Introduction

Fierce competition today means that buyers have plenty of options - if they don’t get what they want from one brand, there’s always another brand ready and waiting. However, a large portion of consumers isn’t ready to buy straight away. This isn’t surprising. No one’s going to propose on a first date, after all.

The seven-touchpoint rule is a marketing term that states buyers need several interactions with a brand before they even consider handing over their money. There are many reasons why a buyer might not be ready straight away: they might be weighing up their options; they might have just discovered your brand and need to confirm you’re legitimate; they might not believe their pain is painful enough to warrant a solution.

Lead nurturing

t’s crucial that you build a relationship with buyers from the moment they start interacting with you. You wouldn’t buy a $5,000 watch from a street hawker you’ve never seen before. You can’t expect other consumers to do the same. You might, however, buy from the street hawker if they’ve made small talk with you every day, have taken the time to get to know you, and don’t push the same sales spiel every time you walk past. 

These small interactions are the building blocks to a much bigger picture. Failing to focus on creating connections with buyers means leads will go elsewhere, and you’ll lose customers and sales. 

The solution is a lead nurturing strategy that maps out the process leads go through and targets their needs at each stage. Having something like this in place will get you more leads, more conversions, and create happy, loyal customers.

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of developing ongoing relationships with buyers depending on where they are in the sales funnel. It’s about giving prospects what they need, when they need it, with the aim of guiding them towards a sale. 

Of course, it’s a lot more complex than this. No two customers are the same, and the sales cycle looks different for almost everyone. As such, lead nurturing goes one step further than giving customers what they want. It involves unlocking individual pain points, understanding buyers better, and providing personalized content based on their specific needs.

Sales Pipeline

Why do you need a lead nurturing strategy?

Lead nurturing takes prospects from complete strangers to customers. When every prospect has different needs, it’s important to address them with well-timed communication and relevant content. Without a strategy, you can end up missing the mark with a lot of would-be buyers. 

 

Capture leads in a non-linear customer journey

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to lead nurturing, which makes it difficult to know what content or message to send and when to send it. A strategy based on different touchpoints and individual customer needs rather than a step-by-step process is the key to targeting consumers at every stage. 

Marketing expert Samuel Brealey illustrates the customer journey as a messy ball of string:

Other marketing specialists believe the sales cycle is less of a “funnel” and more of a “filter system”:

Understanding where customers might go next and how they arrive at each stage is crucial for serving the right information at the right time. 

 

Successfully meet the needs of different leads 

The best lead nurturing strategies use data and analytics to capture customer information. Brands can use this information to get a better picture of who their customers are and what each buyer might need at different points throughout the sales cycle.

Don’t tie yourself to this process though. The sales funnel will look different for different companies depending on average cycle time, who they’re targeting, and the level of product they’re selling - the key is to uncover what your unique funnel (or “filter system”, if we’re going off the illustration above) looks like.

As Jonathan Berthold highlights in the Tweet above, a customer that has already added products to the cart will be navigating a different journey to a customer who has just discovered your brand. Lead nurturing strategies help you decide what content customers need and deliver it to them in the moment they need it.

 

Create a loyal base of returning customers

Customer experience is now one of the most exciting and important parts of the business. In an age where consumers crave connection more than ever, lead nurturing creates a slick experience for buyers at every stage of the cycle and encourages them to return.

It’s not just about gaining new customers, though. It’s about creating a space for existing customers to thrive. Once a lead makes a purchase, they’re still a lead with the potential to buy again. By fostering stronger relationships through appropriate, well-timed content, customers are more likely to come back and spend more while they’re at it

 

Automate the process to scale your efforts

Clunky, manual lead nurturing activities are a thing of the past. Having a strategy in place allows you to automate the lead nurturing process, which frees up team time, scales your business, and generates sales on autopilot. It also reduces customer queries by giving them the information they need, when they need it. 

 

Gain a competitive advantage over brands that aren’t nurturing leads

Only 35% of B2B marketers have established a lead nurturing strategy. By implementing lead nurturing, you’re already one step ahead of them. 

Think about it: a customer will choose a brand that understands their needs over a brand that doesn’t. In fact, 56% of consumers feel more loyal to brands that “get them” and who show a deep understanding of their priorities and preferences. 

How to create a lead nurturing strategy?

Creating a lead nurturing strategy has several moving parts. Understanding customer needs drives the type of content you create, but putting it all together is the hard bit. Here’s how to put your best foot forward. 

 

1. Understand the stages of a sales funnel

Knowing how your customers interact with you as they go through the sales cycle provides vital insight. Consider the actions taken at each stage - how do leads arrive in the cycle? What questions do they commonly ask? What actions do they take next? 

This information will come together to create a big-picture overview of how your customers engage with the sales cycle, where they are most likely to enter the cycle, what actions they take at each stage, and who is more likely to move seamlessly towards a purchase. Thinking about the sales funnel in the traditional way (even if it doesn’t always look like that) can be a useful way to lay down the bare bones: 

Don’t tie yourself to this process though. The sales funnel will look different for different companies depending on average cycle time, who they’re targeting, and the level of product they’re selling - the key is to uncover what your unique funnel (or “filter system”, if we’re going off the illustration above) looks like.

 

2. Align marketing and sales to uncover common objections 

Too many brands consider marketing and sales as separate departments when they should work in tandem. 25% of businesses describe their sales and marketing as either “misaligned” or “rarely aligned”, which can have a negative impact on sales. 

Your sales team might know that price is a common objection for leads, but if this information isn’t shared with marketing, they won’t have the motivation to create resources around it.  Bringing insights from both departments together will help you create content based on common queries and objections. 

Sales teams can provide information like: 

Whereas marketing teams can provide information like: 

Successful lead nurturing strategies use insights from both departments to build out the process. If you’re struggling to bring the two departments together, here’s some clarity from marketing expert Sujan Patel

 

3. Identify and segment high-quality leads

Use your research into the stages of the buying cycle to segment your audience based on who they are and where they are in the cycle. Lead scoring is a technique used to identify high-value leads (or leads that are more likely to convert). The more “points” a lead has, the more often they’ve interacted with your brand or taken certain actions. Interactions can include downloading free content, attending a webinar, reading a post, checking out your pricing page, or requesting a demo. 

You can also segment and score leads using: 

  • Firmographic data, like their company name, location, team size, and annual revenue 

  • Professional data, like their job title, their experience, what they’re responsible for, and their biggest challenges 

Sales Funnel Vs Sales Pipeline

“One of the most important things is correctly identifying the activities you want to score. For example, pick the whitepapers you know leads read prior to conversion and assign them a score. Don’t assign a score to all whitepapers. Next, include a combination of scoring properties to identify the best qualified leads to nurture. E.g job title, industry, company size, and activity history.” says Kushlani De Silva, Marketing Consultant. 

 

4. Build out your email marketing campaigns 

Automated email campaigns will nurture leads that have handed over their details but aren’t yet ready to buy. You might have got their contact details after they:

Once you’ve got their details, you can start the nurturing process by landing in their sacred inbox.

 

Any decent email marketing platform will enable automated sequences. Like with all other parts of a lead nurturing strategy, different leads will need different information. The email sequence they are enrolled in will depend on the insights gathered from the previous three steps. 

Some examples include:

Someone who’s new to your brand will be best suited to a welcome sequence where you introduce your products and begin trust-building. A lead that is weighing up their options might be better suited to a competitor differentiation campaign, while a lead that’s just made a purchase should be put straight into a post-sale campaign. 

 

5. Create targeted content 

Nurturing leads is a balancing act of starting conversations, developing trust, showcasing your authority, and presenting your solution as the best possible option. Once leads are enrolled into an email sequence, it’s time to start building a relationship with them and nurturing them towards a sale. 

To do this, send them content that suits their needs at that exact moment. 

Content should answer questions they might have, ease their concerns, and make purchasing your product a no-brainer. Use your segmentation data to create engaging content. For example, a lead in a managerial position might need content on organization, managing people, and scheduling tasks, while a small business owner might need help with scaling, juggling their time, and identifying stakeholders. 

Take KnowBe4 as an example. They ask visitors how many employees they have. When a lead selects an option, they’re taken to a specialized portal full of information targeted towards the needs associated with a specific type of business.

As well as deciding what your content should be about, think about how leads might prefer to consume content. If they’re busy, short articles might work best, but if you’re teaching a complicated process relating to your product, a video demo is probably more appropriate.

6. Track, measure, and analyze

It’s unlikely you’ll create a wildly successful lead nurturing strategy the first time round. It’ll take some tweaking as you get to know what content your audience reacts best to and learn more about their needs.

Start by setting concrete goals using specific numbers and percentages where possible: do you want to achieve a 25% increase in conversions? Do you want to attract 10% more leads every month? Do you want to cut the sales cycle by 14 days? 

Make sure your goals aren’t too lofty, especially in the early stages. We’ve highlighted some of the best metrics to measure below. Use these to stay on track and keep a close eye on how your lead nurturing strategy is performing. Don’t dismiss intangible metrics, though. When you create a lead nurturing strategy, you’re playing the long game:  

Tips to optimize and test your lead nurturing strategy

If you’re not getting the results you want, here are some actionable ways you can improve your efforts and optimize each stage of the process.

Humanize and personalize

Consumers want to create connections with the brands they invest in. Personalize communications based on lead needs and speak to them over email as you would in person.

Use micro-segmentation

Really dig into the unique and individual needs of each customer by taking your segmenting game up a level. Get granular with your segmentation and produce highly-focused communications.

A/B test content downloads

This is where a lot of your leads will first come to you. Test different types of downloadable content and the placement of it across your site to see which combinations perform best.

Create multiple email marketing campaigns

Target the different needs each lead has and laser-focus your messaging with a variety of sequences

Test your CTAs

Different wording will work for different customers. Experiment with a range of commands, including first-person pronouns and “power words” 

Choose your platforms wisely

Where will you reach customers? Find out where they’re hanging out and focus your efforts in those places.

Select your key metrics

The metrics you choose to track will depend on your goals. See below for a list of the most common metrics to use.

Key metrics to calculate the ROI of lead nurturing

Metrics will tell you how well your lead nurturing strategy is performing. The more you tweak and optimize your processes, the better your numbers will be. Here are some key metrics to get you started: 

Average ROI

Working out your average ROI will tell you how much you gain from each lead. Use this formula to calculate it: 

 

ROI = Net income / Cost of Investment

For example, if you make $5,000 in a customer sale and it costs you $500 to land that sale, you would calculate 5000 / 500.

Average deal value

Every lead is worth some amount of business. While the deal value could change by the time the lead becomes a customer, having your eyes on an approximate deal value will help predict revenue. 

Don’t place your bets only on the biggest deals. Focus on deals where the prospect shows interest in your product and is willing to invest. Sometimes, a series of small deals may convert sooner than one large deal. 

Awareness metrics

Metrics that measure the awareness of your brand determine how many new potential leads you have at play. These metrics include:

Loyalty metrics

Loyalty metrics give you an idea of how well your lead nurturing strategy is working. If you can prove that loyalty is increasing, there’s a good chance your strategy is doing what it should be doing. You can measure loyalty through:

Conversion rates

The more conversions you generate, the more effective your lead nurturing strategy is. Track conversions through: 

Financial metrics

The better your lead nurturing strategy performs, the more revenue you’ll make. Track your revenue increase over time and align it with the implementation of your strategy.

Performance metrics

Performance metrics (also known as engagement metrics) show you how often leads are interacting with your content and emails. To measure your performance, track metrics like:

Cost metrics

The slicker your lead nurturing strategy becomes, the easier (and cheaper) it will be to convert new customers. Keep a track of your cost per lead to see how much you’re spending on converting new customers and to determine if this number is decreasing over time. 

Get your lead nurturing strategy off the ground 

 

There’s no time like the present to start working on a lead nurturing strategy. Start by digging deep into your customers’ wants and needs. Then, prioritize the kind of information they need to help them attain what they want. 

Don’t forget to track and measure your performance along the way, but also don’t forget you’re in it for the long haul. Lead nurturing isn’t just about numbers and conversions, it’s about creating life-long relationships with customers that will continue to come back for more.

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