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Lead Nurturing: what is it, really?

 

lead nurturing, definedLead Nurturing explained:

It’s a term that has become a daily phrase in the marketer’s lexicon. In fact, we use it so much, it may be in danger of becoming a generic catch-all for anything to do with getting buyers from start to purchase. But lead nurturing, a.k.a. drip marketing, and it’s various components, including content marketing and cross channel marketing, is a very specific marketing process designed to gain buyer trust in your brand as an expert in its field that truly cares about helping people succeed, whether or not they choose to purchase from your company.

The origin of “Lead Nurturing”

The term “lead nurturing” is a play on the phrase “drip irrigation” which is a way of nurturing plants. The term “lead nurturing” grew from the evolution of the buyer’s journey.

For most of the modern sales and marketing era (from the early 1900s through the 1990s), purchasers were acquired with broadcast, one-way advertising messages and aggressive personal selling throughout the buyer’s journey. Buyers relied on salespeople to learn about the features, benefits and competitive advantages of a product or service, and typically dealt with a salesperson from initial awareness of their need through final purchase.

The Internet changed all that.

From the early 2000s, buyers at the start of their buyer’s journey no longer needed to talk to salespeople. They could research solutions to their needs and competitive options by accessing a wealth of journalistic and product reviews, as well as expert, objective articles, all free to view on the web. The influence of mass advertising approaches declined, because buyers were now more sophisticated. Likewise, buyers happily avoided having any contact with salespeople until after they’d narrowed their options to a final shortlist of purchase options.

This meant that in order for brands to be heard, they would have to publish credible, helpful content on the web themselves. And in order to win the trust of buyers that these brands were not simply trying to sell them something, this content would have to be genuinely focused on helping buyers, with no sales pitches. And, for this content to be found, it would have to be marketed.

Enter Content Marketing

To be truly successful targeting buyers with helpful content, brands found they had to do more than simply publish a lot of content and hope for it to get found. They had to proactively market their content. This means:

  • SEO – writing content in such a way that it will be quickly indexed and highly visible in search engines
  • SEM – using online ads to promote content
  • Email campaigns – promoting content to buyers in an existing lead database
  • Marketing automation – using software to automatically promote a sequence of timely, relevant content to buyers who’ve either found one of the brand’s content pieces organically, that is, by searching on a particular topic; or were already in company’s lead database

With email campaigns and marketing automation to power its content marketing, a brand could start to nurture leads, one piece of helpful, relevant content at a time, down the road of trust and interest to the point that when it came time for a buyer to research a solution to a particular need, that brand would come up on that buyer’s short list.

This then is the process of lead nurturing: gently assisting buyers with content they are looking for to help them solve their problems and fulfill their needs. This content is expertly written, backed by extensive knowledge and experience, and packed with helpful information that leads the customer to think, “Wow, this company is really expert in its field, and they really want to help me, with no pressure to buy anything. I like that. If I need their product or service in the future, I’ll be sure to consider them as a top candidate for my purchase.”

Cross Channel Lead Nurturing

Cross Channel Lead Nurturing takes lead nurturing a step further, promoting content not only on one channel, but over multiple channels, reaching buyers how and when they want to be reached. This includes:

  • email
  • web pages
  • SMS
  • social media
  • direct mail
  • phone calls
  • mobile and desktop

Today’s more sophisticated marketing automation platforms can send and track messages promoting content through all of these channels and more, with follow-up messaging determined by buyer responses. Further, marketing automation assists lead nurturing efforts by scoring buyers for sales readiness based on their response history and demographic profiles.

Summing up Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing means gently assisting buyers, over multiple channels, with expert advice and information (content) to win buyers’ trust and eventual purchase (or referral). Content marketing is the fuel of lead nurturing and marketing automation is the engine. With the increasing complexity of marketing automation platforms, companies are now turning to cross channel lead nurturing agencies like ZUZA to manage campaigns for them.

However you get it done, lead nurturing is the appropriate way to meet the needs and desires of your buyers today, winning their trust and eventual purchase as your leads sprout into customers.

Here’s to the Marketing Champion in all of us. See you in the next post.

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(From your Carlsbad printing company, ZUZA.)

 

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