Lead nurturing programs are failing to deliver against business and marketing objectives in many complex B2B sales cycle companies that sell software, technology, and professional services.
Marketing automation has made it easy to capture leads into a marketing database, and the temptation is to reach out to as many of those leads as often as possible to convince them all to buy from you. That sounded very “Let’s Party Like It’s 1999”, didn’t it? Remember when we marketers and salespeople had the luxury of being in control of the flow of information? We were the gatekeepers of useful domain knowledge and subject matter expertise, and we had leverage with prospective buyers who needed to know what our company knew. Those were the days of the “sales cycle”.
B2B lead nurturing for today’s complex buying cycle.
Now, buyers have the power. The internet changed that. Search engines changed that. The trendiness of “content marketing” changed that. They control the “buying cycle”. Useful information is now freely available to anyone with an internet connection. In fact, sifting through the search results is sometimes more difficult than finding possible information sources.
We can’t help buyers buy the way we used to. We can’t feed them a controlled, evenly-paced diet of useful insights and data to eventually persuade them that becoming a customer is the best way to unlock the full value of our company’s subject matter expertise.
Plan B2B lead nurturing around key objectives.
Brainrider is thinking about lead nurturing with the goal of positioning our clients as relevant, useful, and valuable to buyers, who should ultimately be buying from them. We plan around some key objectives:
Extend prospect engagement while it’s happening.
Think about how you consume content when you’re researching a purchase. You rarely consume one or two pieces of content a day on a regular, predictable schedule. You probably research for a burst of an hour or two, and then go back to your day job to-do list.
When a prospect is engaged with your content and programs—reading a white paper or e-book, watching a video, filling in a form, scanning your social media streams—suggest some other related content that might interest them.
Keep them there longer. Encourage them to engage deeper. Extend each burst of engagement. E-commerce sites have been obsessed with perfecting this tactic for a decade because it works. There are lots of ways to do this with your current marketing tool set.
Re-engage prospects with relevant, useful content.
In between those bursts of intense engagement, your prospects are doing a million other things, including engaging with your competitors. So, use your permission to contact them as a means of reminding them how helpful your company’s subject matter expertise will be as they make their buying decision.
But don’t try to predict which one content asset is the right one to offer in your monthly newsletter or sequential, or what the magical cadence should be. It’s not the same for every prospect.
Collect meaningful opt-in preferences like needs, pains, and topics of interest. Then suggest lots of relevant, popular, and recent content options and let them choose their own adventure.
Determine when prospects are ready to talk to sales.
We’re not nurturing prospects because we want to be forever friends with them, are we? We want them to buy from us. In most cases, that means they’re eventually going to want to speak to our sales team.
Our job as marketers is to make it easy for prospects to raise their hand when they’re ready to connect with sales, and to provide sales with all the useful info we collected during the nurturing process to help contextualize the sales conversations. Our job may also include identifying prospects whose tracked activities and profiles make them worthy of proactive outreach by our sales team, even though their hand hasn’t yet been raised.
Our goal is to collect the right information from prospects as efficiently as possible, and apply some human-powered assessment to what we have learned about our prospects.
Execute lead nurturing tactics that help the buyer buy.
There are lots of tactics that fall under these objectives, tactics that span how you manage your website, your larger online presence, your marketing campaigns and programs, and your marketing and sales content. Just remember that building out tactical action plans based on your objectives should be top priority.
If you execute nurturing tactics, like newsletters and drip campaigns, make sure you plan and design them in a way that supports a buyer’s decision-making process and, most importantly, provides them with value.