5 Common Stages of B2B Lead Nurturing


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If you work in the complex b2b marketing industry, you know just how long the journey from prospect to closed deal can take. Let’s just say it can feel more like an odyssey than a simple business transaction.

There are several layers of investigation, cultivation and negotiation along the way. Smart marketers don’t jump in haphazardly. Lead nurturing provides a structural framework for delivering specific types of content that answers buyers’ questions when they ask them. While every lead nurturing program requires some tailoring, we outlined 5 common stages a prospect will go through and the kinds of content you should deliver.

Often times an early stage prospects are just beginning to realize they have a problem – even if they can’t name it. At this point, they might not even know about your industry, much less your brand.

This is a great time to deliver high-level, engaging content that helps them formulate and conceptualize the challenges they face. You can do this by pointing them to customer stories on your blog or website, short and fun videos, engage them on your branded social media channels, and deliver informative industry data in the form of digestible e-books. (For an example, check out our award-winning Grande Guides.)

By now, the prospects have moved from a vague notion of an issue to evaluating possible fixes. This is where the question shifts from “Do I have a problem?” to “Is there a solution to my problem?”

This is a great time to introduce case studies that provide more depth into how customers solved similar issues, data sheets that demonstrate the impact of your product, and white papers that shed more light on your industry.

This is the stage where a lead becomes an opportunity. Your prospects are educated about the industry and it’s time to make the case for why you are best positioned to help them address their challenge. It’s the time when you answer the question, “Why buy now?”

This is an excellent period to start showing off your credentials, provide list of industry reports and accolades you’ve received, cost comparisons, relevant facts and figures that differentiate you from your competitors.

Many leads get stalled at the accelerator level. There are a variety of reasons why this happens. They might need continued education, or their budget might have shrunk, or the people in charge of making the purchase decision might have left the company.

It’s important that when sales passes back a lead they provide a reason. If you understand the issue, you can lead them down an alternative path until they are sales-ready. This is the time to introduce some mid-level content, in the form of analyst reports, e-books, white papers and customer testimonials, that will re-engage the lead. It will also help identify who the key decision-makers are within the company.

Congratulations! You sealed the deal. But don’t think your lead nurturing efforts are over. Retention is the new acquisition.

You need to make sure your customers are getting the relevant content that will ensure their continued success. Help customers understand the on-boarding process and the key support people that will aid them in implementing your solution. This can come in the form of FAQs, tips and tricks, customer newsletters and hosted online communities.

No two buyers are the same, and so no lead nurturing program follows one path. But with the right amount of planning you can anticipate the questions and develop the right kind of content to answer them.

What kind of content do you use in your lead nurturing programs? What do you feel works best for each stage.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jesse Noyes
Jesse came to Eloqua from the newsroom trenches. As Managing Editor, it's his job to find the hot topics and compelling stories throughout the marketing world. He started his career at the Boston Herald and the Boston Business Journal before moving west of his native New England. When he's not sifting through data or conducting interviews, you can find him cycling around sunny Austin, TX.


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