In many ways, lead nurturing is the unsung hero of effective B2B marketing. While tactics designed to fill your CRM with prospects get all the glory, those leads matter little if you cannot convert them into actual revenue.
A cohesive strategy built on a foundation of nurturing best practices can transform your pipeline of cold prospects into warm leads and new deals. In this guide, we’ll explore not just the basics and importance of the concept, but also key tactics and best practices that help your business qualify and convert leads.
What is Lead Nurturing?
Put simply, lead nurturing is the process of developing relationships with new and existing leads. This strategy is designed specifically for conversion and focuses on supplying your prospects with resources and support while keeping the conversation top of mind. Just how that process occurs can vary widely based on industry and prospect type; calls, email campaigns, and relevant content can all play a role in your ideal strategy.
Another crucial distinction: simply sending occasional sales emails to your current leads does not constitute lead nurturing. Relationship-building is at the heart of this process, with the goal of establishing your company as credible and relevant in the mind of your prospects.
Exploring the Importance of a Cohesive Lead Nurturing Campaign
Done correctly, a B2B lead nurturing strategy comes with significant advantages. According to Marketo, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. That’s at least partially due to the fact that nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
That makes intuitive sense, considering that only 27% of B2B leads are sales-ready when first generated. The purchasing cycle is just too long, and too complex, for instant decisions. A strategic nurturing effort ensures that your brand and product stay top of mind throughout the entire buyer’s journey.
In other words, the ROI is significant. And yet, while 74% of businesses say that converting leads to customers is their top priority, only 35% have a comprehensive lead nurturing strategy in place.
The challenge: turning B2B lead nurturing tactics into a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts. So let’s dig in, first into the tactics that can drive conversion and then the best practices that turn those tactics into a competitive advantage.
5 Tactics to Optimize Your Lead Nurturing Process
1. Timely, Relevant Email Messages
Done correctly, a nurture-focused email campaign can be a conversion powerhouse. With effective strategy, it can hit your leads with exactly the right content at exactly the right time. In fact, lead nurturing emails have 4 to 10 times the response rate compared to cold email blasts.
The strength of email nurturing is in its versatility. They’re equally beneficial as a vehicle to deliver long-form content or simply to follow up with a new lead. Customization and personalization options help to maximize your relevance as you encourage your leads down the funnel.
If you have a CRM, you likely already have the means to implement an email nurturing campaign. Set up triggered automation flows that send welcome and follow-up emails to new leads in a timely fashion. Follow-up messages can be beneficial for leads visiting your pricing pages, requesting a call, or other options. Following a few nurturing email best practices can go a long way towards closing those leads.
2. Targeted Long-Form Content
If lead nurturing is all about delivering value, long-form content is the perfect vehicle. Making content available for your leads allows you to showcase your expertise while raising your credibility in the eyes of your prospects.
Examples of long-form content ideal for nurturing include:
- White papers, ranked the top content type for B2B lead nurturing by 83% of marketers in one survey.
- eBooks, particularly those acting as industry guides or trend reports.
- Webinars and podcasts, hosting industry experts to speak to relevant industry topics.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply create long-form content and hope for the best. Ideally, each piece you create is tailored to your buyer personas, ICPs, and sales funnel stage. That ensures your content delivers real value for prospects who are not yet ready to buy.
3. Peer-to-Peer Messaging and Social Proof
Social proof is an absolute must when building trust with your prospects. It takes the messaging into a more credible third-party arena, allowing leads to validate or inform their own opinion about your product, company, and industry.
In the lead nurturing process, social proof can occur in a few different ways. Perhaps the most common example is in the form of case studies, complete with customer quotes and testimonials, that show your product or service working for businesses like your current leads.
Social proof, whether it be in the form of case studies, customer reviews, or other messaging, has to be authentic. It’s crucial to work with your current customers and find those who are willing and able to share their stories with prospects in a way that aligns with your messaging. An active, ongoing relationship with clients can go a long way towards creating those partnerships.
4. Targeted Social Media Campaigns
Social media advertising is most commonly associated with lead generation, but it can play a core role in the nurturing process as well. That’s especially true for list-based retargeting, which means showing relevant ads and messages only to lists of existing leads in your database.
This is a near-perfect tactic to stay top of mind for your prospects. It’s less about building credibility and more about establishing familiarity with your audience over time. But of course, you can still link to your content and case studies to increase attention on them.
It’s important to note, though, that retargeting as part of a lead nurturing strategy has to be actively managed. Beyond simply monitoring results and making creative adjustments, the targeted lead list needs to be updated at least once a week. Otherwise, you risk wasting your resources on current customers or showing ads to leads who have told you they’re no longer interested since the list was generated.
5. Live Personal Outreach
So far, the tactics we’ve shared have been digital in nature. But don’t underestimate the power of offline outreach as part of your relationship-building with B2B leads.
Business prospecting cycles are complex. For instance, you likely work with a buying team, rather than a single buyer. And even if your product may be an improvement over their current solution, if they’re locked into a contract they need to wait for the right moment. Regardless of the circumstances, personal outreach can go a long way to build both trust and expertise.
At its simplest, that’s a phone call to your leads, learning more about their situation and asking where you can help. More complex sales cycles for larger purchases may require in-person visits, as well. No matter the exact scenario, a live and personal touch added to your digital tactics can become the glue of the larger strategy, creating a two-way conversation that benefits both you and your prospects.