What if I told you there was a way to shorten the time it takes a lead to become a customer that took little to no effort from your marketing or sales team? 10 years ago, you'd call me a liar, and you'd probably be right. But today, the power of marketing technology allows you to do just that with a core part of the marketing process-- lead nurturing.
What is Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of developing your company's relationships with a buyer at every stage of the sales funnel. The lead nurturing strategy revolves largely around the idea of “the right person at the right place, at the right time.”
This involves practices like scoring leads, creating relevant content, and connecting with prospective clients frequently through campaigns in channels like email and social media. In the modern inbound marketing world, this revolves mostly around digital media, although a human touch should not be underestimated in building relationships with leads.
Understanding the B2B Sales Cycle
While the average B2B sales cycle length ranges anywhere from 1 month to over a year, it generally requires a longer-term investment than a B2C cycle. B2B is built more on nurturing relationships with customers and may be higher-maintenance as a result, but also provides a higher turnover in value.Stages of the B2B cycle also vary based on the needs of both your company and its customers, but they generally include:
- Prospecting, in which appropriate leads are generated with the help of the marketing team.
- The Approach, in which sales becomes informed about those of their prospects with the most potential, and contact is initiated to persuade them to continue on the buyer’s journey. It is at this stage that lead nurturing begins, continuing all the way until the close of a deal.
- Proposal and Negotiation, in which a timely and relevant offer is made to the prospect and reworked, until both parties have reached an agreement and the client is ready to proceed. The closing of the offer is largely in the hands of the sales team.
- The Close, in which (in the ideal scenario) a sale is made. Of course, the work never simply ends here!
- The Follow-Up, in which marketing and sales can now focus on how stay in touch to ensure that one-time customers turn into recurring ones.
As you can see, nurturing leads is a crucial component throughout several stages of the B2B sales strategy. As lengthy as the process can be, one of the major benefits of lead nurturing is its potential to accelerate it. In fact, nurtured leads undergo a 23% shorter sales cycle!
With this in mind, we’re taking a look at 5 simple, yet powerful lead nurturing tactics that can boost the speed of your B2B sales cycle.
1. Score and Segment
Lead scoring is a rule-based methodology for ranking leads on a scale in order to distinguish which ones hold the highest potential for your company, giving your marketing and sales teams a better idea of where to focus their efforts. A lead’s score is determined by numerous criteria, including the actions taken by your prospects in the context of desired or undesirable behavior (filling out a landing page form vs. moving a company email into their spam, for instance).
Similarly, lead segmentation should be no stranger to marketers. In the context of lead nurturing, the process of dividing your contact database into groups with similar characteristics, needs, and interests allows you to tailor nurturing campaigns to each group, providing a more personalized experience. For example, Marketo found that 23% of email campaign engagement is dependent on the level of segmentation used.
By implementing segmentation and scoring, you can take much of the guesswork out of creating nurturing strategies that work for all of your leads; thus the Prospecting and Approach stages can be undertaken more efficiently.
2. Recycle Your Content
There is nothing wrong with a little strategic recycling of the content you already have throughout your sales process. As lead nurturing can require heavy content production in everything from educational pieces to drip emails, it’s only natural to repurpose material-- when and where appropriate, of course.
This can include using recordings of live webinars as video assets in the future, breaking longer whitepapers into multiple subtopics for a series of articles, or even creating a backlinking network in your blog posts. The first step to effective content recycling is creating a database or catalogue of your major content assets; from there, it will be easier to trace the possible connections between past and future pieces.
Want to learn more about fine-tuning your lead nurturing strategy? Get started with our free guide How to Create a Lead Nurturing Campaign
3. Diversify Your Channels
Some marketers today still associate the words “lead nurturing” with drip email campaigns alone. While they may have been sufficient in the past, and email marketing remains a relevant and effective component of the lead nurturing process, an email-only approach makes for a great deal of missed opportunities. Multi-channel lead nurturing strategies now lead the way.
Multi-channel nurturing requires a number of marketing tools, such as:
- email marketing
- social media
- paid retargeting
- sales enablement tools
In-person events, company website personalization, and social networks/social media are all prime examples of the kinds of channels that you should be targeting for a modern B2B marketing and sales strategy. Though it may seem a bit daunting, multi-channel nurturing can be simplified considerably with the help of marketing automation tools. Here is where our next tactic comes in...
4. Automate Workflows (and Everything Else!)
A workflow, put simply, is a moldable schedule of emails and other targeted content which supports leads as they are nurtured through stages of the buyer’s journey (and the sales cycle). Good workflows are key to a killer lead nurturing strategy, though they can be tricky to make.
Your workflows require a solid understanding of your sales cycle, campaign goals, content, and buyer personas in order to align all of your marketing efforts. Thankfully, with no shortage of software options available, workflow creation and management can be maximally automated to save your team time and effort in what can admittedly be a complicated process.
This goes for supplemental elements of your nurturing campaign, as well-- the better automated they are, the smoother your B2B sales cycle will move along. While workflows tend to apply primarily to drip email campaigns, automation software can also take care of things like lead scoring, contact database management, and analytics. With 45% of agencies relying on marketing automation platforms to show ROI, and 42% using marketing automation to measure company performance, its limits are constantly expanding.
5. Bridge the Sales-Marketing Gap
This is an important but often-neglected fact: your sales and marketing teams should be in constant communication and in strong alignment when it comes to making goals. When sales's voice goes unaccounted for, easily preventable misunderstandings and inefficiencies can pop up out of thin air.
Even though sales may not be involved directly in lead nurturing, they should be positioned to take the baton from marketing when the moment is right, while marketing should request feedback from sales to gauge the effectiveness of their nurturing campaigns and make sure the loop is being closed. A dialogue is key!
Now you've become familiarized with some of the tactics that can be employed through lead nurturing to shorten the B2B sales cycle. Want to learn more about fine-tuning (or totally revamping) your lead nurturing strategy? Get started right here with our free guide How to Create a Lead Nurturing Campaign to start nurturing your leads like a pro.
This blog is part of our Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing series and Your Definitive Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization blog series.