Lead Nurturing: what it is and how to do it strategically

Lead nurturing is a process that encompasses a set of web marketing actions that are carried out to “nourish the relationship with potential customers” starting from the acquisition of contacts. The purpose of these activities is to convert users, leading them along the sales funnel, up to the Purchase phase, and then to the Retention and Referral steps.

How do lead nurturing and why is it so important for companies? Cultivating the relationship with possible consumers, the so-called prospects, is of vital importance for companies, SMEs, and larger companies, because it allows increasing sales and turnover, with numerous advantages in terms of investment of resources and budget.

You need to know that the cost per lead (CPL), the cost of acquiring a new contact, is always higher than the cost of maintaining a user already included in the purchasing process. If you want to discover all the secrets to creating an integrated online strategy, you should consider attending one of our Web Marketing Courses.

Lead Nurturing meaning

The meaning of lead nurturing is easily deduced from the literal translation of the word lead, which indicates an “acquired contact, potentially interested in a product or service”, and the English verb to nurture, which means to feed, to educate.

Therefore, translating, we could speak of educating contacts in the culture of the brand, or of nurturing the relationship with potential customers to establish a relationship of trust between them and the brand that pushes them to choose that one, and not others, on the market. We must then distinguish between:

  • prospect: people who are among the possible buyers of a company;
  • lead a segment of the target that has expressed involvement and active interest in a product or service, giving the related company their contacts, such as e-mail address or telephone number, and consent to receive commercial communications.

From the moment the communication gap is opened, it will be up to the brand to find the most effective nurturing strategy to transform potential buyers into real buyers. Another relevant translation of lead nurturing is “accompaniment of users”, but where? Along the buying process!

Through dialogue with your potential buyers, for example, you can provide them with interesting, relevant, and above all personalized content and offers, which is feasible only when you know your interlocutor well enough. One-to-one communication is essential to keep the link alive, to let the user know that the brand is talking to him and that he is not just one among many.

What is meant by leads?

We have seen the translation of leads, but what exactly do we mean by the term lead? Simply put, the term lead refers to all users, individuals, or companies, who show interest in our product or service. Their interest is shown when they share their contact information, such as email or phone.

Very often the mistake is made of confusing lead generation with lead nurturing, which are two distinct phases of the marketing funnel: one precedes the other, but they have different objectives:

  • the first is the strategy that has the aim of gathering “warm” contacts, potentially interested in the products or services that the company places on the market. It consists of collecting names of people or other companies that have conversion potential.
  • the second is an immediately subsequent phase, which consists of the combination of integrated operations on different web marketing channels. The goal is for companies to enter into relationships with possible consumers, to stimulate their interest and gain their trust.

Lead Nurturing Strategy

Is lead nurturing so important for businesses? Not all potential buyers decide to buy right away, indeed those who do it the first time are very few. Indeed, according to research by HubSpot, one of the most successful companies in the field of inbound marketing, as many as 79% of leads acquired by companies do not reach the purchase stage but leave the funnel.

What does it mean? It means immediately losing 79% of possible sales, after having invested the budget in lead generation campaigns, these are wasted resources.

What to do then? We assume that each user who enters your funnel is in a different phase of the purchasing process and each one has its customer journey: this is why the creation of communication towards the potential customer must take place with different communication methods calibrated on his profile. However, distinguishing audience segments and carrying out targeted web marketing actions on each of them is unthinkable to manage manually, especially when you are dealing with very large databases. Fortunately, marketing automation will come to your rescue, giving you the ability to manage the entire mass of contacts (lead management) in the most profitable way possible for your company, or for the one you represent.

Thanks to the automation, you can program a series of activities that will take place independently, after being triggered by an event (trigger). For example, you could use:

  • e-mail marketing automation, to send personalized messages to your contacts at the right time;
  • Inbound marketing, creating paths that will allow you to attract potential customers down the funnel, up to the purchase, and beyond;
  • social media marketing, planning engaging posts that will catch users’ attention at the right moment;
  • the BOTs, to manage your community, answer its most frequently asked questions, or even send personalized offers to each person who is part of it.

Conceptually, your nurturing strategy must identify the most appropriate channels to establish the relationship and make the most of them, without ever boring, or worse, annoying the user. This is a mistake not to be made, otherwise, you risk losing leads and the consent to dialogue with them.

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Create a lead nurturing campaign

How do lead nurturing effectively? How do you go from interest to conversion? The process includes all the web marketing activities that allow for the establishment, maintenance, and stimulation of dialogue between brands and possible buyers. This is up to the purchase phase and, hopefully, up to the more advanced stages of the sales funnel, such as Retention and Referrals. This happens through the channels and tools deemed most suitable for the type of contact we are talking to.

create a lead nurturing campaign

It is a question of “healing” the relationship through One-to-One communication. Today, the market is increasingly competitive and the digital world abounds with offers and promotions, among which the potential customer browses spoiled for choice. The question you should ask yourself is: why should he choose me? He’ll prefer you if you’re able to offer him what he needs, at the right time and place, and if you’re able to create tailor-made, personalized, and multi-channel communication for him.

The user wants to be listened to and followed: the brand that offers him the most consideration and conveys the most trust is the one that has the highest probability of transforming him into an effective customer. Giving attention, listening to perplexities and requests, but above all informing, gaining authority and a place in people’s top minds, means establishing a real dialogue.

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Lead nurturing marketing tools

How to keep communication alive with your customer? Let’s see what are the most used tools to carry out lead nurturing actions that you could use too:

  • Email marketing: it is the most used and known tool in this activity, so much so that we often talk about email nurturing. What is the goal of email lead nurturing? Emails allow peer-to-peer communication, therefore confidential and private. They build trust during the purchase journey and can be a source of information if they have the right content (ebooks, webinars, presentations, newsletters).
  • Marketing automation: allows companies to streamline workflow and automate processes, using a variety of software and tools. This field includes, for example, the sending of automatic emails (email marketing automation), database segmentation based on events, actions performed by contacts (such as visits to certain website pages), A/B tests, etc.
  • Inbound marketing: it is a digital discipline that is based on the concept of “pull”, unlike other channels, such as SEM, which are “push”. Inbound aims to attract potential customers, for example through blog articles, SEO, and emails.

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  • Content marketing: it is based on the creation of content that has the purpose of attracting, informing, and pushing potential buyers to carry out significant actions for a company, through calls to action, newsletter subscriptions, and form fillings. The content, which can be textual, visual, or video, is a very powerful lever to be exploited to cultivate relationships with potential consumers.
  • SMS, Whatsapp, and Telegram marketing: with the smartphone, you can create more direct contact and be closer to the customer and it is useful to watch over him especially when he is approaching the purchase phase and needs to make the last doubts and indecisions disappear.
  • Social Media Marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin): Social networks now occupy a lot of time in a person’s day and are also a large area of marketing. If prospects are on social media, that’s where companies have to go find them! Through chats or direct messaging, you can contact or support the potential customer. Through social networks and the telephone, confirmation is given that on the other side of the network, there is a real interlocutor, a person who can guide potential buyers.
  • Facebook Lead Ads: the tool that answers the question ” How to do lead generation with Facebook?”. In practice, you can generate a custom audience suitable for your social nurturing advertising campaigns, simply by inserting the email contacts you have in your database (and which you have marketing authorizations according to the GDPR) to “populate” your target audience of prospects that have characteristics similar to those you have imported into the platform. This way you will be able to reach them with more effective content and you will optimize your budget.
  • Google Ads: is the Google platform for making SEM, it gives you the possibility to upload an email list and incorporate it into a specific audience segment, thus facilitating the reach of customers with ideal content for their interests.

These channels and tools must be chosen according to the type of lead nurturing marketing strategy you want to implement, not all of them necessarily have to be used. Remember that different stages of the funnel may require different tools or synergies between two or more of them.

Managing the dialogue: Lead Management

Before starting lead nurturing activities, you will need to understand how to manage all the potential customers you have acquired in the first phase of production. Lead management will allow you to organize, segment, and categorize the collected data. You will be able to do this thanks to lead scoring, which is the process by which you can assign a score and a level (grade) to each person in the database that you have built with your lead generation campaigns.

managing the dialogue lead

Why is it needed? Not all contacts are the same: someone is more interested and ready to buy, while someone else has only partial curiosity. Without a correct segmentation, it is not possible to respond immediately and adequately to each of them.

Scoring is a method of automatically assigning value to your warm users based on their behavior and data. What is considered to assign a value? Typically, marketing automation software looks at and scores according to these factors:

  • page view
  • click email
  • site searches
  • downloads

Based on the score obtained, the nurturing strategy deemed most effective for those in a specific phase of the sales funnel is applied. Someone will need to be “cultivated” further, and someone else contacted to close the sale. If a user visits your page and has downloaded a guide, he will be less inclined to buy than someone who has searched for a product and consulted the prices, perhaps requesting a quote, or leaving his details. With this nurture automation, you can automatically sort your potential customers and give precedence to those most likely to purchase.

In summary, having a segmented database is essential for creating a relationship with consumers because it allows you to monitor them and establish the most pertinent communication with each of them.

Relationship between customer and brand

Lead nurturing doesn’t just have the purpose of converting a probable buyer into an actual one, but it serves to accompany them in every phase of the buying process, even beyond. Therefore, the process must always be implemented, but in a different way concerning the different phases of knowledge that the potential customer, or the one who has already made a conversion, has on the product or service sold by the brand.

relationship between customer brand

In short, you will have to keep the relationship alive in various ways, based on the degree of confidence you have managed to obtain. For this, you will need to understand the degree of awareness of each person behind the email addresses on your list to decide which nurturing strategy to activate.

You can build on the most popular knowledge model currently in web marketing, which is made up of six phases:

  • Simple visitor: the potential customer learns about your brand by viewing a post of your social media marketing activities or on the website, but does not take any action.
  • Real prospect: someone who has shown an interest through a reaction, such as a comment or sharing of posts or articles.
  • Activated user: the potential buyer interacts by leaving significant information and personal data (registration, newsletter, account creation).
  • Customer: the user has made the purchase and becomes an effective customer.
  • Active customer: the consumer is active and trust in brands and products begins.
  • Ambassador: you have a loyal and loyal customer who is the spokesperson for your brand values and spreads its knowledge, through a review, content sharing, or a call to action from other people.

Lead Nurturing: goals

After analyzing the various levels of knowledge, it will be easier for you to imagine that with nurturing actions you can achieve different objectives concerning the degree of involvement of your interlocutors. Let’s see what they are:

  1. Knowledge (Awareness): highlighting the brand represented and making it known to the potential customer, who must identify in it the solution to one of his needs. It is necessary to offer content that affects and attracts.
  2. Consideration: the prospect is pondering his choices, and also evaluating the offers of your competitors. For this, your content marketing must bring interest to your brand and convince it that there is no better alternative for its need. By analyzing engagement data, you can segment your audience and insert contacts into profiled lists.
  3. Conversion (Conversion): the eligible buyer becomes a customer through attractive offers, which sweep away the last doubts, like offers made to measure for him.
  4. Repurchase (Post-Purchase): the user has already bought and knows the brand, but we must continue to offer him content that aims to build loyalty so that he can make a new purchase.

The advantages of Lead Nurturing for companies

What are the main benefits that you and your company can derive from the lead nurturing funnel?

  • Authority: cultivating the relationship with users can increase the influence of the brand they are representing through informative content. Contacts perceive experience and seriousness if the company offers adequate answers and insights. Therefore, writing to be involved and interesting and not be insistent on selling is the right strategy.
  • Greater conversion: on average, giving value to the relationship with potential customers increases sales by 10%. Why? The contacts obtained at the beginning of the funnel are lost if left to themselves! Without the accompaniment of potential consumers to the goal of the purchase, all the efforts of the web marketing strategy would be in vain for the most part.
  • Scheduling: having to produce content on multiple channels at the same time, for different audience lists, can be difficult to manage. However, marketing automation allows you to solve this problem, thanks to tools that take on this burden. They allow the scheduling of newsletter mailings on predefined dates and times and also give the possibility of publishing posts that fall within your social media marketing activities with the same logic. In short, automation software saves time and money.
  • Free promotion: existing customers are very important and should not be forgotten, they are the company’s number one promoters! If they are happy and satisfied and feel special, they will become real brand ambassadors. Essentially, they will be referrals, allowing you to acquire new users through their positive reviews, shares, and comments. They are a key factor because they represent the most reliable influencers you could have. Loyalty is essential, let’s not forget that! The active customers you maintain a relationship with generate new leads for you.

nurturing funnel companies

How to generate leads: practical examples

Let’s now see, with some practical examples, how to apply a winning lead nurturing strategy, using the channels seen previously.

1. Specific Content

Targeted content marketing will give you 20% more opportunities to convert. Therefore, it is important to know who your buyer personas are. Based on the segmentation, you will need to have a content offering model aimed at each of them, also taking into account the stage of the funnel in which they are. There are many types of content you can create: webinars, presentations, e-books, infographics, videos, tutorials, mini-guides, and reports. In short, everything that you think will be useful to your audience. Naturally, to do this job you will need to have a marketing automation platform at your disposal!

2. Email marketing automation

Running email campaigns is the primary and most important action to take. It is through email marketing software that you can learn about the attitudes and preferences of your contacts. Through the data provided, relevant lead nurturing campaigns can be set up for each type of customer. In addition to removing the heavy weight of manual skills, automation software allows us to establish One-to-One communication and bans massive and impersonal communication, which is not appreciated by anyone. Call your consumer by name and he will know that you are talking to him and no one else and will tend to trust you more easily. Study email marketing with our dedicated course.

3. Multi-channel

Once upon a time, communication with prospective buyers was based solely on classic email campaigns. Generic messages were sent on a fixed weekly basis that was always the same. Nowadays, it is no longer possible to think of a strategy based on this alone. This is why it is important to align email marketing actions with those carried out on other channels, such as retargeting, direct interactions, and dynamic content on the site or the social page, for example. Varied lead nurturing must be performed to reach all stakeholders, and campaigns must be designed based on the segments and the data that continuously comes to us. Multi-channel for multi-conversions!

4. Interactivity

Increase interactions by leveraging above all a mix of contents offered, not only by emails, such as articles, guides, videos, or posts on social networks. Interaction must always be maintained in a lead nurturing strategy, otherwise, you risk losing your potential customer along the way in the funnel. Trying to involve him, even in a creative and fun way, is important, but woe to go beyond the limit. Being insistent and stuffy is counterproductive!

5. Follow up

Do not underestimate the power of timely follow-ups. A contact, especially if at the end of the sales funnel, is decidedly more stimulated by a call or a message received in a short time, after his call to action action. You have enough data on your side to know what they want and what they need to hear. The power of immediacy affects the sales opportunity.

6. Personalization

Making the content you offer exclusive will bring your potential buyer closer and make him feel “cared for”, followed, and pampered. For example, writing emails with the recipient’s name, using the Merge tag, remembering her birthday, or the imminent run-out of a product she bought, are great ways to nurture leads. Avoid generic campaigns, instead create something personalized. When a user acts, send him an e-mail in response: offer unique content, at the right time to the right person, please!

7. Strategy and sales alignment

To ensure that lead nurturing is always present throughout the purchasing process, its actions must be aligned with sales, especially in a delicate phase such as the transition from automatic to direct communications. With a good collaboration of the different teams present in the enterprises, it is possible to follow and nurture the contacts throughout their journey. The customer support process must be supported by the synergy of the various departments, otherwise, it would be scarce and completely unproductive. So, try to keep your nurturing marketing strategy always aligned with sales, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that each process stands on its own!

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