Lead generation has long been the bread and butter of most marketing campaigns. Decades before nurture campaigns were on anybody’s radar, marketers labored over new, innovative ways to draw audience attention toward a product or service, only to then hand leads off to the sales team to seal the deal.
However, in today’s world of digital marketing and big data, demand generation has taken a more prominent seat at the table. Recent studies show that B2B buyers are 57 percent of the way through the buying process before contacting a sales representative. In an effort to market to leads through those early stages of the customer’s journey, nurture campaigns have become a critical component of any inbound marketing strategy.
Of course, figuring out exactly how to create, manage, and optimize nurture campaigns does not come overnight. Your first nurture campaign is a lot like popping a bottle of expensive champagne–exciting, valuable, kind of scary, and highly susceptible to a big mess if you do not handle it correctly.
That is why the ReachForce team has put together this step-by-step guide to developing nurture campaigns that help guide leads from the early stages of the customer journey all the way through to conversion.
But, before diving into the steps, let’s address an important question up front:
Why is Lead Nurturing So Important for B2B Marketers?
First, here is a simple fact. According to Marketo, nurture campaigns generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a 33 percent lower cost-per-lead. That should be reason enough for you to want to dive head-first into developing your first nurture campaign. If you need a bit more motivation, here are three less obvious ways that lead nurturing has a positive impact on your business.
#1. Nurture Campaigns Ensure No Lead Gets Left Behind
In the traditional relationship between marketing and sales, lead hand-offs happen as soon as a site visitor converts to a potential customer, regardless of whether that lead is “sales-ready” or not. Naturally, salespeople on a quota want to spend their time working with leads who are ready to buy now.
Here is the problem. Eighty percent of leads require at least five follow-up calls from sales after the initial outreach, but 44 percent of salespeople only make one follow-up call.
That means many of the potential customers your lead generation efforts bring to the table are falling through the cracks. Lead nurture campaigns reduce the number of leads ignored by sales from highs of 80 percent down to lows of 25 percent. Less ignored leads end up equating to more sales opportunities, too. Forrester Research found marketers had a 20 percent increase in sales for nurtured versus non-nurtured leads. Part of that increase can be attributed to better lead quality. However, there is another factor that makes nurture campaigns so effective for increasing sales opportunities.
#2. It Frees Up Your Sales Team to Do What They Do Best
Qualifying leads is a time-consuming process itself and often the responsibility of sales reps whose time would be better spent talking with customers and closing deals. The combination of a well-established nurture campaign and a refined method for lead scoring takes the duty of measuring sales readiness away from the sales reps. In turn, salespeople are only communicating with the most qualified leads, thus allowing them to do what they do best: close deals. According to Marketo, win rates on marketing-generated leads that went through a nurture campaign are 7 percent higher than those that did not. The value of customer purchases increases, too; deals closed with nurture leads have 47 percent higher value.
Nurture campaigns help you with more than just the deals in front of you, though.
#3. You Will Learn More About Your Audience for Future Campaigns
A great campaign can help your team cultivate high-quality data that you can use to develop future campaigns, market to new audiences, and even shape the future of your company’s products and services.
When you collect key information about your leads and their engagement with your nurture campaigns through a good data management platform, that data helps shape a better view of your target audience. Through nurture campaigns, you can determine:
- The best social channels for engaging with your target customer
- The types of content (blog posts, webinars, case studies, etc.) that help speed up the buying process and move your leads through the customer journey faster
- Content subject matter that is relevant to your audience and the problems they face
- Other customer segments or even entirely new industries that find value in your product or service
- Whether there is opportunity to enhance the value of your solution for current customers or perhaps launch new solutions to service unmet client needs
There is no question that a great nurture campaign can be well worth the time and financial investment. However, getting a successful campaign off the ground — especially the first time — takes planning. Here is how to make it happen:
5 Steps to a Successful Lead Nurture Campaign
The goal of any great nurture campaign should be about more than just ushering leads through your sales funnel; it should be about building relationships with your leads and gaining a better understanding of your customers, too.
To do that successfully, you need to invest some time up front in learning more about your target audience.
Step #1: Know Your Audience
Most marketers are sitting on a wealth of valuable customer data, but may not know exactly how to use that data to learn more about their target audience. You have probably heard all about developing buyer personas and customer segmentation, but you may not realize just how important those practices can be to lead nurturing success.
Today, customers expect a personalized marketing journey, with brands offering up high-value content at every step in the buying process. Over 78 percent of consumers make purchasing decisions based on whether the offer you present has been personalized based on their previous engagement with your business. In order to offer up that highly personalized customer experience, you need to segment your audience. In order to segment your audience, you need high-quality data.
A great data management platform — like ReachForce — brings together data from across all your inbound streams to create a single-source database for your customer information. Tools like Marketo then leverage that data to create defined customer segments based on key firmographic and behavioral data.
With those segments in-hand, you are ready for the next step.
Step #2: Map Your Customer Journey
Knowing your audience requires more than well-crafted customer segments. You also need to understand the road your leads take to becoming a customer. To do that, your team should be analyzing key sales data, like:
- Average sales cycle length
- Average number of engagements before conversion
- Types of content accessed by leads throughout the sales cycle
- Subject matter of content accessed by leads throughout the sales cycle
- Retention rates
Use that information to map out the journey your average lead takes from initial awareness of a problem in need of solving, all the way through to conversion (and, for real demand generation marketers, beyond conversion well into post-sale activities).
Check out this previous post on the ReachForce blog to learn more about how you can use your data to chart the customer journey. Then, with a strong understanding of your audience and the road they take to become your customers, move on to Step #3.
Step #3: Create and Align Content with Your Buying Cycle
Engaging your audience throughout the buying cycle makes a huge difference in the success of your inbound marketing. In case you do not know the figures, here is everything you need to know.
First, 47 percent of B2B buyers view three to five pieces of content before they ever engage with a sales representative. Here is the kicker: 95 percent of customers end up choosing the vendor that provided quality content at every step in the buying process.
In other words, your customers are going to do research on their own long before talking to you. If you are the one supporting their research through quality thought leadership, there is a really good chance you will end up landing their business over your competitors.
So, what kind of content should you create?
It really depends on your audience. “Top-of-the-funnel” content — like blog posts, how-to videos, tip sheets, and educational webinars — focus on delivering value to your audience through thought leadership. There is often little if any direct mention of your product or service directly. Instead, you focus on simply being that resource your audience can rely on while doing their own research.
“Middle-of-the-funnel” content generally includes content meant to help customers understand your solution and how it differs from the competition. This is where product webinars, case studies, and competitor analyses come in handy.
Finally, “bottom-of-the-funnel” content helps convert those leads into customers. Live demonstrations of your product, free consultations, and customer success stories play a big role at this stage.
This blog post from Hubspot does a great job of breaking down the different types of content you can use to reel in your audience at each stage of the buying cycle.
Step #4: Launch Your Campaign
After all the prep work, it is finally time to launch your campaign. After investing a significant amount of time in making this campaign a success, do not stop now; it is important to be monitoring campaign performance, listening to audience feedback (both through data and real-time interaction like social media), and measuring success against predetermined metrics.
Do not be afraid to test new approaches, especially high-impact (but often overlooked) elements of your campaign like:
- Email subject lines
- Day and time of day that emails are sent
- Time between emails (i.e. how many days between each email you send in the sequence of the nurture campaign)
- Calls to action
Step #5: Measure Results, Optimize Campaigns, Rinse and Repeat
Marketing today is all about leveraging data to make smart decisions. Your nurture campaigns are no different. You used customer data to develop your campaign, now leverage the incoming data from campaign performance to make it even better. This is a constant process; the best marketers are always looking at their performance results to find little ways they can improve the customer experience and help move more leads through the sales funnel.
Do Not Forget: Make It Easy for Leads to Convert to Customers
Long lead capture forms simply do not work. Not only are they a burden for leads who are interested in reading your content, but they also open the doors to excessive errors and data duplication that can bring down the quality of your data.
The good news is, excessively long lead capture forms are completely unnecessary with data enrichment tools like SmartForms. You can create a simple contact form that allows leads to quickly share key information and still get the bigger demographic data points you want through real-time data enrichment.