Often, when marketers talk about the lead process, they may lump lead generation, lead nurturing and lead scoring together under the term “lead nurturing.” However, each of these tactics is a distinct piece of the marketing automation puzzle and has a different role in filling the sales funnel with qualified leads.
According to Forrester, buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their buying journey before they even reach the vendor. Lead generation is the process of capturing the interest of those self-directed buyers, who are searching online for solutions to problems or who are in the early stages of the buying process.
Unlike older lead-generation methods where marketers simply found the names and contact information of prospects and then passed them on to the sales team for cold calls, this can be done with search-optimized landing pages and content, pay-per-click ads, or social media. The focus of these activities is on attracting visitors to your website by cutting through all the online noise with content deemed valuable and enticing to these visitors. The goal is to provide something that they will trade their contact information for – resources or information such as an eBook or whitepaper.
Once lead data has been captured via a landing page, those leads can then be coaxed through the purchase process using lead nurturing.
Lead nurturing focuses on leads who have expressed some level of interest in your product or service but who are not ready to buy. They may have signed up for a newsletter or downloaded a top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) piece of content such as a tip sheet. These people are likely still in the awareness or early evaluation stage of the buying process.
Nurturing utilizes your content and triggered or automated emails and messages to further build brand awareness and grow trust while allowing your business to stay “top of mind” through ongoing communications.
Lead nurturing using marketing automation systems such as Hubspot allows you to send timely, highly personalized information using a strategic flow of emails and offers to segmented lists. This information can inform your prospects about your expertise, products or services while providing valuable resources and information to them. The key is “valuable.” This process draws leads through the stages of the buying process and allows your prospective customers to build a relationship with your business during their buying journey.
Today’s lead nurturing is not the same as traditional drip marketing campaigns, which were a one-size-fits-all approach to lead follow-up and which didn’t factor in the prospect’s activities or behaviors.
Lead scoring allows you to fine tune your lead nurturing segmentation and strategy. Lead scoring, as part of a marketing automation solution, adds (or subtracts) point values based on actions the prospect takes online (clicks and opens of lead nurturing emails, how a lead found you, what pages they visit or what content they downloaded); demographic information (such as industry or company size); or both to help members of the marketing team determine when a lead is ready to pass on to the sales team.
Because not all leads are created equal, you’ll want to use lead scoring to help focus your marketing and sales efforts on the prospects that matter most -those most likely and most ready to buy. Lead scoring provides a quick and easy way to prioritize leads and to send messages customized for particular stages of the buying journey rather than messages based solely on persona.
Together, lead generation, lead nurturing and lead scoring create a more efficient lead process, shorter sales cycles and lower cost of acquisition by allowing the sales team to focus on leads who have been qualified as “sales ready,” leaving less qualified leads to be nurtured by the marketing team until ready (or deemed completely unqualified). Lead scoring can also lead to a better relationship between sales and marketing, aligning goals and establishing a common definition of a sales-qualified lead.