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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, Jun 3, 2015 8 min read

What Is Lead Nurturing For Inbound Marketing?

Nurture Leads With Inbound MarketingInbound marketing has very defined principles that drive many of the tactics applied day to day. One of those principles is that people don’t buy until their pain becomes acute.

Since you never really know when that pain is going to become acute, you need to be nurturing all of your prospects in an ongoing manner. Then, when they are ready to buy, they know all about your company and reach out to you, giving you the best chance to bring these potential new clients into your family of clients.

If you agree with this approach (and it's OK if you don’t – feel free to click away and read articles on Advertising Today’s website), the challenge becomes creating highly efficient and effective lead-nurturing programs that turn prospects into customers quickly and easily.

Here are a handful of best practices for lead nurturing based on our experience with hundreds of inbound engagements.

Strategy Before Tactics

I know, I write this in almost every post. That’s because it’s missing in almost every single engagement I review from agencies calling themselves inbound marketing agencies. You can’t just start writing lead-nurturing emails and think they’re going to work. You have to think through your entire content strategy and your full messaging package and understand what makes your business special before you start nurturing.

You don’t want to buy 10 lead-nurturing emails. You want to buy the outcomes of prospects who are deciding to hire your company. READ THIS AGAIN! You don’t want to buy stuff; you want to buy outcomes. If you haven’t planned out a comprehensive nurturing strategy as part of your overall marketing strategy, your lead-nurturing efforts are going to fall short.

Make sure you think through the touch points that your prospects are experiencing. You want to map out the entire experience from the time prospects first hear about your business, to the first time they visit your website, to what happens when they download content, to the monthly emails, blog notifications and ongoing nurturing messages they receive. What stories are you telling them, and when? This has to be strategic.

Resist The Urge To Sell

Lead nurturing should never include an attempt to sell anything. As soon as you attempt to sell, request an appointment, schedule a call, provide a discount or push any specific action, you run the major risk of ruining any chance you may ever have to get this prospect to hire your firm or buy your product.

This is hard for a lot of people. But, if you buy into the fact that sales come only when the pain is acute, the clients feel safe and the value has been proven, you have to let the buyer journey play out and do your best to create that remarkable experience for your prospects.

This might not be what you want to hear, what you’ve historically used to make decisions or what your friends are telling you to do, but the more patient you are and the more you focus on educating and nurturing those prospects, the more efficient your sales team is going to be. They’ll be working on people who are actually ready to say yes instead of people who are still doing their best to say no.

Continuously Improve Based On Data

Here’s more good news: Lead nurturing is a very trackable, metrics-based and data-driven process. You get to see which lead-nurturing emails move the sales process forward and which ones don’t do anything. Quickly, you see which messages convert and which ones don't. You see which offers get prospects to click and which ones don’t. How do you think I found out that asking for appointment or call requests at the wrong time in the process contributes to opt-outs and disengagement?

Now that marketing is scientific, you’re going to see what you do and how you do it in a whole new light. Use this data to continuously improve the process. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When you see something that works, do more of it, and when you see something that doesn’t work, tweak it or stop it immediately.

Keep It Under Control

One of the major challenges associated with lead nurturing for inbound marketing is that once you start building the campaigns for every piece of content and every prospect transaction on your site, you quickly end up with a lot of campaigns. These can get out of control quickly, to the point at which you have so many campaigns that you don’t know which one is doing what for whom.

Start by keeping it simple. You can use templates and reuse lead-nurturing emails. As long as the personas match up and the stage of the buying journey is similar, you don’t need new lead-nurturing campaigns for every scenario. Retire old and underperforming emails in favor of new messages, new offers and new copy to see if you're able to improve performance. Replacing the old with the new prevents you from ending up with a lead-nurturing mess.

Inbound marketing has a tendency to focus on the bottom of the funnel. How many people can you get me today who want to buy today? While I understand the desire to drive leads and revenue today, lead nurturing is one of those often-ignored specialties that takes your top-of-the-funnel leads and moves them proactively through the buying process. Eventually, this does produce people who want to buy today. Don’t underestimate the power of solid lead nurturing.

Start Today Tip – Come up with a plan. If you let this grow organically, it might grow out of control. Make sure you know how you want to nurture your leads, what messages are most important at key stages of the buying journey and whether you have enough solid, educational content to create that remarkable lead-nurturing experience for every single prospect. It’s OK to start slowly. Build a single campaign, and keep tabs on its performance. As you get more comfortable, consider rolling out a couple more. As long as you’re working from a plan, you should find more leads flowing through to the bottom of the funnel in no time.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.