Success doesn’t come easy. It’s true when it comes to nurturing sales leads, and it’s true when it comes to pretty much anything. As the philosophers among us already know, the hardest things in life are also the most rewarding.
Nurturing leads requires patience and persistence – it’s the deliberate, steady process of relationship building over time that pays off in the end.
A recent study (pdf) on lead nurturing trends by Ascend2 confirms this principle. After surveying over 50,000 marketing, sales and business professionals, they found significant overlap between the most challenging lead-nurturing tactics and the most effective lead-nurturing tactics.
Creating Relevant Content
According to the survey, creating relevant content, targeting by prospect persona, and targeting by decision stage are among the toughest parts of the job – and they’re also among the most potent. Let’s take a look at why these three tactics are so challenging and why they’re worth spending the effort.
The #1 most effective approach to lead nurturing, according to this new data, is to develop troves of relevant content. By answering buyers’ biggest questions at the right moment via the digital platforms they use the most brands can demonstrate they can be trusted to guide people in the right direction. And given the sheer volume of content published online, hyper-relevance is the best way to get your customer’s attention. If your content doesn’t immediately resonate with its intended audience members, then you risk being drowned out by all the noise.
According to Kapost, B2B companies with 250+ employees spend 55% of their annual marketing budgets on content production and creation, and that figure doesn’t even include their spending on content distribution. No wonder the most effective tactic is also the most challenging, according to Ascend2’s stats.
Creating relevant content always starts with thorough customer research. Reach out to your product, sales, and support teams and ask them what questions and themes repeatedly come up in client meetings. You should also look at what topics are trending in LinkedIn Groups and identify Quora conversations that are relevant to your industry and audience.
Another way to ensure your content is conversion-relevant is to use Google Analytics to identify the paths people take before they purchase something from your website. You can use this information to create additional content about topics that perform best. This type of research can also provide insight into how to best place internal links on your site for guiding visitors in their buyers’ journeys.
Creating content for the sake of creating content is a waste of time, energy and money. By thinking strategically about content's role in the path to conversion, both in terms of empirical performance and content demand signals, you'll maximize its relevance.
Targeting Prospects by Persona
Targeting by persona is essential for creating relevant content – and, in turn, for effective social selling. When you have a clear understanding of who your ideal customer is, including age, gender, interests, pain points, favorite websites and so on, you can create content that truly resonates with them.
The biggest barrier to targeting by prospect-persona is the time it takes to collect customer data and flesh out the persona profiles. Start by mapping your top personas and the limits that differentiate them. Social media is a great way to uncover this information; you can get a lot of valuable insight simply by perusing prospects’ social media profiles.
To further develop your personas, you can strategically place questions where your leads interact with your website. For example, lead capture form fields, quick surveys and UI personalization prompts can help you learn more about your prospects based on their responses.
Sure, personas can sometimes feel like generalizations, but they do shed light on how to best connect with your ideal customer, including the type of language to use, what to talk to them about and where to find them. By knowing which persona each sales lead most closely resembles, you'll be able to present your company in ways that are most likely to resonate. This lays the foundation for strong, long-lasting customer relationships.
Targeting Prospects by Decision Stage
According to the Ascend2 survey, targeting campaigns to deliver content at the appropriate stage in the customer journey is the second-hardest lead-nurture tactic, directly behind creating relevant content. But when done well, targeting by decision stage is an incredibly effective way to help prospects advance along the purchase process, from discovery to consideration and then decision.
Social listening is a great way to identify what stage of the purchase cycle a customer is in. You can search for tweets with intent-revealing keywords, like "need" and "urgent" (as opposed to "looking into,” for example) to identify people in various phases of the purchase process. You can then use your hyper-relevant content and the customer personas you’ve created to begin to nurture these new leads.
Smart tagging is essential for segmenting your prospects according to journey stage. On social media, you can do this with Twitter Lists and LinkedIn contact notes, for example. Your CRM, moreover, is likely to have even more sophisticated tagging capabilities. Using Leadfeeder to track which pages each site visitor loads on your site over time can also provide some helpful signals.
Organizing leads into buckets according to where they are in the customer journey process will help you maximize the relevance of your messaging. Make sure to keep an eye on each lead and update your tagging as they move through the decision-making cycle.
The Slow Burn Approach Pays Off
When you invest a large amount of time and energy in something that doesn’t immediately show results, it can be difficult to pull yourself out of the weeds and remember that you’re working towards long-term, sustainable business impact.
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and B2B lead nurturing has never been about quick wins. But the most challenging parts of lead nurturing – creating relevant content, targeting by persona and targeting by decision stage – also offer the biggest payoffs in the end.
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