly involves a combination of website, paid retargeting, marketing automation, social, email, email-social combo, direct mail and direct sales. Because executing this properly involves so many tactics, you really need to ensure that your sales and marketing teams are working cohesively.
TIP: Triple-check to make sure all of your nurture email content is responsive, including your emails and landing pages. This ensures that your customers can see and interact with your communications, especially on mobile devices.
Personalized, value-filled and vigorous campaigns that speak in an authentic voice are essential. Finding your brand’s voice and adhering to that voice across all of your communications are key.
Remember that your leads are people and not just email addresses. Personalization using the right marketing-automation platform can make this process simple and scalable.
TIP: SEO should be taken into account in your strategy. Each new content asset you are creating for your nurture campaign should improve your organic search rankings. High-volume search terms should be written into your content.
In addition to creating your brand’s voice within the email, there should also be emphasis on your subject lines. The subject line is the first thing the audience sees when scrolling through their inbox, and recipients will likely make a quick judgment according to this feature. In Marketo’s “Lead Nurturing” white paper, they discuss the method of “the four U’s”:
- Useful: Is the promised message valuable to the reader?
- Ultra-specific: Does the read know what’s being promised?
- Unique: Is the promised message compelling and remarkable?
- Urgent: Does the reader feel a need to read it now?
It’s important to either educate, ask a question, announce a sale, announce a new product, announce an exclusive offer, suggest a solution to a problem or jump on a popular topic. It’s all about trust. You want your buyers to have confidence in you and your brand, so they are always willing or even excited to open your emails.
Content strategy has a lot of depth to it, which we won’t go into detail on here, but keep in mind these elements when developing your nurturing strategy:
- Clear CTAs in body of email
- Optimizable for multiple platforms and devices
- Included plain-text version for buyers who don’t accept HTML
- Use of image alt tags when coding
- Design that’s cohesive with your brand
TIP: Keep your emails clean and concise with a header, a hero image, a CTA and short body copy.
If there are multiple segments within your target audience, decide how many you want to focus on. To make this decision, consider measurability, accessibility, sustainability and even budget size. A segment-oriented approach generally offers a range of advantages for both businesses and customers. The more you segment, the more relevant your lead-nurturing programs will be. Just like any marketing campaign, if you fail to stay relevant, your audience will not pay attention.
For ways to segment your lists, check out Hubspot’s “30 Ways to Slice Your Email Database for Better Email List Segmentation.”
TIP: Don’t be sluggish, segment instead. Segmented emails achieve 14.31% higher open rates and 100.95% higher clickthrough than non-segmented emails. See the full 2020 stats by BackLinko.
Lead nurturing is rarely about immediate sales, and more often about the real engagement between you and your buyers. Keeping your brand at the forefront of your audience’s mind throughout the recurring customer experience is the ultimate goal.
Lead nurturing allows marketers to build relationships that their customers want. It educates the audience and sets the stage for sales. With the right content mix, personalized to the right audience, sent at the right time, marketers can successfully grow their business.
Could your brand use some expert help hitting your marketing goals and growing your business? At The Brandon Agency, our fully integrated marketing firm boasts a team of seasoned specialists who can cover KPI tracking, performance optimization and much more — including web design, brand strategy, creative, interactive, social media, analytics, conversion rate optimization, SEO and more — all in one place. To get started with help ranging from a simple website analysis to a comprehensive strategy tailored to boost the performance of all of your marketing campaigns, contact us today.