(Guest post by Ian Michiels, Principal and Managing Director of Gleanster)
It’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees when embarking on lead nurturing initiatives. Research suggests that even Top Performing B2B marketers struggle to fully leverage nurture marketing tactics to capture revenue across the entire marketing and sales cycle. But, Top Performers do reveal some interesting best practices with respect to nurture marketing strategy. In the first half of 2013, Gleanster surveyed over 800 B2B marketers to uncover how Top Performing companies achieve an average of 300% higher Year-over-Year growth in revenue, double digit click-through rates, and predictable quantities of sales accepted leads on a quarterly basis. Here are five lead nurturing best practices that Top Performers have a propensity to leverage; tactics that should probably go on your nurture marketing to-do checklist.
Implement Nurture Campaigns for More than Acquisition
It’s important for marketers to leverage a variety of campaign types when it comes to lead nurturing. Remember, nurture marketing can address more than just new lead acquisition. A recent Deep Dive from Gleanster (Set-and-Forget Nurture Marketing for the Overwhelmed Marketer) exposed three categories of nurture marketing campaigns that span the entire marketing and sales lead lifecycle: Lead Generation Campaigns, Prospect Campaigns, and Customer Campaigns. There are actually seven different nurture marketing campaigns that map to these three categories.
Top Performers were 9x more likely than all other organization to configure nurture marketing campaigns for sales engaged prospects and current customers. For the average organization, that means lead nurturing needs to play a role outside of ongoing newsletters and acquisition campaigns. Not surprisingly, different campaigns demand unique communication strategies and content. For example, early stage campaigns targeting new leads should educate leads with the goal of becoming a trusted adviser to the buying decision, no sales or promotional related communication. Later in the sales cycle when leads are educated about the challenges your products and services solve, marketing content can start to include promotional and call-to-action messaging. Take an inventory of your current lead nurturing efforts, are you heavy on acquisition campaigns? Might be time justify some new nurture campaigns to shorten the sales cycle for sales-ready leads or up-sell to existing customers.
Over the last decade, terms like micro-targeting and hyper-personalization have become very popular buzz words. That’s because these days’ relevance and personalization are the lynchpin for marketing success. Traditional marketing tactics have reached diminishing returns; batch-and-blast email practices that generated 3-5% average click through rates ten years ago typically yield an average click-through of 1% or less today. As a result, content and communications need to intimately address the needs of the target audience. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nobody has the time or the budget for a more demanding content marketing strategy. Well, Top Performers find a way, and they are constantly influencing the perception of relevance and intimacy making it more difficult for companies that are slow to adapt to compete. More importantly, research suggests that communication fatigue is largely influenced by the perception of relevance. If a recipient finds messages to be personalized and relevant, they are less likely to become fatigued by communications. So Top Performers also enjoy a more frequent communication strategy that doesn’t result in SPAM complaints.
In a B2B environment, multiple stakeholders often influence purchase decisions, so content really should be created for specific functions such as IT, Finance, Sales, Marketing, and the CEO. Lead nurturing success should be measured by lead quality not quantity. As a result, marketers should shift content marketing efforts to target specific segments and sub-segments of target audiences; influencer, role, industry, company size, and business challenge. Think of content like bait. When you fish, you put specific bait on the hook to attract specific fish. The right content will attract a better quality lead and help influence multiple decision makers to shorten sales cycles.
Keep it Simple Sweetheart
Some organizations tend to complicate lead nurturing efforts by creating different lead nurturing campaign flows each time a new campaign is executed. Top Performers revealed a handful of successful nurture campaign templates can make segmentation and micro-targeting much easier and scalable. You probably only need 2-3 nurture flows. Campaign templates allow marketers to re-use the basic flow, but change the content and copy within the campaign. No reason to recreate the wheel every time a new campaign is created. Some Gleanster survey respondents reported as many as 30-40 different nurture marketing campaign templates; nine times out of ten these organizations did not make Top Performing status.
Link Graphing by Segments
Multi-channel marketing is a top three challenge according to Top Performers in the June “Multi-channel marketing” survey from Gleanster. There’s a huge difference between executing multiple campaigns across multiple channels and orchestrating the same unified campaign across multiple channels. Disconnected communications lead to poor customer experiences. But managing an orchestrated communication strategy over email, landing pages, social media, and other marketing channels is no small task. Link graphing actually comes into play within each nurture marketing campaign. Link graphing is the practice of cross promoting highly targeted links to related content across different marketing channels, to re-enforce the campaign communication with the target audience. When lead nurturing campaigns are targeted specifically at different customer segments, promotion and sharing across social channels should intimately map to these unique audiences. Link graphing is a way for marketers to systematically ensure that related content, links in social, videos, and landing pages always re-enforce the personalized communication to the target audiences. For example, lead nurturing campaigns targeting the Financial Services industry should re-enforce the target audience across every channel:
- Twitter promotion should leverage specific hashtags (#CFO, #FinancialServices, #ROI, etc.) and links back to relevant case studies on the website
- Promotion via LinkedIn should specifically target financial services related Groups or Discussions forums
- Landing pages should contain finance specific bullets and value propositions
- Customer case study links should focus on relevant industries.
Think about the target audience and where they typically consume information – what is the value prop that will uniquely resonate with them and then link to related materials across different channels to re-enforce that message.
Empower Sales & Plug the Holes in the Sales Cycle
According to Gleanster, Top Performers are 7 times more likely than all other organizations to allow sales people to place prospects in nurture marketing campaigns from within CRM. Sometimes sales engaged leads don’t buy in the short-term, but that doesn’t mean they won’t buy later on. It’s important to keep in touch with these opportunities, they were expensive to source and you don’t want to lose them to competitors later on. The average organization loses 85% of the sales ready leads that don’t buy in the short-term; mainly because sales isn’t focused on long-term engagement and turnover in the sales department makes it difficult to manage these seemingly lost opportunities. Lead nurturing campaigns can be set up to automate the burden of staying in touch with prospects over time. At the same time, the nurture marketing strategy for a sales-engaged lead is much different than new customer acquisition. These prospects are already highly educated and 6-7 times more profitable than a new sourced lead. Give sales people the ability to insert leads them into dedicated lower frequency lead nurturing campaigns that sniff out behavior that could suggest renewed buying intent. Naturally, website visits or content downloads from sales-ready leads that did not buy should score much higher than a new visit to the website.
About the author.
Ian Michiels, Principal and Managing Director of Gleanster
Ian Michiels is a seasoned research analyst, strategic consultant, and business executive with a strong background in analytical and creative marketing. Prior to joining the leadership team at Gleanster, Michiels was the VP of Advisory Services at Marketsphere Marketing, a leading professional services firm, where he helped companies such as Nike, Sears Holdings, T.Rowe Price, Franklin Templeton, Caesars International, and Adobe maximize success in marketing operations.