lead nurturing guide

The Complete Guide to Lead Nurturing for Sales & Marketers

It has become vital for brands to do more than generate leads (yes, you must do more to continue to thrive). You must now focus on nurturing leads in order to convert them.

Basically, modern buyers are a whole lot needier than they used to be. 

Buyers are more accustomed to building strong relationships with companies through online interactions in a way that was unfathomable a decade or two ago. 

This not only has opened the door for better ways to develop leads, but it has also created a whole new world of B2B lead nurturing best practices

(You also hearing the soundtrack to Aladdin?) 

Dealing with customers is now more like internet dating: before making a “purchase”, consumers are often engaging with brands via social media, email, and website content. 

Sometimes these communications are sparked through direct marketing efforts. Other times, prospects are reaching out to get a better feel for the company before making any decisions.

Either way, given how important these types of hot leads are — don’t mess it up when they reach out to you by allowing them to wither on the vine.

Just don’t do that. It’s bad for sales. Bad for business. And, bad for humanity (maybe).

Unfortunately, most marketers are entirely focused on lead generation. When they do lead nurturing (which is not as often as they should) they do it as an afterthought.

It’s like driving into the desert with your fuel tank almost empty to search for gold. Sure, you’ll get out there, but what’s the point unless you can come back with your newly found riches? 

Unless you want your leads to just die out there with you, you’re going to need to plan ahead. You need to have a plan to nurture them.

Only focusing on leads is a huge mistake. A recent study by MarketingSherpa found that 79 percent of leads never convert to sales. 

marketing sherpa lead statistics

You can bring that number way down with B2B lead nurturing best practices.

This is an adapt or die sort of situation — those who can evolve will continue to have the edge and thrive. 

Unless a meteorite hits Earth. Then, it’s all downhill for pretty much everything besides water bears.

Note: Ready to nurture prospects into sales-ready leads? Try Leadfeeder free for 14 days to see which type of content drives the most website visits.

Why nurture leads? (hopefully, this isn’t a serious question)

One key difference between B2B and B2C companies is that the B2B companies start the buying journey on their own terms. 

That can be a tough pill to swallow for marketers, but it’s best to work with the truth in hand when forming a battle plan.

According to Forrester Research, B2B buyers wait until they are 65-90 percent of the way through the purchasing journey before they approach a vendor.

By nurturing these leads, you can better prime them for taking the final step, as well as build a stronger bond between them and your brand.

This isn’t a kumbaya drum circle kind of bond, but it certainly is a strong foundation of trust. 

A study by Marketo found that nurturing leads allowed the company to generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads. 

lead nurturing marketo study

Additionally, Marketo found that lead nurturing led to prospects qualifying up to 20 percent faster, especially in cases where leads were taking more than a month to qualify.

It also resulted in a 33 percent cost reduction in generating those leads.

These are all very good things for you and your business. Right?

Another study, this one by Annuitas Group, found that nurtured leads resulted in purchases that were 47 percent larger than non-nurtured leads.

Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the advantages of B2B lead nurturing best practices, only 36 percent of marketers engage in it.

The reasons only a small number of teams use lead nurturing best practices is because the majority of B2B sales teams out there are comprised of dumb-dumbs (it had to be said).

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of building effective relationships with potential customers throughout the buyer's journey. 

It involves answering questions and positioning your product as the ultimate solution to their primary problem. Let them know you got that secret fix-it-all sauce or that silver bullet.

All of this is done to move them down your sales funnel.

Though your lead nurturing will need to follow a general strategy, it also needs to be personalized to each client. 

Think back to that dating metaphor — it still holds true here.

This level of personalization will be dictated by both the client and the stage of the buyer's journey they are at.

It's not as simple as sending a generic email blast to all people on your mailing list — that tends to just irritate folks.

To have a successful lead nurturing system, you'll want to take full advantage of all the various communication channels available to you in the most productive and efficient way. 

In doing so, you'll ensure that more prospects are keeping you in mind when they're ready to make a purchase. Out of sight, out of mind. So, stay in both.

With a good lead nurturing process, you can:

  • Develop long-term relationships with your customers

  • Build brand advocacy

  • Increase clickthrough rate (CTR) and propensity to purchase 

  • Shorten overall buyers cycle

Setting up your lead nurturing strategy

Before you start, you'll want to establish your goal for lead nurturing, as well as your audience's goals and pain points. These two factors will help guide the development of your strategy.

Though the end-goal of lead nurturing is to make a sale, not all companies take this approach to generate immediate purchases. 

Some marketers nurture leads to get their prospects to sign up for a free trial or try out a specific feature of a product. Then, they try to convert the prospect to a sale. 

Another thing you'll want to establish is your audience's goals and pain points. This is vital — what you want to accomplish must align with what your audience wants to achieve. 

If you don't already have a firm grasp of a target segment’s buyer persona, you might send them a questionnaire or survey to gather more relevant information. 

Most lead nurturing campaigns are made up of threesome of elements: lead scoring, email (drip) campaigns, and content marketing. 

You can use these three components in any order — or simultaneously — depending on what works best for your company.

All about lead scoring

Lead scoring is a method used to rank prospects based on the perceived value each lead brings to the organization. 

Just don’t tell them their score, you might hurt their feelings. 

Generally, you can sort your leads into five types:

  • Those that buy without prompting

  • Those that take some time to decide but will still eventually purchase 

  • Those that buy without prompting, but can be persuaded to make a more significant purchase

  • Those that require nurturing before they purchase

  • Those that will not buy — even with nurturing

As to not waste your efforts, it's essential to know which leads are most likely to convert. These high-value leads are not the ones you want to focus most of your nurturing efforts on. 

Though it's tempting to spend time on prospects that will buy without prompting or those that will eventually make a purchase without a little push, your energy is best spent on other prospects.

As you know, this business isn’t about stroking your ego. It’s about making money. If you want people to inflate your ego — go into politics.

You'll want to mostly focus on leads that you can upsell to and those that require nurturing to make a purchase — don't bother with those who aren't going to buy anything no matter what.

Who needs those leads anyways?

To identify which category a prospect falls under, establish a model that assigns scores to specific potential buyer's actions and behaviors. 

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all for this scoring model. It will have to be customized to fit your business and fit your potential clients. 

However, your lead scoring should account for a number of factors, including an individual's demographics and company firmographics.

Additionally, you'll want to account for BANT — budget, authority, need, and time:

  • Budget: Can they afford your product?

  • Authority: Can they authorize a purchase?

  • Need: How much do they need your product?

  • Time: How urgently do they need it?

A bulk of the data for lead scoring involves tracking your site's visitors to gain insights about what they do on your website. 

You can use Google Analytics and complementary programs, such as Leadfeeder. 

When combined with Google Analytics, Leadfeeder helps you identify the potential leads who visit your website, how they found you, and what they're interested in.

potential lead visits leadfeeder

What a prospect does on your site can provide vital information about their interest. 

The most significant divide is between behaviors that indicate they are simply browsing your site versus visiting your website with the intent of making a purchase.

There are other interactions with your website that Leadfeeder can help you track. 

These are also essential for establishing a lead score, as well as identifying where on the buyer's journey your prospect is. Different actions indicate different points on that journey. 

For instance, looking through blog content shows they must still be gathering information, while reviewing product pages means they're closer to making a purchase.

The impact of content marketing

Most B2B marketers' credit content as a critical factor in ensuring their marketing campaigns succeed. 

Content marketing is a powerful tool, no matter what point a prospect is on their buyer's journey. 

It is especially effective in the beginning as a way to educate people and draw them into your sales funnel. Smart prospects are out their sucking up as much information as possible — so feed them what they want and need.

When the material you’re providing is relevant to a prospect's needs, you can then convert them into a lead and begin nudging them — nurturing them — toward making a purchase.

Content marketing can involve blog posts or inviting visitors to download content, such as white papers and case studies, in exchange for their email address. 

By collecting email addresses, you're setting yourself up to launch a drip-style email marketing campaign, which is a huge win.

There are several best practices to consider for content marketing that will keep your prospects engaged and help you develop meaningful relationships with them. 

You don’t want to ever forget that all of this work is about building relationships. 

Write that down and stick it to your wall, then say it to yourself out loud, and now go tell a coworker.

Seriously.

The first real step is conducting a content audit, which will allow you to determine what content is best suited to a particular prospect at a specific point in the sales cycle.

One thing to remember is that because B2B lead nurturing takes longer than B2C, it's important to ensure that you have enough content to support your campaign from start to finish.

You don’t want to start leaving treats out for Hansel and Gretel only to run out miles from your gingerbread house. Maybe not the best analogy, but you get the point.

Creating personalized content

Offering personalized content is the best way to nurture leads. Everyone wants to feel special.

Not only does it deliver meaningful content to the prospect — it also shows them that you pay attention to their needs and care about them.

One way to offer personalized experiences is through dynamic website content. 

Through this system, content is delivered to a user based on visitor profile data and interactions they've had with your website. 

Two of the best examples of this are Spotify with their year-end playlists and Netflix with their recommendations based on what you've watched.

spotify personalized content

It’s almost creepy how well Netflix is at recommending new shows and movies. Be that creepy. 

Don’t worry, it’s a good creepy.

You can also personalize some aspects of your website, such as the landing pages, call-to-action, case studies, and pop-ups.

When a prospect returns to your website after not initially converting, there is a high probability that they are interested in your product but weren't provided with engaging information about it.

So, you failed the first time, but they decided to give you a second chance. Lucky you.

To address this, try presenting them with a slightly different landing page or CTA to better understand what they consider relevant to their needs.

Using Leadfeeder, you can determine which companies your visitors represent, which is huge when it comes to presenting relevant case studies. 

It's possible to set up your website so that it provides industry-specific case studies to match the sector represented by a visitor.

Intelligent pop-ups can be programmed to appear once a visitor is inactive or is about to exit the site. You can also personalize these according to their website behavior.

Email marketing and complementary marketing channels

It's been said that email is the most effective lead nurturing channel. It’s also been said that the sun rises in the east. 

In these situations, lead nurturing happens through email drip campaigns, which are a series of emails sent to leads after they take a specific action on your website. 

These emails, which trickle out over time, are designed to move your lead further and further down your sales funnel — ultimately resulting in them making a purchase.

Once a visitor provides you with their email, you'll want to start them on the nurturing journey immediately. 

This strategy is optimal because you are already on their mind, and it also allows you to quickly separate visitors who are interested in your products from those that just want free content.

Once you've segmented your customers, you can start sending them relevant emails based on where they are on the buyer's journey, what industry they're from, demographics, and behavior.

Though it can — at times — seem transparent, there are also ways to personalize emails that will at least increase the rate at which people open them. 

This often means including their name, information about the industry they're in, or other targeted content in the subject line of the email.

Lastly, your emails must provide real value. If you're not sending content that a lead might benefit from, then you're not nurturing the lead — you're drowning them in marketing nonsense.

Though most B2B marketers immediately think of email marketing campaigns when talk turns toward lead nurturing, you can supplement your lead nurturing campaigns with other channels.

Social media

Most social media channels are not as important to B2B marketers as they are B2C marketers. However, there are still many ways you can use these platforms to nurture leads.

First and foremost, be responsive. You don’t want to be out there ignoring or ghosting leads.

About two-thirds of customers see social media as a customer support/service channel, expecting you to respond to any inquiry within four hours at most. 

hootsuite social media channel

Brands like Hootsuite even set up separate social handles for managing customer support on social media.

Unfortunately for them, most brands tend to respond within 10 hours, which is way too late. What's worse is that some companies never respond. 

In these situations, one-third of customers say they will switch to a competitor. On the flip side, companies that respond quickly enjoy a 40 percent increase in revenue.

Of course, if you really want to focus on nurturing leads on social media, don't just respond to inquiries — proactively engage and interact with your customers.

Retargeting ads

Retargeting ads are an extremely effective way to get customers to convert. 

In fact, they convert up to 50 percent more traffic than organic ads on search results, which typically have only a two percent conversion rate.

Though retargeted ads are often associated with eCommerce, there's no reason why they can't be used by B2B companies. LinkedIn is an extraordinarily effective platform for retargeting ads. 

Remarketing enjoys up 10x CTR for retargeted ads versus non-retargeted ads. It also boosts ad response by as much as 400 percent. 

To fully capitalize on the opportunity of retargeting prospects on LinkedIn, you'll want to team it up with Leadfeeder lists.

For optimal results, you'll want to focus your retargeting efforts on the warmest leads: these are the ones that performed the best on your lead scoring sheet.

Along the same lines as the idea of switching up your landing page or CTA when a prospect doesn't bite the first time, switch up your ads for your retargeting campaign from time to time.

Give prospects something fresh.

Retargeting ads are also an excellent opportunity for you to clearly distinguish yourself from your competition. The prospect is looking for the best solution for their problem. 

Your ad needs not only to show why your solution is best but also how your solution is different.

Final thoughts: essential B2B lead nurturing best practices

Lead nurturing is the process of building a deeper relationship with your leads so that you can influence them into making a purchase. It helps you help them.

Despite the apparent benefits of the practice, far too many marketers are (you guessed it) dumb-dumbs. They also have tunnel vision: their focus is entirely consumed by lead generation. 

By identifying your goals and your audience's goals, you can start creating meaningful email campaigns and content that builds trust in your brand and fulfills both of your goals.

Lead nurturing is the next step in preventing conversions from slipping through your fingers.

Tell us about your favorite B2B lead nurturing examples in the comments below!

Note: Ready to nurture prospects into sales-ready leads? Try Leadfeeder free for 14 days to see what type of content drives the most visits.


Alicia Murphy
By Alicia Murphy

I help others achieve quality results & adopt new solutions, strategies and technology. As a process driven innovator, my focus is blending relationship skills with aggressive growth initiatives. I am motivated by enabling teams to bring sales, success, support, product and leadership together to grow their business.


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