Welcome to Part 2 of our Blueprint for a Lead Nurturing Campaign series! If you missed Part 1, be sure to get up to speed by reading it first. Today, we will be diving into the details of what characterizes the business-to-business or B2B lead nurturing campaign.
The generally higher complexity of setting up these campaigns (in comparison with B2C lead nurturing) necessitates a close understanding of both your customers-- their needs, expectations, behavioral patterns-- and your company’s own lead nurturing strategies and channels.
This blog post is part of Your Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing blog series.
Piecing it Together: The Key Elements of a B2B Lead Nurturing Campaign
Without further ado, let’s start putting together the pieces of a great B2B lead nurturing strategy.
Your hook is that prime cut of steak, the lead magnet, the premium piece of content that you offer to capture a lead’s information and get them into your contact database. This content piece should help your buyer identify a challenge they have, an opportunity they want to pursue or provide an answer to one of their questions.
Varieties of effective B2B offers include special pricing, free information, free samples, trade-in/trade-up, and free trial offers. Generally speaking, a strong offer should be eye-catching enough to attract leads’ attention and urgent enough to get them to act, as well as created for the right audience and presented at the right time.
Landing pages are a primary means of hosting your lead magnet as well as presenting premium content at every stage of your funnel. Revolving around presenting your lead with the opportunity to provide their information in exchange for a promising offer, landing pages should be focused on conversion. While design does matter, the creative effort put into your page will be for nothing if it doesn’t compel leads to submit the form!
It is important to provide leads with enough information to make a decision, but not so much that they are distracted from the objective at hand. A strong call-to-action (CTA) and a good understanding of your buyer personas are the keys to this. Use your personas to dictate the content on your page; make note of their interests, pain points, the terminology and language they prefer to use, etc.
The nature of the offer should dictate the length of the form on your landing page-- while a valuable offer like a BoFu consultation may merit a many data fields including Name, Email, Phone Number, Company Name, Domain and Industry, a simple ebook will likely not.
Proper lead segmentation is what can set a company apart from its competitors, who may gather similar amounts of leads but don’t put the proper care into assessing their fit or needs. Thorough segmentation should thus be based on both demographics and behavior.
Segmented lists created with these two components in mind should incorporate characteristics including: your leads’ stage in the buyer's journey such as the persona which they fit, entry point/origin channel, and content they have interacted with to deliver a maximally personalized experience.
One of the most popular approaches to B2B segmentation is “firmographics,” or company criteria like size, industry, company location, and technologies used. Others are tiering-- based on how well a lead matches your company’s goals-- and needs-- related to what has driven the lead to your company in the first place.
Email drips, which are a series of scheduled emails that encourage a lead to access the next content piece in your funnel or take the next desired action, are essential to a nurturing campaign. For leads with a foot in the door, or even stuck in the middle of your funnel, email-based nurturing is a guaranteed way to attend to their needs on a more personal level when a one-on-one conversation simply takes too much time.
Drip campaigns require creating a workflow, which we will be discussing in greater detail below. Other optimization tips for high click-through and open rates include: using actionable language, being visual with your presentation of your asset, including hyperlinks, and aiming for personalization wherever possible using lead data such as name and company. You also want to send all emails from a real person at your company, not the company itself.
In B2B lead nurturing, workflows are exemplified by the aforementioned drip marketing campaigns. These are triggered by form fills and flow in a linear fashion from one stage of your funnel to the next. As a standard, we suggest including a three-email workflow at each stage of the buyer’s journey (9 total). This number, however, can vary based of your leads’ unique needs.
Emails within the workflow will be sent -- or not -- based on a lead's behavior or contact information. By being able to trigger actions based on any information you have about your leads, you can send the right information to the right people at the right time. Some examples of more specific varieties of workflows:
- Blog and newsletter
- Topic workflows
- Event follow up
- Impending purchase
- Product onboarding
For a step-by-step guide to creating a lead nurturing campaign for your B2B business download our How to Create a Lead Nurturing Campaign [Guide]
Premium content in the context of lead nurturing helps your buyer evaluate the different approaches or methods available to pursue their goal or solve their challenge. This point in the journey also marks a point of extended engagement where you are nurturing a lead, building a relationship, and establishing trust between the potential buyer and your brand.
The middle of the funnel is the stage where you begin to make a case for why your solution in particular is the best fit. Perhaps surprisingly, you also want to help potential leads determine if they are not a good fit for your solution, which is important for customer retention in the long run. Remember, you are only interested in qualified leads!
Several pieces of content may be required at this stage, especially for longer sales cycles or more complicated products/services. Formats we have found successful for a MoFu are case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, and webinars.
Personalization is the often overlooked glue holding a good nurturing campaign together. It makes the most of all of your technology, lead data, analytics, and segmented lists to create a seamless experience where leads can feel that their needs are being addressed.
Personalization even more important to include in B2B than B2C nurturing, as a more personal relationship is being forged between the individual marketer and the buyer (in contrast with B2C, which creates a relationship between the buyer and brand). It should also be utilized on the sender side-- that is, content and offers should be sent from a specific person from the marketing team/company rather than from the brand.
With longer sales cycles, B2B marketing often takes quite a while to collect enough data to gain insights into many optimization opportunities; and the smaller databases often lack sufficient data for more complicated testing, like multivariate testing. However, it is fully possible to begin with more simple testing.
A/B testing is perfect for this type of campaign. Landing pages, email subject lines, and offer types can all be tailored to maximum effectiveness-- provided you have the patience necessary to gather enough data to determine whether, and which, changes are making an impact. It should also be noted that online nurturing doesn’t play as major of a role in B2B campaigns when it comes to nurturing; be careful not to put all of your eggs in one virtual basket!
Analytics serve the crucial purpose of exposing the “leaky” parts of your funnel-- places in which leads are failing to convert at expected levels. Because each B2B funnel set up is so customized, it is best to determine individual benchmarks to compare to rather than apply generic industry standards.
Predictive analytics, which 89% of marketers put on their roadmap for 2016, is a rapidly growing technology category which essentially makes heavy use of past data and advanced data science to guide marketers’ actions for the future.
Market watcher Gartner claims that services that facilitate B2B predictive analytics will experience double digit growth over the next few years. Moving into the future, this method is worth keeping an eye on for an analytics strategy that will stay on top of the game.
Your lead nurturing operator should be heavy on upfront strategy, especially content strategy. They also need to possess some technical capabilities to set up the automated elements of the campaign, and analytical skills to monitor progress and effectiveness over the longer sales cycle.
While email marketing may be what comes to mind when you consider “automation,” a smoothly running campaign will require more than just email automation. Everything from social media management to website maintenance to landing page optimization to analytics (not to mention standard fare, general automation) will require technology to handle.
Fortunately, many of the best automation platforms are fairly user-friendly and come with a learning that your team/operator should be more than capable of handling. Do not be afraid to invest a bit more for comprehensive campaign management and the assurance of satisfaction of your leads.
Differences From eCommerce
Let’s examine what makes B2B nurturing campaigns so distinct from their B2C counterparts. As mentioned, B2B marketing typically deals with smaller client databases and longer sales cycles, making a measured and detailed, yet flexible strategy optimal. Campaign promotion all happens at top of funnel, but can change over time (with addition of ToFus, entry points, awareness channels, etc.). The middle of the funnel, in contrast, stays rather constant.
A singular, linear customer pathway characterizes the lead nurturing process: the lead, initially a responsibility of the marketing team, converts to an SQL, being passed to the sales team, and then to a client. Repurchase then becomes a sales team and client management responsibility; a lead no longer has marketing value once they convert. The good news for you - once a lead is successfully converted into a customer, you get to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
With the exception of SaaS or membership models, which incorporate retention and upgrade marketing tactics, lead nurturing tends to require more work up front when setting up the campaign and laying down your strategy, and less after its launch. In other words, analytics and optimization-- though by no means hands-off-- require less effort; on the other hand, it takes more time to gather relevant data for these steps. Conversions from one stage to the next, taking the form of form fills, serve as primary indicators for the campaign.
Other Factors to Consider
Factors specific to your company and the companies to which you are marketing, of course, need to be incorporated into your lead nurturing strategy. Such variables can include the complexity of your products, the market size for them, the range of tools (particularly technology) available to your company, and the amount of time, resources, and effort you are willing to invest into nurturing a relationship with a particular client.
While more high-demand, B2B marketing has the potential to be extremely rewarding, yielding long-lasting client relationships and an upstanding industry reputation for your company.
For a step-by-step guide to creating a lead nurturing campaign for your B2B business download our How to Create a Lead Nurturing Campaign [Guide].