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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Creating Effective B2B Lead Nurturing Programs

    Posted by Jessica Bowers Hopson

    Why Whitepaper Downloads Alone Won't Increase Revenue...and Other B2B Lead Nurturing Strategies to Employ Today


    Organizations don’t live and die by whitepaper downloads. Revenue is still the ultimate success factor for organizations. Even the most successful content marketing campaign won’t matter if it doesn’t lead to new revenue, additional revenue, or recurring revenue.

    If you’re like the majority of B2B marketers today, your organization struggles with producing enough high-quality custom content for your website, blogs or email marketing campaigns. Today’s consumers are more sophisticated and connected than ever before. Researching product or service solutions is increasingly done on a mobile device, often in the privacy of a prospective customer’s own home.

    The Internet is now many consumers’ primary tool for discovering brands, developing preferences, and making decisions. Recent studies by Kissmetrics and InTouch have found that 96% of your first-time website visitors aren’t ready to make a purchase, but as many as 70% may eventually purchase a product or service from your company.

    So you how do you connect with those potential customers who are in the beginning stages of interest and stay with them through the decision phase?

    It’s all about lead nurturing.

    What Lead Nurturing Is Not

    A really sophisticated lead nurturing program is ultimately ineffective if your prospects don’t feel like it’s personalized for their specific needs. Every piece of content you send should feel consistent, useful, and perfectly-timed to your prospects. The most effective marketers are careful to always avoid the following:

    • Generic Email Blasts or Quarterly Newsletters
    • Cold-Calling Everyone Who Downloaded Your Content Offers Weekly
    • Sending Tip Sheets, Case Studies or Whitepapers to Your Entire Email List
    • Sharing Brochures or Presentations That Are Actually Glorified Tip Sheets

    If your content doesn’t offer value to your contacts in that particular moment, it’s not nurturing your leads. According to Marketo, your lead nurturing programs should offer so much value to your prospects, they’ll be able to gain value even if they don’t ultimately buy your product or service.

    Marketing and Sales Collaboration

    While many businesses today are heavily focused on eliminating silos from their organization, sales and marketing collaboration is still a hot topic for many business development pros.

    In order to effectively nurture leads, it’s critical that marketing and sales remain in constant communication. This is made significantly easier when sales automation technology is integrated directly with a marketing automation system that will track implicit data on lead behavior. Aligning sales and marketing can be a challenge, but allowing technology to carry most of the weight for transparent communications makes things significantly easier.

    There are three primary areas that must be addressed in the service-level agreement or collaboration plan your organization ultimately chooses:

    1. A Universally-Accepted Definition of a Sales-Ready Lead, Defined by Shared Lead-Scoring Criteria
    2. Standards on Lead Communication, Cues, and Timing to Define a Sales-Ready Lead
    3. Shared Profiles of Optimal Leads Who Present the Largest Likelihood of Converting to Customers

    In order to effectively develop a system where leads are nurtured into sales-ready opportunities, many organizations are choosing to establish a system where marketing and sales’ metrics are intertwined into a common revenue goal, as well as joint recognition for remarkable achievements.

    Re-engaging Your Leads

    “Some of [your disengaged leads] can be remedied, meaning there’s revenue potential out there in your email list that is sitting untapped.”- Corey Eridon, HubSpot 

    Every marketer knows the disappointment we feel when a lead’s interest fizzles. If a prospect is not opening your emails or clicking through to your website anymore, there’s a chance that he or she chose your competitor instead. There’s also a chance that his or her journey through your sales funnel has simply taken a detour and can be put back on path with the right re-engagement campaign.

    What constitutes an inactive lead for one company may not hold true for another. Your chances of re-engagement can vary significantly depending on your competition, buying cycle, the “necessity” of your product, and other factors. Depending on the length of your sales cycle, 3-6 months could be a general rule of thumb for when a lead should be considered completely lost.

    Here are some ideas for re-engagement campaigns that revive even the sleepiest leads:

    • Send an Exclusive Offer: Invite your lead to a special event, or give them first dibs on a limited-entry webinar. Alternatively, provide early access to a not-yet-released download of your next white paper.

    • Provide a Trial or Discount: Give your disengaged leads a chance to extend their trial of your service, or receive a discount on their first purchase.

    • Try Something New: Change the format of the content you’re sending out. Swap eBooks for infographics, and webinars for video.

    The Efficacy of Lead Nurturing

    Converting marketing leads into customers isn’t a simple transaction. It’s commonly accepted that the average consumer requires 7 touchpoints from you before becoming a customer. Lead nurturing allows you to effectively scale the effort required to keep in contact with a consumer, and answer questions as they research brands and make a decision between you and your competitors. In case you’re wondering if it really works, research indicates that it does:

    • Research shows that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.
    • Lead nurturing emails generate an 8% click-through-rate (CTR) compared to general email sends, which generate just a 3% CTR.

    By tailoring your content marketing and emails to the buyer's’ journey, you’re effectively able to deliver value at the right times.

    Avoid Over-Nurturing Your Leads

    Unfortunately, there’s no magical frequency or pattern for lead nurturing that will allow marketers across all industries to see success. Best practices dictate that once a week is typically a healthy frequency, and the length of your lead nurturing campaigns are likely best dictated by the cost of your product. It’s often true that the higher the price, the longer your sales cycle will be.

    Sellingly reports that 80% of sales happen between the 5th and 12th contact, yet only 12% of salespeople follow up with their leads more than 3 times:

    • 2% of sales are made on the 1st contact
    • 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact
    • 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact
    • 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact
    • 80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th contact

    Processing Fresh Leads

    Incoming lead processing campaigns are how smart marketers establish basic scoring and assign new leads to list segments. In order to establish trust and provide relevant information to your leads, you need to capture an understanding of their needs. Process and segment your incoming leads, by working with your sales department to develop a profile of your ideal customer.

    Many organizations have gone beyond the basic qualifying factors to incorporate implicit data on customer behavior and lead source insights:

    • Demographics: Industry, Company Size, and Geographic Location
    • Source of Offer and Its Performance in Existing Closed Loop Analytics
    • BANT: Budget, Authority, Need and Time
    • Thoroughness of Customer Data and Profile
    • Implicit Data on Customer Engagement

    By assigning a varied number of points to each of the criteria above, you can develop a score to determine how closely each contact profile aligns with your ideal buyer persona profiles.

    Utilizing Implicit Data for Lead Scoring

    By integrating marketing automation and CRM software, marketers can compile insight on customer behavior, which is often one of the most accurate insights into need.

    Here are a few components that can benefit a more sophisticated lead scoring program:

    • Is the lead visiting your website? Which pages have they visited since becoming alead? Are they “crawling” by exploring the website, or bouncing as soon as they read a single blog article?
    • How Did They Reach Your Website? Whether a person found your website through social media or organic search, what does the first page they visited reveal about his or her sophistication level?
    • Are They Visiting “High Value” Pages? If a prospects chooses to view information on your pricing, or testimonials, it could demonstrate a sense of urgency.
    • Are Their Colleagues Coming By Too? For B2B marketers, signs that multiple team members have visited your website can reveal that you’re being considered as a source for product or service solutions.
    • Are They Opening Emails? Once you start sending prospects an initial lead nurturing campaign, their behavior can reveal troves of insight about their interest. Are they opening emails and clicking through? Are they sharing more information through progressive profiling forms?

    Many enterprises are opting to create a “base score” for fresh leads that calculates how well their demographics align with the company’s buyer personas. Implicit data can add to this score. Each website they visit may be worth one point, and offers downloaded an additional two. Using a combined approach to lead scoring that encompasses both implicit and demographic factors can control for prospect interest.

    Mapping Lead Nurturing to Your Sales Cycle

    One of the primary benefits of having a distinct processing program in place for your incoming leads is being able to determine whether they’re truly interested in receiving further communications from your company. (At a minimum, all marketers based in the U.S. are required to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM act, which prevent communications without the express permission of a contact.)However, you may find that adding more levels to your opt-in process ultimately improves the quality of your leads.

    Ask for insight on preferences or set up a double opt-in component.  Adding this step in the process where leads are able to dictate their segment can ensure that permission is truly established, and you’ve set the groundwork for a relationship built on trust.

    And that trust will ultimately lead to customer acquisition, increased revenue and ROI for your marketing efforts.

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    Topics: Lead Gen