When you hear that lead nurturing creates 50% more sales-ready leads than lead generation alone, it’s no wonder creating a lead nurture sequence is such a hot topic in the marketing world these days.
Lead Nurture vs. Drip Campaigns
Lead nurture is a close cousin to our friend drip campaign, but they’re not quite the same thing (although you may hear the terms used interchangeably).
Drip campaigns are automatic campaigns that go out based on when a lead first opted in to receive marketing communications from you.
- Day 1 = welcome email
- Day 2 = features of your product
- Day 3 = what sets you apart
It’s a static set of emails that go out to everyone, regardless of the other actions they take.
Consider lead nurturing like drip campaigns on steroids. It’s like the hotter, buffer cousin.
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.”
The goal is to be in relationship with our prospects, sending them the information they need and the answers to the questions they have at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
So, if we were having a conversation, drip campaigns would be like saying, “Good,” assuming the question was “How are you?”, when your prospect may be asking, “What’s your name?” or “Nice day out, isn’t it?” And lead nurturing would be dynamic enough to respond to the question appropriately.
Clearly lead nurture is the bee’s knees, but I’m guessing your next question is along the lines of, “How do I get started?”
How to Get Started with Lead Nurturing
When you’re getting started with lead nurturing, you’ll want to take a deep dive into your content, your buyer’s journey, your conversion points, and your audience.
Let’s talk about each in a little more depth.
Nurture with Content
When setting up your lead nurture campaign, it’s critical to have content to share.
Regardless of which sources you look at, the majority of your leads are not ready to be sold. Which means you’ve gotta spend some time warming them, educating them, and building a relationship with them before they’re ready to buy from you.
The best way to do this is through content. Educational content, features-based content, promotional content. (We’ll talk about when to use each in a minute).
Now, I want to clarify something real quick: Content does not just mean WRITTEN content. It also means infographics, videos and animations, ebooks, whitepapers… anything you create that your lead might find valuable.
You do not have to reinvent the wheel with content. Check out your blog, any existing whitepapers or ebooks, your social channels, and your sales teams’ inboxes to find content your can repurpose for your lead nurture. Especially if it converted well (like an email that led to a sale or a popular blog), you can do little to no sprucing up and use it as part of your lead nurture.
Build Out Your Personas
Whenever you’re creating content, you want to keep your buyer persona in mind. This is essentially an avatar of the person who is coming to you and buying your products or services.
One thing I like to remind people of is that your business can have MULTIPLE personas. For example, if you’re selling children’s toys, you might have new parents, parents who have been around the block, aunts and uncles / godparents, and grandparents in your audience. While one demographic might end up making up a significant portion of your audience, those other personas are also important to identify, because the reasons they buy, and consequently the content and information that’s interesting to them, is going to be different from group to group.
If you haven’t figured out your buyer personas yet, check out this article on building personas into your marketing strategy.
Identify Your Gateways
This is all about your conversion points. Where are leads coming in from? What are they opting in for?
It might be an ebook or whitepaper, webinar, product demo, a request for a quote, an event, or a subscription your email newsletter.
Depending on where the lead originated from, you will want to gear content follow suit.
If someone subscribed to your email newsletter, inviting them to a product demo is probably not the best next step. A simple subscription generally means a fairly unqualified lead. They may not know enough about your product or service to buy from you yet. Instead, try nurturing with educational content (maybe about their pain points, the problems your product or service solves, or topics related to the problem you solve).
If someone requested a product demo, the appropriate next step would probably be to connect that lead with a sales agent who can set up a demo, as well as additional content about the features and benefits of what you’re offering.
In this step, you’ll want to take a look at all the different entry points for leads so you can determine where they are in the buyer’s journey (we’re getting to that!) and which content makes the most sense based on what they indicated interest in and their overall level of interest in what you’re offering.
Map Out the Buyer’s Journey
Isn’t it interesting how one step leads to another? When considering lead nurturing, or just about any marketing activity you perform in service for your organization, it’s important to remember that it’s all related. Each step of the lead nurture process is relevant and important. They all feed into each other, and the process as a whole would be incomplete if it was missing any of these steps.
The buyer’s journey is the process your prospects go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a solution to a problem they’re having (aka your product or service).
HubSpot breaks the buyer’s journey down into three steps:
- Awareness – When the prospect becomes aware that they have a problem
- Consideration – The prospect starts doing research on the ways they might be able to solve their problem and beings looking for solutions
- Decision-Making – The prospects chooses a solution and makes a purchase.
Different types of content will appeal to different prospects depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey.
When you’re mapping out your buyer’s journey, look at your points of entry. Look at your blog content. Look at your email marketing and sales efforts. Which pieces of content relate to which stages of the buyer’s journey? Do you have enough content for each stage?
The content should be answering the questions they have at each stage.
Awareness Stage Content
Developing awareness stage content is about having an understanding of the problem your audience has. What are they struggling with? How are they describing it? What words are they using? Where are they looking to for information on how to solve their problem?
If your company creates and sells skincare products, a consumer in the awareness stage might just know that their skin is really dry and they need something that can help to moisturize their skin without leaving their hands feeling greasy.
They might then search online something like “non-greasy hand lotion”, to which they might find the article, “How to Find a Hydrating Hand Cream That Won’t Leave You Feeling Greasy”.
Now imagine if you created your own article addressing the problem — you might find yourself co-opting some of that traffic to your own website and turning those visitors into leads.
Consideration Stage Content
If your company is in the commercial fitness business, you might have a consumer who knows they want to lose weight and get in shape, knows the best way to do that is to hit the gym, and is now in the process of vetting out the gyms in their area.
Multiple factors might go into their search – the time the gym is open during the day, the types of classes or equipment available, the distance from home or from work.
When creating content for this stage, you want to think about each of those things they’re considering — the things that would make them buy or decide not to, the questions they’re asking themselves or looking for answers to on your website — and answer them in the content on your website. Post your gym hours and a class schedule in easy-to-find locations on your website, share compelling videos of your training programs, and showcase before and after photos of some your members.
Each of these pieces of content, while seemingly simple, is strategically crafted and positioned to move your prospect closer to making a decision in favor of your business.
Decision Stage Content
In the final stage of the buyer’s journey, the prospect has made the decision to buy from you, whether that’s indicated by a call to your company, a form fill to request a quote, or heavy engagement with your website, possibly even including a visit to the pricing page (which you can track with marketing automation software).
At this point, you might connect your lead directly with a member of your sales team so they can reach out, make a personal connection, and answer any questions before they make their final decision.
But don’t think the content ends at this stage! As part of your sales enablement strategy, your team might find it helpful to create assets that support your sales initiatives, such as case studies, sell sheets, or email templates.
Break Down the Sales Cycle
When you’re putting together lead nurture campaigns, you’ll want to consider the length of your sales cycle. While not all of your buyers will follow the exact same path to a sale, you may notice that there is an average length of time to sale. Use this as the basis for determining how long your lead nurture should be and how emails should be spaced out over this period.
In addition to breaking down your sales cycle, you’ll also want to think about where the lead is in the buyer journey – if they are entering into your funnel closer to the bottom of the funnel, the lead nurture time might be different.
As you’re planning your lead nurture, make sure you’re mapping all of this out and thinking about each of the different personas, buying stages, and conversion points so you can see how they all interact with one another and the different places your lead might branch from one type of lead nurture to another.
Incorporate Marketing Automation
With each of these types of lead nurture in play, how do you move a prospect from one to another? How do you know that they’ve taken an action that’s moved them further down the funnel?
This is where marketing automation comes in.
Marketing automation happens automatically and is triggered by a user activity, such as a form fill, navigating your website, or interacting with a piece of content. Automation is predetermined – what action you want to happen when a user takes a certain action.
For example, when a lead visits your website a certain number of times or clicks a certain link, you might want their lead status to change to “hot” and a message to be triggered to have your sales team call them.
Or when a lead signs up for your open house, you might want a print postcard to be triggered and sent. While this might not happen automatically (as in your software isn’t going to print and send), it can trigger a notification to go to a printer or warehouse to send the print material.
If you’re new to marketing automation, check out our free ebook The Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Automation.
Measure the Success of Your Efforts
Alright, you’ve gone through the whole process of outlining your nurture, writing the content, and setting it up using marketing automation software. WOOHOO! You should definitely celebrate!
Now hold up, you’re not done quite yet! I know, I know. Marketing is that thankless job where there’s always more to be done. But once you’ve got everything set up, you want to make sure you’re measuring the success of your efforts so you can tweak, improve, and optimize the performance of your lead nurture.
Metrics to Monitor
Once your lead nurture campaigns have been running for a while (at least 30-90 days), you’ll want to check in on the following stats:
- Open rates — Are your emails being opened? Low open rates could mean that lead quality is low, subject lines could use revising, send time isn’t ideal, or the lead isn’t finding your emails valuable enough.
- Bounce rates — High bounce rates usually indicates deliverability issues or poor lead quality.
- Click-through rates — Your emails might be getting opened, but are people clicking through to the links you share in your emails? Low CTRs may be a symptom of weak calls to action, or it may signify that your offer/CTA is not relevant to the reader.
- Unsubscribes — A high unsubscribe rate is usually a sign that poor leads are being generated and/or expectations are not being met. I’ve seen this happen with companies that offered a recipe book, because people love recipes, and it generated a lot of leads, but because the company didn’t actually sell food or recipes, there was a disconnect between what the prospect was expecting and what the company was actually about.
- Conversion rate — One of the most important metrics to measure, your conversion rate tells you if all this activity and all this work is actually leading to the thing that matters most: SALES. If your content is attracting opens and clicks, but it’s not generating sales, you may want to consider revising frequency, add stronger calls to action, or connect with your sales team to see, based off their experience converting leads, why your nurture may not be driving as many leads as you expected it to.
Digging deeper into how all of these stats overlap will help you figure out which content or tools are converting the best, what needs improvement, and what needs to be scrapped entirely.
Things to Test
In addition to monitoring your metrics, you’ll also want to make sure that you are testing things to see what create better results.
Here are a few ideas of what you might test in your lead nurture:
- Subject Line — Do personalized subject lines or those that ask questions generate more opens?
- CTA — Does a call to action button generate more clicks than a text link, or vice versa? Do certain words stir engagement or suppress it?
- Body copy — Could you revise the body of the email to speak more naturally and authentically, or better address the pain points of your audience?
- Length of email — Do shorter emails perform better than longer emails, or vice versa?
- Timing / frequency of emails — Does spacing out your emails impact opens and conversions? Does sending more frequently increase or decrease engagement?
- Email formatting — Settle for yourself the age old debate of which converts better: plain text or designed emails.
- First contact with sales — Should sales be connecting with leads earlier in the process for more personal communication?
Each of these things is something to test, measure, and tweak, based on what the data tells.
Well, that’s certainly not EVERYTHING I could tell you about lead nurturing, but I think that’s enough to get you started. Go forth, and map out your own lead nurturing strategy. And if you need some help, give us a holler!