How to Nurture B2B Leads in a Shorter Time Frame
B2B sales processes are complex, intertwined and lengthy. Sure, there may be the occasional quickfire conversion–but for the most part, a period of nurturing and educating each prospect is inevitable.
The products and services which involve heavy investment and/or technical complexity need to be considered carefully by multiple stakeholders at multiple levels of the business. We tend to think about this in abstract terms, but it’s essential to remember the human nature of this process. These conversations are not always linear, not always timely, and not always logical.
In this article, I will explore ways in which to navigate this challenge, with the aim of achieving quicker conversions from lead capture to sale. Ultimately, it comes down to one main piece of advice: give your prospects exactly what they need, when they need it. But how? I believe there are two main methods:
- Account-based Marketing (ABM)
- Serving hyper-resonant content
There are clear overlaps between these two areas; especially in the areas of segmentation, personalization, and custom content creation.
Account-based Marketing (ABM)
Account-based Marketing (ABM) has become a B2B buzzword in recent times, but not without good reason. Marketers are getting super personal–narrowing their focus on a specific set of accounts–“ideal customers”–based on their definition of Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs).
Erik Devaney outlines the basics of ABM clearly on the Drift blog:
“Instead of ending with a target company that’s a good fit for you to sell to (after you’ve filtered out all the bad leads), with ABM, you start with target companies. You identify the biggest opportunities at the beginning and then proactively go after them. Instead of waiting for a hundred fish to swim into your net, hoping you’ll catch the one fish you actually want, with ABM you’re laser-focused on that one fish from the start, and you’re devoting all of your energy to hauling that one, beautiful fish into the boat.”
ABM is about building deeper relationships with multiple stakeholders within that target organization, through outbound contact (online and offline), hyper-targeted social ads, personalized content marketing and custom-built events (online and offline). With ABM, the account is the market.
So, how can ABM speed up your lead nurturing process? Well, the main simple point is that your “ideal customers” are defined as ready, willing and able. This is a key part of your ICP analysis. So it follows that fewer of the leads in your funnel will need heavy convincing about the value proposition.
In theory, this should result in less inefficient chasing and less wasted effort. The leads might be fewer in number, but they should be far superior in quality. This reduces the risk of landing in repeated dead-ends, and decreases the time spent by the sales team to close a deal.
But in practice, ABM requires detailed planning, deep creativity and manual effort. And as Brandon Redlinger writes in his OpenView article, it also needs a seamless bond between sales and marketing.
You should be able to close deals quicker because you’re targeting one single entity with increased energy and budget, but it’s not the easy route. You need to identify key stakeholders within individual organizations and build a custom strategy for each. Then, you need to bring together paid and organic channels – and integrate manual and automated tactics into one strategic mix.
Nevertheless, ABM isn’t do-or-die. You can use the principles of ABM to improve your marketing without sacrificing everything else. The premise is to become more targeted, more personalized, and more attentive to individual stakeholder needs within the complex structure of an organization. It’s less about volume of output and more about quality. This is a lesson every B2B marketer can learn.
Serving Hyper-Resonant Content
Let’s say you’re selling a CRM system. Any business looking to introduce or switch their CRM needs to consider it very carefully, because it touches on so many aspects of the company: sales, marketing, customer service, operations and more. It might also affect third-party agencies and partners.
Each person has a different view of what matters to them. Rather than bombarding all of your contacts at the prospect firm with the same sales emails, it makes sense to:
- Deeply understand their individual and collective concerns
- Know how your solution alleviates those concerns
- Create content to educate individual stakeholders
- Distribute this content directly to the right people
The first two steps involve research to build on your existing knowledge. “Small data” is fine here; you don’t need colossal sample sizes, just great qualitative insights. You can reach out via LinkedIn to interview people with relevant roles, or use online research tools to recruit participants in a niche – e.g. customer service representatives or marketing executives, in the case of a CRM vendor.
For the third step, content creation, your creative team needs to focus on stakeholder pain points. Content needs to be clear, unique and helpful. B2B buyers are typically very well informed; they’ve scanned the market and are aware of your competition. Don’t hide; create comparison articles. And show real-world use cases that reference job roles and show how the product is used. Be specific.
The fourth step is often the most challenging. Getting the content in front of the right eyeballs. When people hear “lead nurturing,” they usually think of email sequences and outreach. These are great, but if you’re nurturing a prospect with multiple stakeholders, you might only have one or two contact details on file. Other channels can be used to support your message and reach hidden decision-makers.
For example, we can track website visitors using plugins, and segment them based on their business, industry, engagement levels and many other factors. This data can be used to build custom audiences, which then power highly-targeted social ads. These ads can hit certain stakeholders in certain organizations at certain times and places–with content specifically-designed for their consumption.
Quality always trumps the volume of output. A B2B lead requires this deeper care and attention, due to the complexity of making an expensive decision that affects various aspects of an organization.
We can speed up lead nurturing by making the education process as smooth and painless as possible for all the stakeholders involved. A customer service manager doesn’t care about whether a CRM can power sales – they care about whether switching CRM has a payoff for the support team. We must identify these stakeholders, understand their deep pain points, and serve hyper-resonant content.
Nurturing leads in a shorter time frame isn’t easy. It’s a challenge that requires lots of listening and learning, followed up by personalized actions that edge you ahead of your competitors.
Hear what they had to say about setting priorities, the rising importance of speed, and the very important thing we all seem to have lost.
We’re at a pivotal time where businesses can truly effect positive change in the lives of their customers, especially as everyone navigates all of this uncertainty.
As a new sales team starts going through training, we often hear them ask, “Where are our leads?!” And all heads typically turn toward the marketing team.