As a marketer in a fast-growing business, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You need to create compelling content to attract new leads. You need to distribute your content through different channels. You’ve got to maintain your website presence and social media presence, and measure how your programs are performing. The list goes on.
At Socedo, we work with a lot of marketers who are on small teams where they’ve got to do it all. In such an environment, it’s hard to find the time to take on new initiatives that require whole new systems. One of the initiatives that seems particularly daunting to marketers is how to get started with lead nurturing, which requires planning, development of content and implementation of a marketing automation system.
Yet, lead nurturing is essential to a successful inbound marketing strategy. It’s the key to generating sales-ready leads. Lead nurturing doesn’t have to take a ton of time or resources. In fact, Socedo is a startup with a small marketing team. We started with a simple plan and built upon it over time.
In just a bit, I’ll share our marketing team’s experience getting started with lead nurturing. But before I share this story, let’s take a moment to think about why lead nurturing is so important. It comes down to two things:
Lead Nurturing is the only way to scale inbound marketing
As a marketer, you want to deliver a sufficient volume of sales-ready leads to your sales team on a consistent basis. The challenge is that B2B buyers don’t become customers overnight. They would rather take the time to self-educate before talking to a sales rep. Depending on the nature of your product and whom you sell to, it may take buyers several weeks or several months to research your product and decide to evaluate it. According to the Online Marketing Institute, it can take 7 to 13 + touches
If you send over leads that aren’t ready for a sales conversation, you’d be wasting your sales people’s time and running the risk of alienating a good prospect who gets annoyed at your outreach.
Lead nurturing helps you communicate consistently with prospects cross-channel and throughout the sales cycle – closing the time gap between when a lead first engages with you and when he is ready to purchase. By delivering valuable, educational content to your prospects consistently, you can establish a strong relationship with your buyer, and as a result, deliver more sales-ready leads.
Marketing organizations who nurture their leads produce more sales opportunities
When you think about lead nurturing, the goal is to make the most of every lead you generate. By nurturing your leads, you can make sure that more of the leads that go into your marketing funnel become sales opportunities.
The ROI of lead nurturing is clear. According to Demand Gen Report, nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus none-nurtured leads. Forrester research found that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.
This is how Socedo got started with lead nurturing
At Socedo, we’re fortunate that we can use our own platform to generate new leads through social media. However, as we’ve grown, our need for leads as grown as well. Not all leads convert right away. Without following up after the first touch, some of our best-fit leads escaped the funnel.
Back in the winter of last year, we were reaching a higher volume of new leads and we realized that by not nurturing our leads, we were leaving revenue on the table.
We started with MailChimp. We took a sample of our existing leads, and created a three-week email program including top, middle and bottom funnel content. The idea is that in week one, everyone in the list received the first email which included a piece that appeals to a broad audience. In week two and three, this group received emails with Socedo-specific content. Our call to action is to get people to sign up for a trial of our product.
We had a little bit of success with this simple email cadence. While our email engagement rates were about the same as our typical email blasts (around 20% open and 2% CTR), we drove 7% more Marketing Qualified Leads each week into a free trial of our product.
Through this experience, we learned that timing was key. The more recent leads were the most responsive to our emails. This means that if we were to send emails soon after a new lead was synced into our system, we would be able to increase engagement and conversions to trial. To do more real-time email marketing, we would need a marketing automation system.
In January this year, we implemented Marketo, which has robust capabilities for list building, segmentation, lead scoring and triggered campaigns.
The first thing we did with Marketo was to set up an automated campaign that sends all newly synced leads from our own platform a plain text, welcome email. We tried a few versions, and found that the most effective email is a personal, plain-text email coming from the person whom they followed on Twitter. Because the email comes from a name they recognize, it helped warm leads to our emails and reduced unsubscribe rates. We’ve found an average 44% open rate and 6% click through rate on these first touch emails.
From there, instead of putting all leads into the same nurture program, we created more granular segments from our database based on where the lead came from and how they engaged with us through emails. We also put more touches into our nurture programs.
Instead of sending all leads through the three-week nurture program with top, middle, and bottom of the funnel content regardless of whether they opened any of the emails, we decided to only send leads top-of-the funnel content until they engaged with the content. Once a lead opens an email and clicks through a link to learn more, we would increase their lead score and move them to the next step of the nurture program to receive deeper-funnel content the following week. In addition, we now keep our most qualified leads – ones who fit our target persona and have engaged with our own content – in separate programs and sent them deeper-funnel, product specific offers.
As we continue to define our target customer personas, we are getting more specific about our audience segments. Since January, we’ve learned a lot more about our target audience. A few months ago, we determined that we sell to three target personas – social media professionals, marketing executives and marketing operations managers. We’ve now segmented our email nurtures based on the target persona, and now sends sequenced content tailored to the buyer stage and the specific persona.
We’ve also started to test different content pieces to see what works best at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Simple Ways to Get Started with Lead Nurturing
As we just demonstrated through our story, it’s pretty easy to get started with lead nurturing.
First, start with your buyer persona(s). Who is your target audience? What’s their job title? What’s their business environment? What are the problems you can solve for them? How did these leads get into your database? Have they already read a blog post, downloaded a whitepaper or registered for a webinar? Which pages of your website did they view? In addition, how long is the buying cycle for this segment?
Use this information to figure out what content resonates with this audience. Think about your buyer journey, map out how one piece of content leads to the next. Your content should educate your buyer through a natural progression.
Most importantly, be clear about what call to action you ultimately want to drive people towards. What would qualify someone as a sales ready lead? Is it someone who requests a live demo? Who signs up for a trial? Make sure that the content you send is both helpful and naturally prompts people to take the action you want them to.
Next, select just a few (three or four) pieces of content for your nurture program. Make sure you have content for top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. If you’ve been doing content marketing for a while, chances are, you already have materials for your nurture program. If you see a gap in content for a particular stage of the nurture program, make it a priority to develop the piece.
Once you’ve selected the content, it’s time to craft the emails. In these emails, make sure your message is geared towards helping your target prospect solve their problems, not promoting your own product.
Let your new program run for long enough so that you get data on all of the emails. Keep an eye on open rates, click-through rates, and which pieces of content get the most engagement. After a couple of sales cycles go by, take a look at which pieces of content influenced the pipeline.
As a side note, if you’re using Socedo to generate new leads, once you sync them over to your marketing automation system, you can set up a triggered email to welcome new leads. From there, you can segment your leads based on persona (job title for example), industry, or another factor (i.e. lead source, engagement with content on your website).
Start generating qualified leads for your nurture campaigns immediately, in a free trial of Socedo.