Have you noticed how the language of marketing has changed to be more welcoming? We now talk about B2B inbound in terms of journeys, personalization and processes of nurturing. As inbound has developed into a science, a guiding principle has emerged—always keep the people behind the broad concept of buyers and their diverse needs in mind. Just like Newton’s Three Laws of Motion in the Principia Mathematica, the phrase “reach buyers on their terms” is the succinct legacy of the ever-evolving gospel of B2B inbound marketing.Lead nurturing is an important element of cutting-edge inbound strategy. It comes from the understanding that B2B prospects are rarely ready to buy at the moment they enter the funnel and that many prospects will take different paths down the funnel. But, on a deeper level, lead-nurturing tactics are about building genuine relationships with leads, with a seller providing a prospect valuable knowledge and demonstrating that they listen to their needs and concerns.
On a deeper level, lead-nurturing tactics are about building genuine relationships with leads.
Despite what the name could imply, lead nurturing is not solely a mid-funnel strategy—it starts from the moment a prospect demonstrates some awareness of your solutions and continues through the entire buyer’s journey (and, in a way, beyond into your retention efforts). But that middle portion, where a prospect is nurtured into a true sales-qualified lead, is the linchpin of it all. Lead nurturing is a cross-departmental effort that intends to make the handoff of a lead from marketing to sales seamless for both the people in your company doing the nurturing and the prospect themselves.
Best practices in lead nurturing are centered on reaching leads on their terms and exhibiting patience as decision-makers gather the information they need to confidently move to the next step and, ultimately, a purchase. Let’s delve into the specific tactics that allow for that to happen.
1. Start with targeted automation
The top of the funnel is an uncertain place for both buyer and seller. Sellers know buyers have differing needs and motivations, but the specifics can be murky at the outset. Buyers know they have a problem to solve, but their understanding of that problem and how to solve it may be rudimentary when they begin their research.
Thus, it’s up to a B2B seller to produce information that elucidates common issues for buyers and makes an attempt to provide the knowledge they need. The next step after that general top-of-the-funnel content is to quickly hone in on those specifics. If leads provide their firmographic and contact information because of a piece of content’s call-to-action, set up automatic responses segmented by the type of company (size, maturity, industry) or decision-maker (C-suite, manager, director, researcher) who volunteered that information. For example, a small business CFO should get an email from you after signing up with information about the value of investing in an innovative solution.
Bolster that with site retargeting for those who weren’t ready to initiate direct contact so that you can gently remind prospects staying at the top of the funnel of what you can provide them. Create different classes of ads for the retargeting code on each landing page (which is your first clue to what a prospect is searching for at the outset) and it will show you are a seller with an acute awareness of specific buyer needs.
2. Establish an earnest dialogue
Though some B2B prospects are more hesitant or methodical than others, all leads need multiple interactions before they can confidently commit to a trial period or consultation, let alone a bona fide purchase. The biggest mistake sellers make is thinking those interactions can be accomplished solely through content and emails.
Offers and calls-to-action are not solely meant for giving away whitepapers and e-books. They are an opportunity to start a real conversation. Once you’ve demonstrated expertise and knowledge through the content they first come into contact with, prospects will look to you an assessment of their needs. Here, both marketing and sales come into play, with the former establishing a line of dialogue and gathering specifics to determine a lead’s qualification for sales while the latter takes all that information and prepares to pick up the conversation directly from where marketing leaves off.
Offers and calls-to-action are not solely meant for giving away whitepapers and e-books. They are an opportunity to start a real conversation.
Crucial to this is not wasting any time on making these interactions happen. When a prospect is showing a willingness to take the next step, time lost on following up can directly result in an equal loss of interest on their part. For this purpose, automation is key to the top of the funnel and collaboration between sales and marketing is needed for the stages after. Closer collaboration between the two means the buyer experiences no jarring shock when they are handed off to sales for the stretch run.
3. Listen and adjust
Take what you learn towards the end of each lead-nurturing case and apply it to your tactics used earlier in the journey. Lead nurturing is just like so many other elements of modern B2B marketing in that it needs to evolve with time and experience to be effective.
From prospects’ response times to opening-stage content to the conversations sales has with leads in order to seal that final conversion, your successes, difficulties and failures are all valuable. They tell you what to prioritize and what to eliminate from your strategy. As mentioned, lead nurturing is about building a relationship with prospects, and any relationship is maintained by a willingness to learn about the other and make improvements based on that new knowledge.
As you learn more about what you’re doing right in lead nurturing and what your ideal prospects—those most apt to become sales-qualified leads—really need from you, the strategy itself becomes more effective at generating qualified leads in the future. Get better at automation, timely interaction, and genuine dialogue and your future prospects will notice from the first moment they come into contact with you.
Ultimately, you must continually seek out ways to have automated dialogues with sales-qualified prospects who assist buyers with making decisions. By knowing what’s working and what isn’t, you can then tailor the experiences into rewarding experiences for the prospects, truly anticipating what information they’re using to cross off their checklists. If you can match your scorecard for prospects with their scorecards for vendors, you can then allow sales to create genuinely deeper relationships.