On average, consumer product companies spend $105 per lead. Manufacturers spend a little more at $136 per lead. Retailers fare better at just $34 per lead, while IT companies spend a whopping $208 per lead. With more pressure than ever to fill sales pipelines, these costs add up, regardless of industry. So how do you ensure you aren’t squandering your marketing budget, paying for “good” leads that don’t amount to actual opportunities? Content can help.
Leads: “Good” vs. Ready
Today’s buyers are nearly 70% of the way through their buying journey before they speak to a salesperson. In that time, they are carrying out research, trying to narrow down their options, and getting a feel for the market. That might include, for example, visiting your website, subscribing to your blog, downloading an ebook – all actions that we’ve determined make them “good” leads. But what if these are the actions of someone putting together a pitch for their boss, trying to get buy-in from above to approve the purchase? This means they aren’t ready to act…yet.
And acting on a lead that isn’t sales-ready can go wrong in a number of ways. First, you run the risk of annoying the prospect who could shut you down and count you out before the race has even begun. Second, passing along leads that aren’t ready can create distrust from sales, who could start to question whether any of the leads you’re sending their way are truly qualified. This threatens the working relationship between sales and marketing, meaning all of the efforts you made to align your processes were futile.
On the other hand, ignoring a lead with potential in the hopes that you’ll catch them further down the funnel when they are ready to act, is also a mistake. In a competitive market, you can bet someone else will be watching them, too. Do you want to risk missing out on the deal because your timing was off?
The Importance of Lead Nurturing
This is where lead nurturing comes in. It’s a balance between hands-on and hands-off – a way of keeping you top of mind without overwhelming the prospect (or putting them off!). Above all, lead nurturing does what it sounds like it does – helps a lead grow more likely to become a customer.
Marketo defines lead nurturing as:
…the process of developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel, and through every step of the buyer’s journey. It focuses marketing and communication efforts on listening to the needs of prospects and providing the information and answers they need.
Who Is Responsible for Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing typically falls to marketing since they are in charge of content and communications. However, there is an argument for having your salespeople take on some of that responsibility. For instance, if you are emailing targeted communications, including relevant resources like case studies or white papers, it makes sense to put a name to these helpful little tidbits. This is a good opportunity to begin building a relationship between salesperson and prospect, instilling the idea that this salesperson is going to be useful and is worth listening to.
Of course, it might be that you use marketing automation software to put a salesperson’s name to an email that is actually sent out by marketing. That’s up to you and will ultimately depend on the size of your business and how many leads you’re dealing with.
What Content is Best for Lead Nurturing?
So what kind of content helps convert “good” marketing leads to sales qualified opportunities that actually close? Here are a couple of suggestions:
Market insights – Infographics, white papers, or ebooks that speak generally about the issues your offering solves, answering the kind of ‘how-to’ and ‘what is’ questions that your prospects are typing into search engines. Remember to include shareable graphics or stats – chances are your lead may need to convince others in their company before they are ready to move forward.
Social proof – Case studies, whether written or filmed, are a great way to show leads that they are on to a good thing. If you’re emailing these out, try to match case studies with prospects so they see the most relevant content first before exploring what the rest of your website has to offer.
Product details – Sometimes, we’re so careful not to seem pushy that we forget prospects do actually need to know about our product and value proposition. Try to present this information in the most helpful format possible. For example, for technical offerings, a video can be easier to digest than a written brochure. Can you create a chart comparing your offering with your closest competitor? How else can you help your prospects understand exactly how they would benefit from using your product?
What Form Should Lead Nurturing Take?
Email – The most obvious medium for lead nurturing is email – newsletters, announcements about new resources, continually directing people back to your website for more information. How direct your approach is will likely depend on how you’ve scored the lead and at what stage of the buying process you believe they are.
Email allows you to tailor your communications depending on the lead in question and generally gives you the ability – and flexibility – to speak directly to a prospect even if they are not yet communicating back to you. You can personalize emails with the details you’ve captured through lead generation activities – at the very least, their names, but perhaps also with insights you’ve gleaned about what their business challenges could be. The more you know about your lead, the stronger your communications will be. If you understand what their pain points are, you’ll know exactly what you have to offer to solve them.
Content Hub – In addition to email, your website can be a powerful lead nurturing tool. There are many web personalization tools in the market that can help you guide your leads down the path to purchase with relevant and personalized content based on profile data or behavior on-site. Deploying a content hub as your website’s resource page is perhaps the most effective way to ensure your buyer sees exactly the right content at the right time in their journey.
Content hubs display content curated in real-time based on a lead’s interests and behavior on site. Deploying a content hub that also feeds into your sales enablement platform can accelerate the purchase process by ensuring the salesperson is able to offer continuity once they’ve been engaged. The seller will have data on what the lead has downloaded, how the content resonated, whether they forwarded it to others, etc. to help them identify what topics are most important and what challenges the buyer may be trying to solve.
Indirect – Other avenues for lead nurturing may be less targeted, including social media, webinars, and in-person events.
Effective Lead Nurturing Will Put You On The Road To (Many!) More Sales Qualified Leads
As you can see, there’s a lot to cover here. Lead nurturing is a business all of its own, with agencies and tools to help you along the way. But we hope this breakdown has given you some idea of the process involved. There is more to following up on a lead than just asking for a meeting or going straight in with the pitch. Proper lead nurturing supported by the right content in the right context will earn you the respect you need to close the deal.