Nurturing Leads through the Sales Cycle

Lead nurturing is the marketing concept that buyers span different stages of the buying cycle and you need to respond to them by where they are in this process. Buyers are taking the buying process into their own hands without contacting you. So, you need to create a dialogue with this buyer on his/her own terms by offering serious content for them to study on their own. This means you have to have some idea of who your leads are. We suggest you start with your most recent buyers. Then look at those potential customers who are most similar to your recent buyers. Who has recently inquired about your product, visited your web pages, or is already in your database but has not yet purchased?

A technique long used by B2C marketers can be effective for B2B marketers as well. It’s creating a persona describing your typical buyer. Make a list. What’s his or her job title, industry, age, education, situation, problems, and goals? Create several of these personas to wrap your brain around who your potential customer is. This will help you focus your campaign on the needs of this customer. In other words, don’t try to fit this person into your sales process, but align your processes to fit who this customer is, what the needs are and the customer’s buying process.

Now that you have some idea on who your customer is, ask where they are fit in the buying process. One way to categorize buyers is by using BANT – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe; where marketers pre-qualify responses before handing leads over to sales people. Does the lead have the budget to purchase, the authority to purchase, the need to purchase, and when do they plan to purchase?

The timeframe of the buyer will help focus on the campaign to the customer. Some companies retain the customer in the marketing department and don’t release the customer to the sales department until the customer is close to purchasing. This is good for everyone. The marketing department should be responsible for keeping the database clean and up-to-date. Quota driven sales people need to focus on the sale. Customers don’t want to be harassed. According to a recent survey by Marketing Sherpa, in the average B2B sales cycle for lead generation to sales conversion, 60% of B2B organizations experience a sales cycle of longer than 3 months.

Not only is the sales cycle longer than 3 months, customers are spending more of their time doing their own research, and not engaging a "live" sales rep until the very end of the sales cycle.

Those potential customers four months and upward are candidates for nurturing. They are not ready for a sales call. They are probably researching competing products, or still figuring out what they need. They are doing their own online research, talking to colleagues and users through social media sites, then finally talking to vendors. So you need to be sure you are visible and findable on the internet, and active in social media. Isn’t this what you do when you are looking for a solution?

Since you want to keep yourself in top-of-mind, you’ll want more than one chance to engage the prospective client. Once you have identified a potential customer, start your campaign with an informational whitepaper offer with a landing site to gather more data. This gives both of you more information. Measure the campaign response rate to gauge future impressions required to attain the desired number of leads and use telemarketing campaigns to augment emails. As an aside, let’s say you want 250 leads. If your response rate was 4%, you need to start with 6,250 impressions. Move the process along with a later offer for a podcast/webinar recording based on interest, again with a landing page asking for progressive profiling. As time progresses, add an interactive demo and recorded testimonials. All of this will take several months of nurturing before your prospective client will be interested in speaking with a sale rep. They will have gained valuable information on the product, and you will have gain valuable information for your database. While all of this is time consuming, companies are finding it smart to align content to the qualification vs conversion phases of the buying cycle.

We’d love to help you nurture and grow your customer base, give us a call.

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  1. Rich Burghgraef

    I just came across this article and wish I would have found it sooner. Great information; it is what we have been telling clients for years!

    Comment — December 6, 2012 @ 11:31 am

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