A lead nurturing strategy is a must-have for any business wanting to maximize b2b sales. In fact, in any b2b business you should be implementing some sort of inbound marketing to attract leads. This shouldn’t mean that inbound is your only sales tactic. But when prospects are doing their own research on your website then you should be prepared for those that feel more comfortable that way (which is the majority).
Studies show that prospects are likely to go back to their first source of good information when they’re ready to buy. Other research states that prospects will gather up to 13 pieces of content from your website. This is a clear indicator that by not providing information and content on your website, you’re leaving money on the table.
Many of us know that feeling when we fill in a form and within five minutes a sales rep calls to let you know they ‘noticed’ that we were interested in something (ew). The best practice is within 24 hours but realistically you should at least allow time for that person to open whatever was downloaded.
Lead quality will vary depending upon your inbound strategy and follow-up. But once you have those leads how do you turn them into sales? For some it’s a longer process and using inbound funnels can help ensure an effective process of nurturing and educating. And with the use of lead scoring these leads can be flagged for a call when they demonstrate that they’d be receptive to a sales call.
Now, all this is automated through your CRM/marketing automation system, but the building blocks are controlled by you. So, expect some tweaking as you learn more about what demonstrates receptiveness in a buyer. This could be access specific content e.g. case studies. Or perhaps is time between accessed content of a certain type e.g. webinar attendance then email link clicked.
B2B Funnel Stages:
Your marketing funnel or marketing cycle consists of several parts that reflect the prospects stage in their purchasing decision. This should also align with your sales process. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about then this post will guide you through how to map your sales funnel (https://www.windwatermarketing.ca/mapping-your-sales-funnel/).
There’s a lot of marketing out there that will tell you which type of content to put at each stage of your funnel but what matters is the information you’re sharing. You can share this information in a variety of formats depending upon your audience and speed of funnel. But know that it is unique to your business. If you have never set up a funnel then the following is a good place to start. From there you will tweak until you have a better understanding of what your ideal audience prefers to consume as well as when and how they consume it.
This is the top or widest part of the funnel where you will attract those that will eventually buy plus those that are kicking tires, competitor research, curiosity, etc. Tactics here are meant to attract, connect with, and educate as many of your target audience as possible. Search terms may be more general or prospects may be seeking general information around your area of work or industry.
Content at this level should be free, easily shared, and more general in subject. Education may focus more on broad and entry-level topics that lead to your specific solutions. However, your solution should be a footnote here. You want to create content that isn’t ‘salesy’ or full of product/service specs. Think short, catchy, and easily shared content.
Tactics here would include (and are not limited to):
- SEO for broad search terms
- Short, educational eBook
- Social media posts
- Educational blog posts
- Infographics around general topics related to your solution
- General topic blog posts (How-to, 5 Easy Ways, etc.)
- Persona-based ‘educational’ ads
- Direct mail (general mailing)
- Conference vendor participation (catchy game or interaction)
Engagement and building rapport are the keys to this lead funnel stage. It’s all about having your prospects learn about how knowledgeable and helpful you are and how you understand their unique pain. This is where you dig deeper into your ideal audience persona and use messaging that resonates to encourage content opt-ins. This is where you build your email list. This is where your audience writes back!
People who join your email list at this level (as opposed to the awareness level) are more likely to continue to open emails because they are genuinely interested and not because they downloaded a broad piece of content and were added to your email list automatically. [FYI-There is nothing wrong with that.]
In this content, you want to add CTAs that encourage them to reach out e.g. reply to an email, participate in a poll, leave a comment, share, etc.
- Opt-in content around deeper education or strategy
- Blog posts with longer keywords
- Whitepapers that dig deeper
- Webinars that educate on strategy or industry trends
- Email marketing
- Social media engagement
- Ads to targeted landing pages
- Events and partnering at events
- Persona-based ads
Building relationships with prospects is the hardest part of the b2b funnel but it is the most important. Most B2B sales are made from relationships as it’s a longer cycle and will require a certain level of trust between you and the prospect. In this stage, you will weed out those that are not genuinely interested in purchasing (but non-buyers can still be good referrers or social engagers so don’t dismiss them).
To nurture your audience towards a sale you will need to do a few things: show that you know their pain/frustration, and show that you can solve it. You can also market it as ‘away from the pain’ and ‘closer to happiness’ – whatever works for your brand and audience. It’s also important to show a little about your values and relationships.
- SEO for long tail keywords
- Case studies
- Detailed Whitepapers and reports
- Email marketing
- Retargeting ads
- Targeted speaking engagements
Email marketing at this stage should focus on engagement and sharing insights not found on your website.
This is typically your sales stage. Here you will book calls, schedule demos, click to purchase. Whatever your sales process is, this is where it happens! The conversation should move offline if they cannot simply click a button to purchase and this is usually done as a phone call. Content here should be sent as follow-up to confirm or prove your sales pitch.
Here’s the kicker…you can easily offer this stage earlier for those that want to move faster through the funnel. There is no official rules that tell you all prospects must take the same course. In fact, if you force someone who is ready to purchase to slow down, you may lose the sale to a competitor willing to sell faster. The ‘book a call’ or ‘book a demo’ can be added as a PS at the bottom of any email.
- Persona-based email outreach
- Webinars hosted with past/current client
- Webinars with client co-hosts (less salesy)
- Sales sheets
- Book a call
- Book a demo
- Retargeting ads
- Target coupons
- Personalized, senior exec direct mail
- Post demo ads (decision stage display ads)
Once an inbound inquirey has been made it is imperative that you follow-up within 24 hours. This is where marketing and sales need to work together so that this handoff is smooth and so that an MQL (marketing qualified lead) is as close as possible to a SQL (sales qualified lead). If your organization functions in silos between departments then there may be a large disconnect here which may lead to marketing delivered unqualified leads or sales not taking marketing leads seriously or treating them at the appropriate purchasing stage.
Once you have landed the sale or converted them from prospect to customer or client you then need to focus on keeping them happy and supporting their use of your product or service. It’s also the perfect time to collect testimonials, case studies, and referrals.
Building out a referral campaign or asking for the referral can go a long way. Happy, loyal customers also make excellent advocates. Now, you may be thinking, “what would I need an advocate for?” Here’s the thing. You cannot be in all places at once. There is also strong research to support the fact that third-party recommendations are excellent at converting sales. So, having your advocates comment on threads and posts to recommend you and your services or products can be valuable. For example, you come across a thread online but to comment on it as the company seems a bit self-serving so you reach out to a couple of your advocates and ask them to chime in on the thread with their thoughts. Don’t forget to thank them and note their action in your CRM so you can remember it when they renew or around the holidays when you’re thinking about gifts. You also don’t want to always ask the same people.
What you want:
- Renew (extending sales)
- Gain referrals
- Nurture advocates
Thoughts on how to do it:
- Personalized, regular check-ins (not just at renewals)
- Existing customer email content to keep them engaged and apprised on updates and improvements
- Offering “bonus” for long-term loyalty
- Invitations to ‘private’ events
- Gifts for online reviews
- VIP status for in-depth video case study
- so much more!
The focus on each stage should be on providing the information and engagement that matches the questions and interest level for that stage of your buying cycle. It is unique to your business and your ideal clients but the above will give you a place to start and things to consider.
If you need help with building out these stages, book a call to learn how we can help.