10. Lead Nurturing

Email marketing is so much more than sending email updates. The focus of email marketing is and should always be communication with the subscribers. The goal should be to establish a good relationship and to keep it fresh through regular communication.

In terms of online marketing and sales, a lead is a potential sale contact. That is the person (or another business) with interest in the products or services you provide. Lead generation is the process of gathering email addresses of those potential customers through various different methods, including advertising, content marketing, networking, social media marketing, etc.

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing represents the process of developing a relationship with the subscribers by listening to their needs, offering helpful information and answers to any questions and doubts they might have.

Obtaining new leads is an integral part of an online business strategy, but only a small percent of those leads will be willing to make a purchase immediately. Others need a little bit of encouragement.

Sales funnel

To begin with, let us focus on so-called sales funnel. A sale happens in several stages, which are commonly known as phases or stages of a sales funnel. The word funnel is used for a reason. The funnel is the widest at the top, meaning that the first stage of the sales funnel is where you will reach the largest number of leads. The funnel gets narrow towards its end, and so does the sales funnel. It gets more narrow with each sale stage until eventually it includes only a part of those initial leads.

The stages of the sales funnel include:

  • Brand awareness – This is the point where the potential customers become aware of your products and services.
  • Interest in your brand or product – At this point, the potential customers shows interest in your brand by registering for an event, commenting on your blog, signing up for a newsletter, etc.
  • Evaluation – Most internet buyers are not impulse buyers. Instead, for each purchase, they go through the process of research and comparison during which they evaluate your brand.
  • Purchase – This is the final stage of the sales funnel, where the lead becomes your customer.

From the first stage, brand awareness, until the final stage, purchase, the funnel tightens and the number of leads drops. Each stage is where you either keep or lose a lead, which is why lead nurturing process has become so important for email marketing. This process helps you keep as many leads as possible in each sales funnel stage, so that you increase the number of those who reach the final phase, i.e. purchase.

How to nurture the relationship?

Since a good relationship is, in essence, the way you nurture leads, you will need to explore different ways to improve this relationship. You should not be self-centered because lead nurturing is all about paying attention to your subscribers. They should be in the focus of your lead nurturing process because the main goal is to engage them and keep them satisfied through each sales phase.

Build relationship gradually

Start by gradually building the relationship. Even though it might be tempting for you to speed up the process and quickly turn a lead into a customer, this usually happens more slowly than you would want. Patience is very important for building a strong relationship with the potential customers, because you want to allow them to naturally go through all of the phases until they decide to become your customers. Your role in this process is not to rush and nudge them to do something, but instead, you should simply follow the process and use lead nurturing tactics to encourage them to interact with you, to get to know more about your brand, etc.

Predict the need

Successful lead nurturing is a process where you follow the subscribers through the phases of the sales funnel, and one of the best ways to succeed in this task is to predict the need. Try to anticipate what the subscribers will think, need, want in each of the phases, and be prepared. Here is one example.

Imagine you own a company that provides small companies with email marketing software. A subscriber downloads your free ebook and gets to become a member of your mailing list, your new lead. He is still in the first phase. He might be wondering if he needs this tool and how it can be used. To encourage the subscriber to go into the next phase, you will send an email with resources on email marketing which can show different strategies for improving the business performance.

This way, you were able to predict the state of mind your potential customer would be in. Fulfilling this need is something that will help you build a relationship and take the potential customer into the next phase of the sales funnel.

Be relevant

Lead nurturing is a delicate process in which an action can improve your client to customer relationship, but it can just as easily cause you to lose a potential customer too soon. Always make sure your message is relevant. Not only does lead nurturing have benefits on the relationship with the recipients, but it also helps you establish your reputation as a respectable sender. This means that you build an influence in a certain industry, which will gain you respect and trust from your community. In return, this community will respond with loyalty. Therefore, your email message should be relevant in terms of:

  • Topic – You should not get off topic. The email needs to be about the topic which is related to your business, as this is something that the recipient will find relevant. You have your niche, so stay in it. That is what your subscribers are expecting.
  • Time – Pay close attention to the timing, because some content might be time-sensitive, which will influence email marketing as well. This especially refers to limited-time offers, seasonal content, etc.

Lead nurturing tactics

There are many ways to nurture leads, depending on both the type of business you run and the overall business strategy you have. The main goal of the lead nurturing process is to nurture the relationship with your subscribers so that you keep them engaged and loyal to your brand, which also results in sales. To achieve this goal, you could use one of the following tactics.

Targeted content

As much as your website visitors have one thing in common (following your brand), they also have a lot of differences. The idea with this approach in lead nurturing is to create content that is closely targeted at a specific group of subscribers. This way you make the connection with a specific group much more personal and full of understanding. Getting to know your subscribers shows a great level of care, which is a perfect way to ensure a high level of loyalty among them.

To be able to use targeted content as a tactic for lead nurturing, you will first need to learn more about your subscribers. One of the best ways to do so is with online forms. Instead of simply obtaining a subscriber’s email, using online forms allows you to gather more data about each subscriber, the data that will help with segmenting your audience, identifying their needs and targeting them through content that is specifically designed for them.

Besides using online forms on your website, you could also send email surveys or organize a social media contest, but the concept stays the same. You need to learn more about your subscribers in order to use this strategy.

For example, if you segment your subscribers based on the location, you will be able to send a targeted announcement about your upcoming events in a specific city. There is no need to send an email featuring an event in Boston, to someone who lives in Europe. The same goes for other criteria. Promoting your latest small-business guide to large companies would also be a futile strategy.

Lead scoring

The concept of lead scoring is this. You use a custom scale to rank leads based on the perceived value each of those represents to your business. This idea is also based on the fact that not all subscribers are alike, but instead of segmenting them based on different criteria, with lead scoring you assign a score to each lead. This way you basically put a numeric value on a lead, based on the fact how likely they are to become your customers. As a result, you can prioritize the leads based on the lead score. Those with a high score are deeper in the sales funnel, closer to purchase, meaning that the lead nurturing could help you successfully convert them.

Like with most lead nurturing tactics, for lead scoring, you will need to have a tool. Marketing automation platforms allow you to get insights into the way the visitors interact with your website, which helps with understanding the leads in a better way than simply viewing the statistics in Google Analytics.

To start ranking and prioritizing leads, you will need to add numeric values to certain actions. The choice of the actions is based on your own business and website because you know your subscribers much better than anyone else. You know which actions are more likely to lead to sales, and you also know how to score them. Here are a couple ideas:

  • A visit to a specific page – If, for example, the statistics show that a visit to a particular page of your website has 40% chance of resulting in a purchase, then you will assign a high score to the leads who visit this page and prioritize communication with those leads.
  • Social media interaction – Certain actions on social media, such as commenting or sharing your content may be an indicator that this lead should have a high score, which is why you need to keep monitoring on social media as well.
  • An event confirmation – This action can indicate that the person is interested in your brand and wants to learn more on your seminar or webinar, which is also something worth knowing in the process of lead scoring.

Seizing the moment

They say “timing is everything” in business, and this is particularly true when it comes to lead generation. Your lead nurturing campaign has to be closely monitored so that you can seize an opportunity in the perfect moment. For example, if you have just had someone subscribe to your newsletter, take the opportunity to contact them and show appreciation. If the user has visited your website after a while, take advantage of this information and follow up with useful content, additional information, asking for feedback, etc. All of this helps you keep the connection with the subscribers.

This part of lead nurturing is largely automated with marketing automation tools because it is impossible to sit all day long and keep waiting for an opportunity to come up. Instead, use a tool to set up criteria that will initiate a follow-up. For example, after visiting a certain page, the subscriber can receive a follow-up with additional information.

It is believed that leads nurtured this way have much larger potential of being seen as sales opportunities because through this approach you are targeting them based on the need they have. This kind of approach has better chances of succeeding than a mass email or a monthly newsletter you send on a regular basis to the entire list. This is because you are reaching the subscribers just in the right time, at the moment they have a need or request that needs to be met. If you manage to fulfill that request, you are going to be perceived as trustworthy and helpful, which overall affects the level of loyalty. In case the subscriber had any doubts about you, this way you will surely encourage him to go down the sales funnel.

Collaboration of sales and marketing

Another strategy that has been proven as quite effective in lead nurturing is a collaboration of sales and marketing reports. The exchange of the data between the two is crucial for recognizing and nurturing leads.

On one hand, there is a sales department. This department uses reporting and sales analysis to identify the customer profile, highlighting the patterns and behavior. Understanding why users become your customers, understanding what it is that finally gets them through the sales funnel, is something you can take advantage of. This knowledge allows you to understand new potential customers better and provide assistance as they go through the funnel more quickly.

On the other hand, we have marketing where this knowledge can be applied. This way you get to design a marketing strategy to take full potential of your resources and increase the number of generated sales. A sale is an opportunity, and to take this opportunity you need to have a deeper understanding of the buying process. This allows you to create a more personalized and more effective connection through lead nurturing.

The goal of both departments is increasing sales and continuous efforts in analyzing and assisting the buying process. Measurable results from both ends will make this collaboration work seamlessly.

Lead nurturing is one of those email strategies where the goal is to improve communication with potential customers, and this can be achieved through a refined approach that focuses on the customers and the needs or wants they might have. To make these strategies work and to make the most out of lead nurturing, start by having a customer as the central point. Then, you go on to develop an approach and use tactics that will still be focused on the customer as they gradually lead the customer through the sales funnel, to the actual sale. With this kind of thinking, you will be able to form a successful lead nurturing strategy. In the long run, not only does this strategy help with immediate sales, but it improves business to customer relationship and the level of loyalty the customers have.