The concept of lead nurturing is now well publicized in B2B marketing circles and has had widespread adoption with the implementation of marketing automation vendors like Eloqua, Marketo and Genius. As a principle, lead nurturing essentially recognizes that in B2B buying cycles it is necessary to ‘nurture’ a lead through giving them content relevant to different stages of the ‘buyers journey’ to aid the decision making process and warm leads up over time. The level of personalization in the nurturing process and the targeted consumption of content along the buyers journey, even at the simplest level, has been shown to increase conversion rates in B2B campaigns.
However marketing automation vendors rely on primarily email and personalized, hosted landing pages that a prospect can click through on, as the channels to ensure that the right information is delivered to the right person at the right time in the buying cycle. Yet in today’s B2B marketing environment, whilst email and landing pages are important, there are many digital channels that a prospect can be reached across, and will use in order to research and evaluate a purchasing decision. Independent visits to your website, are the single most important way a prospect will consume content during an evaluation cycle, and today’s B2B marketing automation vendors provide no website personalization support. This is a wasted opportunity to personalize the nurturing process to increase conversion rates and direct the consumption of content and collateral. Simple social sharing of assets, through providing share buttons on emails, and reporting on how many inbound web visitors emanated from different social channels does not leverage social media sufficiently for filling the top of the funnel, or nurturing prospects through an evaluation cycle. Social media provides a unique forum for multiple levels of nurturing and prospect engagement. EngageSciences has defined 8 steps of web and social nurturing that complement and extend email centric concepts of lead nurturing to drive better lead generation.
This requires breaking up prospects into key target groups (e.g. role, industry) and mapping out the high-level stages in the buying cycle (e.g. interest, evaluate, decide) and associating the suitability of your available collateral and promotions (whitepapers, webinars, case studies etc) to these key stages and groups. Ideally what would you want to show in different stages of the evaluation life-cycle, to certain roles from different industries? For example you might want to ensure that an early stage evaluator, in a junior role sees one piece of collateral that is introductory on the space, but a senior person in an advanced stage of the buying cycle consumes something very different, perhaps a piece on the ROI of your competitive differences. Another example would be if you know a person is from the Finance industry, you probably want to promote your Finance case studies. This evaluation and simple categorization of your content forms your blue-print for leveraging the power of web nurturing.
Social media plays a big role here as the information held in social networks like Linkedin and Facebook allows very granular targeting of ads and promotions to job roles, interests and target accounts. Leverage this. Your prospects are spending increasing amounts of professional and leisure time on social networks, and you have unprecedented ability to access them through these channels. Then back up this targeting with web display personalization techniques to target people to drive conversion for the campaigns and events you are running – for example those that have not signed up for an event see a half-page take-over of the homepage promoting the event one week before the start date, and those that have signed up already, see an entirely different promotion about the products that will be showcased at the event.
Get your campaign out to channels where you know people will engage with you, don’t rely on just email lists. Use automated tweets and posts, to drive engagement, and place your promotions in key real estate on your corporate website, blog, affiliate sites, and out to social networks like Twitter and Facebook with a single click. This ensures you have the largest web campaign network possible to attract prospects.
Go beyond normal collateral and events, such as whitepapers, webinars, and your blog posts to drive campaign awareness. Social media provides some great ways to nurture prospects and increase engagement. Use Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin for what they are good at – driving community interaction – use quizzes to test your community, polls and surveys to get feedback, leverage sweepstakes to reward engagement. Who hasn’t offered a chance to win a gadget if they visit your stand at a trade show? It works. Move this tactic to social networks and combine it with targeting to open up followers in new accounts, and start to drive engagement with prospects and customers. Then reward followers and fans with coupons to get early bird discounts on events. When using EngageSciences, if an action is taken on a social network like Facebook and Twitter, such as downloading an early bird coupon for your next user conference, or taking a quiz, or signing up for a webinar, or downloading some exclusive content, all that participants followers will be notified of what they have done, you can even prompt posting out to a users LinkedIn network. It is a great way to virally spread your campaign.
It is a crime not to personalize a known prospects independent web visits based on what you know about them – leverage their lead score, industry or job role to promote different collateral, events and content to them. If they are an unknown visitor leverage the google keyword a prospect used to personalize what they see, and display collateral that has the highest ranking in conversions for anonymous visitors.
B2B campaign cycles involve many visits to your website as the prospect moves through the buying cycle. Look at the original mapping you did in the segmentation step and promote collateral and content to a web visitor, blog or Facebook brand page visitor based on what he has seen before in the buying cycle. What is the next best action you want them to take? Help take your prospect through the buying cycle, and promote the best content and collateral to them based on what they have consumed before, as well as what is proven to most effectively drive conversions. Don’t rely on accomplishing this with just email communications.
One of the biggest pains for a B2B salesperson is not having the necessary case studies that really demonstrate your suitability for a particular client. Social media has opened up a world of social proof that was not available before with the traditional method of marketing sponsored case study collateral, which is expensive and time consuming to put together. Monitor and harvest positive posts and tweets about your company and products and merge them with your marketing content, on multiple display units across your websites and Facebook. Use your community to help you promote your products. This keeps your marketing content dynamic, fresh, and leverages social proof, which is so important in driving conversions. Imagine your prospect looking at a promotion for a whitepaper on product XYZ and seeing inline ten different tweets from real customers extolling it’s virtues that week, or talking about the benefits of your services over the competition. Customer advocacy drives sales.
Monitor your Engagement Score per campaign, which is made up of tweets, retweets, likes, page-views and clicks to see how you are progressing at engaging people at the top of the funnel. View metrics per channel – web, Facebook and Twitter. See how many leads each campaign is generating, and understand stats of where in the web nurturing micro-funnel prospects are falling out of the conversion process (e.g. Facebook video to web sign-up form) to ensure you are capturing as many of people as possible into the top of the funnel. Automatically post these leads to marketing automation systems, or into CRM systems like Salesforce.com.