Want more leads? You’re not alone. According to IDG Enterprise’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing Spotlight Report, lead generation is the #1 priority for content marketers.
But while everybody says they want more leads, in the very next breathe they’ll add that they want better leads, too. That’s why you’ll see lead nurturing come in as priority #4 on this same graph. Lead nurturing is basically lead generation 2.0. First you get the leads, then you warm them up.
There are dozens of studies supporting the importance of lead quality. Here’s just one example, from Ascend2’s 2014 Lead Generation Benchmark Survey: Trends by Company Size:
There is it at #1: lead quality. For these marketers, lead quality trumps lead quantity.
This hardly news to most B2B marketers. And anyone in the sales department can tell you in a snap second that not all leads are created equal. Lead quality is always a vital concern.
That’s where lead nurturing comes in. Smart marketers know all too well that they have to take those small seeds of new leads and slowly grow them into customers and clients. This development can take days or weeks, months or years. It’s critical to success. And it’s definitely not a one-step process. So how can you nurture leads with content curation?
Lead nurturing with content
Lead nurturing, as you know so well, is how you move a prospective client or customer through the sales cycle. Some marketers call the sales cycle a “sales funnel” or a “buyer’s journey”.
Whatever you call it, all those cycles and funnels and journeys are basically the same thing. They are a path customers proceed through. The path is defined… sometimes it’s called a sales funnel. You can track each customer through each phase of your sales funnels. If you have different types of customers – different “personas”, hopefully you’ve defined different paths for each type of customer.
Lead nurturing as relationship development
Lead nurturing has supported a lot of metaphors over the years. Some have referred to it as being like a dinner party, or a production line, or dating. These are all fine metaphors. They all describe fundamentally the same thing: Relationship building. Lead nurturing is basically building a relationship. And building a relationship is about building trust.
Marketers have a number of ways to build trust. As content marketers, we’re focused on sending our prospects awesome content to engage and inform them. We’re different than old-school advertisers who just blasted a message out. Our lead nurturing takes an educational approach, with a small dose of entertainment thrown in.
Content marketers have it pretty good for lead nurturing. Our approach works well. and there are a lot of ways we can implement it. We can use marketing automation. We can engage with them on social media. We can use email to send timed, targeted, segmented messages. We can also use dynamic content in those emails or on our websites to further woo them. Of course, we can also still advertise to them, using tactics like paid media, retargeting, or even sponsored events.
Of all these techniques, marketing automation combined with a human touch and backed by an engaged sales force and good analytics seems to work best. We don’t recommend you try to do 100% automation in any of your marketing, but it is possible for it be the workhorse of your strategy.
Different flavors of marketing automation
Marketing automation can take a lot of forms, but often it starts with an email autoresponder program, perhaps in the form of a series of welcome emails.
Other times marketing automation can be a complex decision tree that sends each subscriber an email with dynamic content based on where they are in the sales funnel. Their progress along the sales funnel would be based on different actions the customer has taken. That could be downloading an ebook, following on social media, attending a webinar or anything else. Tailoring this lead nurturing content based on how people have behaved is also called behavioral targeting.
Want to hook up your email marketing so it integrates with the rest of the sales funnel. Content Director can make it happen. We recently updated our Content Director knowledgebase article on how to integrate emails with Marketo. We’ve also got an article on how to integrate with MailChimp.
Email marketing for lead nurturing
Email is generally acknowledged as the #1 lead nurturing technique. That’s good news if you want to curate content. Adding curated content to emails is so core to content marketing that we actually added it as a feature in Content Director. Our most recent update to Content Director took that a step further recently with a new drag and drop email editor.
Think outside the inbox
While email is an excellent tactic, you don’t have to use it exclusively. In fact, you shouldn’t. As you’re probably all too aware, your prospective customers and clients are all over the web. They’re on social media, on industry websites, listening to webinars and out there in the real world. To make the most of your opportunities to connect with them, you need to be in at least a few of those places. Email alone is not enough.
Curated content for lead generation
After email, the next most common way to practice lead nurturing is to set up some pre-scheduled posts on social media. If you’re using Scoop.it or Content Director, you’re already doing that. You’ve already discovered that this channel of lead nurturing works just fine with a bit of content curation brought in. In fact, curated content often helps more than your own content. It demonstrates a lack of bias and positions you as an industry-wide authority.
There’s another added value to content curation. It’s the credibility you build by using 3rd-party content. Marketing expert David Dodd wrote a post last year, Why Expert Content Should Be Part of Your Content Marketing Mix, that highlighted some interesting findings from the CMO Council’s white paper Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field. The white paper reports the results of a survey of 400 B2B content consumers. It specifically asked them which content sources they value and trust the most. Here’s how they answered:
We’re all trying to build relationships with customers or clients. Trust is the fundamental building block of those relationships. So when we come across hard data like this that shows vendor-created content is trusted and valued by only 9% of this B2B audience, while 3rd party content sources are trusted four to seven times more, it’s time to take notice.
There’s absolutely no need to feel like you’re cutting corners by using third party, curated content to nurture your leads. Just use the third party content to prove the elements of your case. It means more when someone else makes your point for you.
The nurturing stages of a business relationship are where prospects make their decision about whether or not to work with you. They crave data and confidence that they’re making the right decision by choosing your products or services. That’s why using analysts’ reports, industry group research, user reviews or influencers’ posts is critical in this phase. That’s how curated content actually outperforms in-house content. As Julie Gauthier wrote in a recent post, “Promotional content is spammy, curated content is educational.”
You can use this curated content throughout your sales funnels and lead nurturing materials. Welcome emails and triggered emails can reference industry sources. Social media updates can announce 3rd party news, or thought-leadership pieces from influencers. It’s all pieces of the larger whole – building an informed trust with your prospects.
Don’t be afraid to use shorter content formats, especially for social media
Social media is especially well-suited to curated content. It actually works better for lead nurturing than long-form content, at least in our experience. Here’s what we found when we did a recent study of how well different content formats were working for lead generation:
As we wrote in an earlier post,
“Feeding your marketing automation with content (email nurturing, newsletters, social selling…):
enables sending more emails without being spammy;
creates conversation opportunities with your prospects;
establishes your company as a partner rather than a vendor.
To turn your curated content into a lead nurturing engine, use it just like you would use your own content to move people along the sales funnel:
Plan how each piece of curated content fits into your buyer’s journey. Then schedule that curated content to show up at the right time.
Assign each piece of curated content support a specific goal. That could be signing up for your email list, attending a webinar or scheduling a demo.
Track all the links and other engagement metrics for your curated content.
For more on ensuring the success of your social media campaigns, read Sujan Patel’s post, 3 Easy Steps to Measure The Success Of Social Media Campaigns.
So long as you understand your customer personas, their buying cycles, and know what kind of content to send, there’s no reason curated content can’t develop your leads as well or better than in-house content. Sharing content builds your credibility. Credibility builds trust.
Back to you
Are you using content curation for your lead generation? What’s worked best so far? What’s flopped? Share your results in the comments.