What Is Lead Nurturing?
While lead generation is all about finding new and relevant people for your products and services, B2B lead nurturing is about warming them up, and making them more likely to buy your product.
Before we dive into creating your lead nurturing strategy it's important to answer: What is the definition of lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of guiding new prospects and contacts through your marketing funnel, warming them up along the way for your sales team to take over when the time is right.
As G2 identifies, lead nurturing needs to be unique to your business and your audience in order to be effective; a copy-and-paste template isn't going to cut it.
But what does that look like in reality for a busy B2B marketing department?
Lead nurturing follows lead generation like night follows day. Without it, you could have the most successful lead generation campaign in the world, and you'd struggle to convert any leads.
How you nurture your leads can vary greatly; there are lots of different methods. But the key aims are:
- Raising brand awareness
- Providing value to your prospects
- Guiding relevant contacts toward a sale (and beyond).
So let's get stuck in! This is your complete guide to creating your lead nurturing strategy: what lead nurturing is, how to nurture your B2B leads, and the best lead nurturing strategies to try.
Why Is Lead Nurturing Important?
Without lead nurturing, you might find that your lead generation strategies don't convert into sales.
Modern B2B lead nurturing best practices are more sophisticated than many marketers think. It's not just about frequently emailing your leads: the lead nurturing process has specific steps you can take to actively move your leads along the marketing funnel.
According to Marketing Sherpa, 79% of leads never convert into sales, and the common cause is a lack of lead nurturing.
In fact, on average, organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% percent lift in lead generation ROI over those organizations that do not.
3 Key Benefits of Lead Nurturing
The benefits of a good lead nurturing strategy are numerous, but they fit roughly into these categories:
1. With lead nurturing, your leads are ready to hear from you.
Most estimates of how many leads convert into sales are well below 20%, but with lead nurturing, this can be at least 50% higher, and at a lower cost.
By staying in touch with your leads, educating them on your products, and familiarizing them with your brand, conversion to sales usually turns out much higher.
2. Lead nurturing helps you can get more for your money.
B2B lead generation can be expensive, but with a good lead nurturing strategy, you'll maximize your ROI. According to Oracle, 80% of leads that aren't ready to buy now make a purchase within the next 24 months. You can nurture those leads over time, so in the end, more of your leads convert.
3. Lead nurturing is a continuous way to boost your brand awareness.
Nurturing prospects is fantastic for your brand. It can give your future customers a good idea of what working with you will be like, so it's a great opportunity to show off your brand, your USPs, and the user experience. Through the lead nurturing process, you will be vying with other brands for your leads' attention, so make sure you stand out.
How to Nurture B2B Leads
Nurturing leads takes several different forms, but basically, any exposure of your brand to the lead counts.
The classic example of nurturing is B2B email nurture. Sophisticated email workflows over a longer period of time, introducing your lead to the brand and sharing your useful content, are very effective, and have lots of options for personalization, as well as automation.
Depending on how valuable the prospect is, you can take a 1-1 approach, such as inviting them to an event – a webinar, or a round table, for example. Or you can send them a relevant piece of content directly, e.g. an ungated asset.
You can also incorporate lead nurturing into your 3rd party lead gen: a Nurture Track lead generation campaign lets you outsource it to your lead generation agency.
However, once a prospect is in your ecosystem, lead nurturing includes visits to your website and social media pages as well as reading your resources. They are likely to be doing this over time and you can’t track every interaction. It's all part of how to nurture prospects, so make sure you’re showing up in as many places as possible and that your messaging is consistent across all platforms and channels.
Freya's Top B2B Lead Nurturing Tips
Below our Global Sales Director, Freya Ward, shares her top B2B lead nurturing tips for technology marketers.
Freya has worked in marketing and sales roles for over a decade, and she now spends a lot of her time consulting with our technology clients to help them get the most out of their lead generation campaigns.
We've found that nurtured lead campaigns are becoming an increasingly popular lead generation service at Headley Media, and Freya is an absolute pro in advising our clients.
7 Steps to Creating a Lead Nurturing Strategy
You've chosen your lead generation campaign; now you need to plan how to nurture your leads once you've received them.
Here is a breakdown of Freya's top lead nurturing tactics:
Step 1: Remember, speed is of the essence.
Speed is really important in lead nurturing: you have to keep the momentum going once you've got it. Otherwise, you end up with lead, or data decay, – prospects forgetting that they downloaded your content, or losing interest and not being receptive to your follow-up.
Ensure you send a welcome email as soon you've got their details – whether it includes the piece of content they're downloading, or thanks them for subscribing.
Step 2: Keep your comms frequent - but not too frequent.
The frequency of communications can be tricky to get right: you want that momentum, but you don’t want to overload your new prospects or send them irrelevant content.
How much you know about each lead should help you determine how much to send to them. In the early stages of the funnel, for example, you could send them your newsletter and an occasional ungated asset and then, based on their behavior, start to send them more relevant emails once you’ve got more intelligence on them.
Freya's top tip: remember to regularly check how many email nurture flows your prospects could potentially be in. There's nothing worse than a lead being in so many flows that they end up receiving multiple emails per day from your business. We've all been there and if you're anything like me, it's an instant unsubscribe!
Step 3: Make it about them (not you).
The more intelligence you have on your leads, the more personal you can make your communications, and therefore, the more effective they'll be. There are lots of ways you can enhance your lead generation campaigns to make your lead nurturing more effective in this way.
For example, a good lead generation company can offer intent data targeting to help you better understand your prospects' behaviors, or allow you to ask more precise data-gathering questions on your content download form.
You might even start with an account-based marketing lead generation campaign, which targets a specific list of companies that you want to sell to. Personalization is the standard priority here.
You can also try progressive profiling, which allows you to get more details out of existing leads. If your lead comes to you with just their name, job title, and company, for example, you can get richer data by gating content you send them further down the marketing funnel.
Ask “what's in it for them?” each time you're planning to send a message to your lead. Every communication should help to answer a business need of theirs; if it doesn't, you're not providing them with value or moving them through the funnel.
Daniel Greenaway Account Director @ Headley Media
Step 4: Develop your lead nurturing messaging
The most engaging content is that which is actively helping prospects, so make sure what you're sending out is education-led.
Focus on providing value – for example, with case studies and research – and don't give them any product or sales talk until they’re more warmed up and further down the funnel. You need to build awareness of your brand first, positioning yourself as an indispensable source of credible and trustworthy information (no pressure).
Step 5: Set up lead scoring
Lead scoring allows you to sort your prospects according to how warmed up they are, based on their behavior.
You can assign points to each lead based on demographic information, on their answers to your audience intelligence questions, every time they open an email from you, every time they hit a certain page on your website, every time they engage with your social media... the list goes on. Then you can pass these leads over to your sales team once they’ve reached a certain score.
Work with your sales team to build your lead scoring strategy; they'll want to know how your leads are accruing those points, which will help them connect with them when they call.
Step 6: Keep your database fresh:
To keep growing your business and attracting new customers, you need to make sure you've got a steady supply of new leads. Regularly topping up your marketing funnel with fresh MQLs not only ensures your sales team always have plenty of prospects to contact, it's also great for brand awareness.
Step 7: Remember... The journey doesn't end there!
Lead nurturing doesn't stop after the lead has converted into a customer: it turns into aftercare and ongoing customer support. Keeping a customer is much cheaper than gaining a new one, so nurturing your existing customers pays off.
Therefore, your lead nurturing program should focus on customer retention and happiness, and truly reflect what it's like to work with your business. Working alongside your customer service team can help you make sure all your objectives are aligned, and your tactics are more effective.
B2B Lead Nurturing Examples
Now we've looked at why lead nurturing is so important and the steps to take to create your own lead nurturing strategy let’s look at some examples of nurturing campaigns.
Here are a few of our favorite lead nurturing strategies, and when you should use them.
Freya's Top Tip:
The B2B lead nurturing strategies I recommend to my clients will always depend on their objectives and their capacity.
It might not always be realistic to have a super sophisticated lead nurturing strategy in place. However, some of the fundamentals of B2B lead nurturing are non-negotiable, for example, following up in good time and not spamming your new contacts with too many comms.
#1 - Welcome Campaign
We mentioned this one earlier because it's so important: make sure you send a welcome to new leads. It can be the piece of content they're downloading, or it can be an email to thank them for subscribing, but it's crucial.
It cements you in their mind as a prospective brand, and it's a slam dunk in marketing terms: welcome emails have average open rates of 50%, according to DotDigital, much higher than normal.
#2 - Brand Awareness Campaign
Early on in the marketing funnel, you want to make leads aware of who you are and what you do.
Great branding comes into its own in this type of campaign. It's a good time to put your business name, imagery, and values in front of prospects, ensuring they know who you are, even if they're not overly familiar with you yet.
Work closely with your sales and customer care teams on your B2B lead nurturing strategies. This will ensure your messaging is in line with what your target audience wants and needs – and the effect of these three departments working together is huge for businesses. Hannah Lydford, Content Marketing Manager @ Headley Media
#3 - Knowledge Campaign
Content marketing is awesome at all stages of the funnel, but especially helpful early on.
You can engage new leads by offering eBooks, white papers, research reports, and case studies to help them in their business, and they'll become aware of you as a thought leader and useful industry resource.
Content syndication works really well here, both as a lead generation tool and a lead nurturing strategy. That's when your content is published by a 3rd party lead generation specialist in a content library designed to attract professionals in your sector. Here's more about how it works.
Freya's Top Tip:
When deciding what content to share when nurturing your new leads, you may be tempted to send them gated content.
Typically, we recommend to our clients to use ungated content within their lead nurturing strategy. The exception to gated vs ungated content is when you either:
- Have something so super valuable and unique to share with your audience that it's worth them exchanging their contact details for (and you plan to do something with that information).
- Or, you want to find out more about them e.g. by including a specific question on the gated content's form. However, we still only recommend sharing something gated that falls into our first point of being super valuable.
#4 - Product Marketing Campaign
Product marketing campaigns come further down the funnel, when the prospect is searching for information on your product specifically. If you're tracking your leads' intent, you should be able to spot when they're ready for this type of campaign.
When someone is looking for information on their options and getting ready to buy new technology that's the time to give more detail on your specific products and solutions.
#5 - Competitive Campaign
How does your lead know your product is better than your competitor's? Because you tell them so.
The best way to do this is to be matter-of-fact and as honest as possible. Use your product's USPs, highlight the way it's different from the competition, and think about the specific needs of your customers that your product best meets.
And also, if your competitor is renowned for a certain benefit, make sure you highlight that your product has the same benefit.
#6 - Promotional Campaign
Now your leads are fully up to speed on what you can offer them, it's time to bust out the big guns and persuade them to spend.
One of the most effective methods is via discount on the product, but there are other ways: offering a free add-on, for example, or tempting them with a free trial. Work closely with your sales team on this one: time it carefully, and make sure the offer is personalized. As with all lead nurturing best practices, you should aim to answer a need within their business.
Before any lead nurturing takes place you need to generate high quality leads. You should only work with a trustworthy lead generation specialist. There are quite a few shady players in the industry who will outsource your lead generation and lead nurturing to a 3rd party without telling you. The best B2B lead nurturing companies can host your syndicated content on their own websites, track your entire campaign digitally and show you every step of the reader journey. Chloe Addis, Head of Marketing @ Headley Media
#7 - Re-engagement Campaign
Leads will go cold from time to time, either from lead decay as mentioned earlier, or because another brand gets to them first. But as long as they're in your database, you don't have to give up on them. You can still track their behaviors, and spot opportunities for further nurturing flow.
Content syndication is a winner again here, because you can make yourself useful to the lead by providing valuable content, raising their awareness of your brand without ‘selling’ to them.