2013: The Year of Lead Nurturing
Now that we’re into the second month of 2013, we thought this would be a good time to highlight how B2B marketing (and to a large extent, B2C marketing) has evolved. A new paradigm has firmly established itself, one where buyers spend much more of their buying cycles researching information, and wait until nearly the end of the process to engage with a salesperson. As a result, marketing must now play a much more active role in building a relationship with buyers for most of the buying cycle.
This kind of relationship building is called lead nurturing. Just like it sounds, this is the process of growing a buyer, in an authentic and organic way, from simply having a casual interest in your product/service category to feeling a real sense of urgency and wanting to talk directly to one of your salespeople about providing a solution.
To do this, we must first meet the buyer’s need for information about how to solve a particular problem. In essence, the buyer is first a prospect for information that can help him or her, and only later a prospect for the actual product or service you are offering. The information you provide must be factual, credible, not vendor specific (meaning, not a promotional pitch for your company) and genuinely useful to buyers. This helps buyers establish trust in your expertise about your product/service category, and in your desire to help them solve their problems.
Content Marketing for Lead Nurturing
The work of curating, publishing and promoting informative content in order to nurture buyers has come to be called content marketing. You can provide this content in numerous formats, including:
- White papers
- eBooks (essentially long white papers)
- Case studies
- Videos (how-to and user testimonial)
Buyers can discover your content organically by researching specific key words and phrases using search engines. You can also promote your content in a more controlled way to buyers you’ve already identified. For instance, you can email a buyer every couple of weeks to promote a specific white paper, video or webinar. This timed-release promotion is called drip marketing. Like drip irrigation for plants, drip marketing “nurtures” the buyer with relevant content over regular intervals. Marketing automation software can dynamically adjust what content is promoted to a buyer based on the actions the buyer has taken in response to your previous promotions.
Moving Buyers Through The Funnel
As buyers continue to revisit your website to consume more content, they can accumulate points for their activities, which you can track and score using marketing automation software. For instance, you might give a high score to downloading a white paper about a specific pain point solved by your product, but a lower score to a more generic paper about the industry. If you are getting buyers to fill out online forms to gain access to your content (and you should be), then you can also gain demographic data about these buyers. Those buyers who fit your demographic criteria for serious buyers and reach a predetermined threshold point total for accessing your content can be qualified by your marketing team as potential opportunities and handed over to your sales team to make direct contact.
The practice of lead nurturing is fast approaching the tipping point as the way marketing must be done. One need only look at the proliferation of companies providing marketing automation software to enable lead nurturing, as well as all of the news stories, articles, white papers and books that have recently been published on the subject, to know that lead nurturing is gaining mainstream awareness. Companies are realizing that this is now the way in which customers want to be engaged. Those early-adopter companies that have already implemented lead nurturing programs are gaining the upper hand in their industries.
In our next blog post, we’ll go over the main steps involved in designing your successful lead nurturing program as part of a complete series on the subject. Stay tuned.
Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.