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Imagine this...

You're a distributor supplying the mass market with all sorts of paint and painting accessories. Your customer base is made up of individual consumers, as well as stockists, and third-party suppliers.

How are you managing all of those accounts?

Well, you don't have a CRM, for starters. You are juggling this ridiculous number of accounts in multiple spreadsheets (cue intake of breath).

Of course, you are losing countless hours of valuable time because you're stuck using manual processes. Plus, you are making silly mistakes because things can become cluttered, and that doesn't give your customers a great impression of your business.

Something has to change. You need to find out how to reduce the time you are wasting and get things much more organized. So, you start researching better customer data management.

What you might not realize is that you have just kicked off your awareness journey.

This article explores how to nurture potential B2B clients through the awareness journey, from MQL to SQL.

What is the awareness journey?

No matter where your prospects or leads are on their customer journey, their perception of your business and the solutions you offer can make or break your business.

Not every prospect or lead will have the same information about your product, service, or industry. So, you need to be aware of where they are and serve them the right content for this level of awareness.

The five levels of awareness

There are five levels of awareness in the customer journey. What stage in the journey your prospects or leads are in determines whether they are ready to speak to your sales team and how quickly they convert.

Let's look at these five stages again, from the perspective of the paint distributor and supplier looking for a solution to their spreadsheet problem...

  1. Completely Unaware: Prospects are feeling symptoms of problems they don't yet understand. They are unaware of both the potential solutions and your business.

    Example: You now use spreadsheets for your customer and supplier data. You are making mistakes, doubling your workload, and causing unnecessary stress. You want to understand what's causing these difficulties, so you start researching.

  2. Problem-Aware: Prospects know they have a problem; they are learning more about it and looking for solutions. But they aren't looking at specific products or companies yet.

    Example: You realize you're doing too much manually. You need to find a more streamlined way of doing things, and perhaps find something that can automate your processes to free up time and reduce human error.

  3. Solution-Aware: Prospects are now aware of the potential solutions to their problem, but they haven't narrowed their research down yet to specific products/services/companies.

    Example: You realize you need to move customer records online, and a CRM is an excellent solution to the problem. However, you haven't yet narrowed it down to a particular SaaS.

  4. Product-Aware: Prospects are looking for specific products to fit their needs. They are exploring the marketplace to match products/services against their created criteria.

    Example: You are now looking for specific CRM software to help solve your problems. You know what features and benefits it must offer, so you consume content that informs you. You are also comparing and looking at pricing.

  5. Most Aware: Prospects are aware of and interested in your product/service. But they need to justify and validate the reasons for purchase, comparing against the alternative.

    Example:
    You've narrowed your choice down to one or two specific CRMs. The suppliers need to provide information that assures you their product is the right purchase—and they need to motivate you to commit to buying their SaaS.

Now back to your actual business (unless you really are a paint distributor).

All your leads will go through their own awareness journey. Your job is to nurture them through it to the point of purchase. And then continue that level of service after they are a customer.

By nurturing effectively, you help them in a way relevant to them at the right stage in their buyer journey, ultimately helping to convert them into paying customers.

What is lead nurturing?

Would you propose marriage on the first date?

Probably not!

Because even if you are ready, the chances are your date won't be. And the same applies to your potential customers. You need to build and cultivate relationships—and you do that via nurturing.

Fully 96% of visitors who arrive on a website aren't yet ready to buy. So it's no surprise that companies that prioritize and excel in lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-qualified leads, at 33% lower cost.


Lead nurturing is the process of cultivating leads who are not yet ready to buy. You do that by anticipating potential buyers' needs and delivering content based on their place in the buying process.


To nurture effectively, you need to know where your leads are in the awareness journey.

 

By pinpointing where they are, you can serve them the right content at the right time and move them along the awareness journey toward purchase. You create a tailor-made content cascade that carries them through the awareness stages to the point that they know, like, and trust you—and are ready to buy.

The Awareness Cascade: How to nurture a lead to Sales-qualified

"Build it and they will come."

It's the philosophy many businesses subscribe to when it comes to awareness stages. The assumption is that they will naturally move through the awareness stages without any helps on your part.

And, they might!

However, we don't like to work in "what ifs" or "might." It's important to understand how to intentionally move your prospects from Marketing-qualified to Sales-qualified. And there is a way to push prospects through each awareness stage using an awareness cascade.


The awareness cascade uses content and nurture to move prospects from one stage of awareness to the next—by using targeted lead magnets and email sequences that target the particular pain points at that stage in awareness.


There are multiple stages in the awareness journey, and it's our responsibility to engineer the journey in a way that helps leads move from one step to the next.

How?

Automation systems seamlessly deliver the right content at the right time, pushing leads through to the next awareness stage.

What type of content are we talking about?

At each stage of awareness, you will need different types. Some examples:

  1. Completely unaware: live webinar, cheat sheet, checklist
  2. Problems-aware: email series, workbooks
  3. Solution-aware: report, e-book, toolkit
  4. Product-aware: planners, generators
  5. Most aware: tutorials, whitepapers, case studies, buyer's guide

By engineering your campaigns to deliver the right content at the right time, you amplify your likelihood of gaining conversions.

 

An example of using an awareness cascade to nurture leads from MQL to SQL

One of the biggest mistakes B2B businesses make in lead nurturing is to stop after a lead has reached the end of one nurture sequence. Prospects download a lead magnet, enter a sales email sequence, and, if they don't buy in that sequence, the nurture stops.

However, the true power of nurture lies in engineering sequences to push leads through to the next relevant step.

Don't stop; give leads the next thing that they need to move them closer toward purchase.

For example...

Imagine that website visitors have downloaded your lead magnet, a pdf on "What is CRM software?" Those people are likely be problem-aware, in that they know they have to streamline processes but they don't yet know what solution is right for them.

After they download that lead magnet, you'll likely enter them into an accompanying sales sequence that drip-feeds relevant information and pushes them along the sales cycle. And by the end of this sequence, some leads might be ready to buy.

However, what if they are not?

For some businesses, especially in the B2B sector, the sales cycle lasts months, if not years. When leads don't buy straight away, they are often abandoned or added to the newsletter sequence.

But cleverly pushing them onto the next relevant email sequence is a much more effective way of nurturing through the awareness journey. It's time to offer them a lead magnet and sequence that caters to the solution-aware/product-aware.

At the end of the initial sequence, offer them another relevant lead magnet. In this case, that might be something like "choosing the right CRM tool for your business."

The aim is that by the end of this sequence, they will be ready to buy from you or ready to move on to the next sequence.

Nurture plays a part throughout the entire awareness process, not just in one stage.

Ready to nurture leads through the awareness stages?

It takes a lot of time and effort to create lead magnets and nurture sequences. However, despite the work that goes into them, they don't always result in purchases immediately.

To effectively move leads from Marketing-qualified to Sales-qualified, you need to nurture your leads by providing them the relevant information at the right point in their awareness journey.

Understanding the awareness stages and the content required at each stage is essential to moving prospects along the customer journey.

More Resources on Lead-Nurturing

Never Waste an Opportunity: The Value of Lead-Nurturing

Lead-Nurturing and Marketing Automation: 15 Key Questions Answered (Questions 2-4)

How to Scale Your Lead-Nurturing With Content Curation: Alicianne Rand of NewsCred on Marketing Smarts [Podcast] 

If you want help implementing a nurture sequence tied into awareness stages, then get in touch. We can help you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Kenda Macdonald

Kenda Macdonald is a forensic psychology major, the Demand Generation Consulting Practice Lead at MarketingProfs, and the founder of Automation Ninjas, the UK's leading behavioral automation agency. She's an international public speaker, a multiaward-winning businesswoman, a doting cat mom, and the author of the best-selling Hack the Buyer Brain.

LinkedIn: Kenda Macdonald