A note from Alice: We all need more leads, especially qualified leads that are highly likely to turn into a sale. All businesses face challenges in generating and nurturing leads—whether they are large and have marketing automation or small where the owner does the marketing. Sales and marketing need to collaborate to make sure the lead flow is sufficient. We know that most lead nurturing programs don’t have an impact until the 5th touch and sometimes the 8th or 12th. A series of meaningful touches are necessary over a long period. My good friend Brian Carroll was kind enough to let me share this post with you to help you get better results from your lead nurturing programs.
Lead nurturing is one of those things that’s easy to talk about but hard to do. In this article, I’ll share how to apply lead nurturing to help advance leads through three stages of your lead generation funnel to get more qualified opportunities.
Here’s the thing:
Our customer’s don’t see our funnels. They only have the aggregate experience of what they see, hear, and feel from us. Yet, it’s helpful to notice that all customer buying cycles fit into three distinct funnel stages.
Let me explain.
Three Lead Generation Stages You Need to Nurture
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU): People at this stage are searching for ideas, tips, and resources to help them answer questions and get ideas for problems they’re facing. You’re attracting relevant visitors, but they are unknown. Your goal is to assist and provide enough value to get a conversion and move them from anonymous visitors to known people (e.g. name, company, email, etc.)
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): At this stage, people took some conversion step to express interest (subscribe, register, or download, etc.). You need to learn if this person and/or their company is a fit and their level of qualification. You also want to learn about their motivation. During this stage, you’ll share content to help progress them from interest towards purchase intent.
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): People are moving through a series micro-decisions on their journey. At this stage, you’re moving them from being a lead to a sales qualified opportunity. This is where the hand-off from marketing to sales takes place and where people ultimately make the buying decision.
All three are part of an integrated lead generation funnel, and this article touches on each element while taking a closer look at lead nurturing.
Read on for five lead nurturing tactics that will help you move people who’ve expressed interest into sales-qualified opportunities.
Top of the Funnel: Use a Portfolio of Channels
Without lead generation, there are no leads to nurture, and I recommend a portfolio approach to lead generation involving at least three to four different lead types like the following:
- Inside sales/sales development
Don’t rely on just one primary lead source. The best marketers approach their work like a portfolio manager would run their mutual fund. Portfolio managers are always strategizing and testing, the optimal investment strategy. Think about it.
The following mind map shows some of the channels you can use in your lead generation portfolio.
Identify what’s working right now in your lead generation portfolio and try new things. Switch channels in and out as you test. Your top of the funnel lead generation becomes a multi-touch process when you use more than one channel.
You’ll find one channel is good at starting a conversation while another might work better at advancing your discussion. You begin nurturing leads from the moment you say hello.
One last thing. Look at your budget for top of the funnel. Marketers allocate the largest chunk of their budget to TOFU (channels, content, and martech). I recommend you allocate about 20% to 40% to nurturing the leads you already have in the middle and bottom of your funnel.
Middle of the Funnel: Focus on Progression
First, the easiest way to begin lead nurturing is to look at the contacts you already have in your databases. How can you advance the conversations one step further? Think of lead nurturing as an extension of the conversation you started with TOFU lead generation.
Look at the relationships you’ve started through the different lead generation sources and ask what content or information can be shared to advance that conversation.
Tactic #1. Enable sales and inside sales during lead nurturing
Sales is an essential part of building your lead nurturing process. The ultimate goal of lead nurturing is to get more sales and advance more qualified opportunities into the pipeline.
You can invite sales to participate in the following ways:
- Get their perspective from talking with customers
- Ground test ideas for nurture messaging before you implement
- Share what they hear from clients and in the marketplace
If you’re wondering what kinds of content helps progress leads further faster, start by asking your sales questions like, “What’s the content you share with prospects that help them convert or move forward to the next step?”
The goal of lead nurturing is to help progress leads from initial interest toward purchase intent. It’s about progression. Salespeople often struggle with developing nurturing content without support.
Here’s an example of involving sales in the lead nurturing process.
Let’s say you just did a webinar or an online event. You can equip your sales development or inside sales team with a nurturing follow-up email template and content such as an executive summary or main takeaways from the webinar.
With that content, your sales team can call these leads and say, “I saw you attended our webinar last week, and we put together an executive summary and a two-page document with the main takeaways. What did you think of the event? Was it helpful?” I like asking, “What motivated you to register or attend?” When you understand a person’s motivation, you can better help them.
Giving sales this lead nurturing content provides them with a valid business reason to engage the prospect.
It’s about building relationships and adding value to people, even if they never buy from you. Empower your sales team to do nurturing.
Tactic #2. Nurturing as a small business
Larger companies with marketing teams will likely have tools such as marketing automation and CRM software that help automate parts of lead nurturing.
Small businesses, even as small as a one-person company, face challenges finding the time for lead nurturing.
The solution is to set up a nurturing calendar with a particular time every day, or at least once per week, to nurture the database. Create a plan to add value every time you touch your future customers with valuable ideas, content, and resources. Also, I recommended making this time either during non-business hours or during the non-revenue generating time and also suggested leveraging email or blogging to share content.
Example lead nurturing track
The tactics you employ and the frequency of touches will depend on what you sell and the buying process. In the following example I use a cadence of one nurturing touch per month:
- Phone and follow-up “thank you” email
- Educational third-party article via email
- Send a blog post link via email and leave phone voicemail referencing email
- Email with phone voicemail for upcoming webinar or event
- Send with link to third-party article via email
- Email relevant white paper or e-book via email
- Direct mail campaign and follow-up phone call
- Email section with follow-up call mention email
- Email link to relevant podcast and ask feedback
- Send Free report via direct mail with follow-up call
- Invite to webcast via email with follow-up call
- Email link with discount code or link to trade show you’re attending
- They call you and become sales qualified opportunity
As you can see the above example is pretty simple. It uses email, phone, events, and direct mail as channels to share different types of relevant content. As you get more advanced, you can move from a single track to a multi-track nurturing based on further segmentation.
Tactic #3. Repurpose content for nurturing
Reuse the content you already have by repurposing it and use it in a new way. The first step is to take an inventory existing content and think of a way to extend that material.
For example, a white paper can be broken into three to five articles that share a point of view.
This is a good strategy because I see more and more readers who would rather read short nuggets of information than longer. I heard a speaker use the term “Nugifying your content.”
If you are doing live events, record the event and convert that video into another content asset. Post snippets of material as well.
Looking at the earlier webinar example, the executive summary and key takeaways provided to sales are examples of two additional pieces of content from one online event.
You are already creating content, you probably just don’t recognize it. So first, use what you have, catalog it and determine how you can bring new life to it. When you’ve leveraged what you already have, and have tracked it, then you can start finding gaps in current content areas.
Tactic #4. Curate and leverage third-party content
Third-party content is another great source of material for lead nurturing, and they bring you an added credibility through the halo effect.
Research where your customers and clients are going for information. I would start by first asking your sales team what types of content publications your customers are currently reading, where are they going for information and what are the questions sales is asking those customers.
Use online alerts to the main phrases in your industry to find content from bloggers and industry publications that are vendor agnostic and can share with your lead nurturing audience through a short synopsis and a link.
Tactic #5. Keep the touches coming
Most lead nurturing programs don’t begin to impact conversion before at least five meaningful touches. It’s important to continue nurturing leads whether it takes five touches or 25 touches to get them to the sales-ready point.
For example, if you have a nine-month sales cycle, you should nurture a lead in those nine months, and that’s at a minimum level. So that means nine nurturing patterns during that lead.
Bottom of the Funnel: Convert More Opportunities
The goal of lead nurturing is to convert leads into highly qualified opportunities and ultimately customers.
If that relationship were a baton, there is a point in time where both marketing and sales hands are on the baton, and you are making that introduction. Make sure you’re clear at what stage marketing is going to hand the lead off so that sales can run with it, and so that you don’t drop the baton or drop the relationship.
You can find this ideal point in the relationship by leveraging lead scoring and lead qualification, and I recommended this lead qualification occur through your inside sales, sales development, or tel-prospecting team. There is only so much information that you can get off a web form, or that someone will volunteer in an email.
Even if marketing hands the lead to sales once the prospect is ready to talk to a salesperson, it doesn’t mean that marketing is done. What we are looking to do is help accelerate leads in the sales pipeline, and that is part of where we can work with the sales team to understand the key issues and problems to help drive conversion. This is called full-funnel marketing.
This post touched on all three stages of the lead generation funnel. At the beginning of the lead gen process, you most likely ask a lead to raise their hand and request more information. In the end, the prospect is ready to hand off to sales. The extended middle portion — lead nurturing — is how the lead proceeds down the path to becoming a converted customer. I hope you can apply these ideas to your lead nurturing and help advance more people through three stages of your lead generation funnel (TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU) to get more qualified opportunities.
Thank you for sharing these ideas and tactics, Brian! To read more great posts from Brian, click here.