Let’s take a look at the critical role that content marketing plays in nurturing leads and helping ease them through the sales funnel.

Increasingly B2B customers spend a while in the consideration phase – weighing up options and looking for solutions that suit and partners who sing from the same song sheet.

Many leads who enter your funnel are nowhere near converting.
That is, nowhere near converting yet.

This is where content marketing can really help.

Carefully curated and targeted content helps you to gently engage interest as you increasingly place yourself on someone’s radar.

But before we review the very real difference that lead nurturing and content marketing can make let’s indulge in a rather delicious fantasy…

… Imagine that every prospect who landed in your sales funnel was magically ready to convert into a customer there and then.
Maybe you’d need to have a quick chat, or to fire off a carefully personalised email, but each prospect arrives ready to slide straight through your sales funnel.
With no real objections.
And their hand clutching a completed purchase order.

Let’s face it, it’s not going to happen.
(Not in this sales cycle anyway).

But, if you’re not actively nurturing your leads, then this is pretty much what you are assuming: left to their own devices, your leads will all miraculously glide through the buying stages and emerge as a fully-fledged customer at the end of your funnel.

And it’s because this is pure fantasy that you need a plan to nurture each lead before they are handed over to the sales team.

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is a strategic way to develop your relationship with leads at every stage of the sales funnel and through every step of their sales journey.

It is not about automated email sequences – or, at least, these will only be part of a much larger communication story.

Lead nurturing, at its best, relies on a multi-channel approach to marketing and sales communication.

  • It uses carefully targeted content to engage
  • It uses thought leadership to build trust
  • It explores solutions to answer objections
  • It tentatively proposes rather than boisterously asserts
  • In short, it uses content to open discussions and create a space for dialogue

Consider this:

  • According to Marketo, at least 50% of the leads in any sales funnel are nowhere near being ready to buy
  • Forrester has found that there is a 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads
  • It also found that those who excel at lead nurturing will generate 50% more sales at a 33% reduction in cost per sale
  • What’s more, The Annuitas Group revealed that nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than their neglected counterparts

Here’s another reason nurturing leads is so important:

Leads may enter your sales funnel very early on but, if you’re not actively nurturing them, they may well languish in the thin air at the top of the funnel.

Sales funnels are getting longer and longer as B2B buyers carry out their own independent research online. The role of sales ‘hand-holding’ is pushed further and further down the funnel.

Research from Aberdeen tells us that prospects receive on average ten marketing ‘touches’ from the time they enter the funnel to the time they become a customer.

Let’s see how you can make each touch really count.

Multi-channel content marketing and lead nurturing

Simply put, content marketing is making sure you are always there to provide the answers when your buyer asks questions, wherever they may be.

In today’s B2B market where potential buyers are increasingly mistrustful of ads, and many prefer to navigate their own way through the majority of their buying journey, content marketing plays a pivotal role in transforming early engagement into action.

And sometimes it’s not just answering questions but asking the interesting questions your buyer hasn’t even thought of yet.

Here are six ways to get it right.

 

1. By email

Email may well be the most direct way to get targeted content to a specific lead, but to be effective it must be trusted, relevant, personalised and conversational.

Try using email to invite carefully chosen leads to attend an industry webinar exploring a latest trend or discussion point.

Of course, you’ll mail the presentation and details of the discussion to those who registered or attended. But, why stop there? Make sure you also mail out to all those who didn’t attend a precis of the key points – alongside an invite to the next event.

2. On your website

Develop targeted content and landing pages aimed at each buying stage for your unique buyer personas.

And, most importantly of all, consider this comment from a frustrated CMO:

‘60% of content created in the marketing department was never used by the sales team. I also found out that 90% of content we were creating was product-specific, despite the fact that the vast majority of our audience were in an early-stage part of the buyer stage and asking non-product specific questions.’

Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at Newscred on his experience at SAP

Your website is there to sell a service and a product. But that’s just a part of the picture. It’s also there to engage and nurture those at the earliest stages of the buying journey by joining in a conversation or sparking thought and debate.

3. On social media

Focus your efforts by considering where your prospects are and the types of content they engage best with.

One often overlooked tactic by B2B marketers is to use paid social media advertising as a way to ensure that the stories they are telling, events they are promoting and content they are sharing gains a much wider reach than those who happen to follow their account.

Paid social gives you greater control over who can see your content and you can opt to target similar audiences to those who have worked for you in the past or target a new group of prospects by demographics, interests, geography, job roles etc.

4. By remarketing ads

Throwing remarketing into the mix – whether via social networks, search or display – allows you to continue the conversations with those who have shown interest.

5. By lead scoring and marketing automation

It’s important to know how your content marketing is progressing and lead scoring is a way to pinpoint where each lead is in your sales funnel.

It’s based on agreeing a score for certain actions or known characteristics for those in your funnel. These are used to identify when and how to communicate most effectively with each lead by using the most timely and relevant communication.

(We’ll come back to this in more detail in our next post.)

Marketing automation is the way that you can match up your content and channels to the stage each lead is at.

Even the most talented salesperson could build trust and maintain rapport with, at best, 50 leads. Marketing automation is the tech solution that feeds on lead scoring to streamline and automate multi-channel marketing.

6. On the phone

Our final point is to emphasise the importance of timely contact from the sales team.

Effective lead nurturing is an automated, multi-channel response to the elongated B2B buying journey. But none of this is to say that the personalised sales call or sales mail is no longer relevant.

It’s simply to emphasise that these are very often no longer your first port of call.

The important thing here is to identify when to make that handover to sales or to involve them in the nurturing process.

And that’s a decision that lead scoring can help determine.

We’ll take a look at how to score leads next.