Lead nurturing – More than just email blasts

Have you ever signed up for a mailing list thinking it will help you stay up to date on a product or service, only to find the future content to be mostly irrelevant? According to CMO.com, 42 percent of buyers say they get annoyed when their content isn’t personalized. There’s a growing buyer expectations gap as we, consumers in the B2C world, have become accustomed to personalized content and recommendations (e.g. Amazon, Netflix, YouTube) while the B2B world is still mostly mired in the world of generic, one-size-fits-all email blasts.

B2B sales are typically a much longer sales cycle, so even if your email blast is able to capture a good amount of leads, they may not be ready for the purchase decision for several months or longer. Handing off the leads to sales that are not ready to buy is never a good option, but neither is passively waiting and hoping the lead will let you know when it is ready to purchase. This is where lead nurturing comes in. It helps you proactively engage the leads and progress them gradually towards a buying decision.

Here are five suggestions to help enhance your approach to lead nurturing:

Segment your leads

Segmentation has a powerful impact. Consider that according to D&B, 65 percent of marketers attributed an increase in MQLs to improved customer segmentation and profiling practices.

So, while it may make sense in some scenarios to target all your leads, generally you’ll want to divide your leads into different segments based on specific demographics, firmographics or other data.

Segmentation helps you to better understand your distinct customer groups so you can develop more precise approaches to marketing to them. This lets you use your marketing resources more efficiently e.g. develop targeted content that appeals to specific segments. It also helps you communicate more effectively as you can develop precise messaging for each distinct segment.

For instance, if your product has an entry-level package that appeals to small businesses and an enterprise version that appeals to large corporations, it would make sense to segment them into different groups, so you can communicate with each segment more specifically with benefits, pricing and so on. Depending on the complexity of your offerings, you may even find that you need to define segments that are a combination of different segments.

Utilize multiple channels

Prospects interact with companies in a myriad of ways. Does it make sense to only rely on email blasts to drive leads? Think about each channel and how well it works for your product/target buyer segment and incorporate the prioritized channels into your lead nurturing processes. For instance, if you participate in events and webinars, make sure those are incorporated in your lead nurturing plans. If you find that certain segments are more receptive to phone calls, it would make sense to have calls as touch points at appropriate intervals.

Create relevant buyer journeys

Think of each interaction with a prospect as an opportunity for you to make your offers more relevant for them. Depending on your offerings and segmentation, some segments may require a few simple interactions involving emails and phone calls. Others may require a much more in-depth process involving several interactions and in-person follow-ups. Incorporate the prioritized channels for your segment into your buyer journey to make it more impactful and meaningful.

Of course, this is an ongoing process and you are continually learning from your buyer interactions and course-correcting and customizing the journey so your future interactions are further personalized and relevant. Use a mix of content (whitepapers, recorded video, 3rd party reports, case studies, etc.) that is authentic and genuinely useful and able to meet audience needs. Avoid falling into the trap of bombarding the audience with promotional content.

Continually update and incorporate new insights

Think of the buyer’s journey as an ongoing, two-way dialog and not just an opportunity for you to share how great your offering is or how well it might meet their needs. Use a combination of marketing landing pages, gated content, short surveys, open ended email feedback requests, to learn more about the prospect, their interests, industry, role, challenges, etc. Do this over time, in small chunks, and incorporate this information to build a comprehensive profile of the buyer and their needs. Use this to refine your buyer journeys so you can provide more suitable content to address their needs. And of course, in order for it to be an effective two-way dialog, be sure to follow-up to requests, clarifications, feedback, etc. in a timely manner.

Define sales handoff criteria

According to a MarketingProfs, Organizations miss out on 50 percent more sales-ready leads when leads aren’t nurtured well. You can ensure your leads don’t meet this dismal fate by using a robust marketing to sales handoff criteria for the leads.

Lead scoring is a good way to establish an objective marketing to sales handoff criteria. Each time an interaction happens with a lead in the journey, the lead score is adjusted. Once it has met or passed a pre-established threshold, it is ready to be handed off to sales. A buyer journey may consist of different types of activities e.g. emails, events, trials, etc., and each of them may result in an up or down adjustment to the lead score by a different magnitude. For instance, if you have a significantly higher close rate for those who have done trials vs. those that have just watched a demonstration of your product, your model may increase the lead’s score significantly in response to their completing a trial. Similarly, the lead score may be influenced by demographics such as industry, company size, etc.

While there are many ways you can incorporate lead nurturing in your marketing approach and achieve more sales-ready leads, I encourage you to consider a Marketing Automation Solution such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Marketing. It can provide a more powerful way to turn your prospects into business relationships. Find out for yourself by signing up for a free trial of Dynamics 365 for Marketing and see how well it meets your needs.

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