Lead nurturing remains one of the most effective ways for them to convert leads into paying customers.
Much of this has to do with the fact that a buyer’s journey from being lead to becoming a customer is neither linear or straightforward.
Just look back at your most recent online purchase. You didn’t click on the “Buy Now” button on the first website you came across, especially if it requires a significant investment. Instead, you went back and forth doing your research and comparing similar products offered by different companies before finally deciding on with whom you do business.
Well, that’s the same thing that happens with your target customers.
Having a lead nurturing strategy in place can help you build a relationship with your leads, guide them further through your marketing funnel, and convince them to buy what you offer.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is a method of engaging with those visitors that expressed some form of interest in your products and services. This is done by providing them targeted content based on where they are in your marketing funnel so that they can progress further until they become customers.
Although there are now different ways startups can nurture their leads, studies show that email marketing remains the most effective channel to launch your lead nurturing campaign.
For starters, you own your email list. So you have the liberty to choose what content you’ll be sending out, whether it’s a blog post link, a downloadable guide, or a promo for one of your products. You can also segment your leads so that each one in your email list will get content that’s specifically targeted to their most pressing pain point and on what stage they are in your marketing funnel.
Why should you be nurturing leads?
Just because someone who visits your website gives you their contact details means that they are interested in making a purchase.
In fact, half of the leads in your email list aren’t ready to buy. What’s more 79% of these leads will never convert into a sale on their own.
On the other hand, startups and businesses with a lead nurturing campaign in place experience the following benefits:
- Up to 20% of those leads that weren’t initially ready to buy convert into customers.
- Generate 50% more qualified sales leads while reducing their cost-per-lead by 33%
- Receive up to 10x more responses from leads in their email lists
- Increase their revenue by 10% in only 6-9 months.
Changes in buyer behaviors
Much of this has to do with the way how buying behaviors have changed in recent years. Paid advertising, sales pages, and telemarketing no longer have the same power they once did. With the internet making it possible for buyers to access information quickly and easily, they now prefer to do their own research about a product or service they want to buy.
Customer’s trust towards branded content has also significantly declined. According to Tom Champion, a Senior Analyst at Forrester, customers no longer take branded content published by businesses on their website and social media channels at face value. This was further aggravated by the onslaught of fake news and the recent Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal.
That said, it’s critical first to establish a level of trust with your leads. Through a lead nurturing campaign, you can begin building a relationship with them. This relationship allows them to learn more about who you are, what you stand for, and what you have to offer. If you do this right, your leads will eventually begin to trust you and become more comfortable doing business with you.
So while most marketing funnels tend to be linear, the buying journey your customers take is anything but. It’s not uncommon for your customers to go backward, forwards, and even in circles. Your lead nurturing campaign helps you get these leads back on track, help them make their decision, and shorten your sales cycle.
Setting up a lead nurturing campaign
An effective lead nurturing campaign is made of three parts: content marketing, lead scoring and email drip campaigns.
Content drives most marketing strategies today. 78% of B2B marketers point to content marketing as one of the critical factors that led to the overall success of their marketing campaigns.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
For many startup founders and B2B marketers, content marketing is all about creating quality content and then distributing this to different channels.
That’s only half of the equation. The ultimate goal of an effective content marketing strategy is to get those that consume your content take the action you want them to do, whether that’s downloading your most recent ebook or scheduling a demo.
Incorporating Content Marketing with Lead Nurturing
To accomplish this, you need to make sure that you develop a content marketing strategy where you lay out not only what content to publish, but—more importantly—when this should be distributed.
It is also essential to ensure you carefully map your content in your marketing funnel. You also have to be sure you send out to your leads the right material at the right time so you can convince them to sign up and convert into a lead that you can now nurture.
And it doesn’t stop there. Once your visitor converts into a lead, your content marketing strategy now shifts from getting them to become a lead to building a relationship with them and gaining their trust. This is crucial to get your leads to progress further down to your marketing funnel.
As its name suggests, lead scoring refers to the process of awarding points to your lead based on how they closely they match your startup’s buyer persona and how they engage to the content you send out.
Before we go into more detail about this, one thing I must point out is that while lead scoring can help, it’s not right for all startups to do.
Here are three critical questions to answer to determine whether your startup should delve into lead scoring:
Question #1: Are you getting enough leads?
To create a lead scoring system, you need to have a sufficient amount of data to give you a clear insight on which factors to rank higher than others. For this, you need to have a substantial amount of qualified leads your sales team have converted into customers.
Question #2: Are your sales and marketing teams aligned?
If you’re sales or marketing teams are playing the blame game with each other, it’s a clear sign that your startup lacks the sales and marketing alignment it needs to score your leads effectively.
Before you start doing lead scoring for your startup, you first need to make sure that these two teams are working harmoniously with each other by establishing shared goals and metrics for both teams. That way, your marketing team can generate more qualified leads for your sales team to close.
If you want to learn more about how to align your sales and marketing teams, here are some resources for you to check out:
- The Ultimate Guide to Account-Based Marketing for Startups
- Improve Your Sales and Marketing Alignment through Account-Based Marketing
Question #3: At what stage is my startup?
Lead scoring is ideal if your startup reached the growth or mature stage. The reason is that at these stages, your startup already amassed enough leads and customers for you to segment them so you can conduct more targeted lead nurturing campaigns.
Once you determined that lead scoring will be a good fit for your startup, the next step is to create your lead scoring system. There are three significant categories you’ll need to collect data and eventually score your leads at.
I mentioned earlier that not all of the leads you’ve collected wouldn’t convert into sales. One reason why this happens is that some of these leads are only interested in your free content. Another reason is that they are just not a fit for your product based on your startup’s buyer persona.
Your buyer persona represents your ideal customer. This is more than just listing down their demographics like their age, their position at work, and annual salary. An effective buyer persona also takes into your ideal customer’s pain points and desires, where they spend their time online, and what resources they look at when they do their research.
Depending on your product or service, your startup may have more than one buyer persona.
For example, HubSpot uses three different personas to create their lead nurturing campaigns.
Since your buyer personas’ behavior are always changing, you also need to make sure that you regularly update your buyer persona, so you provide them with the right content. Here are some ways to do this:
- Ask questions. Add a question in your emails and invite them to email you back with their answers. You can also create a survey and post this on your social media accounts for them to answer.
- Use social media listening.Social listening allows you not just to keep tabs with what your potential and existing customers are saying about your brand and your products, but also where these conversations are happening. It also can give you insight any questions or issues they’re currently facing.
- Ask your sales team.Your sales team can tell you which leads are the ones they find the easiest to convert into customers. You will have a clearer picture of who should you be targeting and this will help you determine which factors to include as part of your lead fit scoring.
The second thing considered in your lead scoring is how interested are your leads with the content that you send to them in their emails, or you publish on your website or social media accounts. The more engaged they are, the higher their score will be here.
Here are some things to check to determine your lead’s interest score:
- Your opt-in form analytics.This will help you decide which landing pages and content offers are generating the most leads for your startup.
- Email clickthrough rates.It’s not enough that your leads open your emails. You also need to know which of them are clicking on the links that you include in your email list.
- Email responses.If you ask a question in your email and you invite your leads to email you back with their answers, you’d want to find out who among your leads are responding and who are not.
- Page viewed. Are any of your leads visiting your site’s pricing page or features page? If so, you’d want to know who these leads are because this is a good sign that they’re considering to make a purchase.
- Engagement on social media.Aside from following your brand’s social media account, do they engage (like, share, comment) with the content you publish? Do they leave you messages asking more about your product or service?
This is perhaps the most crucial category to consider when scoring your leads because this tells you how fast or slow they move through the different stages of your marketing funnel.
Scoring your lead’s behavior can also be tricky because you also need to consider whom you’re targeting. If your startup targets individual customers, your leads tend to move through your marketing funnel very quickly. On the other hand, targeting businesses may require a longer lead nurturing process because you have to convince several decision-makers from different backgrounds.
Using a CRM tool like HubSpot can help you gather all these details from your leads by feeding you and your team with additional information like which pages they’ve visited on your website, the actions they’ve taken, the social media accounts, and even their contact number.
Email drip campaigns
The last stage of setting up your lead nurturing campaign is to set up an email drip campaign designed to specifically nurture your leads.
An email drip campaign is a series of emails sent to your leads when they take specific actions on your website. It’s called as such because these emails are sent to them over a particular period. The goal here is to condition your leads and nurture them to the point that they would be more than happy to make a purchase when you ask them to.
Here are some best practices to observe to create an email drip campaign to nurture your leads.
1. Personalize your lead nurturing emails.
80% of customers say that they are more willing to do business with companies that provide them with a personalized experience.
The reason is straightforward: your customers want to be treated like individuals. Make sure that every email sent out doesn’t look like a general email blast.
Here are some email personalization tips:
- Add their name and emojis in the subject line to make this look like your email’s coming from a friend.
- Include some details about the industry or location they are a part of in your email content.
- Mirror the words they’d typically use when they communicate with you.
- Setting up triggers in your email to provide them with targeted content.
2. Share your brand story.
The quickest way to deepen your friendship with another person is by sharing some personal details about yourself. When you do that, the other person appreciates it and is more willing to trust you than someone who keeps their private life a secret.
The same thing is true when it comes to creating your email drip campaign to nurture your leads.
A quick way to build a trusting relationship with your leads is to share your brand story. By this, I don’t mean the timeline of your startup or your mission and vision statements.
Instead, your brand story should give your leads an insight to why you decided to launch your startup, why you developed the project you’re offering, and the core values and principles you hold most dear.
Doing this allows your leads to connect with your brand on a more personal level, especially when they see they share the same values as you.
One company that did this amazingly well was Apple. Their core values of keeping things simple, accountability, and desire to make a significant contribution in the world are values that many people hold dear. By communicating these values to their target market, they’re able to build a customer-base extremely loyal to the brand that they are willing to wait in line for hours to get their hands on the latest product.
3. Spread out your emails.
The goal of lead nurturing is to keep your leads engaged. However, that doesn’t mean that you should send them an email every day.
Think about it: when you always call or text a friend every day to remind them about attending your party, you can end up annoying them. Not only won’t they show up, but they will start avoiding all your calls and messages altogether.
The same thing is true with your email drip campaign. You need to schedule sending out each email so that there’s sufficient time in between. At the same time, you can be sure that you get the most leads to open and click through the links included.
According to a study published by CoSchedule, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send out your email. As for the best times, those will be 6:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM, and 8:00 PM.
Of course, this varies depending on your lead’s behavior. One good way to find the best day and time to send out your emails is to schedule each email in your drip campaign to go out at different days and times.
Then, monitor your email analytics to find which combination provides you the best results.
4. Start your lead nurturing campaign ASAP.
The best time to start your nurturing your leads is the moment that they hand over their contact details.
This helps you in two ways. First, it enables you to segment your leads to those that fit your target market and those that are just after your free content. That way, you don’t waste your time trying to convert leads that will never turn into a customer.
Second, you begin sending them targeted content while their interest is still very high. This will help them quickly move through your marketing funnel and convert into customers.
5. Utilize behavior-based marketing automation.
Segmenting your leads as they come in and move through your marketing funnel is tedious work.
Behavior-based marketing automation makes this task easier by immediately segmenting your leads based on the conditions you’ve set. This becomes extremely helpful especially when your customers are already in the consideration and decision stages of your marketing funnel.
At the same time, these behavior triggers can help you send out follow-ups without annoying them.
6. Integrate other channels.
While email is the most preferred channel to use for your lead nurturing campaigns, that doesn’t mean that you have to disregard your other marketing channels.
On the contrary, integrating your social media accounts and landing pages within your email drip campaign helps you provide them with targeted content, and even add more qualified leads into your email list.
Lead nurturing is the bridge that takes your leads from interested in paying customers.
The key here is having a clear understanding of who is your startup’s buyer persona. Pay close attention to their pain points and which content appeals to them.
From there, create an email drip campaign and set triggers and conditions so that these automatically start the moment your leads take a specific action.
Introduce yourself by sharing your brand’s story. Focus on nurturing them with targeted content based on where they are at in your marketing funnel so that they can move to the next stage while building a trusting relationship with them.
More important, pay close attention to your timing. Schedule your emails to go out on the time and day when you get the most opens and click-throughs. Use your lead scoring to know when it is time to go for the close.
Admittedly, there are lots of components and things that go into creating an effective lead nurturing campaign. For a startup founder with a small team, this can still sound overwhelming. The following steps I shared in this article can help you launch an effective lead nurturing campaign. However, if you feel that this would be a lot easier if you have someone guiding you through the process, let me know. I’ll be glad to help.