By Sarah Hecker

4 Ways to Nurture Marketing Qualified Leads into Sales Qualified Leads.jpgA common mistake in inbound marketing is oftentimes made by focusing solely on the top of the funnel. While publishing blog articles and ramping up your social media efforts are integral parts of creating a working sales funnel, you won’t close any deals if you don’t focus on these contacts after their initial conversion. Once you start diving into lead nurturing, it can easily become overwhelming to try and hash out the best way to set up workflows and move your leads further down the funnel. At the end of the day, however, you’re not going to close any more deals without focusing on your qualified leads and bottom-of-the-funnel offers. Here are four specific ways to nurture marketing qualified leads into sales qualified leads:

1. Drip Campaigns

Drip campaigns are probably one of the most common lead nurturing campaigns and oftentimes are triggered by a contact taking a specific action such as downloading an ebook or signing up for more information at a trade show. By having your emails “drip” into a contact’s inbox, you can steadily build trust and move the contact down the sales funnel by providing him or her with relevant and timely content.

You can tailor your campaigns based on actions taken by visitors or by list criteria, such as contact persona or lead score. While campaign specifics can vary depending on your buying cycle and products, an example might look like this:

  • Day 1: Jim downloads a comparison guide from your website that features your software product against its common competitors. Jim is marked as a marketing qualified lead and then enrolled in the nurturing workflow. You send a thank-you email with a link to the ebook and relevant resources.
  • Day 5: You send Jim another email, this time with another bottom-of-the-funnel offer such as a case study or product sheet.
  • Day 8: You send Jim a follow-up email asking if he has any questions about your product and detail some features specific to his persona.
  • Day 13: Jim has yet to reach out to you, so you send him another bottom-of-the-funnel offer.
  • Day 18: You send Jim a demo request email.
  • Day 20: Jim requests a demo! An internal workflow changes his lifecycle stage to sales qualified, and he is passed off to a rep to walk him through a product demo.

While this is obviously an ideal outcome for lead nurturing, it’s important to keep contacts who don’t meet the workflow’s goals engaged. Other lead nurturing efforts, such as long-term workflows, blog subscriptions, and newsletters, are a great way to keep contacts interested in your brand—even if they’re not quite ready to make a purchase yet.


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2. Newsletters

Creating monthly or quarterly newsletters is a great way to keep leads engaged (or to re-engage inactive leads) by reminding them of your brand and website. You can use newsletters as an opportunity to showcase new content, product, or service updates and to speak to certain personas or pain points. These touches can be helpful if you have a particularly long buying cycle or if you often find that your marketing qualified leads need an extra push to become sales qualified leads.

That being said, this doesn’t mean you should blast all your contacts with the same newsletter each month. Segmentation is always a powerful piece of lead nurturing, and you should try to partition your newsletters to some degree. For example, your customers could receive newsletters about company updates and changes to products, but these types of emails would be inappropriate for most of your top-of-the-funnel leads.

Newsletters can be segmented by lifecycle stage in order to target your subscribers depending on their stage of the buyer’s journey; newsletters can then be further segmented out by persona or pain point in order to provide them with topics relevant to their interests. Providing bottom-of-the-funnel offers such as case studies, product tours, free trials, or software demos can help nurture your marketing qualified leads into sales qualified leads and get you one step closer to a successful deal.

3. Event-Based Workflows

While event-based workflows can be a little tricky to master, they can be a powerful way to engage contacts who aren’t frequently downloading content or engaging with your other emails. Because events are behaviors that a contact takes across your website, these workflows take a significant degree of personalization and effort in order to be truly successful but can have a rewarding payoff. These workflows are triggered by contacts taking certain actions on your website, such as viewing or spending a certain amount of time on a page.

For example, if a contact is repeatedly visiting a page that speaks to a specific persona, industry, or pain point, you may want to enroll the contact in a workflow based on these criteria so that you can continue to deliver to the contact information relating to these topics. Another workflow example might be if a contact visits a demo page or a free-trial offer but doesn’t fill out the form. An event-based workflow can trigger based on these page views in order to provide a contact with more information—these emails could potentially lead to a conversion where the page view didn’t.

That being said, if a contact is receiving an email every time he or she visits your website, your lead nurturing efforts might end up doing more harm than good. Creating a set of parameters for your event-based workflows will help ensure you target only well-qualified leads as you try to move them down the funnel. If you’re setting up event-based workflows to nurture marketing qualified leads into sales qualified leads, you may want to narrow the scope by lead score so that you’re not wasting your efforts on unqualified contacts.

4. Smart Content

Implementing smart content on your website is another way to achieve more targeted lead nurturing goals. If your marketing stack allows you to use smart content, you can further customize what content appears on your website—down to who sees which offers and when they appear. This level of personalization can help you nurture contacts down the funnel by showing them highly targeted offers. Similar to other lead nurturing methods, you can set criteria such as persona or lifecycle stage to enhance the personalization.

You can use smart calls to action (CTAs) so that offers are rotated out as a contact downloads them. For example, if you had a CTA for a top-of-the-funnel ebook, you could set up a smart rule that switches this CTA out for a middle-of-the-funnel offer as soon as a contact downloads it. You could then set up another smart rule that switches the middle-of-the-funnel offer out for a consultation or demo request if a contact downloads that content as well.

You can also use smart content to personalize copy on Web pages. If you create smart rules based on persona or pain point, you can have different text appear for different visitors—speaking to visitors’ individual needs and making your messaging that much more powerful. These types of personalizations can help you target contacts on a deeper level and make sure your marketing qualified leads are progressing down the sales funnel.

While these four options have the power to yield great results, marketing automation is both an art and a science—which can make it difficult to have a definitive “best” option for organizations. There are endless ways to nurture your contacts, depending on the type of business, the length of the sales cycle, and targeted personas, so it’s important to engage in optimization efforts on an ongoing basis.

What do your lead nurturing workflows currently look like? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and revamp your strategy.

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Sarah Hecker

About the author

Sarah Hecker is an Associate Consultant here at SmartBug Media. She has a passion for all things digital and has worked in both B2C and B2B environments. After being introduced to HubSpot during her time as a marketing coordinator, she fell in love with inbound marketing. Read more articles by Sarah Hecker.