Old marketing tactics have dropped in effectiveness (cold calling, trade shows) while technological innovations have created an entire new way of buying and selling (digital content marketing, customer relationship management). Buyers now control the sales process and selling to them now requires the ability to reach and interact with prospects in an entirely new way.
Evidence of this shift can be seen in the findings of a February 2013 eMarketer report that lists the top challenges from B2B marketers today. Apart from not having enough budget (59%), marketers largest struggle is the ability to “reach the right target at the right time in the buying decision” (39%). This shows that B2B marketers have started to recognize that the buyer needs to be the main focus of all marketing efforts.
This also helps to explain why from 2011 to 2012, there was a 233% increase in the portion of marketing budgets allocated to marketing automation solutions (eMarketer).
Marketing automation platforms allow marketers to manage of all of their prospects from one database and track their prospects digital behaviors to help understand where each prospect is at in their buying decision at any given time. Within the platform, you can assign different numerical scores to each piece of marketing content you create—with lower scores assigned to early stage content and high scores assigned to late stage content like pricing pages or product comparisons. By looking at prospects consumption of all marketing efforts (website, blogs, email marketing, social), you can determine what “next step” is going to be most appropriate for each prospect.
This is why using marketing automation for B2B lead nurturing is so effective, as some of the prospects that come into your pipe are not ready to buy right away. You will know this because your marketing automation solution will tell you that the prospect is not engaging with any high-scoring digital content that signals he or she is near a purchase decision, which tells you the prospect needs to go into a lead nurturing stage.
B2B lead nurturing consists of sending your ‘not-yet-ready-to-buy’ prospects marketing content that educates them on your solution and industry in a non-threatening way. A quarterly company newsletter or educational email campaign are good examples of this. By tracking consumption of your nurturing efforts using your marketing automation platform, you will know when a prospect moves out of the nurturing phase and is ready to be engaged by sales.
When done correctly, lead nurturing helps to build trust and keep your company top of mind when your prospect is finally ready to make a buying decision.