Previously in the ZUZA Marketer’s Blog, we touched upon a number of tactics and steps in the guiding of prospective buyers from initial brand awareness to the point of being receptive to contact from your sales team. We’ve discussed Marketing Automation, Buyer Personas, Content Marketing, Blogging and Webinars. We’ve emphasized that offering content that is useful to prospective buyers is a key to building trusting relationships with them. In our discussion of Buyer Personas, we touched on how to describe and group buyers based on what is important to them. And in our post about Marketing Automation, we highlighted how this technology can make guiding your prospects down the path to sales a lot easier.
Which brings us to the subject of today’s post: Lead Nurturing.
Lead nurturing is the process of building a trusting relationship with buyers before they receive their first contact from a salesperson.
Why nurture leads? Why not just call them straight away and see if they’re a prospect?
Because, frankly, they don’t want to hear from your sales people just yet.
Reality: Today, prospective buyers like to do a lot of their research on their own long before having a conversation with a salesperson. The wealth of objective information offered on the internet has empowered buyers to educate themselves about a product or service category without having to deal with sales pressure.
This has shifted the roles of marketing and sales. Traditionally, marketing’s job was to generate awareness and leads, and let sales handle all the relationship building with buyers. Now, marketing plays a much larger role in building a relationship with buyers while they’re still determining their needs and researching solutions. During this phase in the buying process, a sales call would not only be premature but would likely drive a buyer away.
During the buyer’s research phase, your company’s marketing program can provide the very information buyers are seeking – objective, helpful information free of a sales pitch of any kind. By providing this kind of information, buyers will come to see your company as a trusted advisor that truly cares about the needs of the buyer. This will motivate buyers to engage with your marketing – your website, white papers, webinar presentations, blogs, email newsletters and more.
Lead nurturing then is the “time-release” process that systematically “touches” prospective buyers with informative, useful content that is relevant to their needs and stage in their buying cycle during the buyers’ research phase, motivating buyers to trust your company to educate them, and to move themselves along the path to the point of being ready to talk to your sales team.
Lead Nurturing Basics:
Lead nurturing has become an essential part of the marketing process. As the word “nurture” implies, you have to put a lot of care and feeding into guiding the buyer. Here’s a top-level overview of what you’ll need:
- Website – a no brainer, but this list would be incomplete without it. You need a place where buyers can discover you and register to receive content (thus providing you with their contact information), and to house your content.
- Content – this one may take you a while to build, but you’ll want to create a substantial amount of content – white papers, webinars and associated PowerPoint presentations, blog articles, email newsletters, videos, etc., to engage buyers at different stages in their research process.
- Buyer Classifications – this includes determining buyer personas, organizational roles, and stages in their buying processes – so you can target them with relevant content at the proper times. Your sales and marketing team should work together to develop these classifications.
- Lead Scoring – this is the process of ranking leads in real time based on a variety of factors such as time spent on your site, pages visited, repeat site visits, registration for downloads and email notifications, content consumed, webinars attended, response to emails, etc., as well as their buyer classifications. As leads achieve certain scores, they will trigger appropriate nurturing activities (such as emails with specific offers of content) to move those leads through the buying process.
- Nurturing Plan – this is your scheme for which buyers get which touches and content when, based on scoring and actions taken by buyers. Timing of nurturing activities will depend on the length of the buying process and the communication approaches you use. Consider building a matrix for your plan which shows buying stages on one dimension, buyer roles on the other, and communication approaches in the intersecting cells.
- Marketing Automation Tool – Imagine the effort your team will expend manually poring over your website’s traffic analytics, personally responding to registrations and emails from buyers, scoring leads in real time, and manually sending appropriate communications in response to actions taken by buyers – a daunting task even with relatively few buyers. Now imagine a marketing automation tool doing it all for you, exactly as you’ve planned, on time every time. The difference is literally night and day. Some form of marketing automation technology is critical to effective lead nurturing. And there are plenty of good tools out there, as our recent blog post describes.
Marketo, one of the leaders in the marketing automation industry, is an excellent producer of content for its own lead nurturing, providing very informative and unbiased content which educates. They’ve produced a comprehensive yet easily digested guide on this very subject. We highly recommend downloading it as your next step in learning about lead nurturing.
If you’re already performing lead nurturing, how’s it working for you? What have been your lessons learned? We’d love to hear about it.
Here’s to the marketing champion in all of us. See you in the next post.