You know it and love it (or maybe hate it). It’s part of your daily life whether you work in marketing or sales. I’m talking about the sales funnel. The age-old graphic tells a classic story of engagement from initial awareness to the almighty conversion.
On paper, the sales process seems pretty straightforward. Just send some emails, make some calls, post on Facebook and then watch people leap to buy your product or service with enthusiasm.
Okay, that’s not reality. But there are some proven lead nurturing tactics you can implement throughout your organization’s sales funnel to boost conversion rates.
1. Don’t Assume, Research
Don’t feel bad if you jumped right into crafting social media ads and emails. Enthusiasm is always appreciated. That being said, some simple pre-work is always best. We live in the digital age. That means it’s easier than ever to research your target audience along with their buying habits, biggest challenges and where they research solutions online.
Perform keyword research to identify the most popular phrases people enter into a search engine when they’re online. Tools like Spyfu, Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner provide a wealth of insights. They help you determine where to get in front of your audience and what content to share to keep them engaged.
Your competitors aren’t sitting idle. So don’t make the mistake of assuming your product is so good that everyone will jump on it. Do the keyword research to use the same words as your target audience and make it easier for them to find your products online.
2. Change the Channel
No. I’m not talking about the big game or your favorite reality TV show. Channels refer to the delivery systems your message travels through. This includes email, social media, programmatic display, paid search and more. One of the most common mistakes with a lead nurturing campaign is to assume an automated email series will magically lead to conversions.
Remember that note about research? It’s extremely important when it comes to choosing the right marketing channels, too. That’s because your target audience probably regularly uses only a few. Nurturing leads is all about getting in front of your target audience with content that engages them in the right place at their current point in the sales funnel.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised to learn what marketing channels a target audience is using. For example, my intuition indicated that a target audience is active on LinkedIn. But in reality, research showed the audience is actually extremely active on YouTube. Let research uncover where potential leads are actively looking for solutions and focus your efforts in those spaces.
3. Content is Critical
Time is money and nobody has time to read everything out there. That means content should always align back to the sales funnel and have a specific purpose. Your target audience has problems that you can solve. Your content must be relevant, engaging and useful to nurture leads and move them down the sales funnel.
The most effective and engaging content pieces fill a gap in your target audience’s industry. Ask yourself, “What problem can I offer a solution to that would provoke a potential lead to provide their contact information?”
According to Pardot’s State of Demand Generation study, 77% of buyers want different content at each stage of their research. This study tells us that one piece of content is not going to effectively meet the needs of those prospects actively searching for solutions. Your potential leads will need to be nurtured and engaged multiple times with different content before they convert into customers.
4. Touchy Subject
Let’s talk about touchpoints. If you aren’t familiar with them, touchpoints are where a prospect sees and/or interacts with your tactics, such as lead gen social ads or emails.
According to the Marketing lead management report, it takes an average of ten marketing touches from the time prospects enter the top of the funnel until they become customers. Ten touches can sound daunting, but the quality of those touchpoints can significantly speed up the sales cycle.
For example, a prospect may click on a social ad. That touchpoint doesn’t reveal nearly as much information as when that same prospect clicks on multiple product links in an email. The social ad interaction suggests general interest in your brand, while the email reflects interest in specific products in your portfolio.
Each touchpoint should inform the next. So, by the time a lead reaches the bottom of the funnel and becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL), there is a whole profile that demonstrates their needs based on their interactions with your tactics. That’s why every good lead nurturing campaign enables prospects to engage with the brand multiple times as they travel through the sales funnel.
5. Getting Testy
Testing, testing … 1, 2, 3. That’s right, a test-and-learn approach is valuable to every good lead nurturing campaign. I’ve seen some clients react to this with a sigh because it sounds expensive or like the learning is happening on their dime. The truth is: a test-and-learn approach is one of the best ways to maximize your marketing budget.
At Tenlo, we constantly test different messages using digital marketing tactics, such as landing pages, paid search ads, email subject lines … you name it. We execute small, quick campaigns that show exactly which one of our messages is relevant with the target audience. Gone are the days of throwing out big pitch ideas hoping they resonate with someone.
A test-and-learn approach goes beyond messaging though. Your lead nurturing campaign should constantly be optimizing itself based on the landing pages you use to the imagery in your social ads. You might think your target audience just wants to see your products, but the ad with the gorilla saying something silly got them to click. Not everything makes sense, but that’s why you have to test and learn to see what’s working.
6. Target Practice
Time to dust off the Nerf gun! Sorry, wrong targeting. I’m talking about targeting the right people in the right places with the right type of content. By using personas, geography and look-alike audiences built from job titles or email lists, you can reach a very specific group of people in a very specific way. At Tenlo, we like to call that “relevant awareness.”
Targeting allows you to segment your audience based on their needs, job title, age—whatever makes the most sense for your campaign. This audience segmentation results in profiles. You can align them with your lead nurturing tactics so you don’t go pushing Facebook ads out to the whole world. Something tells me your client won’t be too pleased if you burn through the entire media budget in hours for millions of impressions and zero conversions. With targeting, you can push ads to only the people who are most likely to buy your goods.
7. Make it Personal
While custom engraved cat statues can be a great personal touch, they’re not going to help your lead nurturing campaign. Personalization can be an extremely powerful tactic to boost the effectiveness of your lead gen efforts. In fact, research shows that personalized email campaigns receive 29% higher email open rates and 41% higher click-through rates than ordinary emails.
Personalization can come in many forms. As you gather data about each prospect through touchpoints, you can then automate flows. They serve similar content and imagery at the bottom of the sales funnel that still tie back to those initial touchpoints.
Surveys are another great way to gather more detailed information about potential leads lower in the sales funnel so you can qualify them and better personalize the next touchpoint. As long as the survey is quick, easy and just takes a few minutes, people are generally willing to fill it out if they’re serious about considering your products.
8. Starting from the Top
We’re talking about lead nurturing after all. Nobody likes the pushy car salesman or ads that say, “HERE, BUY THIS!” When laying the groundwork for a lead nurturing campaign, the foundation is extremely important and starts in the awareness phase of the sales funnel.
It’s true that “awareness” is where you cast the widest net, but it still doesn’t include everyone. The targeting tactics mentioned above narrow the potential leads entering your sales funnel so you aren’t reaching every Joe Schmoe out there.
As the classic saying goes, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” No matter how good your email series is, you must reach the right people. If not, your sales team is going to be pretty angry when they have to waste time talking to all the wrong people.
It’s time to start nurturing those baby leads into big conversions! Just to recap, the 8 lead nurturing tactics to boost funnel conversions are:
- Research your Target Audience – No shots in the dark here
- Use a Multi-Channel Approach – Your email series is no silver bullet, you need more
- Content is King – Show you’re a leader, not a follower
- Ten Touchpoints – Once is almost never enough, so be persistent and purposeful
- Test & Optimize Early – Messaging, imagery, channels … test it all early on to find what works best
- Target & Segment – Use your customer personas and data to get in front of only your target audience
- Personalize It – Use data gathered from touchpoints to provide relevant and engaging content
- Start with Awareness – Don’t jump the gun by assuming everyone is ready to buy
Sean’s experience in SEO and analytics helps him align creative to messaging when designing content. He’s driven to uphold brand standards and legal requirements through his understanding of how clients operate internally.
Sean Hirsch, Designer