4 Steps to Lead Nurturing: Walking the Buying Path with Your Customers

Lead generation can take you on a long hike. The one thing I can guarantee you about the journey is that more is not better if you don’t know how to nurture. The goal of lead nurturing is to help progress leads from initial interest toward purchase intent. It’s about progression.

That said, I’ve seen companies spend most of their budget getting people to raise their hands but not putting enough toward progression. Get out your walking shoes, and take a journey with your customers.

I define lead nurturing as consistent and meaningful communication with viable prospects (those that are “a fit” for your solution), regardless of their timing to buy. It’s not “following up” every few months to find out if a prospect is “ready to buy yet.” True nurturing involves a sometimes long and circuitous path, but along the way, you’ll be building long, meaningful and trust-filled relationships with the right people.

Salespeople often struggle with developing nurturing content without support. If you’re wondering what kinds of content helps progress leads further faster, ask your sales team. Start by asking your sales team questions like, “What’s the content you share with leads that helps them convert?” or “What’s the content you use to help take people to the next level?”

The first step on that path to success is to start thinking like a customer.

Step #1: Walk in your potential customers’ shoes to build a customer journey map

Be the customer, and get as you close as you can to their experience by really observing the behaviors of your customer. After you’ve gaining a solid understanding, build your customer journey map.

What is a customer journey map? It tells the story of the customer’s experience: from initial contact, through the process of engagement and into a long-term relationship.

The journey map is about helping you understanding the key interactions that your future customer will have with the organization. What are their motivations? What are their questions with each marketing touch point? Try to understand what they want and the concerns they’ll have along with peers they’re interacting with. The goal of customer journey mapping is to gain customer wisdom.

As you do that, consider the questions that customers have in mind before they make a buying decision:

  • How will this product or service help my company?
  • We’re doing OK, so why do we need this?
  • Is there another company out there that is better?
  • Will their solution really work? Can they prove it?
  • Is the company credible?
  • Can we afford it?

Help prospects find the answers to these questions, and you’ll remind them of the benefits of working with you. You’re creating value by giving them useful information in digestible, bite-sized chunks.

Step #2: Plan your path to create content geared toward progression

Invest as much in forming creative and content for lead progression as you do for lead capture. I’ve seen companies spend most of their budget getting people to raise their hands but not enough toward progression.

The goal of lead nurturing is to help progress leads from initial interest toward purchase intent. It’s about progression.

Read Content Marketing Tips for Lead Nurturing for ideas on content to use. Through the combination of all these, you’re providing relevant, educational and thought-leading content. For more ideas, read Lead Nurturing: 5 tips for creating relevant content.”

It’s worth noting:

  • The tactics employed and the frequency of touches will depend on the solutions being sold and the buying cycle of the prospect.
  • You need to create different lead nurturing tracks based on demographic criteria, such as size, industry, role in the buying process and more.

Step #3: Walk the path with your customer

In a complex sale, the journey can be long and challenging to help people move from initial interest to purchase intent.

Your only job is to make certain you nourish your customer along the way and guide them with a meaningful compass toward the right and best decision for their needs.

Think of your marketing team as trail guides who will need to point out all the sights along the way that are useful in the decision-making process.

Slow down, and walk at the customer’s pace, even if that means taking the long route with them when it comes to buying your service or product. If you hurry them along, you might end up with an exhausted customer who doesn’t feel good about the journey and won’t turn to you to continue the path to purchase.

“How you sell me is how you will serve me”

Most economic buyers subscribe to the notion that how you sell me indicates how you will serve me. Here’s where that little statistic I mentioned earlier comes in. A study of business-to-business buyers shows that salespeople who become trusted advisors and understood the needs of economic buyers are 69% more likely to come away with a sale.

The complex sale requires that your prospect:

  • Must be familiar with you and your company and with what you and your company do.
  • Must perceive you and your company to be expert in your field.
  • Must believe that you and your company understand his or her specific issues and can solve them.
  • Likes you and your company enough to want to work with you.

Remember you can’t automate trust. Trust-building should be the theme of your nurturing efforts.

Building trust

By providing valuable education and information to prospects up front, you become a trusted advisor. You are then perceived to be an expert. You don’t sell; you don’t make pitches. Instead, you provide insights and solutions all within the realm of your expertise and, as a result, become the first company they turn to when there’s a need.

Make your marketing program’s single point of focus be to develop trust, and your business will become more profitable and less reliant on competing on price. Selling, per se, is reduced in the interest of more open and honest conversations with prospects. You win more business on a sole-source basis, and more new business referrals come your way.

Step #4: Keep marching

Startling as it may seem, recent research (and even studies from 20 years ago) shows that longer-term leads (future opportunities), often ignored by salespeople, represent almost 40 to 70% of potential sales. Research compiled by the MarketingSherpa Lead Generation Benchmark Report showed, “marketing departments with a lead nurturing campaign reported a 45% higher ROI than marketing departments that did not utilize a lead nurturing track.”

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If inquiries are simply passed on to salespeople, reps, partners or distributors for follow up, beware. You may be leaving as many as eight out of 10 sales prospects on the sales path for your competitors.

Now, get your compasses out and begin the long-yet-fruitful journey toward an effective lead nurturing program. You’ll be surprised how many potential customers will want to join you along the way.


The previous article is reprinted by permission from Brian Carroll. You can view the original post here.

About the Author

Brian CarrollBrian Carroll
Chief Evangelist at MECLABS Institute and MarketingSherpa

Author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill), Brian is a leading expert in lead generation and he’s profiled and regularly quoted in numerous publications. He’s been profiled and regularly quoted in numerous publications such as BtoB Magazine, Selling Power, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Target Marketing, Inc. magazine, Marketing News, DM News, MarketingProfs, MarketingSherpa, Software CEO and CMO Magazine.


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