Customers have always been king, but these days they require more than the royal treatment. Today’s customers need “nurturing,” from initial contact with your company to purchase and retention. This process of communicating with prospects across multiple channels and building customer relationships throughout the buying process is referred to as “lead nurturing.” And, it’s become an integral part of any successful marketing strategy.
In fact, inbound marketing, which is a technique for attracting customers through content marketing, is based on lead nurturing. The process brings prospects to your door and keeps them coming back by nurturing customer relationships. Get started by following these three steps:
Step 1: Get to Know Your Customers
Customers are self-educated these days. The buyers’ journey often looks more like a meandering, self-directed path than a straightforward funnel. Prospects want to be engaged throughout the buying process with informative, relevant content. To provide content that resonates with prospects (and nudges them back on the path to your door), you must know who they are, what interests them, what their pain points are, and where they look for information.
Start by developing detailed buyer personas for each potential customer. Don’t forget to include “influencers” in this process. Influencers are those people who impact the buyers’ decision. (Read “Why Creating Content for Buyers and Influencers is Key” to understand the difference between buyers and influencers.)
Prepare to nurture customers by asking yourself:
- What does the customer journey look like for our products?
- Who are the buyers and who are their influencers?
- How do they gather information?
- What are their pain points or problems, and how can we solve them?
- Where are potential customers falling off in the buying process, and why?
Get personal with your customers (but not in a creepy, stalker-like way) through customer feedback and tracking engagement with your content. Did you know that 86% of surveyed customers would pay more for a better customer experience, which was further defined as a more “personal experience?” (RightNow’s Customer Experience Impact Report).
Think about it: None of us wants a bunch of bulk emails or generic communication. We want content that is addressed to us and tailored to our needs and interests. In other words, we want to be nurtured.
Step 2: Create a Strategy
Make lead nurturing part of an overall marketing strategy. It should work in tandem with all your other marketing activities, which requires a master plan. Consider the following:
- What is our overall message?
- Which content will be delivered during each phase of the journey and to whom (segmented lists)?
- How often we will send emails?
- How will this timing fit with other marketing activities?
- Once leads are identified and scored, who will follow-up and when?
- How will we nurture existing customers to improve retention?
Create a seamless, natural feeling program by following a plan, rather than a disjointed effort.
And, remember, customers and their needs change over time, so be prepared to be flexible and responsive.
Step 3: Make the Most of Technology
Consider using a robust marketing automation (MA) system, which is the most efficient way to nurture customers. These tools allow you to see how customers engage with your content and how they like to be nurtured. When deciding on an MA platform, it’s important to determine your goals first (see step 2). Include both your sales team and your marketing folks in outlining what you want the system to do. It’s vital that these groups work together to get the most out of any MA tool.
Once you have an MA system and specific goals, you can design highly-effective drip campaigns for lead nurturing. The major benefit of these programs is that you can set them up and let them run based on behavior-based rules. And then optimize them over time. Automating your interactions will make the most of your resources and allow for more frequent, targeted communication.
Learn more about drip campaigns, by reading “5 Ways Drip Campaigns Can Boost Your Bottom Line.”
Nurturing is not easy, whether you’re raising children, growing houseplants or taking care of customers! There’s a lot more to the process than first meets the eye, from segmentation and scoring, to creating meaningful content and implementation. But, it’s worth the effort. It’s incredibly satisfying to have happy, engaged customers and build relationships from initial purchase to long-term advocacy.
Wondering how to get started with a lead nurturing campaign? Start with our Marketing Director (and Certified Pardot and SharpSpring Specialist), Jeremy Sterling, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-546-5434.