I talked with a client recently after she had just met with her third new boss in the past year to explain the company’s new lead nurturing process again.
The problem was that her boss felt their current integrated marketing campaigns qualified as lead nurturing.
We discussed the challenges of communicating what IS and ISN’T lead nurturing.
A lot of marketers say they are “nurturing” their prospects when in reality but their just emailing them monthly.
What is lead nurturing?
Look up the definition of “nurture.”
Here’s what a quick search of the web will tell you:
To foster, help develop, or help grow.
The act of nourishing or nursing; tender care; education; training; that which nourishes; food; diet; sustenance; the environmental influences that contribute to the development of an individual.
See what I mean?
Pretty, well-designed content is not going to “feed” your prospects.
Creating a beautiful layout and clarifying your value statement in an email isn’t going to help develop relationships with them.
Don’t just take my word for it.
ClickInsights asked six B2B Marketing experts – including myself – what the biggest mistakes in B2B content marketing were.
All of our answers differed, but each of us agreed that content focusing more on the consumer and less on the company is far more effective.
Let me break it down even further by giving a few examples of What IS and What ISN’T Leading Nurturing:
Is NOT Lead Nurturing:
Sending the case studies and promotional content over and over again to your list.
What IS Lead Nurturing:
Sending a very targeted email that includes content based on the recipient’s role in the company.
Sharing content based on a previous conversation.
Answering a question or offering more information.
Sending information that is relevant to their problem.
Sending content based on their interest and industry.
This Is NOT:
Calling leads that are in the early stages of the buying process every month just to “touch base” which is code for “are ready to buy yet?”
This IS Lead Nurturing:
Making calls based on touch point data that adds value to the interaction.
Having a valid business reason and goal in mind for each call.
NOT Lead Nurturing:
Offering content and white papers that just pitch your product or service.
Sharing content that’s relevant and valuable even if they never buy from you.
Giving them information that sticks with them.
Sharing information that’s useful and helpful.
Your audience is savvier than ever.
They are also more hungry than ever for some real sustenance.
Content that IS lead nurturing will generate more qualified leads and more sales opportunities.
Think about it.
When’s the last time you received a marketing email that you actually benefited from?
I think most of us are “hungry” for some real lead nurturing.
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Excellent article Brian.
I do think that lead nurturing is a broad subject and that it does in fact require the touching base with the customer that you defined as “not lead nurturing”. Other than that, I am very thankful for this great piece.
Here are some additional tips on lead nurturing:
Good article on best practices for lead nurturing Brian.
In my experience, the hardest part of this equation is content. Especially for technology companies. The best way to nurture is to provide value added information. If the company does not provide that to the sales person to provide to the prospect, the sledding can get tough. Sales people don’t have the resources, time or knowledge to create content. What has worked for me is creating webinars. Work with the Marcom department to come up with related topics of interest to the target market. Then get an executive to present the slides on a webinar. The slides may already exist, perhaps from a trade show or board meeting. Executives are usually willing to sign up to give webinars because it’s only an hour of their time. Once you have two webinars scheduled in a given month, you then have some value added content and an event invitation to offer.
Good post. Let’s also do this as a podcast, so people can listen to it, Brian.
When we did Lead Nurturing at a large ERP Software company here in Minneapolis, we defined it as “Meaningful and consistant contact with viable prospects regardless of their timing to buy”.
The first word “Meaningful” means that both parties get value from the information. Brian’s right; brochures and add copy do not normally qualify as “nurturing” unless the prospect requested it first.
Contact can mean any number of ways to reach out, including calling, emailing, webinars, whitepapers, trade show contact, etc.
Viable meant that the targeted organization was in the “sweet spot” of your offering. Even if they puprchased a competitive product, we still kept in contact them unless they opted out of any further contact. The goal was to have them call us if their current vendor drops the ball.
The overall goal of a good nurturing campaign is to build mindshare, and increase the inbound inquiries to your sales force. It takes about 6-9 months from the start of a good nurturing campaign to have meaningful success, but it can be very effective if maintained over a long period of time.
The problem with most companies is that they don’t give it enough time to work. They are also are doing non nurturing activities (like sending emails with feature dumps) in the hopes that it will drive business. This is more self serving, and companies that do this are deluding themselves in thinking they are performing “lead nurturing”. In reality, this mostly just turns off prospective customers.
The other day, a client told me they were planning to email weekly sales promotions to their prospects–this was their idea of lead nurturing and they were convinced that it would actually create value for their audience. Like you said in your article, we need to send them relevant, useful content even if they NEVER end up buying from us. I just don’t think that most marketers understand this concept.
Nurturing really requires interaction from the person being nurtured. Otherwise you are blindly spraying and praying. Give them the opportunity to pull content from you, to dictate what they are interested in, to rate the offers you give them so they can be sent more in that vein, to share some amount of details about their interests so you may better nurture their needs! I call this “pull nurturing” versus “push nurturing” which seems to be the norm in so firms.
I’d agree that especially with the emergence of social media tools there is no excuse for not nurturing sales leads properly. Doing so needn’t be too time consuming or costly either.
Great point by Melissa, as well. With all the social media tools available to us today, the ability to engage in a personal conversation with our prospects costs nothing, only the time and energy needed to build those relationships. The tools for Marketers, as well as Sales, are there. I think what many Marketers struggle with is the ability to visualize a nurture program, or how nurturing engages a prospect and moves them through the sales funnel. Understanding your buying process and the stage at which your prospect is involved is the struggle that Marketbright alleviates. We leverage the ability for our customers to see how the lead will move through the nurture process and how they will engage with their company. At that point, they are better able to actively adjust content and touch points so that they are delivering the most relevant content and the appropriate time. I think that marketing automation, in general, is very useful to help with this problem of producing a true lead nurturing program. Actually, we had a recent blog post that visualizes and simplifies the path of a nurtured lead that could be really useful for anyone who is uncertain as to how to go about doing it.
I was all ready to add the one about calling to “touch base” but you covered it. It’s the one I hear most often, but that’s more like “lead annoying.”
The sad thing is that lead nurturing is easy to do even on a shoestring marketing budget. You can get very sophisticated of course, but there is no excuse for any marketing team (or sales person) that isn’t nurturing.
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