Marketing today is a fast-moving, highly competitive landscape where a proliferation of content from multiple brands competes for customer attention on a plethora of channels, platforms, and technologies!
Brand loyalty is ever more elusive as customers are faced with a seemingly endless choice, and interactions with companies are often brief and low-commitment.
What’s the answer to gaining and retaining customers in such a fragmented marketing environment?
It’s lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing has emerged as a discipline helping prospective customers along a journey towards a purchase while building a relationship between them and your brand.
Lead nurturing focuses on educating qualified sales leads who are not yet ready to buy. The key to successful lead nurturing is to deliver content that’s valuable enough to keep your audience engaged. If you do it right, lead nurturing can help you build a strong brand and solution preference in your prospects long before they’re actively engaged in a buying process.”
Lead nurturing is about much, much more than simply sending out multiple untargeted emails to your entire prospect list.
Rather, it should be considered as a series of carefully crafted and targeted communications that align with the prospect’s profile and help move them down the buying funnel.
At its heart, effective lead nurturing is directly related to understanding and responding to the prospects’ pains and where they are on the buying journey.
Only then can you deliver truly useful content that will engage them and increase loyalty.
Of the 20% of leads that sales reps follow up on, 70% aren't ready to buy.
But research suggests that 80% of those not ready to buy now will do so within the next 24 months. Your goal is to hold the interest of those leads until they are ready to buy from you. Think of lead generation as playing the long game.
This is without a doubt the most crucial step of all. You know that prospects go through stages—what has traditionally been called the funnel.
What you also need to know is what those stages are and where your prospective buyers are in relation to them.
Interviewing your customers is a great way to get deep insights into the needs and processes at work when someone is considering whether or not to buy what you’re selling.
This will also help you to create buyer personas for better targeting of content.
Use data from previous campaigns to inform future activity. By analyzing past marketing activity you can begin to establish which approaches, forms of content, and messages had the greatest and the least resonance.
Pick up on how many leads moved through the stages and what it was that prompted them to take the next step. Feed these insights into your content strategy and you will be on the road to creating an optimal lead nurturing pathway.
Once you have created a lead nurturing pathway that you believe best fits your prospects’ buying process, you’ll need to test and troubleshoot to identify potential pitfalls and sources of friction.
Can you better personalize the experience using information you have about individual prospects?
Their interactions and behaviors should influence and shape the flow of communications delivered.
Eventually, you should emerge with an optimized lead nurturing structure built through a series of rational, insight-based decisions.
Don’t forget to document and share the reasoning behind it all, so your team and others can have the benefit of your good work.
Timing is of the essence in any lead nurturing pathway. Marketing activities and interactions need to be well-timed.
Too frequent and you risk overloading prospects - too sparse and you risk losing their attention.
It’s also essential to be clear about what happens next. If they get through the lead nurturing pathway without becoming a qualified lead, do you have a backup plan?
Or are they simply consigned to the dead leads pile?
Begin with an automated welcome campaign sent out to each prospect as they enter your database.
You can start delivering educational information right from the off, and commence building that all-important relationship.
Communicate the most crucial things you want them to know, and also think about getting some information from them as well.
Segmenting your prospects by attributes such as job role, industry, or sales stage will help you tailor your content for maximum resonance and engagement. And nurturing is useful when applied to customers, as well as prospects, to help streamline their experiences.
Personalization is another key strategy, and you can build your knowledge of the customer to help you do this by progressive profiling.
This involves asking for incremental pieces of information at different stages, in exchange for useful content.
The more you build a more defined picture of who your customer is, the better you will be able to nurture them.
Sylvia, based in Eloqua’s London office, is responsible for Eloqua’s marketing efforts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sylvia has lived in Europe for the past 11 years heading up marketing efforts in EMEA for tech companies such as Oracle, WebEx, Palm, and Coremetrics. Before heading to Europe, she held various sales and marketing positions focused on the Latin American market. Follow Sylvia on Twitter at @smajensen.