Three Essential Components of a Lead Nurturing Program

Three Essential Components of a Lead Nurturing Program

Dylan Touhey

This article offers an overview of three essential components found in successful lead nurturing programs. Many of the insights are from an excellent study released recently by Forrester. This article also shares some of the strategic questions and checklists we use when designing in-bound lead generation campaigns for our B2B clients.

Forrester defines lead nurturing having three central components:

  1. a sustained relationship
  2. a coordinated and structured process
  3. the exchange of relevant and valuable insight for increasing intimacy and influence.

Let’s walk through each of these points.

1. A sustained relationship

In Forrester’s Q1 2011 North American B2B Technology Marketing Tactics And Benchmarks Online Survey, they found that all of the top performers had a nurturing program. Nearly 10% of the worst performers reported that they did not nurture leads at all.

Top performers also reported a more committed approach to nurturing. While 82% of top performers reported that it took four or more nurturing interactions to mature a lead to sales qualified status, only 74% of the worst performers reported using four or more touches. Nearly one-third (32%) of the top performers reported seven or more touches versus 26% for worst performers.

Forrester also found that top performers realized improved performance at all stages of the L2RM cycle. Conversion ratios for top performers were at least 4 percentage points higher through the major stages of the L2RM process: lead origination, lead nurturing, and sales conversion.

A sustained relationship means that you are reaching buyers early in their research and shaping their perceptions and buying criteria over the course of the process.

2. A coordinated and structured process

Too many tech marketers believe that “nurturing” is the same as sending random content down the marketing automation pipe. Or reaching out to a pool of customers on a regular basis to “touch base.”

The goal should not be to simply to put your company in front of them, reach out a few times, and then either close or move on. Instead, your content production, keyword research, and social media activity should align with the long-term process of research, evaluation, and decision.

Does your lead nurturing program help the customer learn how to buy?

This means that you are targeting buyers across multiple stages of their research, shaping their decision criteria along the way.

3. The exchange of relevant and valuable insight for increasing intimacy and influence

Content marketing is about education. As Copyblogger often says, “education is selling,” which is to say education persuades and leads someone forward, earning their trust, permission, and respect.  Once you have that framework in place, closing the sale is much easier.

One of the basic truths of marketing is that credibility sells. In B2C, credibility is important, but often flies under the radar. For example, a website selling iPads is piggybacking on the credibility of Apple and so, can get away with a sloppy website design and little market leadership (get away with it–not thrive).

In B2B, building trust is everything. Buyers need to believe you can fulfill the product promises you make. And this takes more than witty copy on the homepage. This is why compelling content is so essential. You are trading excellent content for the buyer coming to know, like, and trust you.

Thinking about the overall strategy will help you see the bigger principles behind the trend toward content and in-bound marketing. Blogging is not about just getting traffic to your website. It is about attracting the right type of customer and keeping them interested with the right type of content.

A lead nurturing checklist for B2B tech marketers

Tech marketers who want to build a lead-nurturing program should make sure that their efforts align with the following:

  • Does your program help the customer learn how to buy? Lead nurturing isn’t about hard selling. It’s about persuasion. It’s about leading and developing, shaping and influencing.
  • Is it personal? The reason why buyers don’t pick up the phone or respond to your email blast is that it these types of tactics are indirect and unsolicited. Downloading a whitepaper is not enough of an introduction to want to talk to your sales force next week. And sending a few blog posts to your email list, isn’t enough to build trust and intimacy.
  • Do you write content for the different stages of the buying cycle? What is the strategy behind every piece of content? What is the persuasive architecture of your lead nurturing program? What are the different stages you are targeting and how is your content helping to move the buyer through those different phases?
  • Are you delivering through your buyer’s preferred channels? In the Forrester survey, a notable mismatch was that tech vendors listed webinars ad their second-most popular tactic. And tech buyers listed webinars as their eight-most popular information source.
  • Do you have a system? Forrester’s survey showed that top performers have a nurturing program. Nearly 10% of the worst performers reported that they did not nurture leads at all.Do you know what works? It is important track how visitors discover your company—and study the most successful entry pages, as well as the path customers take through different kinds of content before buying.

For more in-bound marketing advice, digital trends, and B2B lead generation research, follow us on Twitter (@Onenetmarketing).