The World Wide Web is churning with potential customers for your business, and any one of them could be your next customer. But it's imperative to understand which ones are only a discount away from giving you their business, and those that need some TLC to become paying customers.
Enter — lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is the art of building a relationship with all qualified leads, starting from the top of the funnel and continuing through the entire buyer's journey. So, instead of assuming everyone that encounters your brand is sales-ready, establishing an effective lead nurturing strategy will help you better capitalize on any new leads you get.
If you're just looking for the nitty-gritty, feel free to skip ahead to the methods of lead nurturing. However, you might want to start at the beginning if you want a refresher on the basics of lead nurturing and lead generation.
The Basics of a Lead Nurturing Campaign
Incorporating a lead nurturing program into your marketing strategy might seem overwhelming at first, but it doesn't have to be. Likely, you're already employing many of the tactics involved in the nurturing process.
Before we get into the finer details, let's walk through some of the fundamental elements of a solid lead nurturing campaign.
Identifying Your Leads
Aforementioned, understanding the stage each prospective customer is at in the buying process, is the backbone of a healthy sales funnel. With that said, there are a few basic categories that help identify which nurturing efforts are fitting for each lead.
Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) - A Marketing Qualified Lead is someone who has responded to inbound marketing in a way that indicates they are potentially an interested buyer. For example, this might be someone who clicks on one of your Facebook ads that offers a free eBook and fills out a form on the landing page to download it.
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) - A Sales Qualified Lead is someone who has stepped voluntarily into the buyer's journey and is moving directly toward a purchase. Think of SQLs, for example, as the people who have not used your product or service yet and requested a demo on your website.
For a deeper dive on MQLs and SQLs, check out this article on the difference between the two and why marketers should care.
Product Qualified Leads (PQL) - Product Qualified Leads often present themselves within companies that offer a free or limited version of their product. If an individual using the free tier of your product expresses interest in becoming a paying customer or wants to upgrade their plan, he or she is defined as a PQL.
Service Qualified Leads - Lastly, you'll want to understand how to approach Service Qualified Leads. These contacts are individuals that have communicated to your customer service staff (or similar) interest in becoming a paying customer. Once identified, it's often best for customer service to pass these leads to the sales team to walk them through the entire sales process.
You might be thinking, "Okay, now I know how to categorize my leads, but how do I get leads in the first place?"
Though the sources of lead generation vary — from white papers to social media channels — most sales leads and marketing leads come through incorporating content marketing into your marketing efforts.
Now, this article is not so much about how to get leads as it is about how to nurture them once they're in your funnel. However, it never hurts to cover a few simple content marketing methods proven to generate leads.
Put simply, if you have a website, you should have a blog. Unless you have no interest in generating healthy, organic leads, a blog is one of the best and lower-cost methods of content marketing you have at your disposal. If you don't have a blog already, getting started is nothing to fear.
Begin by brainstorming about topics that you think will deliver relevant content to your target audience. This will give you a laundry list of topics to choose from that you can start writing about.
To broaden the number of people who might view your newly written content, and ultimately become qualified leads, do some keyword research beforehand that will help you optimize the blog for SEO. If you're totally green to keyword research, check out this helpful beginner's guide from HubSpot.
You might be surprised how many email subscribers or opt-ins you'll get from having a strong blog presence. These opt-ins, of course, become qualified leads for your business.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on Google is a long-standing and proven method of lead generation. Though it can be a more expensive means of creating a healthy sales funnel, PPCs can expedite the process of generating new sales opportunities as opposed to organic search.
With some thoughtful strategy and relevant keywords, pay-per-click ads can be one of the most practical means of generating sales-ready leads.
Since they take a thorough amount of preparation and planning, webinars are held in high regard by the prospects that watch them. When done well, webinars engage prospects in real-time and garner excellent rapport.
If you've seen a quality webinar before, you might feel overwhelmed by the effort it takes to run one. But what's most important is the content presented, and ideating great topics is easier than you might think.
A great starting point for selecting a webinar topic is to identify a few key pain points of your target audience. As you're developing the content layout, be sure to speak to those points and the solutions that can be used to overcome them.
Methods of Lead Nurturing
You've generated all of your leads, identified which category they fall into, and now you're ready to engage them. But how?
To move each lead further along in your funnel, you'll want to use a strategy that allows you to meet them where they're at. Consider implementing these tried and true methods to send the right message to your contacts in a way that resonates with them.
Email marketing is considered the bread and butter of lead nurturing by many marketing teams — and for a good reason. The content possibilities are endless, you're in complete control of what you send, and it applies to every contact no matter what stage of awareness they are in.
👉 Also related: Why Email Marketing is Still Important
For example, you can develop a marketing campaign devised to follow up with the SQLs you captured at a recent event or trade show. Sending them refreshing content and possibly including a unique sales offer, could be just the nudge they need to do business with you.
On the other hand, email marketing is an incredible tool for long-term nurturing as well. MQLs respond particularly well to campaigns that walk them through what problem your business solves and communicate the value it brings them.
To increase the impact each email campaign can have, create an opportunity on your website for prospects to provide their contact info. Consider offering a simple value, such as a discount or free content, in exchange for their email. Getting more prospects to opt-in to your newsletter will give you more leads to share your product or service with.
No matter what you want to say and who you want to say it too, email marketing is a no brainer for marketing automation. Take a look at how you can structure an email marketing campaign to nurture your leads.
How-To: Email Nurturing
Let's say you've collected a group of leads from offering a free eBook in exchange for contact info on your website. You might structure a lead nurture campaign via email like this:
1. Follow up with the free content and provide value
The first email you send should be pretty straightforward. The content should consist primarily of the free eBook you promised, and maybe a brief description of how they can apply what they learn in it.
Be sure not to ask for anything in return. Remember, they signed up only to receive the eBook in this case, and you don't want to come off as deceiving or "salesy." It's a patient process, but if done well, it is very worth the wait.
2. Discuss the solution you offer to a common problem
The sole reason anyone is going to become a paying customer of yours is if your product or service can solve a problem they have, whatever that may be.
So, what you need to do in this email is acknowledge their problem and the pain it causes them. Speaking to this communicates that you understand what life is like from the prospect's point of view and builds rapport.
Of course, don't stop there. Begin to speak to how your business helps them overcome their problem and get what they want. Discuss how your business's product or service was founded on the discovery that resolved such challenges.
And when discussing how your offering can resolve their problem, be specific about the benefits they will receive if they do business with you.
3. Share a success story
Why is it that when you purchase something on Amazon, the first thing you do is scroll through the reviews? Well, people are just more willing to trust another person's insight that has nothing to gain, except the satisfaction they receive from purchasing the product themselves. The same applies to your leads.
Though all positive reviews can be helpful, try to find one that touches on the problem the customer was facing and how your product resolved that problem. Lastly, it should describe the successful results they were able to experience through your solution.
Remember, the testimony of a customer that has experienced the best of what you offer can often carry more weight than even the most well-crafted marketing message.
4. Address a common reason people don't purchase
A vital step in the lead nurturing process is understanding what is hindering your leads from doing business with you. It's true; there are good and logical reasons people think they shouldn't pay for your product or service.
What you must do is address those reasons and demonstrate why becoming a paying customer not only overcomes those reasons, but adds additional value to their life that they didn't have before.
For example, let's say that the most common reason customers don't buy your analytics platform is because they think it's too expensive. Of course, this is a valid objection, especially if your system is costly.
To handle this objection, showcase how your analytics platform can pinpoint exactly where companies are losing money better than anyone else. Consider linking to a case study, or something similar, where successful clients of yours are saving three times as much as they are spending on your platform.
5. Pop the question
No, not that question.
I'm talking about the question you've wanted to ask this whole time — "Will you do business with me?" Of course, you may want to phrase it differently, but the gist is that you've earned the right to ask for their business.
You've provided value, discussed how you solve their problem, cited evidence that it's helped real people and addressed their biggest reason not to buy. The only thing you haven't done is ask them directly to do business with you, and now is the time.
You'll also want to leave them with a strong image of what it looks like to become a patron of yours. How will their lives get better? What stresses or challenges will they be freed of? Paint that with words, and paint it well.
There you have it, a step-by-step process of how to use email marketing to nurture your leads! But maybe you're thinking, "How cool would it be if they had a real example of how to do it?!"
Well, friend, you're in luck. Check out this guide to writing a killer nurture series, which is practically a mini-course on how to nurture your leads using email marketing.
As iPhones get more lavish and technology advances, social media communication only continues to rise. From LinkedIn to Instagram, social media platforms are unique in that they allow businesses to interact with consumers more organically.
Lead nurturing can sometimes be a slow process depending on the qualification of your leads. That's why social media has proved to be a vital tool for businesses to integrate into their marketing strategy.
Of course, you can pay to advertise on these platforms in an attempt to catalyze prospect engagement, which will be discussed in a minute. However, nurturing your contacts can also be done well through creating and sharing valuable content throughout your contact networks. This provides your leads with relevant information that they can apply to their own life and insight about your company. This method helps gradually advance them through your funnel, at a pace that's comfortable for them.
How-To: Retargeting Ads
As mentioned above, paid advertisements on social media channels have proven to be an effective method for lead nurturing. More specifically, retargeting ads. As the name infers, retargeting ads are displayed to those who have already encountered an aspect of your brand, commonly your website.
There are a few things to consider when running a retargeting ad campaign on Facebook.
Just like any marketing campaign, you need to start with the end in mind. Ask yourself what your hope is for running this retargeting ad. Is it to move a specific product, or do you want to attract first-time visitors back to your website and get them to engage?
Deciding on your end goal for the campaign will help determine how to set it up for best results.
Similar to the above question, what specific page, product or website visitor action do you want to target? If it is a single product, you can select visitors that have viewed the page for that product.
On the other hand, you might want to increase visibility to your blog, in which case you can select to target individuals that have previously visited your blog.
The goals are determined, the audience is set, and all that's left to do is create the ad. When developing the creative of your ad, don't just think in terms of a cool image. Facebook gives you the option to create a headline, copy, visuals and a CTA.
Think of how you can make each piece work together to create an enticing and cohesive message. If your focus is on a particular product, consider using a strong photo or video, along with a testimonial.
For step-by-step instructions on how to set up a retargeting ad on Facebook, check out this complete guide.
It seems one way or another, your leads will always find their way back to home base — your website.
Designing your brand's webpages in a way that positively affects the customer journey is a crucial part of nurturing your leads well. Developing strategic landing pages with strong content and calls to action is a great place to start. Follow that up with an authoritative blog presence, and you've got yourself a fundamental lead nurturing tool for your brand.
How-To: Set Up Your Homepage
The homepage of your website is likely the most visited page on your site, so it's worth taking some time to make sure it's created with your leads in mind. Below is a quick checklist that you can use to make sure your homepage is prepared to nurture leads well.
1. Headline and Tagline
The ole h1-h2 punch. The headline and tagline, or description, is the first chance you get to communicate what you do and why a prospect should care. A common mistake you'll want to avoid is not being clear here.
Make sure your headline is clear, concise and compelling. In only a few words, it should communicate what problem you solve and create an emotional response from the viewer.
Once you've established a strong h1, use a line or two beneath to describe, with a bit more detail, what it is your business does and how it helps resolve a problem.
Remember, brevity is best and clarity is key.
👉 Check out this article, 3 Steps to Clarify Your Message, to help craft a clear and compelling headline and tagline.👍
2. Calls to Action (CTA)
One of the worst things that can happen when a new lead visits your website is that they get interested in taking the next step, and they have no idea what they're supposed to do. If they don't know what to do, or if it's unclear how they can proceed to work with you, they are much more likely to leave and find someone else.
This can be easily avoided by clearly highlighting your CTA's throughout your homepage. Decide on what you'd ideally have every prospect do first. This is usually something like "Contact Us" or "Shop Now."
List that underneath the headline and tagline, the top right corner of your site and place it strategically throughout the rest of the homepage and support pages.
Because every customer won't take the primary action you'd like them to, think of what you'd want them to do in the meantime. A common strategy is to provide a piece of content value, such as an eBook or whitepaper.
Using a CTA button along the lines of "Download our free eBook, 5 Simple Growth Hacks", you can request an email address in exchange. This doesn't cause much friction since that's how you will deliver the content, and you now have their contact info to continue to nurture them.
3. The Plan
One of the simplest ways to make it easy for a prospect to want to become a paying customer is to explain what it looks like to do business with you. In three steps, layout what the customer can expect when purchasing a product from you. To use an easy example, a t-shirt company might lay it out like this:
1. Select Your Style
2. Select Your Color
3. Select Your Size
This framework makes it very easy for your website visitors to purchase your product. If you want some more insight on setting up your homepage, take a look at this article on homepage best practices for better performance.
If marketing is a valiant effort to inform your future patrons on the value of your product or service and earn their business, then lead nurturing is of tremendous importance. Without it, there remains a distant, unclear gap between those who don't know about your brand and your current paying customers.
As this article explains, getting started doesn't have to be extreme or complicated. Through a few tweaks in how you generate, identify and interact with your leads, you can create successful campaigns that turn your leads into paying customers.
Although, if there is one thing we understand as experienced marketers, it's that no matter how simple a project may seem, there's always more to take on than meets the eye. From strategy and ideation to execution and analysis, we're ready and willing to help you grow your business and get results.
Schedule your free strategy session, and let's talk about how to get you where you want to go.