In a typical B2B sales cycle, most of the demand you generate today will not be sales-ready for several months or maybe even years—depending on the nature of your business. Marketing automation allows you to constantly evaluate buyer stage as well as intent, and trigger the right communication for the situation—whether sending a specific email, alerting a sales rep, triggering a direct mail or SMS message, or simply creating a task in the customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Lead nurturing, in its most basic form, is the process of cultivating prospects who are not yet ready to buy. Marketing automation facilitates real-time, one-to-one conversations with your prospects based on their actions—something that manual marketing processes simply cannot do.
But technology alone is no panacea for the neglected latent demand that might be lingering in your database.
Here are four important elements you need to tackle before you automate.
1. Know your buyer
Developing your ideal customer profile and creating personas will ensure that your nurturing communications reflect buyer needs and interests and that they are relevant for each buyer role.
How-To Article: Using Personas as a Sales-Enablement Tool
How-To Article: Four Parts to Valuable Personas
Blog post: 10 Questions to Ask When Creating a Persona
2. Map your content to the buying stages
Sending the right content—whether it's a whitepaper, video, guide, or product demo—at the right time can be the stimulus that moves a buyer to the next stage.
To develop the relationship, you need to understand the interests of your buyers at each stage of the purchase process. Relevance = conversion = revenue.
How-To Article: 12 B2B Content-Marketing Practices to Ensure Success
Short Article: Four Triggers That Show a Shift in Prospect Interest
3. Whiteboard your workflow
Before you lean on technology to automate your nurturing process, start by whiteboarding the ideal scenario. Figure out how prospects will enter your nurturing flow, what rules will trigger a change in the process or cause someone to be dropped from a nurturing program, and how to map out different nurtures for different roles or industries.
Framing out your lead-nurturing program—as opposed to just blasting out communications and hoping for the best—will help create an organized flow that'll guide your prospect to the eventual sale.
How-To Article: Three Ways to Improve Your Lead-Nurturing Strategy
How-To Article: Five Quick Tips for Creating Conversations Salespeople Will Use
Short Article: Four Timely Steps to Nurturing a B2B Relationship
4. Establish clear and measurable program objectives
If you want to have a successful lead-nurturing program, you need to have a clear definition of what success means and how you intend to measure it.
If, for example, your goal is to accelerate your sales pipeline, you will need to be able to measure the average time from initial interest to close, and design your nurture program accordingly.
Having clear goals and benchmarks to measure against allows Marketing to stay focused on the objectives and makes it easy to optimize the program over time.
(For more information on lead nurturing, check out Eloqua's Grande Guide to Lead Nurturing.)
How-To Article: How to Demonstrate and Deliver Lead-Nurturing ROI