It's Time to Evolve Our Definition of Lead Nurturing

Nurturing leads beyond the inbox, shortening the path to sales

March 9, 2015

Even though the idea of “marketing automation” as a technology category is relatively new, the foundational concept behind it — lead nurturing — is not. Forrester Research prefers a simple approach to defining lead nurturing: Lead nurturing is a process by which leads are tracked and developed into sales-qualified leads. And one could argue that the essence of lead nurturing is as old as that of sales itself — building up a relationship with a prospective customer until he or she is ready to buy.

But if you ask B2B marketers today which channel they use most frequently to nurture leads, the answer is most likely going to be email. Why? Because traditionally, there has been no other way to automate meaningful, relevant interactions with prospects other than by using email. However, lead nurturing is evolving as we speak, and the savviest B2B marketers are those who are exploring new opportunities in how we build relationships with prospective customers. Let’s explore just two primary ways they’re redefining the idea of “lead nurturing.”

Two Primary Ways Savvy B2B Marketers are Redefining Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing does not automatically equal email. Email may be one of the most popular ways to nurture leads, but it is by no means the only channel through which B2B marketers can build trust and credibility with prospects. Some marketers would argue that social media is a highly effective channel for engaging prospects with brands. Others would suggest that a strong sales development organization is required to help foster ongoing, in-person conversations.

But a true, “always on” approach to lead nurturing has arrived, one that spans multiple channels, and is available and effective regardless of whether or not prospects are in their inboxes. By adopting a multi-channel nurturing approach, marketers can utilize display and social advertising to intelligently engage prospects in much the same way as they do with email nurturing — but without being constrained by the inbox. With multi-channel nurturing, highly targeted ads can reach prospects wherever they go online, from news websites to social networks, giving marketers the chance to educate and influence prospects in an always-on manner.

Some of your most qualified prospects are people you don’t know. If you think about the information that matters most when developing B2B buyer personas, the most common categories include title, industry, and role/job function. Nowhere in a typical B2B buying persona do you find “email address.” This is because if we set out to find prospective customers based solely on whether or not we had email addresses for them, we would only be thinking about a minuscule portion of our target audience. In this sense, we need to broaden our thinking around who our prospects are and how we reach them. Simply because you don’t have contact information for people doesn’t mean that they are not potentially qualified prospects. Think of the more than 95% of anonymous website visitors who come to our corporate websites and leave without filling out a form. These are people who have sought out our brands, but who are just not ready to engage with sales. As B2B marketers, we need to stay in front of this valuable audience, both early and often in the buying process, and one of the best strategies to accomplish this is by nurturing them with targeted display advertising and social advertising.

Part of innovating in B2B marketing is the ability to evolve constantly and spot new opportunities for reaching, engaging, and converting prospects–and lead nurturing is no exception. Looking for more information? Download our the 5-Minute Multi-Channel Nurturing Primer and get started nurturing leads today.

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