Proven Marketing Practices to Nurture Leads

We all have our eye on the prize: increased sales and revenue. But before we can close deals, we have to acquire leads and follow up with them over time in an appropriate way to ensure that they convert. Lead nurturing is a critical stage in the sales funnel that keeps contacts interested and engaged. It is a powerful tool that helps to establish a preference among buyers for your solutions over the competitors’, while helping you assess time-frames for decision making.lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is about having consistent and meaningful dialogs with prospects at all stages of the sales cycle. It means building trusted relationships with the right people. It is not salespeople calling every few weeks to find out if prospects are “ready to buy yet.”

The four main goals of a lead nurturing process are:

  • Seek permission to connect with prospects:

This is one of the most important goals of lead nurturing, as without it, the achievement of any other goals is impossible.

  • Keep the discussions informative and interesting:

If your potential customers lose interest in your interactions or do not see any value, they will disconnect, start ignoring your messages or unsubscribe from your email campaigns.

  • Plan content by establishing important ideas:

    Lead nurturing is gradual, as you need to attract the attention of your audiences through regular interaction. Your potential buyers may not enter a decision-making process for a long time. Therefore, the interim needs to be filled with content that educates them about problems and solutions. Marketers, who are able to do this well can better position their companies so potential customers become actual buyers.

  • Watch for signs of progress through the buying cycle:

    As you nurture potential buyers, track their behavior to understand if they are ready to engage with sales. There are 2 indicators that you can track for lead scoring:

Fit score is based on attributes that tell you how well the prospect compares against your ideal buyer profile – things like job title or role, industry, and company size.  In other words, how attractive is this potential lead to me.

Interest score is based on the prospect’s engagement with your campaigns and content. This can include things like reading the blog, attending webinars, downloading papers, and even social behaviors such as sharing your content on their networks. Interest score tells you how attractive you are to the potential customer.

To successfully nurture leads, your marketing programs need to deliver content that is of sufficient value and interest to prospects so you earn permission to stay in contact. However, any organizations use “long-term nurturing” as a label for leads that do not respond to their product/service offers. So the contacts are sent random emails every once in a while. But this approach does not have any pre-set goals, messaging strategy or action parameters to recognize when any of these dormant leads become “sales-ready” and require action.
IBM recognizes one of the toughest business challenges is to generate highly-qualified, sales-ready leads. Most marketers try to do so using a mix of disconnected technologies and manual processes. The result is ineffective marketing, inadequate sales coordination, uninterested prospects and missed revenue. The IBM lead management solution offers capabilities for generating leads and converting them into loyal customers.
Some of the steps that the IBM approach uses to improve the lead management process are:

1.  Generate new leads by executing targeted, personalized and integrated campaigns to improve close rates and increase revenue

2.  Deliver personalized, relevant marketing messages across all touch points

3.  Engage customers and prospects with timely email and mobile messages

4.  Give marketing users the power of predictive analytics in reports with clearly defined metrics like lead generation ROI and responses

5.  Determine the optimal contact strategy over time for customers

According to the website Software AdviceHubspot has lead nurturing practices such as drip email, marketing automation, conversational marketing, etc. Here is their advice for lead nurturing:

1.  Build sufficient inbound lead volumes: Getting a steady stream of inbound leads to nurture is the hardest part of the equation. This requires constant cleansing and updating of data lists. Industry research shows that the average marketing database expires at the rate of 25 percent per year as people switch jobs, change email addresses, unsubscribe, etc. Secondly, you need to keep tabs on all those who have expressed an interest in your content by signing up for your newsletter and blog updates or following you on Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media. These aren’t necessarily leads, but they’re at least connected to you and this could act as a trigger for your nurturing campaign.

2.  Create useful, valuable, “lovable” content: Buyers now come to the table much more informed than before. If you really want efforts to show results, you need to shift away from self-centered marketing and toward more informative, useful content that people actually want to see in their inbox. This might take longer and require more creative skills, but the results are well worth the effort.

3.  Segment, segment, segment: A more granular segmentation of your database and campaigns can generate better returns. At Hubspot, leads are divided according to two characteristics: persona and lifecycle stage. When you categorize leads in this way, it becomes easier to employ a strategy that with content, language and other nuances that are most likely to resonate with the contacts.
Eloqua, a marketing automation Software as a Service (SaaS) company, shares six different types of lead nurturing programs based on their marketing research:

Welcome campaign: Welcomes the new subscribers by introducing the brand, reinforcing subscription benefits and spelling out the next steps in the transactions with customers.
Education campaign: Engages prospects to get more detail for better profiling and defines the value proposition to get them ready to talk to the sales team.
Why us campaign: Establishes the brand and differentiates it from competitors by providing customer experiences, testimonials and case studies.
Accelerate campaign: Removes any roadblocks from the decision-making process and provides tools to speed up the buying process.
New customer on-boarding campaign: Welcomes new customers, thanks them and identifies next steps.
Customer retention/loyalty campaign: Seeks customer feedback to further develop relationships and retain them; features tips/ tricks to get the most out of the products.

The trick is to find a balance between process automation and meaningful and personalized communication with prospects. Only when you achieve excellence in both aspects, can you hope to create improved relationships with qualified potential customers and go a long way in creating an ever expanding database of prospective buyers.

As we continue to focus on trends in lead nurturing, tell us which tools and tactics have helped you engage and convert leads for your business.

About Kriti Adlakha
I have been working in the field of marketing and brand development for more than eight years. My experience ranges from hospitality to media and IT products to outsourced services. During my journey, I have worked with print and new-age media and have enjoyed developing content. I have also learnt and worked on marketing tools like adwords marketing, analytics, CRM and the list is steadily growing. Having acquired post-graduate diploma in business management from IIM, Calcutta, I love new challenges and learn from each experience. In my blog, I share marketing strategies that enable small and medium businesses to market in a small budget. I also discuss how to use different online tools that can help businesses to monitor returns of their marketing investments. Above all, I love to hear back from my readers!

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