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Lead Nurturing 101: Top Tactics, Tools, and Best Practices

8 minute read

Lead nurturing helps maintain relationships with potential customers throughout the buyer’s journey. It also helps maximize sales opportunities and improve brand awareness.

Find out what lead nurturing is, why it’s a powerful marketing strategy, and how you can set up lead nurturing campaigns that help convert more prospects into paying customers.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with prospects throughout the purchase funnel. It keeps potential customers in your sales funnel by engaging and educating them, providing value, and building awareness about your products and services. The goal of the lead nurturing process is to get prospects to choose your brand when they are ready to buy.

What Is a Lead Nurturing Campaign?

A lead nurturing campaign is a series of marketing messages that are sent to a potential customer over a set period of time. A lead nurturing campaign strategy may be automated, partially automated, or executed manually.

Lead nurturing examples:

Lead nurturing campaigns are typically sent to prospects who have already shown interest in a brand, often as a result of one or many lead generation strategies. They reconnect or follow up with prospects who have taken some action. For example, they:

  • Visited a website
  • Participated in an online or in-person event
  • Downloaded a free e-book, guide, checklist, etc.
  • Called your business
  • Downloaded a coupon
  • Made a small purchase

Why Is Lead Nurturing Important?

Brands should consider adding lead nurturing to their marketing plans for a few reasons.

Most sales don’t happen during a prospect’s first interaction with a brand. Sales cycles differ between industries, products and services, but Demand Gen research found that 51% of marketers needed five or more touches in their lead nurturing campaigns. If you want customers to buy from you, you need to get in front of them multiple times before they will.

51% of marketers need 5 or more touches in their lead nurturing campaigns. If you want customers to buy from you, you need to get in front of them multiple times. Click To Tweet

Most leads aren’t ready to buy. Even if you do convert a prospect into a lead, many of them still aren’t ready to buy. Marketo research shows that, on average, 50% of leads aren’t ready to make a purchase. Lead nurturing helps you stay in touch so when they are ready to buy, you are there.

Lead nurturing is a cost-effective way to generate sales. Nurturing leads drives more sales at a lower cost. According to Demand Gen, companies with a full lead nurturing strategy saw a 20% increase in sales opportunities on average.

Lead nurturing helps brands form an ongoing relationship with a prospect. The brand can continue to engage, help, and serve them until they are ready to make a purchase.

Lead nurturing can increase sales opportunities by 20% on average. Click To Tweet

How to Develop a Lead Nurturing Plan

To build a lead nurturing campaign strategy that will effectively drive interested prospects toward becoming paying customers, use the following lead nurturing tools and tactics.

ten lead nurturing tactics

10 Lead Nurturing Tactics and Tools

1. Fully understand your target customer

As with all good marketing strategies, lead nurturing starts with having a thorough understanding of your ideal customer.

Knowing your target market well allows you to identify the most qualified prospects in your pipeline and identify the best ways to connect with them. When you know what your ideal customer wants and needs, you are likely better equipped to guide them through the purchase funnel.

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: Buyer Persona Template

Create a complete description of your target customer using our free buyer persona template. The template and guide will walk you through creating a detailed outline of your target buyer.

2. Outline your target customer’s path to purchase

To be successful at lead nurturing, it’s not enough to simply know your target customer. You also need to know the path they take on their way to doing business with you. You need a customer journey map.

A customer journey map outlines each stage a buyer goes through as they move through the sales funnel.

lead nurturing sales funnel

Customer journey mapping is an important part of the lead nurturing process because it helps you outline what the potential buyer is thinking, asking, and doing during each interaction with your brand. These insights allow you to create better, more targeted marketing messages.

Customer journey mapping is important for lead nurturing because it helps you outline what the potential buyer is thinking, asking, and doing during each interaction with your brand. Click To Tweet

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: Customer Journey Mapping Template

To lay out the path your ideal customers take on their way to doing business with you, download our free customer journey mapping template to use as your guide.

3. Create a customer database

You can’t nurture leads if you don’t know who they are. Before you start lead nurturing, set up a customer relationship management (CRM) system that allows you to collect contact information from prospects. This will also allow you to track their activities and interactions with your brand.

Set up a CRM system that creates profiles for each prospect and includes data about their actions. For example:

  • How they joined your list
  • What pages they visit on your website
  • What communication they have received from your brand
  • What communication they have engaged with
  • How often they engage with your brand

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: CRM System

There are many tools to help you collect and organize lead information. A few top tools include:

4. Score each lead

Once you have data on your leads, you can use this information to qualify each lead based on their level of interest. Lead scoring helps you translate details about each lead into a number, which makes it easier to determine how likely they are to buy. You can score leads based on:

  • Demographics: Does the lead match the characteristics of your typical buyer based on personal (age, location, income, etc.) or professional (job title, company size, industry, etc.) details?
  • Budget: Does the lead have the budget to purchase your products or services?
  • Interest and Activity: Does the prospect’s activity show that they are interested?
  • Buying Stage: Where is the buyer in the purchase funnel?

For each of these categories, create a series of qualifiers with a score attached to each. For example, you may add 10 points to a lead’s score if they download an e-book and decrease a score by five if a user doesn’t open one of your emails.

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: CRM/Lead Scoring System

User.com is a robust CRM that has a lead quality scoring feature that makes it easy to assign values to user actions and characteristics.

5. Create targeted content for each phase of the buyer’s journey

Now that you have more information about your target customer and a way to understand how they interact with your brand, start forming a lead nurturing campaign strategy. Start by creating targeted content for each phase of the buying decision process.

If you mapped out the buyer’s journey (step 2), you have an outline for this process. Look at your customer journey map and start developing content that will serve your audience at each stage of the purchase funnel.

  • Top-of-Funnel Content: Support the awareness and discovery phase by creating informative and engaging content that educates, solves problems, and answers questions. To appear prominently in search results and drive traffic to your content, be sure to target popular SEO keywords your prospects search for. Top-of-funnel content often includes: blog posts, videos, infographics, buying guides, and social media content.
  • Middle-of-Funnel Content: Guide prospects during the evaluation and consideration phase by creating middle-of-funnel content that helps them learn more about your products and services. Content in the middle of the funnel includes: marketing case studies, landing pages, data sheets, e-books, white papers, and webinars.
  • Bottom-of-Funnel Content: Guide prospects toward becoming customers when they are in the purchase phase of the buyer’s journey. Develop bottom-of-funnel content that targets buying keywords and drives users to content that helps them make their purchase. This content includes: sales pages, free trial sign-up pages, coupons, live demos, testimonials, and FAQ pages.
  • (BONUS) Refunneling Content: Take your lead nurturing one step further by creating a customer lifecycle marketing strategy that supports customers post-purchase. Develop content that re-engages customers, helps them with their new purchase, and keeps your brand top of mind so that customers continue to return to your brand. This retention marketing content may include: thank you emails, retargeting ads, personalized promotions, and buyer’s guides. Want more retention marketing examples? Read: 12 Excellent Customer Retention Examples From Top Brands.

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: Content Map

Create a content map that outlines content for each step of the buyer’s journey using Alexa’s content mapping guide and a free downloadable template.

content mapping template

6. Launch automated marketing campaigns

Once you have content for each phase of the buyer’s journey, set up a marketing automation process to deliver targeted messages to the right prospects at the right time.

Marketing automation uses software to automatically deliver content to prospects based on their quality score, activity, and position in the marketing funnel. With marketing automation, you don’t have to manually monitor leads and decide what messaging to send them. You set up a system that automatically sends new content to prospects when a certain trigger has happened (such as visiting a landing page, filling out a form, clicking a link in an email, etc.).

Automated campaigns may be a single message or a drip series including multiple pieces of content that are delivered over a few days or weeks.

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: Marketing Automation Software

Many CRM tools also act as marketing automation tools. When looking for a solution, choose a tool that serves both needs. The CRM tools listed above also work as marketing automation tools.

7. Keep prospects engaged using social media

Automated marketing campaigns primary rely on audiences receiving and opening emails. But there are other ways to connect with audiences besides email. Diversify your lead nurturing with creative campaigns that think outside the box.

There are other ways to connect with audiences besides email. Diversify your lead nurturing with creative campaigns that think outside the box. Click To Tweet

Another way to keep prospects interested is by sharing engaging social media posts. Some prospects may enter your funnel by following you on social media, rather than signing up for your email list. Create lead nurturing plans for those audiences by developing a social media marketing plan that promotes valuable, shareable content.

Suggested Lead Nurturing Tool: Social Media Management Tool

Use tools like Buffer, Edgar, or Hootsuite to schedule social posts so you don’t have to manually add new posts each day.

8. Draw prospects back with high-quality content

Consistently create and publish high-quality content on your site so prospects have a reason to return. It will help bring them back to your site, boost your SEO, and provide content for social sharing.

Suggested Tool: Content Audit Template

Use Alexa’s Content Audit Template to review your existing content and make plans for what you should create in the future.

9. Reach audiences using paid search

Consider the search terms that your target audience uses to find solutions, answers, products, and services related to your business. Develop pay per click marketing strategies to target those keywords and guide users that are further down the funnel to your site.

Suggested Tool: Keyword Research Tools

Use Alexa’s Advanced Plan to get access to various keyword research tools like the:

10. Leverage retargeting ads

Use retargeting to show social media or display ads to audiences who have used your website or signed up for your email list. You can show ad campaigns to prospects based on their activity, such as visiting certain pages (and not others), time on site, and number of visits.    

Suggested Tool: Retargeting Campaigns

Add pixels from Facebook, Twitter, and Google Ads to start tracking users on your site. Set up retargeting campaigns to display ads to audiences after they visit your website.

Lead Nurturing Best Practices

To make these lead nurturing tactics and tools even more effective, keep the following best practices in mind as you develop your campaigns. 

Get input from marketing, sales, and customer support teams. Remember that lead nurturing isn’t unique to the marketing department. Sales and Customer Support teams have unique insight into the needs and questions of customers and prospects. Use these valuable insights to build and refine campaigns that anticipate those needs.

Don’t rely solely on automation. Human interaction can play a valuable role in your lead nurturing process. Support automated lead nurturing campaigns with personalized outreach from your sales team. 

Personalize whenever possible. Automated messaging can easily feel impersonal and robotic. Use as much personalization as possible in your communications to make each touch point feel personal, exclusive, and unique. 

Time outreach appropriately. Be mindful of dates and events when it would be unnatural or out of touch to send marketing messages. Also, don’t bombard your audience with messages. Design calendars that keep your name in front of your audience without giving them brand fatigue.

Drive More Sales with Better Lead Nurturing Campaigns

Lead nurturing helps your brand stay top of mind with prospects so when they are ready to buy, they turn to you. By educating and providing value throughout the entire buying process, you can convert leads to loyal customers who trust and appreciate your brand.

Build better lead nurturing campaigns by using tools that help you learn about your target audience and create strategic marketing plans to attract and nurture them. Sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan to access our suite of audience insight, competitor analysis, and content marketing and SEO tools.

Lead Nurturing 101: Top Tactics, Tools, and Best Practices