How To Use Nurture Campaigns to Double Qualified Leads

Nurture Marketing Campaign Strategy

The goal of nurture campaigns is to cultivate unqualified leads until they become sales-ready.

In B2B industries, nurture campaigns facilitated with marketing automation software can double the volume of sales-ready leads delivered to the sales team. Here's how that works.

New sales lead acquisitions follow a bell curve in terms of buyer readiness, where about 20-25% are sales-ready when received (and immediately forwarded to the sales team), about 45-55% are not sales-ready when received — however about 45-65% of this group will eventually become sales-ready over about 10 to 18 months — and finally about 25-30% of new leads are not sales-ready when received and never will be.

Sales Lead Bell Curve

For most businesses, that middle group is neglected and lost. Often these not-yet sales ready leads are forwarded from marketing to sales only for sales to reach out and determine these prospects are not ready to talk to a sales person. The leads then linger and eventually succumb to lead leakage.

To recapture that middle group, those not-yet-sales-ready leads should be cultivated until they become sales-ready using nurture marketing campaigns. If correctly done, then about 45-65% of that group will eventually become sales-ready and forwarded to the sales team at the point where buyers are ready to talk to sales people.

Because this middle group is often about twice as large as the initially qualified leads, and about half of these not yet sales-ready leads will eventually make a purchase from somebody, you can see how the math adds up so that nurturing these leads effectively doubles the total number of qualified leads you send to the sales force.

The highest performing marketers convert this middle group at a rate of 2-2.5% per month – every month – which effectively grows the pipeline 2-2.5% per month for as many months as your sales cycle lasts.

So with this nurture marketing strategy, let me share some nurture marketing best practices that may further contribute to your lead acquisition success.

Nurture Marketing Best Practices

  • Customer Segmentation. To maximize nurture campaign effectiveness, I suggest segmenting prospects and customers based on demographics, firmographics and online behaviors in order to deliver personalized email campaigns (not individual emails, but theme-based, progressive email campaigns). If you combine these segments with the combination of buyer persona and buy cycle stage you will increase conversions by low double digits.
  • Nurture Flights and Waves. Good nurture campaigns send progressive messaging where each message compliments or builds upon the prior, and ultimately reaches a crescendo effect. Historically, marketers often followed the Rule of 7 for nurture campaigns, meaning that each nurture program should distribute seven flights before being exhausted. With more focus on content marketing and omni-channel campaigns, some of the best marketers and research are now suggesting that 12 to 14 flights are improving campaign response rates by 15 to 18% (which is huge). The number of flights per nurture campaign is another item that will have to be tested to discover what works best.
  • Drip Campaigns. Also, based on your target market, you will want to create at least three types of outbound campaigns, being time-based, behavior-based and trigger responses. Time-based campaigns are drip distributions whereby flights are staged by date with lapse periods in between deliveries. A marketing best practice is to automatically convert leads from a time-based campaign to a behavioral campaign once the lead engages and the digital footprints provide clues to assign the lead to a more relevant nurture campaign.
  • Trigger Campaigns. Trigger responses are programmed replies which immediately activate based on a particular lead action (i.e. they send an instant response to the lead or immediately forward the lead to sales based on a single event). Trigger responses are less frequent, but will result in a higher lead conversion rate than any other campaign type.
  • Lifecycle Campaigns. Understanding how your customers consume, renew and replace your products or services enables you to deploy lifecycle campaigns in order to promote repeat purchases for product or service renewals, upgrades or end of life replacements – at just the right time when customers are ready for these transactions. Some customer purchase patterns are predictable as they procure consumables on a periodic basis. Other customers may purchase by season or based on business or even environmental factors which influence demand for your goods. Performing some customer analysis and database profiling in order to identify purchase patterns by customer type and individual customer can go a long way in aiding these purchases, increasing customer share and reducing customer churn.

Top Campaign Challenges

Creating the nurture marketing campaigns is pretty easy, however, creating the remarkable content for these campaigns is really hard. Each nurture campaign generally requires several content assets over several waves in order to engage buyers and acquire leads. Buyers are bombarded with promotional content so creating the content that separates your messaging from the market noise is a big challenge.

The other big challenge is extending your marketing campaigns beyond just email distributions. Nurture campaigns should consider a multi-channel approach whereby different waves are distributed on different channels such as social networks, your website, direct mail, newsletters, events or even mobile. Increasing channels increases lead conversions and further identifies what channel each customer best responds.

Nurture Campaigns Deliver Revenue Impact

According to Gartner, companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in 6 to 9 months. And according to Forrester research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost per lead. These are statistics that are hard to argue with.