Using marketing automation for lead nurturing is one of most effective uses of the software.
Once your inbound marketing campaign is launched and in full-swing, you’ll hopefully be generating leads by the bucketful. However, that’s just the start of the process. Now you need to be doing everything you can to keep those leads happy, engaged and curious to learn more about what you have to offer.
If you do this successfully and gently guide them through the buyer’s journey, they will eventually qualify as being sales ready. This is lead nurturing – and it can be a long process, especially in B2B, and is certainly not easy.
The important thing, however, is that you don’t rush it. Pestering leads with an unsolicited sales call too early in the process is simply ineffective – more often than not, you’ll lose them. Indeed, research from Harvard Business Review (quoted in a HubSpot SlideShare – ‘Why it’s Time to Kill the Cold Call Once and For All’ ) reveals that cold calling is ineffective 90% of the time.
(Image source: slideshare.net)
Rather than wasting 90% of your time and losing 90% of your leads, instead, leads should be nurtured along the path to purchase with appropriate and engaging content that allows them to educate themselves about the value of your solution at their own pace and in their own time before you let sales anywhere near them.
If you really are generating leads by the bucketful (and if you’re employing a solid inbound marketing strategy there’s no reason why you won’t be), the process of nurturing all these leads can very quickly become complex. And this is why using marketing automation software for lead nurture campaigns is so effective, for it will ensure that you’re organised, that all your leads get quick responses, that the right content is sent to the right leads at the right time and right point in the sales cycle, and that no lead is ever forgotten or scared off too early by an intrusive sales call when they’re not yet ready to buy.
Using Marketing Automation for Hands-Off Lead Nurturing
It’s important to stay in regular contact with your leads as soon as you’ve captured their contact information. You will have achieved this when they signed-up to your newsletter or webinar, or downloaded an eBook, case study or white paper from your website. These are “actions”, and, with marketing automation software working quietly behind the scenes, these actions will trigger a response from your CRM system.
In the first instance, as soon as someone fills out a form in exchange for a download or access to a webinar, your marketing automation system will trigger a personalised thank you email. When your lead filled out the form, they will have given their name, and so personalisation (“Hi [first name]!) is very easily automated and completely hands-free – your marketing automation system will do this automatically.
This is an example of an email workflow – a lead takes an action, and an email is triggered. But it’s just the start of the process.
(Image source: slideshare.net)
For effective lead nurturing, you’ll need to touch base with your leads frequently – even those right at the top of your sales funnel. What’s important to remember is that even qualified leads aren’t necessarily ready to buy. In fact, according to HubSpot, this is true of as much as 50% of your qualified leads. However, it’s also important to note that nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities compared to non-nurtured leads – and this is why staying in contact with them is so important.
The emails that you send will contain their own CTAs (calls to action), which themselves will trigger new emails when clicked. For example, let’s say your lead downloaded an eBook – following your thank you email, a few days later your marketing automation software will be configured to send out a follow-up email, this time offering access to, say, an infographic. If your lead clicks the CTA to access the download, they will enter into a new email workflow where a new thank you email will be automated, and then, a few days later again, another email will be automatically sent out offering even more content.
Matching Content to Leads
The content that you send should always be tailored to the correct stage of the sales cycle. The buyer’s journey is often complex in B2B, and the wrong content can easily send the wrong message. By this we mean that by sending someone who is only vaguely aware that they have a problem you can solve a detailed report explicating the precise benefits of your solution can be off-putting – as can sending simplified material to an already highly-educated lead.
But with automated lead nurturing, you will be able to systematically track all engagements with your content and website, accurately pinpoint each lead’s precise lifecycle stage, and drip feed the most appropriate content at the right time. And when you’ve configured your marketing automation system well, this is all done automatically. All you have to do is wait for the system to alert you that the lead has taken a certain action that indicates that they have moved all the way down your funnel and are therefore are finally ready for sales – at which point, you hand them over. (See ‘How to Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams for Success’.)
Over to You
What’s important to understand about lead nurturing is that buyers need different content at each stage of the inbound marketing funnel.
In the middle of the funnel they are actively conducting their research, which means that they will be comparing your solution (and your business assets – including your content and website) to what your competitors are offering. Marketing automation allows you to provide them with the right educative materials at the right time, and ensure that no leads are forgotten and no opportunities missed. When they reach the bottom of the funnel and feel compelled to buy, often they will reach out to you via an email, but your marketing automation system will alert you when they have reached this stage, and so once again you can automate an email to direct your leads to your pricing or free-trial page to coax them over the line.
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Ultimately, when you use marketing automation for lead nurturing, you will be gently guiding your prospects down the sales funnel through the timely delivery of only the most appropriate educative content, resulting in your sales team being able to spend their time on sales-ready leads and not wasting it on cold calls.