As digital marketers, we spend a lot of time trying to drive traffic to our clients’ sites. We create paid and organic social campaigns, optimize websites for search engines, develop elaborate AdWords campaigns, and more. Though every company could benefit from more, well-targeted site visitors, your first priority should be turning the site visitors you already have into qualified leads.
Before you work on generating more traffic, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your website have targeted content for each of your unique audiences? (Do you know who your unique audiences are?)
- Does your website have content for each phase of your audiences’ buying journey?
- Are you leveraging this content to stay connected to visitors and leads outside of your website with social media, remarketing, and email?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, read on. I’m going to walk you through how to set up a basic lead nurturing campaign using your marketing automation tool of choice.
What is Marketing Automation?
(skip ahead if you already know the answer, smarty pants.)
Marketing automation platforms (MAPs) are suites of online marketing tools that help marketers place the right content in front of the right user at the right time. The best MAPs combine content creation and editing tools with user-friendly automation features, and accessible reporting dashboards. Depending on the client and use case, we typically use HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, or Eloqua. However, we are certified partners with InfusionSoft, which happens to be our favorite.
When you choose a MAP, you’ll want to look out for a few particular features. Some MAP functionality you’ll need for basic lead nurturing includes:
- Email design and editing (personalization tokens & dynamic content are pluses!)
- Automated workflows that can be triggered and modified by user actions or updated properties
- Integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) tool
Once your MAP of choice is in place, there are steps you can follow to create a lean, adaptable lead nurturing program you can optimize and grow over time:
1. IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC GOAL YOUR CAMPAIGN WILL ACCOMPLISH.
Though lead nurturing campaigns can exist for the obvious reason, (to generate more, better-qualified leads for sales) the same principles can help companies reach many goals. Lead nurturing can help you influence users to take action – any action. Maybe you’re trying to increase freemium product downloads, increase average order size, or improve customer retention. Establish your campaign with a clear goal and measurable objectives in mind.
2. IDENTIFY A TARGET PERSONA YOU CAN BUILD YOUR CAMPAIGN AROUND.
Marketing Mistake #1: Trying to create a campaign that speaks to every type of potential customer. When we try to target everyone, we reach no one. Instead, choose one persona to target in this campaign. To get your campaign up and running as quickly as possible, select the persona for whom you already have content created.
3. MAP YOUR KEY PERSONA’S BUYING JOURNEY.
What are the psychological steps users go through on their path to purchase? Start simple by thinking about what your persona is experiencing in the Awareness, Consideration, and Decision phases:
STEP 1: Awareness
Buyers are not necessarily aware of your brand, but they’ve identified a challenge or opportunity they want to pursue.
STEP 2: Consideration
Buyers have a clearly defined goal or challenge and have committed to addressing it. They are evaluating different approaches or methods available to pursue the goal or solve their challenge.
STEP 3: Decision
Buyers have already decided on a solution category and are evaluating specific solutions/vendors.
4. DOCUMENT WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR PERSONA IN EACH PHASE OF THEIR JOURNEY SO YOU CAN IDENTIFY OR CREATE CONTENT THAT MEETS THEIR NEEDS.
Ask yourself the following questions for each buying phase:
- How do buyers describe their goals or challenges?
- How do they educate themselves on these goals or challenges?
- What are the consequences if they don’t act?
- Are there common misconceptions buyers have?
- How do they decide if this goal/challenges is a priority?
- What categories of solutions do buyers investigate?
- How do buyers educate themselves on the various categories?
- How do buyers perceive the pros and cons of each category?
- How do buyers decide which category is right for them?
- On what criteria is the buyer evaluating these solutions/vendors?
- What questions will they have for you/your sales team?
- What do they like about your offering? What differentiates you from your competitors?
- Who needs to be involved in the decision? How does each person’s viewpoint differ?
5. AUDIT EXISTING CONTENT AND MAP TO BUYER’S PHASE.
The first thing to look at when determining where content fits is the message, or the “meat,” of the content, but certain content types work better for various phases. For example:
Awareness Content Types:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
Consideration Content Types:
- Interactive tools
Decision content types:
- Case studies
- Quote requests
- Free trials
(Phase definitions, key questions, and content types are taken from HubSpot’s Inbound Methodology, the buyer journey portion of which you can learn more about here.)
6. CREATE OR OPTIMIZE YOUR BOTTOM-OF-FUNNEL (BOFU), OR DECISION-STATE CONTENT OFFER AND MAKE SURE PEOPLE CAN FIND IT.
We always recommend starting by optimizing the Decision-stage content offer because there may be users who enter their “journey” ready to buy. For those folks, you want to make sure it’s easy to get from their starting point to their purchase. For example, if you sell by having users set up a meeting with your sales team, start your campaign by optimizing your sales request landing page and ensuring it’s easy for website visitors to access.
7. CREATE AND/OR OPTIMIZE YOUR MIDDLE-OF-FUNNEL (MOFU)/CONSIDERATION’ PHASE AND TOP-OF-FUNNEL (TOFU)/AWARENESS PHASE OFFER.
MOFU/Consideration offers should help your persona solve a problem. For example, a car dealership might have a chart that explains the difference between their make/model of cars vs. their competitors. TOFU/Awareness level offers should provide educational information about the challenge/opportunity without being too “sales-y.” That same car dealership might have a few blog posts about innovations in new cars, the performance differences between SUVs and minivans, the pros and cons of specific features, etc. All offers should include calls to action (CTA’s) that encourage the user to take the “next step.” TOFU offers need MOFU CTAs. MOFU offers need BOFU CTAs. You get the idea.
8. DEVELOP “CONVERSION PATHWAYS” TO STAY TOP OF MIND FOR USERS WHO HAVE CONSUMED YOUR CONTENT.
This is really where the “lead nurturing” parts come in. If a reader has consumed a series of Awareness-phase blog posts, you want to encourage them to check out a more Consideration-phase piece of content. Beyond including a MOFU/Consideration CTA within each blog post, you could also create remarketing ads for search and social promoting your MOFU offer in a contextualized way. If someone read a blog post called “The Benefits of Minivans Over SUVs,” you might remarket to them with a MOFU ad that reads “How to Select Your First Minivan” and leads to a downloadable ebook.
Once you’ve captured a lead’s information via a TOFU or MOFU form, you can create a series of personalized emails that align with the content you know they’ve already consumed. If Joe downloaded “The Benefits of Minivans Over SUVs,” you could send him a series of emails that include information about each brand’s minivans, new minivans you have available, the latest minivan features, and promotional offers on minivans. In each, include a BOFU/Decision phase “ask” such as “set up a meeting with our sales team” or “call today.”
This way, in theory, you’re generating more leads for your sales team. They’re more qualified than a simple “contact us” form on your website would suggest. Another benefit is that your sales team can plan ahead and sell efficiently because they already know the customer is interested in minivans.
9. OPTIMIZE AND OPTIMIZE SOME MORE.
The beauty of digital lead nurturing is that you can track every interaction and use that data to improve over time. To run with the previous example, you could track the number of people who download the MOFU/Consideration content offer, send them ten emails over a period of 2 months, and measure how many people open/click each email, and how many achieve the goal of setting up a sales call.
Establish a dashboard for each lead nurturing campaign you create, so you can quickly and easily identify areas for improvement and pull the necessary levers to make it happen. At NATIV3, we compare our performance against industry benchmarks, optimize and troubleshoot before we make significant additions to our campaigns.
Establishing effective lead nurturing campaigns takes a lot of time and effort, but studies show it pays off over time. Marketo has found that companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. It also forces you to be intentional about the content you create, so you’re not wasting resources developing content that won’t contribute to your bottom line.