Enterprise Software Marketing, Part 5: The B2B Lead Nurturing Process
This is part 5 of a 5-part series all about enterprise software marketing. Part 1 is about defining your message and audience. Part 2 covers content creation, and then part 3 explains how to promote that content. Lastly, part 4 reviews how to track, measure, and optimize, which is rounded out by this final part, which covers ongoing lead nurture.
The glory may come from creating new leads, but the dollars come from successfully pushing those leads into a sales opportunity.
Enterprise marketing requires consistent and thoughtful B2B lead nurturing programs to push leads down the funnel. Unfortunately, the number one problem we see is organizations struggling to tread the line between obnoxious and ineffective.
B2B lead nurturing means more than email. Use every platform at your disposal: email, phone, LinkedIn, retargeting ads — even direct mail.
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Our 5 Top Tips for B2B Lead Nurturing
1. Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy
Nurture may be the stage at which we most commonly see teams fall into paralysis… and it’s also the deadliest. This is because nurture takes a relatively long time to come to fruition. The difference between a perfectly calibrated and heavily segmented nurture stream and a one-size-fits-all “good enough” can be subtle in the short term. But it’s better to have something in place than let leads go stale as you work on the Sistine Chapel of B2B lead nurturing. I’m not going to say that the creative execution doesn’t matter, but the number one goal of any nurture campaign is to remind the prospect that you exist and try to nudge them away from the true enemies of any enterprise sale — inertia and apathy. Remember, it’s digital. You can always fix it later.
2. Build Around CTAs, Not Emails
Many marketers immediately start building their nurture streams in Word by writing a series of B2B lead nurturing emails. We don’t recommend this. It creates a false sense of a narrative that only exists in your team members’ minds. Your team will show how each email lays the foundation for a neatly branched storyline that results in the inevitable decision by the prospect to ask for a demo. Unfortunately, we know that real life never works out this way. No prospect will attentively read all of your emails. You’ll be lucky if they read any of them.
We recommend thinking about an array of actions you’d like the prospects to take and an order of presenting them that makes sense, but without any assumptions that they’ve ever looked at anything else you’ve sent them.
Just like with the very top of the funnel, direct-sell CTAs that boil down to “talk to a salesperson” are very unlikely to garner much response unless you’re speaking to a segment that is signaling very high intent. For example, if the initial action taken by the prospect was to download a piece of content, you should probably follow up with more high-level content, followed up with more middle-of-funnel content.
3. Start with Generic Tracks – Then Iterate
We recommend starting with a couple of fairly generic “I don’t know anything about this prospect other than where they converted” nurture tracks and an initial set of four or five CTAs. After that, you should use a combination of soft CTAs, like “check out this blog post,” and direct CTAs, like “talk to an expert.” You can iterate from there, but you may need fewer tracks than you think.
Don’t create multiple tracks and segments unless you have something different to say (or another way of saying it).
4. Don’t Pick a Send Time Based on Generic Industry Best Practices
We’ve seen all kinds of wild and conflicting claims regarding when and how often to email prospects. Our agency view is that people overthink this. There is no perfect time to email people. Some times and days of the week may perform slightly better than others on average, but there is no single “best time” to reach everyone. Some people on your list will respond to your B2B lead nurturing emails during the middle of their workday (whatever time zone that is), and some people catch up over the weekend or late at night.
Remember, there is no single “best time” to reach everyone in your lead nurture program.
We recommend setting up your emails to arrive at different times, so you’re more likely to hit everyone’s sweet spot at least once. As for how often? It really depends on the audience and the type of CTA they responded to. Content CTAs should get a slower burn than CTAs like pricing inquiries that indicate high intent. Call it every 13 days for content and every three days for a direct sell. You’re also going to be hitting them with banner ads, LinkedIn connection requests, and any other platforms you’ve got going. So don’t overdo it, or you’ll end up in the spam or unsubscribed pile. Remember, you can’t force the pace of the prospect’s decision.
5. Don’t Forget About the Marketing-Sales Handoff
Make sure that marketing and sales agree on what happens with your leads. Effective sales and marketing coordination is a critical, and all too often ignored, step.
- When does the handoff happen?
- What does the handoff mean?
- Who is responsible for the next set of activities?
- Is marketing still involved after the handoff?
- What happens if the prospect gets disqualified by sales?
Getting on the same page as the sales team allows you to deliver a seamless experience to prospects, which increases your odds of winning them over.
That’s All Easier Said Than Done
Of course, marketing enterprise software requires a lot of expertise and time that many internal teams do not have. So, we recommend partnering with an agency, like us, to support you with B2B lead nurturing and all the content and lead generation that goes into it.