Your lead nurturing is flawed. But it doesn’t matter.

Judith Niederschelp, MD of Aberdeen Group Europe, lists four ways to enhance your lead nurturing strategy

There is no doubt about it. Well nurtured leads have better conversion rates and drive revenue growth. But with B2B buyer journeys becoming increasingly complex, nurturing leads can feel like herding cats.

Only a small percentage of inbound leads make an immediate purchase; the majority take longer to convert. In the interim, the needs and priorities of individual buyers are likely to evolve. Marketers need to engage with them over time as they self-educate and define the full scope of their requirements.

The idea of developing and managing an effective lead nurture strategy that caters to this may seem overwhelming. However, it can be achieved. Best in class marketers create structured lead management frameworks with inherent flexibility to accommodate dynamic buyer activities. This enables them to handle large scale communications while maintaining a personal touch. If you’re planning to enhance or develop lead nurturing in your own organisation, there are four key elements that underpin success:

1. Structured lead management

A clearly defined lead management process is mission-critical for lead nurturing. The ultimate goal is to cultivate leads into a sales-ready buying state. So there is no room for ambiguity over when and how leads will be transferred to sales or retained by marketing. Likewise, there should be robust criteria surrounding what constitutes a marketing qualified lead or a sales qualified lead so that transition between the two departments is smooth and efficient.

2. Content aligned to buying stages  

At its best, lead nurturing provides a structure for answering buyers’ critical questions along their decision path. The most effective programs are purposefully structured to serve up content assets that address specific buyer concerns stage-by-stage. This approach gives marketers a tactical advantage and yields an average conversion rate 73% higher than activity where content isn’t aligned.

3. Inherent flexibility

Buyer journeys rarely follow a fixed path. There are trends and averages – such as buyers receiving 8 to 10 touches before conversion – but the reality is that every buyer journey is unique. To accommodate various behaviours and needs, lead nurturing programs should be designed with dynamic triggers that enable the schedule to be adjusted in line with prospect behaviour and content consumption. This ensures communication cadences and content are adjusted according to trackable buyer behaviours.

4. Continual improvement

It’s impossible to create a water-tight lead nurture model. Activity needs to respond to human behaviour – which is unpredictable by nature. Marketers that recognise and embrace this are best placed to maximise the success of lead nurture programs. They measure and analyse key aspects of program performance to facilitate a continuous improvement approach where activity is fine-tuned over time. It will never be perfect, but it has a better chance of keeping pace with ever-changing buyer landscapes and answering individual buyer needs. For instance, if a particular piece of content isn’t performing well, these marketers quickly learn when to substitute it for something different.

In summary

Wikipedia defines herding cats as ‘a futile attempt to control or organise a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic’. At its worst, nurturing leads can feel like this. It will always be an ongoing journey, and there will always be room for improvement. But accepting that lead nurture will never be perfect is an important first step towards improved control of the process. Adopting the four key elements of success facilitates more dynamic responses to the evolving needs of buyers. And it brings an element of order to the inescapable turmoil of modern marketing.