What is lead nurturing, and how can it improve your online marketing?

keysAre the leads coming in, but you’re not sure how to move them from prospect to customer? Are you stumped by thinking of how you can move leads out of early-stage research to a call with your sales team—but without seeming too pushy?

Lead nurturing holds the key to unlocking the true potential of your online marketing efforts.


What is lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is a form of email marketing in which you set up a series of customized emails that automatically send to prospects in the early and middle stages of the buying cycle. You may also hear these types of emails called "trigger" emails.

Lead nurturing helps you take your prospects from “cold” to “warm”—it helps you communicate with leads, answer questions, shape their buying decision and guide people to a point where they might become sales-ready.

What are the benefits of lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing can help on many fronts, ultimately leading to a streamlined online marketing process that yields high quality results.

Make your online marketing more efficient

Lead nurturing is automatic, and it’s documented. You can queue up follow-up emails and set a schedule to send them ahead of time. You won’t have to worry whether you remembered to follow up with a lead, and you won’t blank on what offer your lead should receive next.

Key takeaway: Lead nurturing keeps you organized and efficient, and forces you to carefully plan your sequence of marketing messages.

Be quick and proactive when responding to customer inquiries

The automatic nature of lead nurturing is beneficial when thinking about customers and sales, too. After a potential customer fills out a contact form, they can receive a response instantly. They don’t have to keeping waiting for you to read their email, then wait while it gets routed to the right department, then gets routed to the right person, then gets a reply. Research shows that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds to the customer first.

Key takeaway: Establishing a positive relationship with prospects early on can be the key to sealing the deal later.

Build relationships at the right pace for customers

Just because a person made contact with your company doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy right at this minute, and this should be a consideration as you set up your lead nurturing campaign. On average, only 3% of website visitors want to make a purchase when they come to your website. You can’t force a sale after the first hello. You need to give people the time to learn more about your company and how you do business; you also need time to learn about your prospect and identify the best way to help them.

Key takeaway: Lead nurturing gives you the opportunity to engage with leads and answer their questions over time in a non-threatening way.

Personalize the experience

Through a carefully planned series of emails, you can learn a great deal about your prospects. As you see which emails they open and what calls to action they click on, you’ll discover your prospects’ interests, pain points, challenges and more. You might find out that one prospect prefers interactive presentations like webinars and video demos; she’s not so keen on white papers. Another might reveal he needs help getting buy-in from upper management before buying.

With this information in hand, you can tweak and tailor future communication with leads. This will ensure that you’re sharing the information they seek, at the time they need it, in the format they want.

Personalization can help win over prospects. A study by Hubspot shows that personalized emails from lead nurturing campaigns generate an 8% click-through rate; generic mass emails have a lower click-through rate of 3%.

Key takeaway: It's important to segment your email list and send information to prospects that is relevant to their first touch point with your company.

Earn referrals for new business

Through lead nurturing, you’ve shown that you are quick to respond to customer inquiries; that you take the time to get to know your customers; that you share helpful resources; that you’re truly vested in understanding how the customer’s business works and offering advice to make their business the best it can be.

You’re not just another pushy salesperson; you’re turning into a credible, trusted advisor over time.

Key takeaway: When people see you as a credible source, they’re likely to share your name with a supervisor or forward a link to a friend. We call these people "evangelists." Word of mouth can be a goldmine for new leads.

Ramp up repeat sales with existing clientele

Lead nurturing isn’t restricted to brand new contacts. You can tap your existing customer base to find opportunities for new business. Reach out to existing clients and tell them about new products or services you offer. Show them how your capabilities have grown, and share how you can build upon previous success.

Key takeaway: Nurturing campaigns can help current customers stay in touch, solidify the bond they have with your company and help maximize the value of your client relationships.

Keep communication lines open

Sometimes, leads still aren’t ready to buy quite yet. You don’t want to force their hand, but you don’t want them to completely forget about you, either. You need a delicate way to stay on the radar.

Lead nurturing can be a great way to keep your company top of mind. You can schedule a reminder email that gets sent out after a lead has been inactive for a certain amount of time, to send more helpful information and how else you can be of service.

Key takeaway: With lead nurturing, you can stay "on the radar" without being overbearing or too "salesy."

From saving you time to improving customer service to getting referrals for new and business, the benefits of lead nurturing can’t be emphasized enough.

Have you made lead nurturing part of your online marketing yet? Request a free inbound marketing assessment to find out more about lead nurturing, how it works, and how we can help you implement a winning strategy that will help you meet your business goals this year and beyond.

Request your free marketing opportunity review

Photo credit: Iain Watson

About the Author

Rick Whittington

Rick Whittington is the founder and Principal at Whittington Consulting. He has over 15 years of experience in websites and online marketing. Rick shows clients how to turn their marketing challenges into opportunities that yield measurable results. If you'd like to get in touch with Rick, click here to get his contact information or connect on LinkedIn here.