A lead nurture strategy cannot be straightforward then, and a playbook must consider the many interactions before a conversion.
And by using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to analyze touches and score leads, the nurturing process can be made more efficient thanks to the large amounts of data generated.
Here is INFUSEmedia’s Playbook for nurturing leads through the sales funnel, examining both the 3-step and 5-step model, and followed by a look at some of B2B’s best lead nurturing practices.
The 3-Step Model
This is one of the most popular models used by marketers. As the name suggests, it comprises three steps that represent different stages of progression through the sales funnel.
1. Top of Funnel (TOFU), the awareness stage.
For TOFU leads, companies need to generate brand awareness with content. Industry insights, guides, checklists, tips, and tutorials are examples of things leads are generally looking for at this stage.
Some marketers can fall at this first step with irrelevant content or by failing to engage in the right way, for example in not adopting the right language or tone.
Businesses that get it wrong at the TOFU stage can often lose their leads for the rest of the consumer journey. Creatives and marketers need to plan their awareness-building content carefully to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Ways to build brand awareness at the TOFU stage:
Social media ads: Showcase insights, eBooks and articles with ads on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook, or other industry-relevant channels. Instead of pushing a sale, promote content that will inform and educate.
How-to guides: Work with your audience on common challenges with step-by-step content. Establish your company as a trusted source that can help solve problems.
Checklists: Help leads manage their responsibilities. Some people use checklists daily, which means they will interact with your brand at a much higher rate.
Video tutorials: Tutorials on a YouTube channel, or even in a webinar, can help establish your brand as a thought leader with informative at-a-click content.
eBooks: A step beyond how-to guides and video tutorials, eBooks can provide for greater depth of analysis, insights, data, and solutions.
2. Middle of Funnel (MOFU), the evaluation stage.
At this point in the consumer journey, the lead has a clear idea about the challenges they face, together with a set of probable solutions, and they will be evaluating their options.
Most leads will have by now shown your content to their buying committee and are on standby. At this point sales teams can try to convince the lead, and their team, to go ahead and pick your brand over your rivals.
To help steer leads at the MOFU stage:
Case studies: Use them. Success stories with clients demonstrate a unique form of social proof that your brand is worth the investment. Depending on the nature of your business, case studies can also be a great way of presenting complex situations and solutions in a way that inspires potential investors.
Cheat sheet: A one-page document outlining the main features of your product or service that leads can forward to the buying committee. A bite-size summary of the benefits of doing business with your brand is a great handout around the boardroom.
A short product demo: A pre-recorded product demo can be easily viewed by leads and highlights the main features of your brand for B2B professionals on the go. This type of content is easily shareable and can generate valuable metrics about those viewing your content, especially when syndicated over many channels.
Testimonials: The most valuable, direct kind of social proof can provide the credibility your brand needs to really drive home positive actions. Pick testimonials that show results rather than focusing on features.
3. Bottom of Funnel (BOFU), the purchase stage.
This is the “push-to-sale” phase. It can often be beneficial to lubricate potential sales with specific content right before the sales pitch. This improves the conversion rate by helping to identify leads with buyer intent for the sales teams. Those leads with less or no intent to make a purchase are directed back to step two, MOFU, for more nurturing.
To assist leads to make a purchase at the BOFU stage:
Product webinars: Invite prospects to a live product webinar with C-suite members where they can ask questions and have them answered on the spot by those in the know. Those leads that engaged with the webinar should be contacted after a few days to book a sales meeting.
Awards showcase: If your company has won awards recently, now is the time to ensure everyone knows about it. Add a CTA button to your showcase to invite others to join in your success.
A free trial: Allow leads to test your product for a small amount of time, then book a meeting halfway through the trial to follow up and answer questions. Another meeting shortly before the end of the trial is a great way to get important, workable feedback on your service or product. It also demonstrates care, which in turn conveys trust.
A free consultation: Offer your time and expertise to look specifically at the B2B problems posed by leads. This is a valuable but time-consuming task and is normally only offered to those leads which have demonstrated strong intent. Consultations are also a great way to iron out any issues in terms of sales, service, or other experiences through the sales funnel.
The 5-Step Model
The 5-step sale funnel model attempts to add more nuance to the popular, but more limited 3-step model. This is mainly achieved by adding more steps to the MOFU stage to provide greater clarity with regard to lead progression through the evaluation stage.
The stages of the 5-step sales funnel are:
1. Early stage, where leads should be informed.
2. Interested, where more information is provided to pique interest levels.
3. Active, where leads are brought into the discussion.
4. Engaged, where sales teams can help influence decisions.
5. Committed, where the lead has identified the brand as a likely solution.
Nurturing leads should never end with a sale. Businesses work hard not only to acquire clients, but also to retain them. A process which is normally cheaper and significantly more effective than finding brand-new leads.
To help post-sales lead nurturing:
Remain engaged: Ensure your client knows your business cares about their success, and if possible, remind them how you help to achieve it. Send an email a week after a sale and offer assistance going forward.
Invite clients to webinars or podcasts: Clients love to share stories with a wider audience. It is even better if these stories reflect how well your brand is performing. Invite clients onto your business platform to have their say. This type of content can also be repurposed later for TOFU and MOFU stages.
Loyalty programs: Although mostly used in B2C marketing, B2B can also reward clients when they reach milestones. Whenever a client hits a benchmark, such as by spending x amount of hours or revenue on your product or service, send them a goodie. Especially one which can be displayed in their office or shared among their peers.
Feature the client in a case study: Clients feel special when featured as a success. Once you have gained enough trust, ask if they are available for a case study interview. Like webinars and podcasts, this can be repurposed for middle-of-funnel leads.
Improve Lead Nurturing with Best Practice
Developing working relationships with prospects, from the very first interaction to driving home conversions, are the building blocks upon which marketers operate. Take note of these best practices to get the most from lead nurturing efforts:
Create a nurturing track for each buyer persona: Nurturing tracks should be tweaked for each persona. Even in B2B markets, the technical knowledge and language of each persona will vary drastically. Here relevance is key, without which lead nurturing becomes just another marketing campaign.
Score leads with CRM software: The most accurate way to evaluate a lead’s progression through the sales funnel is by scoring them based on engagement. Emails, web page hits, multi-media views and other metrics can be used to calculate a score for each prospect. And by defining thresholds, leads are automatically placed into each stage of the sales funnel model which makes things easier for sales teams.
Only qualify multi-touch leads as sales-ready: A lead should go through multiple touchpoints in the MOFU stage before being designated as “sales-ready”. Some marketers make the mistake of advancing leads to the TOFU stage after a single action, such as reading a case study, when typically, a lead will likely want to consume more content before deciding on a course of action.
Ideally, lead nurturing will be something a business commits to for the duration, or lifespan, of its engagement with a client. Not only can it offer businesses real scope for development in terms of identifying and keeping valued clients, but also in terms of getting ahead of competitors.
Lead scoring with CRM software will help your company identify the most sales-ready accounts which can then be targeted with personalized content to progress them down all stages of the sales funnel.
And once you have created your content, use automated tools to ensure the most accurate and efficient sharing of that content with the right leads, on the right channel, at the right time. Remember that every channel has its own user base and adjust the language and tone of your content to fit.
While lead nurture campaigns can be sped up, respecting the lead’s learning curve is essential. By collecting data, businesses can measure the average sales cycle for each buyer persona and launch assets to nurture leads in that timeframe.
Finally, keep abreast of your martech efforts and analyze them honestly. There will always be room for improvement. And if all else fails, find new data. Seek out metrics that give your business a greater understanding of the people you want to work with, and which will ultimately give it the edge over your rivals.