The ultimate guide to lead nurturing

Today’s consumers have plenty of options to choose from. Lead nurturing campaigns can help your brand stand out.

By Cristina Maza, Contributing Writer

Published July 12, 2021
Last updated November 23, 2021

Say you’re new in town and want to make friends. You wouldn’t introduce yourself to a new person, get their phone number, and then never reach out to them. To form a friendship, you’d need to connect with them and spend time together.

Building and maintaining relationships takes work. They grow over time through continual contact and investment. Your company’s relationships with your leads aren’t any different—you must nurture those connections for them to develop and thrive.

Many companies have a hard time building trust with potential customers. According to the small business consulting firm Invespcro, 88 percent of leads never turn into sales. But companies with a lead nurturing strategy generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads.

With this in mind, if you want to convert your leads into loyal customers and create a successful business, you have to integrate lead nurturing into your sales strategy and implement lead nurturing best practices.

What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with potential customers and fostering those connections at every stage of the marketing and sales funnels.

Nurturing begins at the marketing phase—before the lead is ready to become a customer—fitting into that sweet spot between lead generation and making a purchase. At this stage, your lead is interested and open to being marketed to, but it's probably premature for your sales team to pursue them aggressively. You don’t want to scare your lead away by being overly eager; instead, lead nurturing informs prospects about your brand’s solutions to their problems.

Whether from sales or marketing, lead nurturing campaigns should keep your business top of mind, answer your potential customers’ questions, and reiterate your company’s reputation as an expert in its field.

Why lead nurturing is important for your business

You can’t expect consumers to automatically welcome your business with open arms. Customers have plenty of options, and they can quickly do their research to find a competitor.

Lead nurturing is how you make the case for your brand. You want to show consumers that your product or service is high-quality and that you will always meet their needs, even after they’ve converted.

Customers expect curated experiences

Now more than ever, customers want personalized experiences. Companies like Netflix and Spotify are thriving because they use algorithms to tailor each individual’s experience to their particular tastes and pain points.

What's more, numerous studies have shown that potential customers feel frustrated when they receive impersonal emails or irrelevant content. According to a study by the customer data platform Segment, 71 percent of customers express frustration when their experience is impersonal.

Just like you wouldn't send the same text message to multiple friends, you don't want to send the same message to every lead. Lead nurturing involves gaining information about potential customers so you can provide the level of personalization they’ve come to expect.

Customers have a lot of choices

In the Internet age, buyers have many options and are likely to do their research—a study by GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81 percent of customers research products online before making a purchase. Lead nurturing is crucial for keeping your brand at the forefront of your potential customer’s mind while they’re in the exploration phase.

Suppose your marketers are promoting custom-formulated shampoo, and your lead is looking for a new haircare solution. In that case, they may browse your website or sign up for a company newsletter. But they could just as quickly continue browsing the web later on and forget that your company exists.

The way you nurture leads will allow you to remind the shopper of your shampoo brand. You can send emails to remind them of your new formula and share data about how much it reduces frizz, for example.

4 types of lead nurturing

There isn’t a single lead nurturing campaign that is the best. The initiative you pick depends on where your lead is in their buyer’s journey and how you personalize your approach and build trust. Once you have the information you need, you can create a campaign that will help move the lead further down the funnel.

  1. Email marketing

    Directly connect with leads by consistently sending them emails (but not so frequently your brand becomes annoying).

    You might set up automated emails that are sent based on interactions leads have with your company. For instance, a lead who views a product page might receive a reminder message about that item a few days later. This type of personalized, inbound marketing is also often more cost-effective than other marketing campaigns.

    Email campaigns are among the most successful lead nurturing tactics because they deliver relevant content to qualified leads. A lead who’s already given you their direct email address is more likely to be your customer in the future.

    Newsletters are another way to keep leads informed about your business and its products or services. Engage your leads by sharing industry news and information about how your company can meet their needs.

  2. Social media marketing

    Want to connect with potential customers who haven't given you their email address or followed your social media accounts? Engage them through public posts and ads.

    Running social media campaigns will land your business directly in your target customer’s social media feeds, ensuring your brand stays top of mind. These campaigns are also ideal for reaching high-quality leads who are unaware of your brand.

  3. Content marketing

    Your leads want information about your industry and your product or service. Provide them with value by creating highly relevant blog posts or other types of content that help them achieve their goals. This can drive potential customers to explore your brand further.

    Content marketing can build your credibility, too. Showcase your company’s expertise with well-researched, thoughtful content, and leads will be more likely to trust your brand.

    Aside from blogs, white papers and ebooks are also typical components of a good content marketing strategy. Especially if the content is engaging and insightful, leads will probably return to your company’s site and blog and move down the sales funnel.

  4. Sales calls

    A sales call is the most traditional form of lead nurturing. Once you have a lead’s phone number, call them directly and determine what they’re looking for from your company. The information you gain from these calls can help you gauge exactly where your lead is in the sales funnel and how to approach them next. A sales call is also an opportunity to foster a personal connection with the lead by being friendly, kind, and not overly pushy.

How to run successful lead nurturing campaigns

tips for successful lead nurturing campaigns

No matter how well you plan your lead nurturing campaign, challenges are sure to crop up, so you’ll want to be prepared. Before you launch your initiative, think about common issues and how you plan to overcome them by following this series of best practices. They’ll help you streamline the lead nurturing process and avoid unnecessary mistakes or missed opportunities.

  • Clean up your contact list

    You don't want to waste time emailing people who’ve changed their address or sending basic information to leads who’ve already become loyal brand advocates. Go through your contact list and ensure each lead’s information is up to date. You can begin by determining the last time you contacted the lead and whether they were responsive.

    If you notice a lead is unresponsive over long periods of time or after multiple attempts to make contact, it's a good idea to check their contact information and make sure it's accurate. A phone number might be disconnected or a social media account may have been deactivated.

    You can also use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool as a lead scoring platform, categorizing leads, and updating and storing the data you need. Having a robust database filled with your customer's updated information is key to running an effective lead nurturing campaign.

  • Align sales and marketing teams

    Ensure your teams are on the same page about how to handle a lead at each stage of their journey. Having a protocol for how each team interacts with a lead at every touchpoint will help avoid misunderstandings and will give the lead a unified experience with your brand.

    Integrate customer information across touchpoints—like email communication or social media—so marketing and sales team members don’t miss out on crucial insights into a lead’s needs and desires. With this information on hand, it will be easier to come up with fresh ideas for nurturing the customer.

  • Pick measurable goals for each campaign

    You want to be able to see what you’re accomplishing with your lead nurturing campaigns, so make sure to set specific, measurable goals.

    For instance: How many leads do you want to open your emails or subscribe to your newsletters? What type of engagement do you want with your social media channels? The targets you set will help you determine whether your campaigns are working as intended or whether they’re missing the mark.

    You also want to have a clear idea of how long it usually takes to convert a lead into a customer and adjust your workflows accordingly. If the sales cycle is taking longer than expected, for instance, that might be a sign you’ve lost someone along the way or you’re spending too much time on leads who aren't qualified.

    Sticking to a clear timeline will help you see if your lead nurturing efforts are paying off. It’ll help you think more strategically about how you approach each customer, too.

  • Use targeted, personalized content whenever possible

    Your leads want a personal touch and information that’s relevant to them and their journey. Understand where your lead is in their customer journey so you can provide them with valuable, pertinent content. If you know a lead has been browsing your website for a specific product, for instance, send them an email with more details on that item.

    Set up systems that allow your company to meet customers where they are, too. For example, make sure to send a weekly email to new leads after capturing their contact details, and give them information about the product they were looking for on your site.

  • Don't forget to follow up

    While you certainly want to avoid spamming your leads and flooding their inbox with irrelevant information, you should follow up regularly to build a relationship with them. Think about how you would like to receive updates—the idea is to captivate and delight your audience without overwhelming or annoying them.

    You can gain valuable insights into how people respond to your overtures by using data analytics and tracking the number of people who subscribe and unsubscribe from your lists. A CRM is great for this. Most newsletter software also includes tools for tracking things like page views, clicks, and the number of subscribers.

    Using software is key to the lead nurturing process, especially if your business is growing rapidly or juggling many leads in different stages of the sales funnel.

    Marketing automation software is one of the best tools for nurturing leads. It allows you to automate much of your outreach based on where leads are in the sales funnel and how they’ve engaged with your brand. That means your team won’t have to rely on memory alone, lowering the risk of missing opportunities to turn leads into customers.

Spur your sales strategy with lead nurturing

A lead nurturing campaign will provide your company with detailed records of customers’ interests and interactions, which you can use to inform your sales strategy as a whole.

Use this information to build a relationship with your leads, and nurture those connections even after they become customers—you'll likely see increased sales. Nurtured leads not only make purchases more frequently, but they also tend to make larger purchases. So, in combination with prospecting tools, lead generation software, and lead tracking, try the best practices outlined above and see how your business blossoms.

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