Sales & Marketing

Lead Nurturing Comes of Age: Where to Start?

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Since three out of four new leads generated end up buying at some point in the next 18-24 months (according to MarketingSherpa), lead nurturing is no longer a wish-list program, but a competitive necessity. But for most B2B marketers, figuring where to start is always a daunting task.

To make matters worse, many approaches tend to over-complicate things. Marketers develop complex multi-touch campaigns that overwhelm their opt-in audience with too many communications and too many messages. Buyers become not only confused but suffer from subscriber fatigue.

So where do you start with a simple formulaic lead nurturing strategy? Lead nurturing fundamentally starts with a sound Thought Leadership program, focusing content on the problem you solve with case studies to describe how your client solves the problem. To keep it simple, break down the problem you solve into 3-4 themes that relate to specific buyers. This thematic approach becomes the basis for the campaigns you will drive into your target audiences over a 9-12 month period. . Each quarter focus on one theme.

Why have multiple themes? Because your target buyers each have their hot buttons that draw them into a particular business problem. One buyer may be interested in Story A while another might be interested in Story B and it is all about delivering the right message to the right buyer at the right time.

The formula to developing great content lies in having a variety of media tactics to deliver the primary message of the theme. For example, take one really good white paper (from a reputable 3rd party) then develop a webinar on the white paper topic and have a client participate in the webinar (be sure to record so you can repeat and use in subsequent campaign waves). Also, develop one or more case studies, again focusing on that theme that can be dispersed via different mediums.

The key to success lies in consistency so spend the entire quarter with bi-monthly outbound campaigns that highlight the theme, each with a different deliverable. First the white paper, then the webinar, then the case study, with links each time to other content on that topic. We then repeat this process for at least two more quarters with various themes. You can listen to this podcast to hear more about this thought leadership approach and the results it drives.

This process is not as overwhelming as it sounds. If you follow Brian Carroll and Ardath Albee’s approach to repackaging and re-purposing content, you will find that you already have most of the content you need to work with. The trick is how to package (or re-purpose) correctly to feed it to your target audience thematically and on a regular basis.

REMEMBER – it takes 7 to 9 proactive communications to get your buyer to opt-in and read the message or theme you are trying to deliver. Once they do that, your other complimentary content will have more appeal and increase the likelihood of launching the sales process.

It’s important to keep the approach of simplifying the lead nurturing process into something that is focused and meaningful to your potential buyers. Too often lately we have seen companies purchasing marketing automation systems and using them as spam cannons.

Taking a thought leadership approach to lead nurturing will move the prospect down the qualification path and that is our objective, isn’t it? What process have you found that works for lead nurturing?

Henry Bruce is the founder of Rock Annand Group, a client acquisition strategy consulting firm focused on the B2B software industry. Follow him on Twitter here.

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