7 Lead Nurturing Best Practices That Work in 2017

Peter Sharkey on 17th of Feb 2017
Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Lead nurturing is a trusted practice of B2B marketers. It’s become common knowledge that 30-50% of qualified leads aren’t ready to buy when they first inquire about your business, but about three quarters of those leads will become sales ready within 12 to 18 months.

It’s also common sense. B2B purchases tend to have a longer decision-making process, and if you go out of sight after the first touch, you end up out of mind.

But how should you approach your lead nurturing efforts? What tactics work? Better yet, what are the lead nurturing best practices that work in 2017? Here are seven best practices we’ve tried, tested, and used in our own lead nurturing program that have contributed over $70,000 in annual recurring revenue to our bottom line.

1. Let data inform your lead nurturing program

Every touchpoint is another opportunity to learn about your leads and create a more personalized experience. Plus, research shows that consumers are 4x more likely to respond to an offer if it’s personalized vs. generic.

Unfortunately, marketing personalization often gets reduced to simply including a first name in the email subject line, when there’s an endless opportunity to utilize demographic, engagement, CRM, and user behavior events. If you’re looking to take your personalization to the next level, try sending “data enrichment” emails to flesh out your lead records.

Here’s an example from our content vault at Autopilot:

personalized email shoes

Data enrichment emails ask the reader to self-identify with the answer that most pertains to them. (It’s also a clever way to take a survey directly in an email.) Each link includes a unique UTM parameter to that selection, and when a lead clicks on the number of contacts they’re marketing to, we update their contact record with what they’ve selected. This helps us not only send them content that’s relevant to their size, but also route them to the proper sales channel when they’re qualified. We end up knowing more about the lead, and they have a more tailored experience. It’s a win-win. Here’s a running list of data enrichment questions you may want to ask:

  • “What type of content do you want to receive?”
  • “How many employees do you have?”
  • “Which products are you interested in?”
  • “What’s your company size?”
  • “What is your job title or role?”

Sprinkle in data enrichment emails after every 3-5 sends. They’re like the intermission from your perfect lead nurture email show.

2. Experiment with different types of content

Everyone digests information differently. Some people prefer long-form white papers or ebooks, others learn best from videos and webinars, and some prefer infographics and more skimmable content. Many businesses default to a drip campaign with a gated white paper or popular blog post, but your lead nurture journey needs to take these different content preferences into consideration if you want to capture your audience’s full attention.

Try mixing up how you present your data with ebooks, videos, blog posts, podcasts, webinars and infographics to broaden the audience who will engage with your content.

Infographic email example

ally lead nurturing email example

Video email example


3. Engage in all the right places

The average person receives 121 emails on a daily basis. The open rate for those emails in North America is only 30.6%. That means that you have a one-in-four chance to even get your content in front of your lead, so increase your chances of getting noticed by utilizing more channels.

Reach your audience where they are—whether they’re on their phone, browsing the web, in your app, or embracing the real-world. You could even try a modern marketing channel like Headsup on-site and in-app messaging.

headsup example

4. Don’t forget your manners

When a new lead enters your nurture journey, it’s important to welcome (or reacquaint) them into your community. This normally comes in the form of a welcome email after they sign up. It’s good practice to have this message come from someone higher up in the company, typically the VP of Marketing, or a relevant individual based on what the subscriber’s expressed interest in.

Your welcome email serves as a way for you to quickly engage a new lead, set an expectation of what’s to come, and is a chance for you both to learn a bit more about each other.

Don’t forget to add a little personality to your communication as well. Welcome emails are key to increasing opens and clicks and also help with reducing unsubscribes throughout the nurture journey. You want to make sure they’ll click the next time they see an email from you in their inbox!


5. Keep nurturing until your contacts tell you to stop

Just because a lead doesn’t make a purchase, or even open all your emails during the first couple months, doesn’t mean they’re a lost cause. Just ask Instapage. They saw the direct value of effective nurture journeys after they put together a three-tier nurture journey for 55,000 emails they initially wanted to purge. Within two months, they made $30,000 in annual recurring revenue from leads they thought were lost.

Continue to send quality, personalized content to the leads in your nurture journey so long as they don’t opt-out or hurt your reputation. This requires a bit of work on your end. First and foremost, don’t get frustrated by slow results. Secondly, it’s important to continually groom your email list to ensure you aren’t hurting your deliverability rates or sender reputation. By sending emails to subscribers who have opted-out, marked your emails as spam, or bounced multiple times, you’re not only damaging your chances for a future relationship with the customer, but you’re also putting your email deliverability at risk.

6. Listen and respond to the numbers

You’ve heard it before. But the numbers are important. After all, your hard work wouldn’t be worth it if it didn’t produce results. So what’s new with “the numbers” in 2017? Connecting them to engagement and revenue and iterating based on what they show.

Every lead nurture journey will have a different goal, depending on your business model or sales and marketing funnel, but a general goal of each journey you create is engagement. So be sure you’re tracking engagement throughout the entire nurture journey. Use incrementing fields to track email clicks, create smart segments to track form fills, and more. Keeping a close eye on journey engagement will help you identify quick wins and early on success. It’ll also pinpoint areas for improvement.

If you’re curious how your results compare to others, use these stage-based numbers as benchmarks:

Lead nurturing benchmarks

Finally, connect your nurture journey through to revenue and company performance. In Q3 of 2016, we ran two different nurture tracks side by side. Tracking engagement throughout, they both looked promising. However, when looking at the results from a revenue perspective, one of the journeys produced over twice as much annual recurring revenue as the other. When you connect your journeys through to revenue, the value’s apparent. And monitoring these metrics will help you tweak, test, and iterate to create a high-performing nurture journey for your potential customers.

7. Rally your sales and marketing teams around your lead nurturing efforts

You want to make sure all your hard work doesn’t fall short. If you have a business model that relies on sales to close deals, it’s absolutely vital to get buy-in from the team. After all, it’s not a successful lead nurture journey until the lead is passed to sales and your team is ready to pick up where the nurturing left off.

The goal is to have a seamless transition between nurture and sales. It’s important to think through what this looks like, and what information your team needs to know (messages the lead has received, content they’ve engaged with, information they’ve shared, etc).

This also applies to the reverse—if a lead talks with sales first and is then put into a lead nurture journey. The information you’re sharing and questions you’re asking should reflect your history with them. When everyone’s on the same page, not only is there no time lost trying to catch people up, the lead will have more confidence in your business’ ability to deliver when it does come time for them to purchase.

Moving ahead in 2017

Try adding one or two of these tactics to your lead nurturing journey and monitor the results. Does adding a welcome email help reduce unsubscribes? How many people engage with your data enrichment emails? Does adding a few Headsup or text messages increase your engagement rates? Don’t forget your foundation for lead nurturing, but have fun experimenting. There’s no right or wrong here—just what works and what works better!

What lead nurturing best practices would you add to this list? Which have you implemented? Let us know in the comments.

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