True or false: Lead nurturing is a small part of your marketing strategy.
False: It’s nearly the entire thing.
Beginning at lead generation and ending at sales, lead nurturing describes everything you do in between these two stages to earn a customer: writing blog posts, Tweeting, calling on the phone…
Make no mistake, the unseen stops between your squeeze page and sales page have a direct impact on your bottom line. Research shows that companies excelling at lead nurturing generate 50% more leads at a 33% lower cost. But to excel, there are some basics you’ll need to know…
Nurturing leads: the Do’s and Don’ts
As important as it is to know how to nurture leads, it’s just as important to know how to avoid losing them. Just one poorly written ebook, email, or Tweet could mean the difference between keeping leads in your funnel for another round of marketing and forcing them out. Think you know what it takes to turn prospects to customers? Find out:
Do: Establish a definition of qualified leads.
Nurturing leads successfully means that, at some point, the sales team will take over for marketing. This happens, usually, toward the bottom of the funnel (but it can vary from team to team). And when it happens, it’s important that the marketing team hands off qualified leads to sales.
Leads are qualified if they’re more likely to purchase based on their behavior throughout the funnel. And that behavior varies from business to business. Act-On offers an example:
For example, downloading certain white papers or attending specific webinars might be actions historically taken by leads who go on to buy. People who spend a certain amount of time on a pricing page and return to that page several times over the course of a day or two may be displaying a sense of urgency.
Some organizations ask “Would you like to be contacted by sales?” on their registration forms to make it easy for a lead to self-identify as ready and willing to talk to sales – right now.
Audit your funnel, your assets, your CRM data. Start with your best customers and discover what path to purchase they took. Then, reshape your marketing initiatives based on it.
Do: Use analytics to turn leads to customers
If you’re a SaaS business like Instapage, and you offer a free trial of your service, the right kind of nurturing can turn leads to paid customers. Like you would use analytics to determine a qualified lead, you can do the same to nudge leads toward buying.
At Instapage, we use funnel analysis and user profile snapshots over the past six months to discover features and activities that lead to purchase. Then, we use these insights to create an onboarding journey that compels visitors to take part in the activities and use the features that improve the likelihood they buy.
Also, we have casual conversations with new sign-ups. By talking to subscribers both in-person, and through follow-ups in-app and NPS surveys, we’re able to validate our quantitative assumptions.
Early on, one of our biggest discoveries was that free trial users who published a page on a custom domain, and started A/B testing it right away, were 15x more likely to remain engaged over time and upgrade to a paid plan.
Going forward, the marketing team compelled users to take these actions during email onboarding. By working backwards from your ideal client, you’ll be able to discover similar triggers like these that lead to sales.
Do: Create content for every stage of the buyer’s journey
It’s been reported that prospects will navigate around 70% of the customer journey without you. So, how does a business help potential customers through it without contacting them?
From the top of the funnel to the bottom, you should have content for all your buyer personas. Who are they? What will they need to know about you to make a purchase decision?
The types of content you’ll create for each stage and each persona will vary, but, this graphic from HubSpot offers a good starting point:
At the top, awareness content is always light, abundant, and easy to get. These can be, but aren’t limited to…
- Blog posts
- Squeeze pages
- Lead capture landing pages
- Social media updates
- Website content
- Tip sheets
This is content that’s easy to get ahold of and easy to consume. If it’s gated, a landing page form rarely requires more than name and email for access. It also focuses on broader educational topics like “lead nurturing do’s and don’ts,” for example, and less on product-related ones. This content should be thought of as, “getting to know you” content for the prospect. It’s what visitors peruse, usually, long before they’re ready to buy (though, that doesn’t mean they won’t read after).
In the middle of the funnel is interest content. From the prospect’s perspective, this is “getting to like you” content. They’ve read some of your ebooks and attended a webinar or two, and they’ve decided your kind of product might be what they need to overcome their business issues. It’s your job to have available…
- White papers
- Case studies
- Templates, blueprints
- Lead capture landing pages
These will occupy your leads with more complex topics, and in some cases, more information about you: Case studies can prove what’s capable with your solution; reports can establish you as an authority. Lead capture landing pages can work at every stage to capture new, additional lead information, which helps you further qualify potential buyer’s as they progress through the funnel.
If and when they’re ready, content in the purchase stage is all about you. From a business standpoint, this is “getting to hope you like me” content. By this time, you’ve offered blog posts and white papers and tip sheets and FAQs and more for next to nothing in return. Content in the purchase stage is about you… of course, with the ultimate goal of informing them about features and capabilities, use cases, etc. It includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Sales pages
- Free trials
This content will ultimately provide your visitors with the rest of what they need to know. Here, they decide whether or not to pull out their credit card. With a robust content marketing funnel, you’ll greatly boost the chances they do.
Do: Nurture with landing pages.
At every stage of the funnel, qualifying leads is about learning more about them. Who are these anonymous website visitors? And, are they serious about your product or service?
With analytics, you can track behavioral indicators, but when it comes to self-reported information, there’s no better tool for learning about your visitors than landing pages.
Landing pages are standalone web pages created strictly to convert visitors. Whether the goal is to sign up, download, subscribe, or any other, these pages use uniquely persuasive elements to do it.
There are many types of landing pages, and each excels in a different part of the marketing funnel at qualifying your leads for nurture:
- Squeeze pages work at the top of the funnel to capture the minimum amount of information needed to begin the nurture process. Usually that’s at least email and no more than name and email, in exchange for an asset like a regular newsletter, a tip sheet, or an ebook.
- Lead capture landing pages work at all stages of the funnel to capture as little or as much information you need at a particular stage. They request personal information through a lead capture form in exchange for a gated asset.
- Ebook landing pages work well at the top of the funnel. They capture information in exchange for an ebook, a highly popular top-funnel asset for its value and ease of consumption. The amount of information you can convince prospects and leads to submit depends on how valuable your ebook is.
- Webinar landing pages are a valuable tool for qualifying leads at every stage of the funnel. If the information you’re offering is relevant and it’s delivered by an authoritative speaker, you can ask for several fields’ worth of information to inform your marketing and sales teams.
- Demo landing pages are best used at the bottom of the funnel, because they offer a look at your product or service. These are people who have, through their own research and your top- and mid-funnel nurturing, determined that you’re a finalist on their shortlist of solutions to their problem.
- Click-through landing pages are most used at the middle and bottom of the funnel. They’re used to “warm up” leads to a bigger ask. Many sales pages use click-through landing pages to persuade leads to purchase without scaring them away with a credit card field.
- Sales pages solicit the sale at the bottom of a marketing funnel. These are the landing pages that get your leads out of nurture and turn them into customers. Of all landing pages, these are the most meticulously created with every persuasive element of a perfect page.
Like selling to leads is about nurturing, nurturing is about qualifying. To nurture, you have to know your leads, and the best way to get to know them is with targeted, persuasive landing pages at every stage of the funnel.
Don’t: Inundate your sales team with leads.
Generally, the belief is that the more leads marketing passes to the sales team, the better. But, that’s not always the case.
It’s very easy for the sales team (especially if it’s a small one) to drown in leads, even if they’re qualified. The more leads to contact, the more resources it takes to follow up. And, research shows that the best time to contact leads is within five minutes:
Wait even ten minutes, and the chances of your sales team qualifying the lead decrease by 400%.
If your sales team can’t keep up with the constant rush of leads, you may have settled on too loose a definition of “qualified lead.” Jeff Buddle elaborates:
Just because someone downloads one of your whitepapers doesn’t mean that they’re a lead. A whitepaper download is a top of funnel interaction. All too often a salesperson is too quick to follow-up, reaching out with a phone call or a demo offer far too early in the process.
So when is a lead ready for sales? Jeff recommends it meet at least five clear types of lead criteria before contact:
You could use demographic data: company size, lead title, industry type. But this information should be combined with behavioral data: events attended, website engagement. The more a prospect interacts with your brand, the more likely it is that they’re receptive to a sales call.
Consider qualifying your sales leads even further. Dig into data. Create more barriers between your prospect and your product.
While it may sound counterintuitive, when done right, it will deliver fewer, but more sales-ready leads that your team can keep up with. Done wrong, it could lead you to our next “don’t”…
Don’t: Make lead qualifiers too narrow.
Sure, qualifiers help your sales team find the most valuable leads quickly, but there’s a balance. Sales leads qualified too broadly will waste your team’s resources. If you’re using only company size and location as your only criteria, this may be you.
On the other hand, if your reps are waiting for sales leads all day, it’s a good sign you’ve set the bar a little too high. If you’re looking for 20, 30, 40 different criteria to qualify your leads for sale, you may be ignoring valuable, purchase-possible people.
Don’t: Set qualifiers and forget them
Qualifying leads isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of activity. Products, channels, and people all change. What was once working to deliver your best customer may no longer be.
You may find that, with your new offering or feature, you can expand into an entirely new market. Or, you may discover an even better channel on which to reach your target customer. Consider re-evaluating your standards once a quarter, and any time a big adjustment to your product is rolled out.
Don’t: Give up quickly
According to research, if at first you don’t qualify your lead, try try again:
By making six calls, you have a 90% chance of qualifying your lead. Unfortunately, less than 5% of reps make that many calls. Most give up after one, and a staggering 30+% of leads are never even contacted.
You can increase your contact rate by up to 70% just by making a few more call attempts. So why wouldn’t you?
Don’t forget: Nurturing leads takes more than this…
Lead nurturing is the result of all your efforts between lead generation and the sale. This list is far from comprehensive. Strategies for nurturing leads will vary from business to business, audience to audience.
What’s less likely to vary, however, is the use of landing pages to qualify leads. Lead capture landing pages are a highly valuable tool when it comes to learning information about leads. Want to know their business size? Ask them. Their priorities? Include it on a form field.
Are you ready to start learning more about your leads? Begin nurturing them with landing pages from the industry’s most robust post-click optimization platform.