Lead nurturing should be one of the most effective aspects of your demand generation strategies. In fact, 81% of B2B marketing executives ranked email as the most effective tactic for engagement with later-stage prospects, according to the 2018 Benchmark Survey Report.
This is likely because email heavily supports lead nurturing – a critical component of the demand generation engine. Without lead nurturing to convert more contacts into sales opportunities, your pipeline can't scale.
Without an effective lead nurturing plan in place, you're often wasting a lot of the time, resources and budget you've already invested in identifying audiences and generating net-new contacts.
At the same time, you can’t just throw a bunch of emails into a drip campaign and call it a day. You need an email nurturing strategy and message that resonates with your contacts.
Demand Generation Lead Nurturing Tips
Understand Your Funnel and Friction
There are a number of varying approaches to the customer’s journey through the sales funnel. Currently, the two most popular approaches are based on the inbound and account-based marketing (ABM) marketing strategies.
The Inbound Funnel
The four phases of the inbound funnel, as defined by HubSpot include:
- Awareness: Attract strangers into website visitors or individuals who engage with your content and brand for the first time.
- Convert: Once awareness has been established, the prospect is converted into a lead using a website landing page, or within the context of content syndication, events, programmatic advertising, or other methods.
- Close: Once a converted lead has been nurtured into a sales opportunity, they can be closed into a customer.
- Delight: When closed customers are passed from sales to the customer success team, efforts to maintain a long-term customer relationship begin.
The ABM Funnel
The ABM funnel is different from traditional marketing funnel strategies because it starts with the identification of target accounts.
The following stages are as identified by Uberflip:
- Known: Using ABM technologies, the B2B marketing organization works to identify B2B prospects for targeted ABM campaigns.
- Engaged: When an identified prospect connects with content or campaign materials through activities such as search, content syndication or programmatic advertising and converts to a lead.
- Qualified Opportunities: When a lead has been qualified based on pre-defined criteria to be passed to sales, such as behavioral qualifications, they become a qualified opportunity.
- Customers: Closed business is passed from sales to customer success for onboarding and long-term customer retention efforts.
More insight in An 8-Step Account-Based Marketing Plan to Share with Your Boss
Understanding the Sales Funnel: What’s Really Important
Unless your organization operates within a strictly inbound or ABM methodology, there’s a good chance neither of these models perfectly resembles your organization. In fact, you probably noticed, there's not much of a difference between the two models, except that with ABM you're targeting specific companies.
What’s the best sales funnel for your organization? Your own.
Organizations that are beginning the demand marketing journey, often find a disconnect between top-funnel demand generation campaigns and lower-funnel conversion activities (and the technologies that support them).
To optimize your funnel, you first need to understand what's working and what isn't. You can’t do this without visibility, which is best achieved with a tool designed for closed-loop reporting.
Closing the loop enables you to watch leads progress through the pipeline in real time and understand how long it takes the typical contact to move through the stages. It will also allow you to optimize nurturing campaign performance at each stage of the funnel and achieve excellence in lead nurturing.
Full-Funnel Visibility Leads to Better Lead Nurturing
Why do you need to know your funnel to create effective lead nurturing campaigns?
Prospective customers are on a buyer journey, and nurturing typically uses marketing automation software to send timed messages in response to their current stage and activity. Mapping your funnel allows you to understand the nuances that are crucial to optimal lead velocity, including the answers to questions such as:
- What are the common threads that run through the buyer journey on a consistent basis?
- What common objection/obstacle keeps typical prospects from moving to the next stage?
- What are the conventional methods/messages that overcome those obstacles?
Mapping out that process, and understanding it at the granular level, makes automated lead nurturing much easier and in tune with the reality of your prospects.
Create Messaging Around Obstacles
Once you’ve developed visibility into your funnel, how do you translate this knowledge into messaging and content for better lead nurturing?
Use insights on why your prospects disengage and turn those insights into lead nurturing content. You can gain these insights through competitive intelligence, interviews with your sales team, or even interviews with current customers who almost failed to buy. Ask:
- Why did a prospect disengage?
- Why did they almost not buy?
Many times, negative information is just as valuable as positive. Knowing why prospects don’t buy can be just as valuable to marketers than knowing why others did.
This knowledge can help you bolster your funnel, allowing marketers to address and reframe those negatives before they lead to drop-offs.
Focus on the first obstacle your prospects encounter, which is typically where your marketing-qualified leads fail to become sales-qualified leads. Then, ask where and why prospects are stalling.
You have a chance to reframe obstacles before they can add friction to the funnel. Whatever you find, translate awareness into education to address your prospect’s objection proactively.
Obstacle-Proof Your Sales Funnel
The most effective lead nurturing experts have obstacle-proofed their sales funnels.
Top B2B marketers tirelessly work to understand obstacles at every stage of their sales funnels and address each one in turn. In fact, they’re experts sleuths when it comes to unlocking hidden objections and mapping them along the sales funnel to learn precisely where and when they cause prospects to disengage:
- Offering survey incentives to learn objections
- Interviewing sales, customer success and customers
- Using social media to conduct competitive research and social listening
- Understanding comparative positioning, feature, price and value
Prioritize By Objections
If you discover that a price-based obstacle drives away 12% of your prospects, while a feature-based objection causes just 6% to disengage, you obviously should address the price-based objection first.
Prioritize By Funnel Stages
Prioritize objections starting at the top of the funnel with awareness, and working down toward consideration. Address early obstacles which can cause MQLs to disengage before working on lead nurturing campaigns to address SQL drop-offs. Conversely, if the impediment to SQL’s is having a much more profound impact than the obstacles higher in the funnel, you should focus on bottom-of-funnel first.
Bonus Tip: Engage with Sales
Chances are, your sales team are the resident experts at overcoming obstacles and objections.
As you work to develop obstacle-based workflows, effective demand generation marketers will engage early and often around objection-based workflows to plant seeds and facilitate productive conversations. Not only can marketing provide sales with high-value funnel insights, but it’s also a two-way street–sales’ education is often invaluable to creating effective objection-based lead nurturing content.
Lead Nurturing Qualified Prospects to Closed-Won Deals
Lead nurturing should be a conversation based on the prospect’s journey, rather than an assumed path the company forces them to take.
If you’re blasting content that tirelessly pushes your product or service, you’re doing it wrong, and you’re probably going to get quite a few unsubscribes and disengaged prospects. If you’re taking full advantage of your marketing automation tool’s potential for behavior-based automation signals and creating multiple nurturing sequences based on the buyer journey and prospects behavior, you’re taking steps in the right direction.
Let your prospects dictate how and when specific conversations happen. Using closed-loop measurement tools and having a profound understanding of objections, work to understand friction in your funnel and create engaging, educational workflows which address these common obstacles.
To understand the health of your funnel, email marketing and other aspects of your demand marketing, download the "B2B Demand Marketing Assessment Guide & Orchestration Workbook”.