When you’re selling to B2B technology clients, you know you’re in it for the long haul. The tech buying process is complicated and lengthy, “typically taking three to six months for each of the three basic phases in the tech buying cycle: exploring, evaluating, and engaging” (Gartner). To sustain your relationship during the long buying journey, it’s important to build a strong connection with your prospects from the very beginning. Implementing a lead nurturing program for your top of funnel leads can help you develop a true partnership with your prospects as they move through the buying cycle, improving your chances of ultimately closing the sale.
Why do tech companies need a top of funnel lead nurturing program?
Leads at the top of the funnel are typically not yet ready to buy. They’ve indicated some interest in your company by sharing their contact details, but at this point they don’t know enough about your solutions to make a purchase decision. Nurturing these leads gives you the opportunity to educate them about your company and offerings, building trust and establishing a relationship with them. Effective lead nurturing can help develop warmer leads that are more engaged with your brand, creating better qualified leads that are more likely to be considered viable prospects by your sales team. With the longer buying cycles experienced in the technology sector, a well-executed nurturing program can help to keep leads engaged and interested in your solutions throughout their purchase journey.
Why is it challenging to develop an effective lead nurturing program?
Although most B2B marketers agree that lead nurturing is a valuable initiative, it can be a difficult process to perfect (DemandGen). There are a number of challenges that marketers face when trying to execute a successful lead nurturing program including:
- A shortage of data on which leads to nurture.
- Building the right timing and workflows for campaigns.
- Developing targeted content for each buyer stage and interest.
Top of Funnel Lead Nurturing Best Practices
To help you overcome these challenges and build a successful top of funnel lead nurturing program, we’ve put together a list of 5 best practices:
1. Use lead scoring to determine the most valuable prospects to nurture
Since top of funnel leads have had limited engagement with your brand so far, you may think that you do not have enough data to evaluate their potential value. As a B2B technology marketer however, you understand the key demographic and firmographic characteristics that define your target customer segments and can use this data to identify leads that have the attributes and behaviours that make them high-quality prospects. Your ability to successfully evaluate leads can also be improved by working closely with the sales team to define top prospects and target customer segments. Identifying and prioritizing leads by revenue potential and purchase likelihood will help you focus your nurturing efforts on the most qualified leads.
2. Embrace automation to improve responsiveness
Automation is a powerful tool that helps you create proper workflows to optimally nurture your top of funnel leads in a timely manner. Your nurturing efforts can be organized by lead score and target customer segments, which helps to facilitate personalization thereby increasing engagement. Having proper workflows gives you the ability to align your marketing efforts and test optimal timing for marketing messages. Determining the right timing is key, as you can lose opportunities if you are too slow to respond to new leads. With tech buying typically being managed by a group of decision makers, automation tools can help you stay on top of your nurturing efforts with multiple stakeholders associated with the same lead.
3. Create high-value content through personalization and repurposing strategies
Leads at the top of the funnel are looking for solutions to business challenges or needs. Your content should provide value by addressing the questions that tech buyers have at this stage in the buying cycle. What solutions are my peers using? What are the future trends of possible solutions? Educating prospects about the industry as well as your company’s offerings will help to show thought leadership and build trust. Content should be personalized to the specific target customer segment but can be repurposed from existing content to enable efficient content creation. Specific content offers should be exclusive to the nurturing program and be based on initial or previous content engagement.
4. Optimize content engagement by employing a multi-channel approach
Nurturing your top of funnel leads should involve more than just an email marketing campaign. Employing a multi-channel approach can help you test and determine the most effective channels to reach and engage with top of funnel leads. In addition to email marketing where you can include CTAs to download white papers, videos, and podcasts, your nurturing program can also employ social media, event marketing, direct mail, and display ads/retargeting. Engaging with leads across multiple channels can be effectively managed using your automation tools. Using multiple channels to connect with your top of funnel leads will keep your brand top of mind as your tech prospects continue to do their own research about possible solutions.
5. Examine your analytics to measure the success of your lead nurturing efforts
Measure the success of your top of funnel lead nurturing efforts by reviewing your analytics on an ongoing basis. Your automation tools can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your channels, timing, and content, and adjust campaigns as necessary. Analytics to consider include, click through rate, conversion rate, email open rate, cost per lead, engagement scores, average deal size, and time to customer acquisition. It’s important to know the length of the buying cycle to understand the effectiveness of your efforts in nurturing your top of funnel leads from their prospect state to customer acquisition status. Reducing the time to customer acquisition or shortening the tech buying cycle, is a great measure of success for lead nurturing programs in the technology space.