The complete guide to lead nurturing

A quick introduction to lead nurturing: How it is vital for converting leads

Do you have marketing and sales qualified leads that never convert, no matter how many times your sales team calls them?

It’s because today’s potential buyers are far more market savvy and have more needs than ever.

Leads are aware of your competitors, the solutions the market is offering and they know how to do research. The key to winning over leads in a big sea of competitors and solutions is to build a relationship with them, and help them conclude themselves that your solution is the perfect match to solving their problem.

How do you put your organisation in the spotlight when leads make purchasing decisions? By implementing a lead nurturing strategy.

What is a lead nurturing strategy: Simply put, it is building relationships with leads at every stage of the sales funnel, by utilising useful and informative content to educate them about how your solutions will solve their problems. Lead nurturing is primarily done through email marketing.

By nurturing your leads as part of your sales strategy, you can continuously foster trust with leads and move them down the sales funnel. And when they are ready to make a purchasing decision, your company will be at the top of their list.

Here are some illuminating statistics about the benefits of lead nurturing.

  • IT decision-makers are spending more time engaging with online content as 49% are increasing the amount of time they read online and 48% are increasing the amount of time they watch online videos (IDG)
  • Relevant and consistent content is essential – 72% of tech buyers are more likely to consider an IT vendor who educates them through each stage of the decision-process (IDG)
  • 93% of B2B companies say content marketing generates more leads than traditional marketing strategies (Forbes)

In this guide, we will walk you through creating a winning business development strategy, with lead nurturing at its foundation – resulting in leads that are higher quality and easier to convert.

Remember, lead nurturing is just one part of a solid business development strategy. The first step is to qualify leads to ensure that you are only chasing leads that are worthwhile to your organisation. Once you have qualified leads, then you can nurture them.

If you haven’t already, check out our Complete Guide to Lead Qualification, and then you will have everything you need for a successful lead conversion strategy.

Key benefits of lead nurturing

Converting leads into customers isn’t as simple as sending one-off emails. It is a strategic process that requires sending the right kind of information, to the right type of lead, at the right time.

This is especially true for emerging vendors.

In the 2021 IDG Customer Engagement study, we found that buyers have different standards for emerging versus well-established vendors. When introducing a new technology product or service, emerging vendors are evaluated based on their proof of concept and case studies, while well-established vendors should provide detailed product information.

By utilising a robust lead nurturing strategy, your sales conversion plan will benefit in the following ways:

  • It leads to consistent communication with leads
    A lead nurturing strategy is the best way to engage leads predictably. Communication that is frequent and helpful results in expectations for your content. This positive feedback loop is invaluable for converting leads.

    Lead nurturing will also help engage leads who have stopped interacting with your organisation. If a prospect showed interest at the initial stage of the buyer’s journey but dropped off, you can win them back through content that specifically targets their needs.
  • It builds trust by addressing buyer challenges and pain points
    Lead nurturing is about identifying specific prospect needs, based upon what you have learned from your lead qualification strategy. Through content that is informative, and entertaining. Whether that is through email marketing, infographics, reports or something else, a successful lead nurturing campaign will result in prospects that are excited to see where your journey takes them.   
  • It educates your prospects about the value of your services
    96% of visitors who come to your website aren’t ready to buy. Prospects are market  savvy and will buy  the organisation they know and trust the most. The first time a lead lands on your website, the likelihood of them grasping the full offering of your organisation is slim. Lead nurturing is your opportunity to show how you have the solutions to their challenges.
  • Lead nurturing aligns marketing and sales into a winning team
    Businesses with strong sales and marketing alignment are 67% more effective at closing deals, according to LinkedIn Research, and with good reason. Winning teams always work together, and it’s the same with lead conversion strategies. Collaboration and a shared strategy are key – so why do so many marketing teams send their sales colleagues all of the leads in the system and call it a day?

    A lead nurturing strategy puts a stop to this counterproductive behaviour, ensuring that marketing and sales are aligned with what makes a good qualified sales lead. The messaging that marketing uses in lead nurturing content will match the messaging that sales use when engaging prospects, creating a consistent and personal buyer’s journey.

Signs that your business needs lead nurturing right now

  • Sign 1: You can’t clearly define who your ideal customer is
    To convert leads, you need to understand their challenges. While you can’t create a strategy for every single lead, through lead nurturing, you can segment them into groups of manageable and targetable potential buyers.
  • Sign 2: Leads aren’t engaging with your content
    This likely means that you aren’t sharing specialised content and your leads know it. If leads are being sent information that isn’t useful for them, or it is being sent at the wrong time on the buyer’s journey, you likely need a lead nurturing strategy.
  • Sign 3: You aren’t taking advantage of multiple touchpoints
    Research shows that prospects need to receive around ten marketing touches until they become fully aware of your organisation and services. Implementing a lead nurturing strategy will help you utilise every touchpoint at your disposal.

How to create a successful lead nurturing workflow

Lead nurturing is critical to your business development plan, and is the foremost method of turning marketing qualified leads into sales leads.

By continuously delighting leads and educating them about your solutions, you will increase their lead qualification scores, until they turn into sales qualified leads.

Remember, creating a workflow is all about experimentation and trying new things. The more granular and targeted the better.

Defining your lead nurturing campaign

As with any marketing initiative, you need to establish what your goals are for your lead nurturing campaign. Depending on the complexity of the lead nurturing platform and your buyer personas, you can have a wide array of lead nurturing campaigns that aim to get your leads to take a specific action.

Whether it is something like increasing the lead qualification score of a lead segment, or an action oriented result like encouraging leads to request a product demo, ensure you have a smart goal that aligns with your business development objectives for each campaign.

This can be quite challenging to determine. Typically, the role of strategic business development is to obtain high quality leads for your high priority services.

This is a high stakes decision, as a good lead nurturing strategy can result in high growth and enhanced lead conversion, while a strategy that doesn’t deliver can actually damage your reputation and stifle growth. While content such as webinars and reports has democratised public speaking and publishing, you still have to make sure that the content is right for the audience.

Once you have a lead nurturing campaign in mind, go back to your lead database and your buyer personas to decide who you want to target. You can also use your qualified sales leads, or non-qualified sales leads, to help you inform this decision.

Offer value and plan out content for each stage of the buyer’s journey

Next, you need to categorise your content so it aligns with the stages of the buyer’s journey.

There are three stages; Awareness content, consideration content, and decision content. The threshold at which you assign leads to these stages should be aligned with your lead qualification framework and your scoring system.

Awareness content

Awareness stage content includes anything that is immediately eye-catching and usable across all your channels. Typically, high-level information and industry insights make up most of the content at this stage. You need to provide as much upfront value as possible to the lead, without asking for commitments or including sales pressure. You can do this by exploring industry challenges and points, and offering solutions for solving them. This includes:

Consideration content

Leads at the consideration stage are actively trying to solve challenges. Content that will help nurture leads at this stage includes in depth analysis, comparisons and detailed industry insights in the form of case studies or  reports. These offer detailed guidance on solving industry pain points. Content here should increase the commitment needed to consume it. This includes:

Decision content

This is the opportunity to show that you can deliver on all of your promises as a company, by providing content that puts lead in the front seat of your products and services. This includes:

Need help with effective and unique lead nurturing workflows? See what IDG SDS can do for you with our in-house team of lead nurturing experts.

Set objectives for each email

Each piece of content you send out needs a clear purpose. Delight customers by selecting content that appeals to the custom segment they belong to.

A lead nurturing email should always intend to move the prospect down the sales funnel, so they can ultimately be contacted for a sales call.

Lead nurturing objectives differ from company to company, but here are few common ones:

  • Demographic
    For example: Age, Education, Country, region, state, and city. The type of marketing content you deliver will vary from country to country and you can create strategies around this depending on what your business goals are.
  • Attitude
    For example: Interests and product preferences. A lead nurturing campaign aimed at new customers unfamiliar with your technology type will differ from a campaign aimed at leads who have experience but recently left a competitor.
  • Technology
    For example: Desktop, mobile, applications, hardware/software. You might consider a campaign based on easy to access infographics by targeting leads who visit your website via their mobile device.
  • Needs
    For example: Product values and concerns. Create lead nurturing campaigns highlighting specific benefits of your products and how they can solve customer problem sets. For instance, a campaign focused on how your solution will improve business processes, or how your solution will lead to more cross team collaboration.
  • Value
    For example: Financial values and concerns. Lead nurturing campaigns of this type emphasise the cost of your products and compared competitors, and send the relevant content to leads that showed financial concerns, or smaller companies with a limited budget.

Send your lead nurturing emails at the right time

There are a lot of variables that factor into how many emails you send and how often. It is a good idea to send at least 3 or 4 emails in any lead nurturing campaign, which should be spaced out across the entire campaign.

For example, if you had a lead nurturing campaign run for 30 days, emailing every 10 days will ensure your leads aren’t being bombarded with marketing. Remember, the purpose of lead nurturing is to let the leads come to the decisions themselves that your product is the right one for them. Be patient, and try not to force the issue by sending too many emails.

Here are some timeframes for common lead nurturing emails:

  • New leads
    The aim of this email campaign is to establish a relationship after a lead appears in your lead system. Generally, you want to build on that relationship and send numerous emails at the beginning of the campaign, and then slowly taper off and make them less frequent. This can look like 3 emails in the first week, and then 3 more spread over the month.
  • Sales nurturing
    Sales nurturing emails target leads have contacted your sales team. Because of this, it is good to spread your emails out over a longer campaign because you are already on their radar.
  • Cold lead nurturing
    You will inevitably have leads that go cold and don’t respond to your engagement attempts. These kinds of leads aren’t engaging for a reason, so taking a longer time before sending emails will be more effective at winning them back.
  • Data qualification
    The purpose of this campaign is to provide your sales team with more valuable information about your leads. Even if it is as simple as finding what kinds of products they are interested in, you should generally take longer intervals between emails so leads don’t feel like they are giving up too much of their time.

Experimentation is a big part of finding success. The lead nurturing experts at IDG SDS can help remove that burden from your sales and marketing teams, ensuring your leads benefit from authentic and personalised lead nurturing that shows how your solutions will resolve their challenges. Find out more.

Measure the success of your lead nurturing campaigns and try new things

As with most marketing activities, be sure to experiment with your lead nurturing campaigns. Whether that is your subject lines, calls-to-actions, or the content mix you use – different strategies will always provide you more feedback into finding out what works for your segments.

Automating your lead nurturing strategies

Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects see a 451% increase in qualified leads, according to Fronetics.

A small marketing team can build and maintain authentic conversations with a few dozen leads. But, if you are aiming to have authentic and personal lead nurturing conversations with hundreds of leads, lead nurturing automation technology is the only solution that will allow you to keep on top of your strategies and streamline your work processes.

By implementing automatic lead nurturing workflows, you can have as many campaigns running as you need, sending messages to as many leads as you want, ensuring all of your content and messaging is relevant and sent at the best times for each lead.

Want to learn more about automating your lead nurturing strategy? Check out our Guide to lead nurturing automation.

Quite a lot to take in? Consider outsourcing sales development and lead nurturing

Depending on the size of your company and how granular you want your campaigns, you might need an entire team dedicated to sales development that sits in between marketing and sales.

However, in an IDG survey, we found that 61% of companies struggle to manage costs when running an in-house sales development team.

This shows in our survey as well. We asked companies what their biggest reason for outsourcing sales development (single choice), and the results were:

  • Gain access to better technology than we have in house (16%)
  • For transparency into activity and results (14%)
  • Scale the Sales Development team (13%)

More often than not, companies invest in new staff to help crack new markets and deepen relationships with customers and prospects, but are disappointed with the ROI.

Implementing a sales development strategy requires the output of a dedicated team. The responsibility of implementing:

  • new technologies
  • training sales and marketing teams on using them
  • ensuring your marketing and sales teams are aligned
  • analysing and trialing new strategies

Are time-consuming and resource intensive activities.

Handing this much work over to your sales and marketing teams who already have their own responsibilities will probably not yield the best value.

And the smaller the team, the more sales development there is to fall upon the shoulders of fewer people. In fact, in our survey, 55% of companies responded that hiring and keeping talented people is a core challenge.

By outsourcing sales development, you remove the burden from sales and marketing, while also benefiting from the expertise of a dedicated sales development team, enabling your lead  nurturing campaigns to be more effective.

It is important to remember that lead scoring and lead nurturing isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy, which is why having experts look at your organisation with fresh eyes is hugely beneficial.

If you outsource sales development, you don’t have to worry about;

  • Setting up lead nurturing workflows
  • Qualifying and segmenting leads
  • Salaries
  • Technology and licensing
  • Office Space
  • Recruiting
  • Training
  • Onboarding

Outsourcing sales development will take care of all of those costs into a single package. And you gain the expertise and speed of the company that specialises in sales development. See why outsourcing might be the answer to realising your business development and sales goals.

Conclusion

As we have covered throughout this guide, lead nurturing is key for converting leads and not letting them slip through your fingers.

By building relationships with leads and fostering trust, your organization saves time, energy, and ultimately your bottom line – as you will spend more time converting existing leads and less time looking for new ones.

Whether you decide to bring sales development in-house or work with an outsourced partner, or mix of both, you are taking a step in the right direction towards more lead conversions.

What’s next? Check out our guide to lead nurturing automation.

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