Editor's note: This blog was originally published in November 2012 and has since been updated for optimal accuracy and relevance.
Content, content, content. It is the linchpin of the whole lead generation and inbound marketing process. It educates, adds value and entertains. It can also help you to nurture relationships with your leads in a way that makes them choose your product or service.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of using content to draw prospective customers through the sales funnel until they reach the decision to buy.
It involves understanding where they are in the buying process and what information you can give them that will get them through that stage and into the next.
There are three stages in the buying process and each will respond to different types of content:
- Awareness stage – the visitor knows there is a problem that needs to be solved. They will look at free, no-commitment items like tip sheets, white papers and eBooks discussing their issue, and 'how-to' videos.
- Consideration stage – the visitor is establishing a buying criteria and recognises your business might be able to provide the solution. At this stage, free product webinars, case studies, catalogues and samples appeal.
- Decision stage – the prospect is evaluating vendors and is ready to buy. Here you can offer free trials, free consultations, estimates/quotes and coupons.
How to design effective workflows
Designing effective workflows is about understanding who you are communicating with and what their needs are at any given time. There are tools, like HubSpot, which automate the whole process so that, once configured, you can focus on other things (like creating more of that great content!).
But even if you don’t use an automated tool, the steps required to create a powerful and effective lead generation and lead nurturing campaign are the same:
1. Determine who you are targeting
Bearing in mind the type of workflow you are creating, for the professional services sector for example, you need a detailed view of who your target customer is, and what their pain points are, in order to make sure you are communicating to the right people at the right time.
This is where buyer personas come in. Creating buyer personas provides you with a clear picture of your target customers, so you can create content that addresses their specific pain points.
2. Set a goal for each lead nurturing campaign
The obvious goal is to make the lead buy something, but that isn’t necessarily the only one. The goal of some lead nurturing campaigns is simply to get the lead to the next stage in the buying process.
3. Create a list or identify the forms that will trigger the workflows
This is where you decide what needs to happen in order to kick off your lead nurturing campaign. Usually, it is when a visitor becomes a lead by filling in a form asking for more information or to download some content.
But it could also be when a lead’s information indicates that they belong to one of the segments of your contact database. For example, is she based in a place where your factory is? Any contact in that location might receive an offer for a free on site demonstration.
4. Write the emails
This is obviously an extremely important step but you can’t do it before you’ve done the others. Your email copy is crucial to ensuring your leads read and act upon it. But it will only be truly effective if you’ve thought about who you are targeting, established the goal of the campaign and decided what the trigger for the email is.
5. Build the workflow
This is physically setting up the process. If you are using an automated tool, it’s simply a matter of defining the parameters required. If you are doing it yourself, it is more about making sure you are alerted when new leads come in and having the information you need to ensure that lead gets the email that is appropriate at that time.
6. Analyse and edit to update the campaign
As with any campaign, this should be a continual process of evaluation and updating. Take the time to look at how your leads have responded to the various emails and offers you sent out. Were the timings right? Did the email subject lines make your leads open them? Did the offers make your prospects click through to the next piece of content on offer? In short, did it work? Did it make sense and were you able to see your leads progress through the sales funnel?
Inbound marketing does not work without well thought out lead nurturing campaigns that will guide those people who already love your content to the additional information that will convince them to choose your product or service.