Approximately 94% of B2B buyers conduct research online before buying, according to Accenture market research. However, 96% of customers who visit your site aren’t yet ready to buy. Inbound marketing addresses this process from start to finish, beginning with traffic generation, turning visitors into leads and finally into customers and evangelists. Lead nurturing—the process of turning leads into sales—is an essential step in this process, and lead nurturing best practices and strategies are constantly changing.
Just as buyer research and habits change year to year, so do lead nurturing strategies. Getting and keeping customers’ attention is more difficult than ever, and this requires creativity and constant attention to stay competitive. In this post, we’ve put together 5 lead nurturing best practices for 2018 that you can implement to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to turning leads into sales.
5 Leading Nurturing Best Practices in 2018
1. Map Your Buyer’s Journey
67% of the buyer’s journey is now completed digitally. —Sirius Decisions
Understanding the buyer’s journey around your product or service and knowing how to accurately assess where web visitors are within the journey is the first key lead nurturing best practice of 2018.
The buyer’s journey shows a potential customer’s progression through the research and decision process which ultimately results in a purchase. Lead nurturing best practices are designed to ease resistance by forging a helpful relationship with the customer from the start while providing the information and resources necessary to move them through the buying process. This means understanding what the customer needs at each phase and how best to deliver it based on their preferences.
This requires you to understand your customers and your product. The buyer’s journey around expensive, complicated or long-lasting products like cars, mortgages, or computers will be much longer than the buyer’s journey of simple, inexpensive products like groceries or clothing. When you understand your buyer’s journey, you’ll have a better understanding of what lead nurturing strategies work best at each stage.
- Awareness Stage: The buyer is aware of a need or problem they have, but has not yet decided on a solution.
- Consideration Stage: The buyer understands the solutions available, but hasn’t yet decided on which one will work best.
- Decision Stage: The buyer has selected the solution that works best for them, but has not yet selected a specific solution, such as a particular brand or product.
- After Purchase: The buyer has selected a particular product or service, and may now wish to buy again or form a longer relationship with the brand.
2. Map Buyers’ Needs Reliably
Aligning content to specific stages of the buyer’s journey yields 73% higher average conversion rates. —Aberdeen
In order for lead nurturing to work in 2018, buyers have to receive content they actually need and care about. For example, decision-stage content highlighting a particular product would be too sales-oriented for a customer in the awareness stage, and might drive them away. When it comes to lead nurturing best practices in 2018, sending the same content to everyone is no longer acceptable.
Lead nurturing best practices in previous years allowed room for some loose logical assumptions about buyers’ needs at each buyer’s journey stage. With more competition for buyers’ attention, conclusions must now be informed by data. Ask buyers about their needs and interests, or use analytics from your previous content to draw conclusions.
Consider the following strategies:
- Email survey: in a brief survey, with an incentive, ask your customers about their needs and interests.
Social poll: Pose a few direct questions to your social followers.
- Focus group: gather potential customers that align with your buyer persona and ask them about your business, product, needs and interests.
- Market research: working with market research specialists, conduct an in-depth analysis of your customers.
On-site survey: ask your customers to fill out a survey when they visit.
- Social media audit: study your social activity over a given timeframe, and see which posts generated the most engagement, and with which audience segment.
- Website audit: study your previous blog posts, webinars and other content, and see what content gets the most page visits and conversions.
- Email audit: study your previous emails and determine which received the most engagement, why, and with whom.
Competitor survey: watch your competitors’ social activity, blog, and website to see which of their content receives the most engagement, and with whom.
3. Recycle Content Carefully
Lack of resources, such as staff, funding, and time, remains the biggest obstacle to successful lead generation for 61% of B2B marketers. —BrightTALK
Creating new and interesting content regularly for each buyer, while also conducting research and planning lead nurturing campaigns, can be a daunting task. Properly implemented, recycling or repurposing content is a lead nurturing best practice that can make this more manageable in 2018.
Recycled doesn’t mean stale or uninteresting. The content should still be relevant to the consumer based on their buyer’s journey stage. It should be helpful, informative, and current. If it isn’t, it isn’t likely to help with lead nurturing, and may even cause a customer to unsubscribe.
Try repurposing your content according to the following metrics. As you do, ask yourself which buyer persona the recycled content is aimed at, what platform they’re using, and where they are in the buyer’s journey.
- Time or Length: If you have a full-length webinar as a lead magnet, you can shorten this content to suit other lead nurturing stages. For example, you might highlight a section of the webinar in an informative blog, or show a part of the webinar on YouTube or Facebook. You might also highlight impactful excerpts in powerful tweets, posts, or email headings, or a snapshot of the video might become an Instagram post.
- Platform and Media: A video can be turned into a blog, a blog can be turned into a podcast, and a podcast could be turned into a video. Also, a video originally appearing on Facebook Live might later become a YouTube advertisement, and statistics used to inform an article might be turned into an infographic shareable on social media. Consider how you can alter the content slightly to suit different platforms.
- Add or Update: Just as you might shorten content to make it suitable to other platforms or lead nurturing tactics, you can add to it and update it in the same way. Update or combine older blogs to make them current again. Take a popular previous webinar and address the topic again with a new panel and new information. Discuss a popular blog in a video to add to the original post.
- Different Author: You don’t have to come up with all the content yourself. Use guest posts from others in your industry and build connections while filling your content calendar. Remember however, the original post is more likely to generate organic traffic, so use this lead nurturing best practice sparingly or your traffic might suffer.
- User-Generated Content: Monitoring your social accounts is a good lead nurturing best practice for 2018 by itself, however you can get more out of it by reposting content your followers, customers, or fans post. Always get their permission first, and tell them how you wish to use their photos, videos, or statements.
4. Get the Right Timing and Frequency
78% of consumers have unsubscribed from emails because a brand was sending too many emails. —Hubspot
Even relevant, well-crafted content can be sent too often or at the wrong time. Lead nurturing best practices for 2018 include getting the right content and delivering it at the right time and in the right amounts.
It would take a mind-reader to deliver content right when your customer wants it 100% of the time. The content delivery goal is to reach customers when they are most willing to engage. Send too much lead nurturing content and your messages will eventually become white noise or customers will unsubscribe. Send at the wrong time and your customers will be confused or they’ll ignore the message as irrelevant, turning into more white noise.
To find the right lead nurturing timing and frequency as you move forward, consider the following,
- Time of day: When it comes to regular updates or announcements, test different times to see which time of day is best for you. Keep in mind that lead nurturing messages on work-related products will get more opens during work hours, while entertainment-related products will get more opens during evening hours.
- Triggers: Use your CRM system to send lead nurturing content when a customer visits a certain page, downloads an offer, buys a product, visits the store, asks a question, or completes another event. As long as the content is relevant to the trigger, your timing will always be right.
- Social interactions: Set up a filter or alert within your CRM or social media management tool to notify you when a customer mentions you on your preferred social platforms. You can send an automated message to facilitate more direct contact, such as through a phone number or email, or you can designate a staff member of freelancer to manage these comments personally.
- Scheduled: Customers can’t possibly interact with you everyday, and they don’t need a daily reminder that you’re still there. Experiment with different lead nurturing schedules (a message every two or three days, once a week, twice a month) to find the best one. This regularity moves your messages away from random white noise and towards reliable occasions customers can look forward to.
- Customized: Some customers need or want more messages than others. Allowing customers to select between weekly digest emails or allowing them to select preferred content updates can help. You might also customize this based on if or when they revisit your site and what content they visit.
- Event-based: Instead of becoming daily white noise, email your prospects only when you actually can give them value. New product or service announcements, sales, conventions, webinars, or new content are all email-worthy events.
The open rate for emails with a personalized message was 17.6%, compared to 11.4% without personalization. —Statista
Personalization is one of the most powerful lead nurturing best practices, but strategies in 2018 are more advanced. To implement personalization as a lead nurturing best practice for 2018, you may need more tools and more time, but it can pay off.
This lead nurturing personalization tactic has become a bit of an old hat. If you’re not using your lead’s name at least in your emails, you should start. Certain CRMs and CMS also allow you to put your customer’s name on landing pages, thank you pages, calls-to-action (CTAs). Helpful bots or chat messaging apps may also use the customer’s name.
Location tracking can be invasive, but used properly is can also be helpful. If your customer volunteers their address, such as through a previous order, autofilling this information for them is usually a welcome time-saver. If a customer is searching for stores or something nearby, it’s also helpful if they don’t have to zoom in from a world map.
Content customized to your consumers’ preferences increases engagement and conversion. Hubspot found in a study of 93,000 CTAs that personalized messages performed 43% better.
Even customers in the same buyer’s journey stage may have different content preferences. This is especially true for companies with many buyer personas. Ask your customers what they’re interested in or use the content that they engage with to segment your subscribers by interest, product, price range, or another metric.
Remarketing—showing a user a page or product they visited a second (or third, or fourth…) time—is a form of advertising personalization based on the consumer’s history. This doesn’t require the user to enter information, and instead uses a tracking code to send the right ads.
Proper lead nurturing is the only way to turn a site visitor into a customer. As your potential customers roam the web looking for answers and solutions, they’re most likely to buy from the business who best delivers this content best. With these lead nurturing best practices in 2018, you can be the first to provide answers and forge a relationship. These strategies will give businesses of all sizes an advantage as internet marketing becomes more competitive and widespread.