Lead Nurturing: The New Tech Marketing Frontier

For years, tech marketers have been maniacally focused on generating new leads to feed the pipeline needs of their sales counterparts. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of those new leads, like 5%, were ready to engage with sales, leading to much frustration and angst between marketing and sales.

So what happened to the 95% of those leads that weren’t sales ready? Usually, not much! An email or two every so often does not constitute a lead nurturing program that will deliver results. However, it appears that the wind of change is upon us in tech marketing. In a recent marketing investments survey that we conducted, we found that tech marketers are increasing their budget allocation for lead nurturing by 11%, and that is significant.

So how do you start to build a lead nurturing program that will deliver results? Here are three elements:

Definition: First, we need a definition for lead nurturing. I like this simple definition: Lead nurturing is a process by which leads are tracked and developed into sales-qualified leads. Meaning that they are ready and worthy of a salesperson’s time. Of course, it is critical that you jointly establish the definition of a sales-ready lead with the sales team.

Objective: Our objective is to lead our prospects on an educational journey that moves them down the qualification path and results in a prospect that is highly qualified and ready to enter the sales process.

Approach: Developing a lead nurturing strategy does not need to be a daunting task. A simple approach is best, one that is focused and meaningful to your buyers.

  • Focus on the prospect: The key to a successful lead nurturing program is to make the on-going communications with your prospects as relevant to them as possible. This is your opportunity to segment your prospect database and focus your messages on what matters most to them, hitting their specific hot buttons by industry, geography, role, etc. Remember, the more hard-hitting and relevant to their issues and pain points your message is, the more likely they will be to take notice, absorb the message, and respond.
  • Message consistency: Be consistent in your messaging. Shifting messages will only cause confusion, reduce message reinforcement, and create a poor perception of your company. As you create multiple educational vehicles, like white papers, case studies, videos, and webinars, be sure that the message is consistent. Leverage every communication.
  • Content: The key to lead nurturing success is in great content. It has to be educational in nature, promote thought leadership, and go deep. Great content gets responses and gets you invited into deeper conversations with prospects. Content development should be approached from the reader’s perspective.
  • Process: The first step in building a lead nurturing process is to have a clear understanding of the buyer’s buying cycle. This is critical. You need to be able to map out your typical buyer’s buying cycle. It is the basis of any good nurturing campaign, since you will building your nurturing campaign content and messages on each step of the buying cycle. One of the best sources of information about your buyers’ buying cycle is sales or inside sales. These are the folks who have led prospects through the educational process in the past. Learn from them and build the nurturing process with them.

The process of building an effective lead nurturing program is not as overwhelming as it seems. It just requires giving careful thought and consideration to the elements above.

How is your lead nurturing program working? What have you found to be effective in nurturing leads?


Educational Content is key

What I find to be the biggest obstacle is creating enough relevant and educational content for a multi-touch lead nurturing campaign. I’ve seen very few companies do lead nurturing well or at all. Most don’t want to put in the work and think their sales brochures or sales whitepapers are good enough.

Educational Content

Roni I couldn't agree with you more. This is eactly what I meant in my post about the content has to "go deep." Marketing has to reach out to its experts with the intellectual capital to create the content needed to go deep into the subject and deliver a real educational experience. In most cases that content is not going to be generated out of the marketing org.

Relevant, personal, and in the buying cycle

In our own lead nurturing programs, we are pretty focused on understanding not just what the buying process is (where in the cycle are you?), but also understanding what segment of prospect you are (which of our defined segments do you fit into, if any?), as well as what your behavior has been

The key is defining relevant content along these axes. And to remember the eventual goal is a successful customer - not just a lead. My personal opinion is that some bad lead nurturing programs have the wrong metrics - they're focused on considering the job finished far too early in the sales process.

Relevant, personal and in the buying cycle

Ami you are right on! What a great opportunity lead nurturing programs offer to get focused like a laser on the needs by segment. However, the content has to be focused as well. And therein will lie the problem for most organizations.

Sales WhitePapers are NOT good enough

Roni's comment on sales whitepapers is where marketers may be losing 80% or more of that "not ready" 95%.

Do prospects really read whitepapers peppered with vendor product names and implied sales pitches? Why would they - they're nowhere near buying yet...

The b2b white paper that takes the high ground on a tech issue and explains solutions and benefits from the perspective of an interested prospect seem to be mighty thin on the ground.

Many so-called b2b technology white papers are basically extended sales brochures. It doesn't have to be that way.

Lead nurturing is NOT the new

Lead nurturing is NOT the new frontier. Companies (tech and otherwise) have been doing this for years, infact ever since 'marketing automation' was popularized.

At my previous place of work we developed 3 or 4 standard nurture programs based on how we classified leads or prospects. When a lead with profile #1 did not close, we'd put them in nurture program #1. When a lead with profile #2 closed but after a few years they ceased being a customer we put them in nurture program #2 (b) i.e. with a slight variation. We also often combined nurture programs with cross-sell programs. All this becomes very easy once you know and fully define your ideal customer for each product. As well as undersstand fully what is takes to convert a lead to an opportunity.

Lead nurturing - are you staffed to do it?

We've always found the biggest challenges to be about logistics and discipline. This is an important topic, and under-appreciated by many. But what we often see as an outsource provider (http://www.market-effect.com) is that getting to the payoff is hard for companies. Either they:

Don't think about the need to nurture leads
Aren't sure what the right process is to nurture them, or
Just as often if not more so, do not have the staff / discipline to do it

So I think one of the first lead nurturing (or as we've always called it, lead management) things to figure out is whether you can really do it consistently with internal resources.

Absolutely agree - we changed

Absolutely agree - we changed our processes about 2 years ago - to map almost identically with this strategy - and to also keep the Sales Reps away from the noise - only presenting the Sales Ready Leads to them - which seems to be working well - there is always room for improvement - great blog post - thx!