4 Steps To Design Effective Lead Generation & Prospect Nurturing Programs

Published: January 24, 2012

1) Know Your Audience, Know Yourself

Prior to embarking on any initiative, marketers should understand their audience. It’s impossible to deliver relevant content without fully grasping the issues that plague your buyer. Because most B2B purchases are investments that affect many, decisions occur over a long period of time as a committee of buyers determines budgets, conducts research and weighs opportunities. To understand the prospect, developing buyer personas for those who influence the purchase decisions is helpful. This process involves determining each buyer’s role, in addition to the types of questions they need answered at each stage of the buying cycle. When you understand how purchase selections are made, and how buyers arrive at a purchase decision, you can identify where to focus efforts.

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the target audience, it is imperative that marketers audit the product or service to be sold.

  • What niche does it fill?
  • What unique value does it bring to your target audience?
  • How is this product or service a solution to your identified target audience?
  • How does it stack up against competitive offerings?

2) Raise Awareness

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In an era where B2B buyers are in control of the content they consume, awareness matters more than ever. According to McKinsey, brands that find themselves on the initial consideration list are up to three times more likely to be purchased over brands that don’t. Awareness is now less about time and place, and more about relevancy. If a marketer truly knows the audience and their solution, they can determine where their audience is consuming information, and their point in the buying cycle, to develop a precise approach to raise awareness. When your product or service shows up where your target audience is, and it contains something they find interesting, you’ve effectively shown them you’ve done your homework.

3) Educate, Engage and Convince

Today’s marketing landscape is often chaotic. Because technology has changed the frequency and the way we communicate, it’s vital for marketers to consider content syndication. Marketers should approach content development as a publisher approaches an editorial calendar, providing pertinent information in a consistent manner. Starting with baseline educational materials is vital to getting your prospect on board before moving into engagement. Buyers need to know the facts before taking the process to the next level. As such, each piece of content should be considered part of a whole, and should include a call to action that directs prospects to the next “offer,” moving them through the sales cycle.

Engaging the audience with content also allows you the opportunity to craft specific subject matter and deliver it in a way the target audience prefers. Coupling behavior tracking with content marketing is ideal to engage and incentivize the audience when and where they are looking for information. Incentivizing and engaging content can include:

  • Frequently asked questions
  • Competitive comparisons that outline the features and benefits of your product or solution against the competition
  • Interactive pieces/needs-assessment tools
  • Success stories to show the real-world value of your product or solution
  • Webinars
  • Demo videos
  • Subject-matter expert podcast/video

4) Nurture with Mapped Content

While focusing on customer acquisition is important, nurturing your customer base is key. Create or repurpose existing content to deepen the relationships you’ve already formed. Current customers have different needs. Show them how to get the most of their investment with user guides and best practices, tutorials and new features.

Faced with the challenge of a long buying cycle, B2B marketers need to refocus on aligning the right content across the appropriate touch points in the buyer’s decision-making process. Mapping content to audience habits and sales cycle position mirrors the process of developing and deploying a lead generation and prospect nurturing strategy. With a thoughtfully devised and strategic plan, you can move your target audience through the buying cycle. Consider the following steps as part of an overall lead generation and nurturing strategy:

  • Build Awareness: Use search engine marketing to help target prospects find you in the discovery phase.
  • Educate: Provide baseline educational materials in the form of a blog post or white paper to explain the basic features and benefits of your product or solution to those seeking foundational information.
  • Engage: Display the possibilities for positive outcomes using your product or solution through webinars, videos and podcasts.
  • Convince: Encourage a purchase decision by showcasing success stories.
  • Maintain: Keep the conversation with customers going through a newsletter or online community.

Successfully generating leads and nurturing prospects is all about maintaining relevancy. As a marketer, show your audience you know who they are and what they need, by providing appropriate content when and where they’re seeking it.

Tom Jacobs is President of Jacobs Agency, which he founded in 1997. The Chicago-based agency helps companies untangle their business problems through marketing communications. Tom can be reached at tomjac@jacobsagency.com.

*This article first appeared in Corp! Magazine, Reprinted with permission, Corp! Publishing LLC.

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