A prospect could be anywhere in their buy cycle when they first reach out to your company, but few of them are ready to make a purchase decision at that point.

That’s why lead nurturing is so essential to your marketing success. You must be able to keep your prospects interested, encourage them along their buying journey, and pass them off to your sales team when appropriate. That’s lead nurturing in a nutshell.

The lead nurturing process can be long—research shows it takes anywhere from six to thirteen touches to deliver a qualified lead to sales. Lead nurturing can also be very fruitful—studies show that 70 percent of business comes from long-term leads, those that aren’t ready to buy when you first connect with them.

Lead nurturing can also be complex, with many moving parts and variables affecting your ability to execute. However, if you adhere to these five core principles, you can simplify the process, gain efficiencies, and deliver more qualified opportunities to your sales team.

1. Use a Lead Nurturing System

It’s possible to use manual processes and spreadsheets to nurture leads, but the process will be labor intensive.

Many industrial companies are adopting marketing automation to help manage lead nurturing and other marketing efforts. Marketing automation allows you to capture prospect engagement across all digital channels and can help you score leads, create landing pages, track prospect actions, trigger automatic emails, report on the effectiveness of various content, produce analytics and much more.

Other companies are embracing specific email-based lead nurturing platforms such as IEEE GlobalSpec Catalyst. Whatever system you choose, the three core capabilities you must have for lead nurturing are the ability to segment your audience, create and send campaigns, and report results.

Develop the process you want to use for lead nurturing, then find the system that best supports that process.

2. Segment Your Audience

Unless all of your prospects are about the same, you will need to segment your audience so that you can craft different lead nurturing campaigns to meet the needs of different audiences.

Segments vary for different companies, but common segments include area of interest, phase of buy cycle, market, geography/territory, among others. You’ll also want to segment out hot leads that are sales-ready and that you immediately pass to your sales team.

The definition of a sales-ready lead, as well as your audience segments, should be determined jointly between you and your sales team. Lead nurturing only works if sales and marketing organizations are on the same page working from the same playbook.

3. Nourish Prospects

To maintain and grow prospect interest until they are ready to make a purchase decision, you should continually offer them educational, relevant information they want and need to feel confident that you are the right company.

Nourishing takes place through what are called email “drip” campaigns—meaning at regular intervals, you show up with a content offer in their inbox. Your campaign could touch prospects once a week for six months or once a month for a year. You decide, based on your segments and your prospects’ needs.

With each campaign touch, you should offer your prospects something of value: a white paper, infographic, webinar, video, article or other helpful content. Keep the content educational in nature rather than sales-oriented. Engineers hate to be sold to; they want to learn and discover.

If you are using marketing automation, you can set up rules for your campaign, such as “any prospect that downloads a white paper receives a webinar invitation the following week.”

4. Hand-off to Sales

Because you’ve already come to an agreement with your sales team about what constitutes a sales-ready lead, you’ll know when a prospect in a nurturing campaign is ready for sales.

Often a lead reaches sales-ready status when it achieves a score based on a scale you develop that awards points for specific prospect behaviors. For example, a prospect that clicks on every offer is a five and likely sales-ready, while a prospect that only visited a web page remains a one.

5. Track and Learn

Keep track of how the prospects in your campaign interact with your offers and content. You can find out what offers resonate and are popular, and which fall flat. Get rid of offers that don’t perform well, while building on content that is popular with other similar offers. Continually refine your campaigns and you should see improved results.

Those are the five basic principles. For a deeper dive into lead nurturing, including best practices to optimize your lead nurturing efforts and quick tips for following up with leads, download the complimentary toolkit, “The Industrial Marketer’s Guide to Lead Nurturing.” You’ll learn the finer points to be successful at lead nurturing. Download here.


 

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