Struggling to get a grasp on qualified leads? Trying to figure out which of your leads may actually convert? Trying to predict a sale?
Of course you are. Getting a sale is one of the most difficult challenges facing the average B2B marketer.
In fact, 61% of B2B marketers say generating high-quality leads is the biggest hurdle to overcome in their jobs, according to the B2B Marketing Lead Generation Survey by IDG Enterprises.
Sales teams also frequently find themselves pursuing leads uninterested in purchasing in the near future. According to Aberdeen Research, as many as 73% of your B2B leads are not sales ready.
Those challenges are becoming less difficult to overcome. With technological advances in marketing automation, along with a strong qualifying strategy, B2B marketers can get a better idea of where leads are in the customer journey.
Success comes from building the right foundation for a lead generation campaign—one with more accurate insights about your leads and when they’re ready to buy.
With the B2B sales cycle averaging 3 to 6 months (or even longer depending upon the industry) each of your sales prospects deserves a nurturing campaign. These campaigns should be designed to engage them until they reach a decision.
Start your nurturing campaign by using these marketing automation tips.
Tips for marketing automation nurturing:
- Pre-qualify your leads
- Hyper segment your prospects
- Create content that matches the marketing funnel
- Determine which metrics predict conversions
- Respond at appropriate times
1. Pre-qualify your leads.
Intake forms should be your first attempt at qualifying leads. Design forms that require more than just a name and an email address. Request additional information related to the company, including company size, industry, and annual revenues. Additionally, ask for a job title. This information can help you determine your subscriber’s buying influence.
If you feel requesting this much information is intrusive, consider the impact. A minor change to your forms could save your team a significant amount of time. This will also increase the effectiveness of your process.
Pre-qualification shouldn’t be underestimated, especially since it can save your company money. According to research firm Marc Wayshak, 50% of leads will not be ideal prospects for what you’re selling.
Rich content, like a white paper filled with research industry trends, may be of interest to a large segment of B2B audiences. However, many of them may not have the budget to invest in your solution. And while it’s possible they have the budget, your solution may not be an ideal fit. Don’t pursue the wrong prospect—it could result in a frustrated client.
2. Hyper segment your prospects.
After gaining initial insights about your audiences, go deeper with automation. You want to track subscribers’ behavior and respond accordingly in real time.
You may have already created segmentation that separates potential buyers (those who meet all of your qualifications) from unlikely candidates.
However, you’re probably left with a significant number of leads. Chances are, these leads are at varying stages in the customer journey. Some may just be beginning to explore solutions, while others are ready to meet an immediate goal.
Using automation, further segment your subscribers based on engagement.
You can segment your leads based on the following interactions:
- Browsing content in a specific category
- Downloading a whitepaper
- Viewing a video
- Attending a webinar
- Engaging on social media
Depending on your engagement data, you can start pursuing deeper levels of segmentation.
Advanced email marketing technology now allows for segmentation in real time, separating leads based on actions or inactions.
3. Create content that matches the marketing funnel.
Correct timing and messaging is everything when it comes to nurturing B2B prospects. Keep in mind, you’re trying to engage an audience that is very likely pressed for time.
Executing an email marketing strategy that is grounded in highly relevant content—delivered with perfect timing—this is your goal. With outdated email marketing campaigns, achieving these types of results would be a risky proposition.
However, through a triggered campaign, you can achieve real-time engagement. A triggered campaign would deliver automatic messages in response to subscriber actions.
First, you must develop content that addresses the needs of your target audiences at different stages in the buyer’s journey.
Avoid a general approach. Carefully consider specific questions qualified leads will have about your service at various stages. You will also need a plan to address any and all of their objections before purchasing. Finally, you need to strategically determine buyer pain points and needs.
Address pain points with valuable content. Your content should cover each of the following stages:
Prospective buyers are acutely aware of their challenges; they’re in the initial stages of seeking answers and learning about your brand and solutions. Develop blogs that address the challenges specific to each industry you serve.
Prospective buyers begin to understand the solutions your brand and competitors offer. However, they’re still trying to determine which one will be the best fit. Make sure the content targeted at this stage includes webinars and demos.
Prospective buyers are convinced of their need for a solution like yours, but have not yet made a final decision. Introduce more customer success stories at this stage.
A prospective buyer is now a buyer. They’ve moved forward with the decision to pursue your service. Nurturing doesn’t end as the buyer now is eligible for further engagement, including efforts for upsells and customer retention.
At each stage, keep your segmented audience’s needs and concerns in mind. Ask relevant questions like the following:
- What challenges do people in this role face?
- Which goals are they trying to reach?
- What type of content do they prefer (blogs, video, whitepaper)?
- How does our solution help them reach their goals?
Improve your content for qualifying and nurturing leads by engaging other departments in the process. Talk to team members in client success and sales to get details about the challenges your company helped clients overcome.
Learn about objections sales reps have had to address during discussions with prospects. These insights are essential in developing a comprehensive strategy.
4. Determine which metrics predict conversions.
Automation allows you to engage in predictive lead scoring—determining which of your leads will be likely to move closer to a conversion and at a specific time.
By gathering data insights on the customer behaviors that typically precede a purchase, you can zero in on prospects taking similar actions—meeting them earlier in the process so that you can more actively nurture them.
By identifying the metrics that are most likely to lead to conversions, you can devote more of your efforts on building marketing strategies around them.
5. Respond at appropriate times.
If you’re able to connect with your prospects at the perfect time, you can gain an incredible advantage over your competitors. According to Lead Connect, 78% of prospects will end up buying from the brand that responds to them first.
And, as studies have repeatedly shown over the years, if you’re too slow to respond to your prospects—especially after they’ve indicated they’re ready to move forward with a decision, you’re likely to lose out on the opportunity.
Harvard Business Review completed a study that showed companies were nearly 7 times as likely to qualify a lead, if they responded within an hour, compared to those who responded an hour later. The advantage climbed to 60 times as likely to convert a lead when compared to those who waited 24 hours or longer.
Since then, the need for a timely response has become even more critical. Recent studies reveal that 5 minutes or less for a lead response time was more ideal—a goal that many marketers and sales reps are failing to achieve.
Without automation, that type of responsiveness could be impossible, especially since prospects could be engaging with you at various times, even after business hours. Behavior-triggered campaigns enable you to create a highly responsive experience for your subscribers at all levels.
If a subscriber engages in certain activities, again taking into consideration the behaviors (cues) that signal a conversion is coming, you can set up your automation to send an email message as a response.
These can include obvious and not-so-obvious behaviors like a combination of the following:
- Download a white paper
- Review a product demo
- Browse product pages
- Review case studies
- Request a demo
- Request a follow-up call
Your automation will send the signals that it’s time for a sales rep to follow up immediately. In the meantime, automated messages can be sent to prospects as the first point of engagement, ensuring them that a call from a sales rep will shortly follow.
Using marketing automation to qualify and nurture leads can produce a highly personalized experience that meets your prospects at the right time with the right message. This approach, combined with thoughtful, strategic content, will increase your odds of increasing your sales.