A website is a great marketing tool. In fact, it should be at the center of your attempts to attract attention to your brand. But if your marketing efforts stop there, even the best website won’t make a difference.
Many marketers use web traffic as a core KPI in determining their marketing efforts. But what if that traffic never amounts to new customers, can you really use it as a success metric? To make sure your marketing strategy is successful, businesses need to prioritize their post-visits efforts just as much as their traffic-generating efforts. And undoubtedly, the best way to convert traffic to customers is inbound lead nurturing.
Introducing: The Inbound Sales Funnel
The “buyer’s funnel” is a well-known sales concept that applies regardless of industry: it’s the journey your visitors take on their way to becoming customers. Naturally, not nearly every visitor will turn into a buyer; instead, they first become leads (contacts in your database). And even as leads, they can be distinguished as initial leads, marketing-qualified leads who are ready to receive promotional materials, and sales qualified leads who are ready for the customer conversion.
Each stage of the funnel sees only a portion of your leads advance, creating the inverted shape that gives this concept its name.
This funnel model is particularly applicable in the inbound marketing philosophy, which places your website at the center of your awareness marketing efforts and focuses on lead generation. As such, initial marketing efforts aim specifically to get visitors to fill out a contact form, which will enter them into your database as leads. Now that they’ve entered the funnel, they pass through several stages, eventually becoming qualified enough for your team to make a sales pitch.
Lead-generating efforts can range widely, from social media and blogging to SEO, often promoting high-quality content that is only accessible after filling out the aforementioned contact form.
But of course, these efforts are only part of the strategy. Strategically moving your new leads through the funnel is crucial to ensure you get the maximum possible amount of sales-qualified leads, and ultimately customers. That’s where lead nurturing, the second of the two inbound marketing functions, enters the equation.
How Lead Nurturing Drives the Funnel
Put simply, lead nurturing is the core function needed to push your leads through each stage in the sales funnel, from initial awareness to becoming customers. Through strategic communication with your leads, you educate them about your product or service, establish yourself as an industry expert, and slowly nudge them toward the sale.
You will often see lead nurturing referred to as marketing automation, but be aware of the core difference: marketing automation refers to the tools, such as marketing automation software, that drives the concept of lead nurturing. In itself, lead nurturing means nothing more than the name suggests: fostering a relationship with your lead to increase their likelihood of becoming customers.
As a concept, lead nurturing can be any type of communication to guide your contact toward becoming customers. In reality though, the backbone of such a strategy generally consists of regular email messages as well as other, supplemental content (more on that below).
This concept, applied correctly, can be immensely powerful. As reported by HubSpot, a Forrester Research study found that “companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost.” According to the same report, nurtured leads make purchases that are almost 50% larger than those of non-nurtured leads, while this type of lead also produces on average 20% more sales opportunities than its ‘regular’ counterpart.
4 Steps to Optimizing Your Lead Nurturing Efforts
In other words, successful lead nurturing is a crucial part of completing your marketing strategy, ensuring that your traffic and lead generation efforts ultimately result in customers. But of course, ‘successful’ is key; haphazard or incomplete inbound nurturing efforts mean wasted efforts and lost sales opportunities. Here are 4 ways you can optimize your inbound lead nurturing:
1) Segment Well
In lead nurturing, as the name suggests, personalization is key. Having given you their contact information when they entered your database, your leads will expect to receive communication that suits their needs. That, in turn, means your strategy cannot be to send the same type of message to everyone of your leads. Instead, segmenting your contacts into groups toward whom you can send more targeted messages can significantly increase the success of your efforts.
As your leads move through the funnel, segmentation becomes increasingly important. A lead just entering the funnel will expect a relatively generic email – after all, they probably did not give you much more than their name and email address. But a contact that is about to become a customer will expect personalized communication based on their individual needs, complete with applicable and actionable tips that can help them succeed in their position.
2) Ask for More
Of course, the first step implies a conundrum: how can you increasingly segment your contacts for personalized communication, if you only know the information you received when your visitors initially became leads? The answer is deceptively simple: by asking for more information as the process moves along.
And that’s where the additional content we mentioned above comes into play. Emails alone make for an adequate lead nurturing strategy. But once you begin using these emails as vehicles to promote more in-depth content on your website, your efforts will become truly successful.
That content may consist of whitepapers, webinars, product demos, and more. As long as it provides your audience with the motivation to fill out an additional sign up form to receive it, the possibilities are almost endless. And here is the key: on that new sign up form, you can ask for additional information related to your customer’s background and needs. As that information feeds into your database, you can begin to use it for better segmentation.
3) Keep in Touch
Another important part of any lead nurturing strategy is to stay in touch. Your visitors have become leads precisely because they expect to hear from you. So don’t be shy to begin sending regular emails, alerting them about industry news or new content on your website.
Especially if you engage in this strategy for the first time, you may be hesitant to send too many emails to potential customers in fear of scaring them off. But in reality, staying in touch is very effective – as long as you don’t overdo it. While the exact frequency of your nurturing email differs by industry, general best practices suggest keeping in touch with your leads by sending nurturing emails about once a week.
4) Score Your Leads
Finally, scoring your leads enables you to gain a better understanding of when they are ready to hear that sales pitch and become customers. Lead scoring is the process of assigning points to your contacts based on their interactions with you; opening a nurturing email, or visiting a pricing page on your website, for example, are all assigned points.
As your leads accumulate points, you can move them down the funnel automatically. The more they interact with you, the more ready they will be to receive information that is more about your company and less about your industry. Once they have reached a score determined by you or your marketing agency, they are ‘sales-qualified’ and ready for that sales pitch.
Segmenting well, which you can do by asking your leads for more information as they move down the funnel, along with regular contact and a lead scoring system can help you optimize your inbound lead nurturing to the point where you maximize the amount of customers generated from your leads. Once set up, it’s a beautiful process that keeps your contacts engaged, while positioning your company and its product or service at the forefront of your audience’s mind.
Are you ready to develop your funnel mindset and begin nurturing your leads? If so, we’d love to help you. Contact us today to get started in the process.