In the contemporary B2B world, automated lead nurturing can deliver exceptional results for the resources invested. High-quality leads don’t appear out of nowhere, and once you do find them you must be prepared to give them what they need to justify building a relationship.

As with every aspect of the buyer and company relationship in B2B interactions, it helps to frame the concept of lead nurturing through the lens of value. A B2B customer begins the buying process by thinking about a specific pain point, and then searching for ways to alleviate it. This is just the first part of their journey, and along the way they will need and want very different things depending on the stage they are in. Certain information becomes very valuable, and they are usually willing to build a relationship with someone who is in a position to offer them something that they value.

Lead nurturing, then, is simply a strategic plan for figuring out what buyers find valuable throughout their relationship with your company, and then delivering it to them at the appropriate time. It’s a systematic plan to incentivize the buyer to continue the relationship until they have enough information to make a purchasing decision. Powerful nurturing continues after this point as well, but we’ll discuss that later.

 
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B2B sales relationships are built on a foundation of partnerships, and partnerships arise out of trust and mutual value. The average B2B buyer usually puts a lot of capital on the line when they commit to a purchase. This comes either in the form of money or in the form of personal responsibility if they spend the company’s money. When you embark on a campaign to reliably deliver value in a variety of circumstances, you naturally prove you are worthy of this investment.

While lead nurturing is always about building relationships through value, not all lead nurturing campaigns are created equal. Email lead nurturing campaigns can be employed with a variety of different objectives in mind.

A buyer who recently attended an industry-specific seminar your company sponsored has a very different path to purchasing than someone who browses content on your website. A customer who wants to renew a subscription or refill an order will find value from different sources than will a former customer who let their engagement lapse.

Thankfully, marketing software solutions make it easy to create customized nurture campaigns that are optimized for specific objectives. Marketers can deliver targeted pieces of content based on a lead’s actionable triggers, track buyer behavior across a variety of different touchpoints, and monitor lead engagement during every stage of the campaign.

Prior to the widespread adoption of marketing automation, many parts of the lead nurturing process were time-consuming, repetitive tasks. Now, automation enables you to deliver the appropriate messaging to your buyers with the proper context, and without the hassle. You can also draw from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, which provides the information you need to tailor drip campaigns accordingly.

You’ve probably heard the old cliché, “80% of success is showing up every day.” While the claim may be exaggerated, there is real truth to it. Marketers often see themselves as experts on human behavior and psychology. They take pride in delivering the right information to buyers at the right time in order to guide their decisions.

Expertise aside, there’s no doubt that one of the most important aspects of lead nurturing is simply responding to leads as quickly as you can, as often as you can. Dan Sincavage writes, “The moment leads opt-in, they’re at their highest interest level in your service or product. It’s a fact — the closer your response time is to the moment of opt-in, the better chances you have of moving the lead along your sales funnel.”

Some marketers think speed diminishes the creative aspect of their work. However, accepting this reality frees you to be more creative in your campaigns. Despite the fact that responding to leads in a timely fashion is one of the simplest lead nurturing strategies you can enact, many companies struggle to do so. If you can satisfy this requirement, then you are free to engage your leads creatively through a variety of different techniques and strategies.

Responsiveness is what gets you in the door. Once you establish a foundation, you can begin to search through your extended playbook for your next moves. When it comes to lead response time, the faster the better is the general rule to follow. Following up within 24 hours is generally a must. If you are able to complete the task more quickly, that’s even better.

The important thing is to enact a strict policy for lead response time. Inform your leads of this time frame in the immediate aftermath of their actions, and stick to your promise. Do this with every lead, every time, and you’ll have a solid starting point for engagement with almost every buyer who shows interest in your product.

 
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For many B2B leads, education is the ultimate perception of value. They may know little about the products and solutions they are researching, and they need accurate, digestible marketing materials during their buying experience. Those who start the buyer journey with a baseline of knowledge about the products they are investigating will likely still need to be educated about the finer details as they move through the funnel.

By using education-focused lead nurturing campaigns, companies have the opportunity to guide the buyer’s educational journey and align their brand with their perceived value. With a successful product-focused drip campaign, you can ensure the quality of information that your lead receives through the use of white papers, case studies, spec sheets, and other educational materials.

A lead nurturing strategy is more than a marketing and sales function. It’s a sophisticated plan for building relationships with buyers, and these relationships extend to other teams as well. Your company’s relationship with a customer begins when they first become aware of your brand presence, and it extends far beyond the point of purchase.

Personalization is a crucial lead nurturing best practice that can be adopted throughout the customer’s entire lifecycle with your company. While most people understand that personalization is great for sparking engagement with nurture campaigns, personalization can also be applied at the customer service level. According to the CMO Council, 86% of marketers could do better at delivering a personalized experience throughout the buyer’s journey. Clearly there is room for improvement, which is why personalized lead nurturing has to be stressed at all levels of the organization. Personalized content is always more engaging than generic materials.

Educational opportunities also abound throughout your relationship with the buyer. Onboarding email drip campaigns can help increase your customer success rates. Re-engagement campaigns can educate past buyers about new product developments that may spur them to learn more. It’s important to remember that most leads have a desire to learn that extends beyond the top-of-the-funnel activities. By taking your lead nurturing best practices and applying them to all phases of the relationship, you can execute a seamless and cohesive customer experience that will lead to long-term relationships.

Fan Bi is the Founder and CEO of Blank Label , a custom men's clothing brand with locations in Boston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago.
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