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According to MarketingSherpa, a whopping 68% of business-to-business organizations have not identified their funnel. That is an astounding revelation, considering that most leads aren’t ready to buy the first time they land on your website.
Many marketers are turning to content marketing for lead generation. According to HubSpot, 1/3 of leads generated in 2013 are coming from inbound and content marketing. Content marketing is an effective B2B lead generation technique and is becoming a critical avenue for creating web traffic.
If prospects are learning about your company, brand, products and services through content, doesn’t it make sense to extend that approach into lead nurturing? Leveraging content marketing for B2B lead nurturing seems to be a natural extension for leads that were generated with a similar mechanism.
According to Technopedia, “lead nurturing is a marketing term for building relationships with potential clients even if they are not currently looking to buy a product or service. Lead nurturing is intended to raise a company’s profile in the potential client’s eyes, thus making it more likely that the client will go with the company’s product or service when it is time to buy.”
According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales- ready leads at a 33% lower cost. The reality is that most B2B decision-making processes take weeks or even months. Traditional B2B lead nurturing focuses on supporting the movement of decision makers through the sales funnel. The key to lead nurturing has always been providing the right messages at the right time to help overcome barriers.
Content marketing can be effective in supporting B2B lead nurturing. And it can be accomplished by utilizing techniques that targeted marketers have been using for years: relevancy, personalization and targeting. By employing data and targeted mechanisms, lead nurturing can be transformed into a customized, behavior-based channel.
If you are still uncertain, here are 6 reasons content marketing is an effective lead nurturing technique.
1. It lets the prospect sample your thinking.
The lead nurturing process requires courting. When prospects find your site through content marketing, they might have been looking for a solution and stumbled upon your company. During the lead nurturing phase, prospects are trying to evaluate whether they agree with a company’s philosophy and whether your company’s products or services might be a solution to their needs.
Content marketing provides business marketers with an opportunity to allow prospects to “sample your thinking.” It allows business decision makers to investigate products and services on their terms. By highlighting expertise, philosophies and approaches, marketers can provide more dimensions around their products, services and offerings.
2. It overcomes objections and barriers in a positive manner.
According to Gleanster Research, only 25% of leads are legitimate and should advance to sales. This demonstrates the value and significance of lead nurturing. A strong lead nurturing process can help the prospect determine if there is a fit. A critical component of determining “a fit” within a sales process is to overcome objections and barriers.
Identify the most common barriers to purchase and develop a series of content that overcomes these barriers. If you’re uncertain as to the barriers, talk with frontline sales, review search data and, most importantly, talk to prospects and, of course, existing customers.
Content can be packaged in a positive, non-threatening manner to help address these objections and barriers to “yes.” Allowing prospects to self-serve information on their terms can provide a level of empowerment in lead nurturing.
3. It allows you to apply behavior to deliver relevant B2B lead nurturing communications.
Content marketing can help you increase the relevancy of your lead nurturing communications. Once users engage, leverage behavior to develop targeted relevant communications. This is one of the biggest advantages to having a content-based lead nurturing strategy.
Applying behavioral information to personalize outbound and follow-up communications takes the entire lead nurturing experience to the next level. Marketers should either gain access to or leverage an agency that has an inbound marketing tool to analyze content on a more microscopic level. This includes creating groups within the sales funnel and targeting those prospects based on what content they find engaging, and related information that can help deliver relevant messaging.
By better understanding what information is generating leads, you’ll have a better idea of what type of content should be considered for lead nurturing. Don’t ignore anecdotal information or other insights passed on by prospect- and customer-facing individuals. Marrying analytical information with insights is essential to setting a strong lead nurturing strategy.
For example, the prospect’s behavioral information on the right shows that a lead downloaded an ebook on email marketing. Targeting this individual with a series of related content would be the logical next step for lead nurturing.
4. It provides reasons to reconnect besides “please buy my products or services.”
Lead nurturing is about creating a dialogue, not just asking people to buy your products. Content marketing is the perfect bridge between the cold lead that has come into the funnel and a sale-ready lead.
Marry outbound marketing techniques such as tailored emails with content marketing to target prospects in an educational and expert manner. Incorporate or highlight content within emails to deliver ongoing educational messaging, demonstrate expertise and overcome barriers.
The way to elevate B2B lead nurturing efforts to the next level is to ensure current activities continue to inform communications going forward.
5. It demonstrates you can be a good partner.
Culture and organizational synergy can make a difference in many business decision-making processes. Utilizing content to provide a prospect with strategy and thinking can often be perceived as an act of goodwill.
As a member of a service company, I’d never profess giving away the farm, but the reality is that you need to provide the lead with enough information to make a solid decision. Empowering prospects to gather more information during the lead nurturing process also can enable leads to better crystallize their needs. Demonstrating your thinking and giving prospects an opportunity to sample your philosophy and approach helps you earn a position as a trusted adviser, and ultimately demonstrates your willingness to be a good business partner.
6. It provides tangible behavioral information that sales can leverage in their conversations.
Many business-to-business sales organizations are working to tie their activities closer together. Tying a content strategy to the sales funnel, and in particular B2B lead nurturing, provides a set of tangible, measurable outcomes. One of the key metrics is the ability to move leads to a sales-ready state. Leveraging this type of process for evaluating a content marketing investment ensures a clear understanding of social ROI.
Lead nurturing is an area of the sales funnel that marketing can support. Content marketing is a viable strategy for lead nurturing. B2B marketers will need to elevate their use of data, segmenting and personalization to break through the clutter.
Topics: Inbound Marketing