B-to-B Marketers Still Struggle With Lead Nurturing
I thought it was widely understood by now that staying in touch with a prospect who has shown some interest in your product or service can triple, even quadruple, lead-to-sales conversion rates. But a new study from Bizo and Oracle Marketing Cloud suggests that business marketers are still struggling to get the most value from lead nurturing programs. Disappointing, since the value of lead nurturing was clearly demonstrated years ago, when James Obermayer coined the Rule of 45, which says 45 percent of business inquirers will eventually buy in that category, so if you don't stay in touch, you'll likely lose the sale to your competition.
The Bizo study reveals some intriguing issues for marketers today. I was struck by the mere 35 percent of responders who say nurturing is essential to their businesses. The majority (53 percent) said "It's somewhat important; we have a few nurturing campaigns running." Granted, these words were put in their mouths by Bizo researchers, but it's troubling that the power of lead nurturing still seems to be under appreciated.
Further, marketers seem to be using little other than email as their nurturing medium. This is a mistake. Worse, these emails are simply not getting through: Nurturing email open rates are less than 20 percent, according to most (79 percent) of the 500 marketers surveyed.
So let me offer some success factors in lead nurturing, which I hope will help marketers up their nurturing game:
- Set up a triggered sequence of nurturing messages, using a variety of media channels, with the objective of keeping in touch with inquirers until they meet your qualification criteria and are ready to be handed to your sales team. See the chart in the media player at right for an example. The point here is that a nurture program needs to be continuous, steady and responsive.
- Tailor the nurturing stream to key variables in the prospect's profile, like buying role, job description, industry and company size.
- The tone of the messaging needs to be informative and helpful, instead of sales-y. Your objective is to deepen the relationship and move prospects along the buying journey, not hit them over the head.
- Use a wide variety of media and messaging types to keep the recipient interested. Adding to the mix options like an event invitation, press release, tweets, infographic, podcast, a survey or questionnaire, video, a newsletter—the possibilities go on. Bizo itself is offering a retargeting program that permits cookie-based nurturing of prospects whose email has not yet been collected.
- Get creative, for example, with a peer-to-peer letter from a counterpart executive in your company, or a birthday card.
- Ask for a response to collect additional information and feedback, always moving toward that qualification stage. Create dedicated landing pages, where you can pose profiling questions and continue the educational content.
It's all about staying in touch with prospects to deepen the relationship and increase the chance of converting them to customers.
Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, and teaches marketing at companies and business schools around the world. She is past chair of the DMA Business-to-Business Council, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain's BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is the author of Maximizing Lead Generation: The Complete Guide for B2B Marketers, and Trade Show and Event Marketing. Ruth serves as a director of Edmund Optics, Inc. She has held senior marketing positions at Time Warner, Ziff-Davis, and IBM and holds an MBA from Columbia University.