How do I put together an effective lead nurturing plan using that is simple to implement?
This is a great question from a recent visitor (thanks Jessie! And thanks to clients Stefanie and Ryan for similar insightful questions) Since Marketing Automation and other nurturing tools offer so many options it is often tempting to overcomplicate. While a lead nurturing plan can get very sophisticated, we recommend starting with simple b2b lead nurturing fundamentals.
Here is a four part nurturing recommendation to help get you going with a lead nurturing plan and keep it focused:
- Start with your objectives and business situation, how your pipeline works, and who your customer is.
- Focus on nurturing prospects to the next stage in their decision process instead of directly to a sale.
- Start with three basic nurturing pathways: keep in touch, triggered and big fish (true 1-1 nurturing).
- Keep it simple and iterate your lead nurturing plan based on real world learning.
That is the short answer on how we help our clients put together B2B lead nurturing email best practices and programs. But read on if you are interested in detail on each of those recommendations and some links to other relevant resources.
1. Start your lead nurturing plan with your objectives and business situation, how your pipeline works and who your customer is.
What do you want your nurturing to achieve? If you have a complex offering with a long sales cycle you may need a longer nurturing program and lots of content. If you have more leads than you can handle you should be focused on qualifying them. If your sales team has lots of capacity you should be accelerating the leads you have and attracting new leads.
Start by learning from your BD/Sales team about how your pipeline really works. Identify the decision stages in your pipeline and listen for clues about what your customers want to know at each stage. Understand the basic customer segments in your pipeline and the content those segments are looking for, for example business vs technical.
Lastly, identify the challenges your pipeline is facing and which challenge if eliminated would drive the most value.
2. Focus on nurturing prospects to the next stage in their decision process instead directly to a sale.
It is challenging to get a prospect to buy before they are ready to buy, especially if you have a complex offer. If a prospect is still defining their requirements they won’t be able to understand the value of your pricing model or see it in your product demo. For example, if a prospect downloads a market survey they are unlikely to be ready for your sales contact but might read an email with additional relevant information about the market.
While this can be challenging to manage without the right tools, it is perfectly suited for marketing automation programs. Treat your nurturing as a diagnostic process, meaning you want your prospect to self-diagnose what they are interested in. A couple of choices of similar content focused on the decision stage a prospect is in, a content piece teasing the next decision stage, and a “contact our sales team” call-to-action. As your prospect moves through the funnel you serve up content relevant to that stage in the process. Keep in mind, if you are communicating with prospects in different or unknown stages (like a newsletter blast) then be sure to include a range of content from different stages.
3. Develop three different nurturing pathways: triggered, keep-in-touch, and big fish.
Triggered (or event) nurturing
Triggered pathways start with a specific action: a download, a click, an open, a tradeshow booth visit. A good rule of thumb is that you can initiate up to 3 nurturing re-actions without another prospect action. And because your prospect’s action can help diagnose what they want to know you can focus your re-actions to be more relevant.
Keep-in-touch pathways are not trigged by an action but instead are spread out on a timed basis. Their objective is to keep your value proposition and expertise top-of-mind with your prospect as they meander through their decision process. The frequency of timed nurturing depends of the engagement of your audience, as well as the quality and quantity of your content. The main purpose of timed content is to trigger another prospect action and get them back on a triggered pathway.
Big Fish Nurturing
Big Fish pathways are not automated nurturing at all. They are true one to one nurturing. Use this approach when a prospect is so qualified they are worth the investment of expensive business development hours. But follow the same decision stage approach. Don’t try to move from a contact to a sale right away. Share a range of content that allows the prospect to self-diagnose. Keep their actions visible in your pipeline by using smart collateral with embedded tracking and allowing the prospect to self select the content they are interested in.
4. Keep it simple, test and learn, and iterate based on real world learning.
Start by adding auto-responders to key actions such as the download of a featured piece of content. In the auto-responder offer 5 links:
- 3 choices or content links relevant to that decision stage,
- a choice from the next stage, and
- a contact us call to action.
Once you have the automation set up, try an eblast to your lapsed customer list with content from different decision stages and a focus on light-weight engagement.
Now, track what happens. In other words throw some intelligent mud on the wall. And focus your effort on lead nurturing best practices, what is working for you and where your prospects are taking action and self-diagnosing their needs.
B2B lead nurturing email best practices are worth the effort. Here are a few smart sources for additional lead nurturing thinking:
Brian Carroll, InTouch, and MarketingSherpa: Lead Nurturing Best Practices Research and Data
But most of all go ahead and start implementing B2B lead nurturing email best practices.