Lead nurturing is a process of developing and maintaining relationships with potential customers.
But meaningful relationships are not built from a template; they require a thoughtful approach, time, and dedication. This is what makes lead nurturing challenging but rewarding.
When it comes to winning over potential customers, you can use different techniques to make sure that you connect with leads in the most effective way. You can personalize outreach communications, introduce lead scoring, track your progress with specific metrics, and so on.
In other words, there are many things that you need to take into account to manage and nurture your leads. That’s why in this article we summarized the most important steps for creating a robust lead nurturing strategy and also included five effective ways to make the most of it.
What is lead nurturing?
Let’s start with the basics first.
Lead nurturing is often defined as one of the most important steps in the lead management process. It refers to building relationships with potential customers and educating them about how your services or product can help them solve their issues.
Lead nurturing is a complex process that involves both sales and marketing teams. It puts your potential customers in the center and makes sure that your sales team revolves around your customers’ needs, not just your sales targets.
Lead nurturing vs. lead generation
Lead management is divided into several stages. There is lead generation, lead qualification, lead tracking, and lead nurturing.
Each of these stages means different things:
Lead generation is a process of finding and capturing leads. It’s focused on turning visitors into leads and prospects.
After you've captured a lead, you can begin observing and analyzing their behavior on your website or with your product. This is where lead tracking comes in. By understanding your leads better, you can provide them with more personalized communication and support.
Lead qualification goes hand in hand with lead scoring. This is a process of segmenting leads to find the ones that have a higher chance of converting.
Lead nurturing is often referred to as the last stage of the lead management process. But in reality, leads don’t know that you have a whole process in place and don’t want to wait until you track and qualify them. That’s why lead nurturing begins as soon as you capture a lead. For example, it can start with the very first email that you send to a new lead.
The image below illustrates how these lead management stages are interconnected.
Sometimes companies focus too much on the first stage: lead generation.
If you’re successful at lead generation, you can get a lot of high-quality leads. But the number of leads alone is a vanity metric. To grow your business you need to convert leads into paying customers. This is why lead nurturing is so important for many organizations. But it takes time and focus to build a robust lead nurturing strategy, so let's dive into that now.
How to create a lead nurturing strategy
While lead nurturing is a powerful tool, its implementation requires thorough preparation. You need to create a strategy to plan your lead nurturing activities in advance and to align sales and marketing teams.
Creating a lead nurturing strategy is not always straightforward. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan that works for every company in every situation. But there are some best practices that you can use to refine your processes and make sure that you are on the right track.
1. Take a look at your previous lead nurturing efforts
"History is the only true teacher," as the famous quote goes. It might not be entirely accurate, but we can learn a lot from the past.
If you’ve been in business for a few years already, you probably have processes in place. Some of them might be working well, others might need a bit of tweaking - or maybe a few of these processes are long outdated. Sometimes you need to take a step back and evaluate what’s been working and what needs improvement.
It’s not an easy exercise if you’ve worked in the company for many months or years. You’re already used to the way how things are done and might be reluctant to challenge the status quo. That’s why it can be easier to ask a new hire to evaluate your current processes, or you can do research on lead nurturing activities in other industries to refresh your perspective.
To make sure that you’re not missing anything important, write down your lead nurturing strategy. Don’t try to memorize everything; having a written document, even if it’s a simple Google document, will help you stay focused and see the whole picture.
2. Define your lead profile(s)
Everyone in sales and marketing knows that in order to be successful, companies need to understand their audience.
But how can you get to know your leads? It’s much easier to schedule an interview with a customer rather than a lead.
There are several things you can do:
Divide existing customers into different segments (groups) based on their demographics, job titles, company sizes, etc.
Have a closer look at how well each of these segments converts. This will help you decide what audience you want to attract, where to find them, and what communication channel they prefer.
Get to know your existing customers on a deeper level. You can get demographics from Google Analytics but this data won’t tell you much about why your customers chose you. That’s why it’s better to talk to your newly converted leads directly and ask them pointed questions.
3. Make it easy for leads to reach out to you
Effective lead nurturing requires cross-channel communication. Since leads are still in the consideration stage, you need to help them make a decision. Everyone is different, so make sure that you offer different communication channels: live webinars, demos, chats, emails, and more.
Besides, your social media profiles should look professional. Your online reputation and presence can make or break your lead nurturing strategy.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t publish memes or fun team events. On the contrary, your social media needs to reflect that you’re open to communication, easy to reach, and ready to help.
Make sure that your contact information is up-to-date. It’s frustrating to call a phone number that is long out of service.
4. Set key performance indicators in advance
What gets measured gets analyzed.
Before launching a lead nurturing program, you need to decide what you want to achieve. Lewis Carroll once wrote: "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there".
Think about your goals and objectives - yes, these are different things. While your goal can be very general, objectives need to be specific; for example, how many leads you want to generate and how many of them you want to convert.
Measuring the effectiveness of your lead nurturing strategy can help you improve your processes and increase conversion rates.
5. Turn your CRM into a lead nurturing tool
A customer relationship management (CRM) system can be used for different purposes: you can manage your customers, potential job candidates, freelancers, suppliers, and any other business relationship that comes to your mind.
You can also use CRM for lead nurturing.
There are several things that can help you turn your CRM into an effective lead nurturing tool:
Good segmentation. In most CRMs, you can add custom fields, labels, tags, etc. Depending on what classification works best for you, you can use and combine different CRM features to better segment your database. You can also segment your leads into cold, warm, and hot to personalize communication even more. For example, hot leads can be the ones that are ready for closure while warm leads still need nurturing.
Automate. Depending on your CRM, you can automate different aspects of your work. For example, you can send automated emails based on tags. Say, you create a tag “Attended webinar”. Each time a lead is tagged as “Attended webinar”, a personalized email can be sent to them automatically.
Organize. CRM is a database and databases are powerful only if you can easily manage a large amount of information and quickly find what you need. In some CRM systems, you can use multiple pipelines to better visualize and manage your leads' journey.
Take action. Make sure that new leads in your database are not forgotten. Growing databases don’t generate revenue. Customers do. That’s why you need to take action with every newly generated lead. There are action-focused CRMs that let you assign tasks and reminders next to leads so that nothing falls behind.
5 effective lead nurturing techniques
A successful lead nurturing strategy can help you stay in touch with your leads throughout different stages and keep your product on their radar. Since your strategy is an overarching plan, it should also consist of specific steps that your company needs to take to nurture leads more effectively.
After all, lead nurturing is not about simply promoting your services but about providing value to your potential customers. Here are five techniques that can help you build a robust lead nurturing process.
Lead nurturing is a team exercise. Both marketing and sales should be involved at different stages of your lead’s journey. And to avoid confusion, you need clear responsibilities for both teams.
Usually, marketing responsibilities in lead nurturing include the following:
Engaging leads and educating them about the benefits of your product/service
Creating different types of content to connect with leads and prospects
Distributing marketing messages via different channels
Sales responsibilities in lead nurturing are as follows:
Following up with leads to keep in touch during lengthy sales cycles
Providing leads with information on how they can make the most of your product or service
Addressing leads’ pain points and concerns
Make your lead communication personal
“Walk in your customer's shoes” is one of the most common pieces of advice given to sales and marketing professionals. That’s why before scheduling a call with a prospect or lead, you need to set some time aside to thoroughly research their business and also the industry in which they operate.
During the call, you need to listen to your potential customers and ask questions. It should feel like a conversation, not a sales pitch. If you understand how you can serve your potential customers better, you’ll be more likely to close a deal.
It’s also important to be attentive to details during your lead interactions. For example, you can take notes in your CRM even if it’s a minor detail, like if a lead mentioned that they have two kids or that they are going on vacation to Paris next week. Next time, when you have a conversation with this lead, you’ll be able to start on a more personal note.
Use lead scoring
Every organization, even a large one, has limited resources. That’s why you need to prioritize where you spend your time and focus. This is where lead scoring comes in.
Lead scoring helps you identify leads that have a high chance of converting. It's a process of ranking prospects in order to determine how ready they are to make a purchase.
You can score your leads based on their demographic data, behavior, or engagement metrics. These are all different lead scoring models. Depending on what data you have, and the quality of this data, you can choose one model or combine several of them.
Lead scoring helps with prioritization. Not every lead needs your immediate attention. For example, when you gate content like e-books or webinars, many people might register with fake email addresses. And this doesn’t mean that you need to follow up with every fake address you get.
Lead scoring helps you keep organized and understand what leads you need to focus on first.
Follow up with your leads regularly
The good news: Follow-ups work.
The bad news: There’s no magic number of follow-ups that will get your lead to respond.
The majority of businesses and sales professionals follow up at least once. But it might take up to six or eight follow-ups until you get a response.
There are several things that you can do to improve your follow-up routine:
Be diligent with your follow-up schedule. Keep track of when a particular lead was followed up to make sure that you don’t over-communicate.
Outline your leads’ journey. This will help you better understand when a follow-up is relevant. There’s a danger of both: following up too early and following up too late.
Space out your follow-ups. Some clients might need more time to make a decision, especially if there are several stakeholders involved in the decision-making process.
Use different channels. If your lead doesn’t reply via email, try a message on LinkedIn. If neither works, try to reach out via a quick call. Different people prefer different communication methods.
Make sure that your follow-ups create value for your leads. Include some valuable free resources (a link to a blog post that they might find interesting or an e-book).
Optimize your reporting
Poor reporting can adversely affect your analysis and, consequently, lead nurturing efforts. When you measure results, look not only at numbers but also at what they can tell you:
If the open rate is low, maybe it’s time to experiment with subject lines or with the sender’s email address - or maybe emails are not your go-to channel.
If you have a low click-through rate, maybe you need to include a different type of content or change your calls-to-action (CTAs).
If the conversion rate is low, you might need to work on making your outreach communication more personal.
Reporting should go hand in hand with analysis. But it doesn’t end there. You also need to document your lead nurturing journey. This will help you optimize your process in the future and see what worked and what didn’t.
Why is lead nurturing important?
Lead nurturing is not just about converting leads into customers. It helps you leverage the data that you have in your CRM, build a brand reputation, and grow revenues faster.
There are different reasons why companies find lead nurturing important but in general, these reasons can be summarized in three categories: making the most of CRM data, building relationships with leads, and better understanding customers.
Avoid any idle leads in your database
CRMs are often full of non-active leads.
Sometimes companies focus too much on lead generation and don’t spend enough time on nurturing relationships with generated leads. If you find yourself in a situation when you have a lot of idle contacts in your database, it’s time to re-think your approach to how you manage data in your CRM.
A good lead nurturing process will improve your chances of converting promising leads and growing your customer base.
Accompany your leads through every stage
The sales cycle can be very long: today customers have access to a lot of information and the sales funnel is no longer a straight journey. Your leads will likely compare and test several products and services before making a final decision. And you need to keep in mind this non-linear behavior.
By having a good lead nurturing process, you can make sure that you’re always in front of your potential customer while they are still exploring different options in the market.
Find upsell and cross-sell opportunities
During the lead nurturing process, you are in constant touch with potential customers. And this helps you collect a lot of information on your leads.
By the time they convert into customers, you already know them quite well. That’s why you’re better prepared to contact them about a new pricing plan or a new add-on: you know what they need and what they might be interested in.
Lead nurturing is a powerful tool
Lead nurturing has many benefits for your business. But before starting any lead nurturing activities, you need to analyze your previous performance, define your lead profiles, and set metrics.
And it doesn’t end there. Creating a lead nurturing strategy is just the beginning.
To make the most of it, you need to keep your sales and marketing teams aligned, provide value to your leads, and keep in touch with potential customers throughout different stages of their buyer journey.
By building a robust lead nurturing process, you can make sure that you maximize the use of your CRM, increase conversion rates and build long-term relationships with customers and prospects