Even with pressure to close deals in a looming recession, the emphasis should still be on nurturing buyers, and not selling them.
B2B companies often have a longer sales cycle due, in part, to the high price point attached to the product or service and the multiple stakeholders needed to make a purchasing decision. Because of this lengthy sales cycle, prospect nurturing becomes a vital component of any marketing or sales initiative.
Measuring the effectiveness of lead nurturing allows B2B companies to understand what engages buyers and how to remove any blockers along the marketing and sales pipeline. Organizations should put in place metrics to identify areas of improvement in their buyer-nurturing programs. While various metrics exist, a point-based score, engagement rates and a survey system all provide unique lead-nurturing measurements.
The first measurement is a point-based system that will measure content engagement. The second measurement looks at engagement rates throughout a sales pipeline to identify bottlenecks or pressure points. Then the third metric sets up a survey system, especially on the sales side, to understand why customers abandon a sales process at certain stages. This data, especially viewed collectively, will provide marketing and sales teams insights.
The Push to Close Deals vs. Nurturing
Companies often attempt to fast-track actions on the marketing side to close a deal, which means they get into topics like pricing and contract terms very quickly with a lead that has just converted. An Ironpaper survey found that 55% of B2B leaders send prospects directly to a sales representative after they convert. The buyer’s ability to understand a bigger picture of this value proposition is missing between the lead converting and the pricing conversations.
For buyers to understand this value proposition, businesses need to communicate it effectively. And that begins with understanding what motivates a buyer to take action and commit to change. In the B2B landscape, it’s critical to remember that it’s a group-buying decision — no one person will make this purchase; instead, there might be an operations and technical committee coming together to decide. It’s also a longer sales cycle and a higher price point, which means this purchase is worth some consideration.
When buyers go through this consideration process, they need to understand what is in it for them. In this phase, companies can forget to nurture and instead pitch products. But, that’s not what buyers necessarily want. They don’t want a product, and they don’t even want a solution; instead, they want to make their situation better or solve the problems that are holding their organization back.
Businesses selling should take that perspective when nurturing leads. Both marketing and sales have a role in lead nurturing and measuring effectiveness. The main focus for both teams should constantly be communicating value rather than making the relationship purely transactional.
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Point-Based System to Measure Content Engagement
After a qualified lead converts, an engagement score can track content engagement. Useful metrics will be how much content the prospect engages with over time, whether or not they look at different types of content, the time spent reading or viewing content, etc. These metrics indicate if the prospect is truly invested in a commitment to change.
These metrics live within a marketing automation tool or CRM and award points to specific actions taken. For example, if the prospect views a certain number of web pages, they receive a set number of points. Prospects that view more premium content such as research reports, white papers, or solutions sheets could have more points.
These metrics allow marketers and salespeople to experiment with content and what needs to be communicated at each stage in the customer journey. Companies can ask themselves if they address the suitable topics at each stage; is there value being communicated? The points system is not a set-it-and-forget-it approach, as the content shared and the medium in which it’s shared should change as teams learn more about the buyer.
Pipeline Engagement and Blockers
Look at the marketing and sales pipeline in its entirety. Where do leads drop off?
Identifying the place in the pipeline with low conversion rates indicates that leads disengage at that point. It’s there that companies should ask how to do a better job of sharing useful, valuable insights and information that helps a client make a decision. Businesses often drive these prospects to close the deal rather than act as a trusted potential partner.
Low engagement rates in the pipeline should signal a company to re-examine the content shared. Is it too product-focused or transactional? Or does it understand the buyer’s needs at this point and provide a helpful look at the problem they are trying to solve? The latter will build a relationship with the prospect that can last a longer sales cycle.
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Survey System for Honest Feedback
When a prospect drops out of the pipeline, meaning they either no longer plan to solve their problem or have selected a competitor, it’s critical to learn “the why.” Many salespeople at this point might try to convince the prospect that they are wrong for dropping off, which doesn’t provide any real value. Instead, understand why the prospect dropped off to create a better system for the right types of buyers.
The survey can take many forms, but the data is instrumental in improving a nurturing campaign. Surveying tools, or CRMs like HubSpot, allow an easy way to create questions and aggregate data. Alternatively, a documented phone call can serve the same purpose: to discover why the prospect stepped away from the sales process.
The survey data will inform marketing and sales campaign tweaks, providing teams with actionable next steps. This survey data can also improve engagement rates in the sales pipeline if teams listen to what these prospects say and consider suggestions.
A Test-and-Learn Approach
Ultimately, to improve lead nurturing metrics, B2B companies will need to test and document the results of these tests. For example, if an eBook has low open or engagement rates, test putting that content into video format or cutting it down to a one-pager. Testing must go far beyond the design elements and instead focus on the value offered to buyers.
A point-based system, engagement rates and survey data can inform lead nurture campaigns, but companies should focus on continual improvements rather than a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Documenting changes and corresponding data can inform strategy and better the nurturing process.