Lead nurturing is 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.
Effectively developing leads in today’s buyer-driven marketplace means establishing and nurturing buyer relationships with a strategic lead scoring system, and then filling out that framework with a thorough content marketing plan.
Marketing and sales need to get together to develop a lead scoring strategy, to pinpoint where a particular lead is within the brand’s buying model. It is the backbone of a strong lead nurturing system, because it identifies when and how to address each buyer with the most timely and relevant communications.
The details of any lead scoring system will be specific to every brand, based on your industry, niche, and unique audience. There are, however, four dimensions of lead scoring that should be evaluated as you develop your strategy.
Lead fit describes how well a particular buyer matches the brand’s ideal prospect, or usual buyer. This introductory-level data will tell you if a lead is worth pursuing at all, and breaks down into three categories:
Most of this information is easily collected with forms in front of gated content, email subscriptions, and/or a quick Google search.
Tracking online behavior to determine how attractive your brand is to a buyer is the next stage of lead scoring. Is she spending a lot of time on your site? Engaging with social networks? Assign numerical values to some of those behaviors.
More closely monitoring lead behavior will indicate if a lead is serious about buying, or just grabbing info. Assign lower values to introductory behaviors like clicking through blog posts, and higher values to actions like downloading gated content or registering for a webinar.
Scoring for buying stage helps determine where a buyer is within the brand’s sales model. One way to score buying stage is to align behaviors with the top, middle, or bottom of your sales funnel. Attach higher scores to clicks on pricing sheets and product demos.
If lead scoring is the backbone of a successful online marketing strategy, then content marketing is the muscle. In a marketplace where buyers are increasingly wary of ads and increasing self-educating through the funnel, content marketing has stepped up to the place to give brands a voice
Simply put, content marketing is the process of creating relevant and valuable content—from blog posts to infographics to video—that attracts, engages, and serves your audience. Buyers are already scouring the web for answers to their questions and solutions for their problems that brands are uniquely positioned to provide. Content marketing welcomes them at every stage of the buyer’s journey, and helps move them through the funnel
Email is the most direct way to get specific content to a specific lead, but effective email marketing needs to be five things
Your brand site is, of course, your online home base. With a robust SEO strategy, it will be the first impression your audience gets of your brand, and should be a constant, continual resource for leads at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
There are three areas of your website that should be the focus of a content marketing strategy:
Taking a content strategy to social media requires a different kind of creativity, but every social channel is another outlet for branded content
Strategic social marketing doesn’t mean producing all the content for all the channels. Match your target audience demographics to the demographics of the major networks, and determine which types of content (images, video, ebooks, etc.) work best to tell your brand’s story. Focus your social content strategy where the two overlap, and remember the golden rules of social marketing:
For more on those golden rules, download The Definitive Guide to Social Marketing
A single entrepreneur can build trust and maintain authentic conversations with maybe two dozen leads. A small marketing team, with good time management skills, can stay on top of maybe 50. But you need more than 50 leads in your funnel to keep growing. Marketing automation is a technology solution that allows brands to streamline and automate their marketing efforts across various channels, to improve efficiency and drive more sales.
Automating a workflow helps align all of your marketing efforts and messages, and makes sure that each lead receives the most relevant messages at the most opportune times.
Small business and startups can usually keep track of a short list of leads in order to create meaningful, conversational campaigns, but as the business scales and the top of the funnel gets wider, nurturing leads in an authentic way becomes impossible for one person—or even a small team of marketers.
As sales funnels lengthen, buyers become more independent, and attention spans shrink, the case for strategic, effective lead nurturing continues to grow. If your brand isn’t nurturing a buyer, your competitors probably are, and you will lose sales and market share to the more attentive voice.
Get sales and marketing together this week to develop, or review and hone, your lead scoring process. Then, start building content to deliver to each of your personas in a small range of points. When your spreadsheets get out of hand, or you decide there are other things you need to spend time on, consider a good marketing automation system to help nurture leads effectively while you continue to work on growing your brand.