How to Fail Spectacularly at Lead Nurturing

August 3, 2015

Lead Nurturing Fail

Henry Ford once said, "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." We all know that we should acknowledge our mistakes, make changes, and try again. But as marketers, it’s part of our nature to focus on the positive. We need to create compelling case studies, we need to make a case for more resources, and we need to create messages that convey the awesomeness of our brands. These activities rarely involve highlighting (or even acknowledging) failure. When we do examine our mistakes, though, we can turn them into opportunities to improve.

Lead nurturing is one area where there’s ample room for improvement. We know the value of lead nurturing: A recent DemandGen study shows B2B marketers with successful lead nurturing programs report at least a 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads. But many marketers struggle with implementation. The same study found that over a quarter of B2B marketers have no lead nurturing program, and ten percent had no plan to develop one.

So let’s learn from the following lead nurturing mistakes and use them as a guide to reach more of the right people, reach them earlier, and effectively nurture them through the funnel.

Not Producing Sales-Ready Leads

It’s not unusual to have inter-departmental squabbling between marketing and sales. Marketers might feel sales isn’t doing their due diligence following up on leads, while salespeople might feel the leads aren’t qualified. At the heart of the debate, though, there’s an opportunity to align goals for everyone’s benefit. See if you can agree on a common definition of the criteria for a good lead. That definition will inform your nurturing efforts in the future and allow you to equip sales with content they can use to engage leads.

Complaints about poor lead quality also provide an opportunity to test your nurture paths and determine how you can make them more effective. Remember, the marketing version of the sales mantra “Always Be Closing” is “Always Be Testing.” It’s worth A/B testing and refining your messaging to improve engagement over time. Try these tips to optimize your Sponsored Updates and these strategies to improve your lead nurturing results using display advertising.

Prospects Dropping Out of the Funnel

Sometimes it seems like your funnel is a colander. You get plenty of leads into the top of the funnel, but they drop out somewhere in the middle. While no one likes a leaky funnel, it’s good to know when holes exist in your content strategy. And with full funnel analytics, you can see right where those holes are.

Once you find the nurture stage at which prospects vanish, you can work to improve the content directed there. Tools like Direct Sponsored Content allow you to create variants of your Sponsored Updates for A/B testing, without having to first publish updates on your Company Page. This kind of testing produces real-time data you can use to optimize your content mix on the fly. See what sticks by trying different formats, topics, and calls to action.

Prospects Not Converting

If you find your prospects are continually circling the bottom of the funnel without committing, your messaging may not be resonating as well as it could. This is an opportunity to revisit your buyer personas to ensure they accurately reflect your target audience.

Take advantage of LinkedIn’s wealth of data to see what your potential buyers are saying about your industry and brand. LinkedIn Groups are a great place to listen and join the conversation. Most groups will be happy to have you sit in and ask questions in a non-promotional way. A little strategic social listening and interaction can go a long way toward ensuring your content attends to the needs and motivations of your target audience.

Early-Stage Prospects Not Engaging

Perhaps the most basic trouble a lead nurturing campaign can have is getting buyers into the funnel in the first place. If you find your top-of-funnel efforts aren’t pulling in the prospects you want, you might have an opportunity to enhance your organization’s trust and credibility.

Establishing thought leadership is crucial to success in the early stages of a lead nurturing campaign. Make sure your Company Page demonstrates your organization’s value. Ideally, it should offer relevant, highly-valuable content in various formats, from articles to SlideShare decks to video. You can ensure your thought leadership content gets to your audience by strategically amplifying your best work via Sponsored Update campaigns.

Henry Ford’s approach to failure is inspiring, and another great role model for marketers is Thomas Edison. When Edison was searching for the perfect filament for his incandescent bulbs, he famously said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He continued to experiment, treating every failure as an opportunity to test a new hypothesis, until the light came on. If part of your lead nurturing campaign is underperforming, think of it as an opportunity to improve. Continue testing, refining, and optimizing, and each failure can light your way to success.

For a comprehensive guide to running a successful lead nurturing campaign, download the Sophisticated Marketer’s Crash Course in Lead Nurturing.

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