What is Lead Nurturing? 7 Best Strategies to Nurture Leads in 2023
They say content is king, but is it really? We'd argue the actual king of any company is sales, because that’s what keeps the lights on. Unfortunately, sales are hard to come by if you don't have a strong lead nurturing strategy.
Lead nurturing is, in a nutshell, the process of building relationships with current and potential customers at every stage of their journey. That means good content in the early stages of lead cultivation, constant follow-up with more advanced prospects, and excellent customer service for current clients and customers.
It all starts with automated lead nurturing, though. Without this, you’ll have little luck keeping your pipeline full and your electric bill paid. So today, let’s talk about lead nurturing strategies, definitions, and best practices, so you can put your new knowledge to work ASAP.
What is Lead Nurturing?
The process can be long or short, depending on your approach and your products. (For example, getting someone interested in a car is going to take a lot longer than convincing them to buy a notebook.)
A successful lead nurturing program should focus on attracting the interest of the prospect through content and soft touches, helping them explore your offerings and company more deeply through direct contact, and turning those sparks of interest into deep customer relationships—all on a schedule that you don’t have to think about.
This benefits every stage of the sales funnel, with different approaches for each. In the earliest phases, for example, you want to convince passersby to become subscribers, bulking out your lead list. In later stages, you might turn to phone calls and emails to entrench interest and move them down the funnel. Post-purchase, your valued customers will get individualized TLC to keep them loyal and help them pass on the good word about your company.
Those are far from the only benefits, however.
The Benefits of Lead Nurturing
Cultivating leads is more than a stretch goal–it’s an absolute necessity in the fierce competition of today’s modern, digital world.
According to the stats, lead nurturing emails earn 4-10 times more responses than standalone emails, while marketing automation increases qualified leads by more than 451%. Oh, and 80% of marketers are already using a lead nurturing program, so you can’t really afford to miss out.
Other benefits of including lead nurturing in your sales process include:
- More high-quality leads
- Less cost generating those leads
- Maximum return on investment (ROI) in the sales cycle
- Find cross-selling opportunities
- Encourage referrals
Now let’s take a look at how the lead nurturing automated process flow works and a few lead nurturing examples to help you get sales-ready leads today.
How Does Lead Nurturing Work?
The lead nurturing process is simple, if not easy. Here is the basic process you’ll want to follow–just remember, you'll need to adjust the process based on your industry, target audience, and offerings.
For example, a SaaS sales team targeting small businesses might offer a free trial right after first contact, while a software company offering bespoke enterprise solutions will need a longer lead nurturing process. Regardless, all lead nurturing processes will follow the same basic principles.
Attract Attention (Look At Me!)
First, start by bringing prospects to your website. Most businesses use top of the funnel content to do this, including:
- Social media posts, stories, videos and reels
- Blog posts
- Webinars and webinar playbacks
- White papers and case studies
- Free eBooks and downloads
- Free resource libraries
Remember, at this stage you want to share valuable information without selling. Your goal is to help your prospects so they learn to trust you and come back for more.
Get Those Contact Deets
At some point during the attract phase, you’ll want to collect information about your leads. A first name and email are great, as this gets you access to their email box.
Some companies offering very high-value content, especially B2B organizations, will also ask for addresses, phone numbers, or the lead’s position before giving away gated content. This is a good approach to increase the quality of leads, but it will reduce the quantity.
Use Segmentation to Bucket Your Leads
Now that you’ve got some info, it’s time to segment it out. This is when you bucket your prospects into different categories based on demographic, interest area, or type of touchpoint.
You can treat each segment differently based on their needs and inclinations, and because your contact with them is more targeted, they’re less likely to unsubscribe or otherwise depart.
This also allows you to use lead scoring. Lead scores help you further segment your audience into how close to a purchase they are, which in turn lets you assign them to the right sales staff and use the appropriate sales tactics.
Address Each Bucket Specifically
Your approach should look different for each stage of the sales funnel. For instance:
- When you first get a lead’s email address, introduce yourself and ask how you can help. Send useful information like blogs or other resources that provide value.
- After a series of back-and-forth emails, you can try a hard sell of a specific product or service.
- Once a lead signs up for a demo and you get their phone number, it’s appropriate to call them by phone to check in on their experience and close the deal.
- After someone makes a purchase, they’re a good candidate for upselling and cross-selling by email or phone.
Because the approach is so different for each bucket, it is imperative you use workflows that keep each segment separate and happy. For example, if someone is interested in your SMB offering, you don’t want to send them information about your expensive enterprise packages–they’ll assume you don’t understand them or their needs.
Assign Leads to Sales Reps that Match Their Skill Sets
Finally, make sure your sales reps get the accounts that match their skill sets. Some reps are great at softening people up because they’re so personable and nurturing.
Others know how to apply the right kind of pressure to close the deal. Still others work well as customer service reps with a side of sales. It’s all about knowing your people and matching them to your leads.
So, how exactly do you nurture those leads? That’s up next.
7 Best Lead Nurturing Strategies
All right, enough chit chat; let’s get straight to the good stuff. Here are the top seven strategies to successfully nurture leads from start to finish.
1. Capitalize on Targeted Content
Targeted content can significantly improve sales results by finding the perfect lead for the perfect product.
For instance, if you’re trying to sell a car, you need to create content that goes beyond telling buyers why they need a car. Yes, people need cars–they already know that.
What people need to learn about is not that they need a car, but why they need your car. And that’s where a relevant content marketing strategy comes in. Targeted content should speak to the lead where they are in life, right now, sympathetically, with an answer in hand–and that answer is you.
It’s not enough to have one type of targeted content, either. You need to target different buyer personas, stages of the buyer journey, price points, product interest areas and so forth. The more you bucket, the more targeted you become and the more sales you make.
2. Do More Than Just Email
Sending email campaigns are extremely effective for lead nurturing. However, while email is great, evidence shows that using multi-channel lead nurturing is better for generating leads.
Before you craft a lead nurturing strategy, make sure you’re using all your options for prospecting customers. That includes:
- Social media
- Paid Ads
- Organic content
- Free resources
(Seriously, snacks are a great addition to any content marketing strategy at trade shows and conventions, even if you’re not a snack company. Ask anyone.)
Remember to optimize each type of content to meet the needs of the segment it is targeting. Get the input of your marketing teams regarding which type of outreach works best for which type of customer, then work their feedback into your lead nurturing automation plan to keep it seamless and easy for the entire organization.
3. Use Multiple Touch Points
As with anything good in life, once is not enough. According to the RAIN sales group research, it takes an average of eight touches from the time prospects enter the top of the funnel until they become customers.
Which means you need to use multiple touches to convert leads into customers. Effective lead nurturing begins early with gentle outreach, then increases in pressure as the prospect moves down the sales funnel.
Touches should progress over time, for example:
- Content marketing brings in new traffic
- Collect email addresses and send intro email
- Social media connection and follow-up
- More email
- Phone call, if you get their number
- Follow-up phone calls and emails—roughly as many as it takes, or until you hear a hard ‘no’
- Follow-up contact after the deal is closed
- Follow-up contact for cross-selling and upselling
Seem like a lot? While you want to avoid annoying leads, if you’re delivering value at each step you won’t. Think of yourself as helping someone who needs the results only you can offer.
4. Efficiently Follow Up with Leads
Did you know that 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first. Early bird, meet worm!
We cannot overstate the importance of follow-up timeliness in the sales industry. The good news is, automated lead nurturing makes it easier to stay on top of follow-up, especially for large groups of prospects. It helps ensure that your follow-ups are timely without tracking the follow-up or manually making it happen.
Quick follow-ups can happen through email, on LinkedIn, or wherever else you speak with prospects. Addressing pain points and offering solutions quickly is very likely to increase your conversion rates, so why wait?
5. Score Your Leads
Did you know that 80% of leads never buy anything? According to the same source, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured ones. That means if someone comes to your site for the first time ever and makes a purchase, it’s going to be worth a lot less than if a nurtured lead does the same.
Point being: nurture, baby!
Scoring leads is a great way to prioritize your leads. It tells you where your prospects are in the sales funnel and who is ready for a more aggressive approach–and who still needs a bit more time to convert.
You want to focus your sales reps’ energy on those leads who are most likely to respond well to nurturing and moving down your sales funnel. Rank them against a scale that shows the perceived value of each lead for your business, which will enable you to put your resources in the right place. Plus, when you score your leads, you can assign them the right templates, which will up the chances of running successful lead nurturing campaigns.
For instance, a lead who’s ready to buy will benefit from a template showing how much money they’ll save if they use your product. A prospect who is not there yet would probably be more interested in a high-level overview that hits their pain points and explains what type of product might help.
6. Personalize Each Contact
Never send a “Hello all!” email. Equally, never call a business and ask to speak with “whoever’s in charge of the purse strings.”
Instead, personalize your outreach. Make sure each touch sounds like it’s coming from a person…to a person. If it sounds like it’s coming from a robot to a cog in the machine, you’re unlikely to get anywhere.
Similarly, try always to get a one-on-one meeting, phone call, or email relationship going. When the touches are coming from people and going to people, it’s more likely to deliver results.
7. Don’t Forget About Social Media
Social is a great place to be social with prospects. People are more likely to buy from you if they feel like they have a relationship with you, and even more likely to cut a deal if they feel like other people like, know, and trust you. Word-of-mouth and other forms of earned media are by far the most valuable form of marketing, with 92% of consumers saying they trust it above all else.
Luckily, social media makes it much easier to get people talking and have a genuine conversation. Platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Facebook are a great way to create touch points without prospects feeling like you’re trying to sell. If your company isn’t using this in your lead nurture and follow-up strategies, you’re missing out.
Lead Nurturing Best Practices
Now that you understand the major lead nurturing strategies your competitors are using, it’s time to put them to work. These lead nurturing best practices will help you execute the above strategies more successfully.
1. Determine Your Objectives Carefully
The first step in a successful lead nurturing campaign is setting realistic and measurable goals. Base these on past sales numbers, upcoming holidays or special events, expected revenue from new products and so forth.
Intention-setting always impacts lead nurturing positively, by giving you clear objectives to reach.
If you don’t have past data to rely on, research numbers in your industry and rely on averages to set your goals. Make sure your goals are specific and measurable and address each stage of the lead nurturing process. For example:
- Number of leads in a specific segment of your audience
- Specific number of qualified leads
- Amount of outbound leads/inbound leads
- Leads generated from specific campaigns
- Sales qualified leads vs marketing leads
- Leads versus closed deals
In addition to setting goals for lead numbers or revenue, consider setting goals for running tests. Perhaps you want to run two A/B campaigns or test two different sales email templates. Including testing in your goal setting ensures your process is optimized and effective.
2. Make the CTAs Clear and Obvious
You know what everyone loves? A super-long landing page with small type, images that load slowly, a weird tan background, and absolutely no indication of what the page is selling.
No, not really. In fact, that’s a guaranteed way to make your prospects leave. While landing pages have certainly improved in the last couple decades (we’ve seen far less of that textured medieval scroll background, for instance), there are far too many muddled pages with unclear offers and bland calls to action (CTAs.)
What should your call to action look like, then? Here's what ours look like (and yes, you can get the call review checklist if you click!):
Notice, it only asks leads to take one action. Multiple CTAs make prospects wonder which one is best or if they might make a wrong choice, which leads to analysis paralysis. You’re far likelier to lose the lead that way.
Believe it or not, research shows that “Emails with a single call-to-action increased clicks 371% and sales 1617%.” If you did a double take at that last number, you’re not crazy: that’s a quadruple-digit increase over emails with multiple calls to action.
The same applies to landing pages, so always limit your copy to one prompt. For example:
- Download your complimentary eBook today
- Start your 14-day free trial
- Sign up for immediate access to our suite of free resources
The above CTAs combine a single clear action that the consumer must take along with the reward they can expect to get once they take it. They’re also short and sweet–that’s how you get leads to convert.
Here's a great landing page example from Calm, a sleep and meditation app:
Notice how there is one large CTA – what do you want to help with today? This keeps leads on the path to conversion. They also leverage whitespace (in the form of mountains) to draw your eye to their question.
3. Personalize Your Email Response
Yes, you should add names to your emails and subject lines, but that’s barely scratching the surface at this point. You also want to personalize the experience, because according to Epsilon, “80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences.”
How can you personalize an email beyond a name and possibly a company name for your lead? Here are some ideas:
- Reference the city or state where they live and share an experience. Did you visit their city? Are you planning to?
- Talk about the exact product or service they showed interest in rather than referencing your company as a whole. Share how that solution would solve a specific problem.
- Reference a past purchase they’ve made from your company.
- Reference their stage of life or business. For example, you might talk about the challenges of being a startup or the challenges of working in tech.
There is one caveat, however. If you’re using lead prospecting tools, you might have information they didn’t directly provide. Consumer data is a useful sales tool if you maintain privacy and security, but “Hey, Brian, we heard you had a baby!” is just creepy unless Brian told you himself. Stick to information you’d get from an online form and you should be safe.
4. Create Retargeting Campaigns
Retargeting, or delivering ads to users who have already interacted with your brand, is a simple way to increase touches without overwhelming prospects. Because they’re already familiar with your site, they are more likely to be qualified candidates for your offering.
Retargeting helps reinforce brand awareness and track potential customers by:
- Reminding customers who might have fallen out of your sales funnel about you.
- Keeping prospects on the sales journey and in your funnel by staying on their radar.
- Delivering hyper relevant content to qualified prospects.
Retargeting campaigns can be launched through paid ad platforms like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
5. Never Ignore a Flat No
As long as your leads aren’t showing you the door, it’s fine to keep nurturing them with content, social media touches, email marketing, and phone outreach–as long as you're paying attention to social cues. However, as soon as you get a firm no, you can go ahead and show yourself the door.
For starters, it's just plain rude to keep pushing after being told no. It could also earn you a bad rep. One unhappy person might not seem like a big deal, but it is. According to Inc, negative experiences are why 86% of customers don’t make a second purchase, while even satisfied customers only purchase again 42% of the time. Plus, a prospect doesn’t even need to buy a product or service in order to trash you on Yelp, Google, or social media.
If you hear a firm no, close out their file and move on to the next lead. If your prospecting is going well, you should have no shortage of leads to nurture!
Lead Nurturing Automation With Close
At this point, you might realize you need to refine your lead nurturing process. (Or, you know, start one in the first place.) That’s where a trusted automation platform like Close comes in.
With our all-in-one CRM and digital automation platform, you have access to a powerful lead management tool to keep you on track–and even automate parts of the process.
In addition to helping you track leads, Close CRM can help you find new prospects and put all subsequent touches on autopilot. With automated email, intelligent segmentation, SMS, and phone capability, you’ll forget to follow up again.
Ready to double your deals? Try Close free for 14 days–no credit card required.