Today, the B2B sales cycle is longer than ever.
The average B2B buyer researches, considers, and moves through the sales funnels of a number of companies during the purchasing process. So, as a lead wanders through your funnel, some hand-holding is necessary in order to guide them to conversion. (Especially because, if you don’t, your competition will.)
A well-executed lead nurturing campaign provides tailored, timely information and can help speed up the process and increase the likelihood of conversion. It’s doing your due diligence to help your buyer in their journey. And with that, lead nurturing helps maximize your lead generation efforts.
In 2020, these are the 10 best practices for lead nurturing:
1. Build trust and establish relationships
Don’t view lead nurturing as a mechanical process by which you convert sales by force of will.
Your leads are human. Treat them as such. Be nurturing—it’s right in the name, after all.
Throughout the process, learn about your leads as you would new friends—their interests, problems, desires, and the ways in which you might be able to help in those regards. Then, build the relationship by consistently providing value. Once you’ve established a relationship, build trust through creating a human connection.
2. Use lead-scoring to focus your efforts
Not all leads are equal, nor should they be treated the same.
Lead-scoring assigns a rating to actions taken, which helps you understand where a lead is in your funnel, and where to focus your efforts. Does visiting your products page, or following your Twitter account signal greater potential? The former, almost surely, should award more lead-scoring points.
In most models, there are five primary lead categorizations:
- Undetermined conversion potential
- Should be prompted to take actions via email, which will help gauge interest level
- These are just getting familiarized — don’t overwhelm them and prompt unsubscription
- Categorized by action(s) taken (visited your website, responded to a lead-gen email, downloaded an ebook, filled out a form with their phone number)
- These leads have shown promising conversion potential
- Have not provided timeline or budget
- Should be further informed and qualified, prompted to take action
- Ready for engagement with sales team
- Actively seeking further information regarding your product/service
- Actively engaged by sales team in an ongoing conversation
- Working on next steps
3. Use smart forms
On your landing pages, using forms to collect contact info is a great call-to-action that helps build your email list and collect other info.
But once you have their email, it’s unproductive and bothersome to ask for it again. With smart forms, you can successively ask for a series of contact and information pieces as your lead returns. This way, you’re not asking for the same info twice or too much all at once. And the info you gradually collect, such as budget and timeline, helps paint a clearer picture of your lead’s progression down the funnel.
4. Use email automation
As you work to build accord with a lead, email will be your primary communication channel. It can’t usually all be done manually, though.
Send timely emails to leads triggered by a particular action (viewing your website, downloading an ebook, etc.), launch a drip campaign — a series of emails over a set period of time — or use a combination of both. All emails, regardless of sequence, should provide valuable information (a case study download, a link to a webinar, etc.) that helps a prospect progress in their decision-making process.
But never over-automate. Build in opportunities for human touchpoints in your lead-nurturing campaign, especially further along in the funnel.
5. Collect and implement feedback
This can be done via forms, or when you get a chance to connect with a lead through email or on the phone.
Find out what type of content or engagement your leads are looking for, and what you’ve shared that is and isn’t useful. More specifically, determine what information will help your leads make a decision. Are they looking for a product that integrates across their techstack? Do they need more convincing data to earn buy-in from decision-makers?
Beyond informing your leads, consistently ensure they feel positively about any and all interactions with your company via feedback requests.
6. Nurture beyond conversion (AKA implement a flywheel model)
Once a prospect becomes a customer, nurturing shouldn’t end there. Rather, you’ve just earned the opportunity to upsell, cross-sell, and earn referrals.
After all, pleased customers are powerful — 74% of B2B buyers cite word-of-mouth as an influence in purchasing decision-making. Follow-up campaigns should be created to nurture, or strengthen relationships with, clients and customers.
Essentially, the same way you turned them into customers: by continually providing value. This time around, though, your marketing team will work with customer success rather than sales to ensure needs and expectations are met. Only then can you upsell, and will referrals flow in.
7. Ensure actionability
Ineffective lead-nurturing campaigns are most commonly plagued by a lack of actionability.
When you message a lead, what do you expect them to do? How will that email help move them through the funnel? Every time you contact your lead, a next step should be both clear and easily taken, whether it be booking a meeting with an account executive or scheduling a product demo.
But don’t be pushy. The best way to avoid coming off this way is to convey empathy: “We know you’re busy, but do you have 15 minutes sometime this week to connect?”
8. Personalize content and messaging
Just as you don’t focus on each lead equally with lead-scoring, you shouldn’t message every lead the same ways, either. Using data, you can customize delivered content to the individual interests and business problems of each lead.
Data can direct personalization of:
- Relevant content types to send via email
- When exactly (time + day) to send emails
- Which specific features to spotlight in sales conversations
- Tailored landing page content
- Industry-specific case studies
- Language/messaging that resonates
9. Deploy retargeting campaigns
The harsh truth is that 96% of your website visitors aren’t ready to buy.
But that doesn’t mean 96% of your visitors will never buy. That’s where retargeting — serving display ads to visitors who’ve stopped by — comes in. Without retargeting, a lead could visit your website once then forget about your company altogether. With retargeting, your lead sees ads for your company all over the internet, which keeps you on the radar. And once that prospect is ready to buy, they’ll think to come back.
10. Re-evaluate consistently
Markets, technologies, and with them, best practices, are constantly changing. Be flexible, experiment, but also re-evaluate to ensure your experimentation is moving in the right direction.
As you launch new lead nurturing campaigns, you’ll need to make some assumptions. Some of them will be on point, while others will miss the mark. Only re-evaluation will reveal the reality. So create opportunities to review and revise your lead-nurturing strategy. If necessary, break entirely to do so.
Some measurables to consider as you evaluate:
- Lead generation volume in relation to marketing efforts
- Actions taken at different parts of the funnel, and for various lead types
- How long you’re taking to respond to lead requests, messages, and actions
- Success rates in relation to different personas and strategies
- Where leads fall off (visitor identification tools help with this)