Most marketers today know that email is a great way to generate leads that may turn into customers – and revenue. But if you’re like most B2B marketers, you might already have a database of prospects who are at least aware of your company, but have yet to be turned into customers. Maybe they’ve downloaded one of your assets, and sales has contacted them but were perhaps told that the prospect was only “conducting research” and wasn’t yet ready to take the next step towards purchase. So what’s the next step?
Once a prospect is in your database, marketing can help nurture the lead through the buying cycle to turn them into an even better (and hotter) lead for your sales team. The key to doing this is to understand where your prospects are in their buying journey, and provide them content that aligns accordingly.
Research shows that nurturing your leads, keeping them engaged with your content on an ongoing basis, and gradually introducing them to more advanced stages of the sales cycle can yield better response results, and benefit your bottom line. Consider that:
- 50% of leads are qualified but not ready to buy. Only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales, according to Gleanster Research
- Lead nurturing generates nearly three times more clicks than standard email blasts. [Hubspot]
- On average, organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% lift in lead generation ROI over those organizations that do not. Also, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. [MarketingSherpa]
As such, it’s important to understand the 5 stages of the customer buying cycle, and target the appropriate content for each one:
- Before the Funnel: Awareness: Your prospect has a problem. She searches for a solution, but isn’t quite sure what she’s looking for yet. Your company comes up in her search results thanks to your relevant content. Alternatively, you might have an initial purchased list of professionals within a general profession who might share similar, common challenges. Ideal email content for this stage would be general topical emails that include blog posts, articles, social media and other noncommittal offers.
- The Top of the Funnel: Interest: Leads might respond to your initial, general email messages or come to your website via search with a specific purpose, such as an asset landing page, as a potential solution to their problem. Email content in this phase might emphasize ebooks, white papers, introductory webinars and other offers that help to educate the prospect on your solutions and company.
- The Middle of the Funnel: Consideration: Now that your lead knows what she wants, she begins to consider which company best suits her needs. In this stage, you can encourage your lead to select your offerings through emails featuring case studies, video product demos, announcements of awards, media coverage or other recognition, and any other content that helps to set your company apart from your competition.
- The Bottom of the Funnel: Purchase: After perusing your materials, your lead has decided you’re the best fit. However, she now needs to know why she should buy from you NOW. You can answer this question in this segment of the buying cycle with emails focused on customer testimonials, more advanced webinars, analyst reports and other content that ensures the lead that she is making the right decision by purchasing your product or service. To further entice action at this stage, special time-limited offers, discounts or other promotions can be included in email communications.
- After the Funnel: Delight: Congratulations -- your lead converted into a paying customer! But wait; this is not the time for marketers to move on. Now the goal is to keep your customer engaged with great customer service, and to encourage positive reviews or testimonials – as well as social media shares – so when it’s time to renew, it’s obvious she will. Emails in this stage can offer to upsell or upgrade your customers, or send additional discounts for friends or colleagues. You can also send her the accolades your company has gained since her last purchase, as well as your company newsletter with expert use tips and tricks, and remind her of your company’s overall excellence and superiority.
Effective implementation of lead nurturing works, and it's a far superior way to move your leads through the sales funnel compared to general email blasts. That’s because nurturing is personalized, catered to a prospect’s point in the sales cycle, and it keeps your company and products top of mind as potential customers evaluate a purchase. Indeed, lead stage segmentation should be an important aspect in your email strategy because it ensures your leads receive pertinent information about your business – at precisely the right time they need it.
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