PICTURE THIS: It’s 2025, and technology’s ever-advancing pace has continued its subtle transformation of everyday life. You arrive at the office and grab a coffee (which your SmartOffice system started brewing the moment your key card opened the front door). You tap your desk to bring up your holographic screen (no more eye-glazing laptop glare), and find your Master Feed filled with the most relevant social posts, e-messages, to-do items, and events from across your channels.

Sponsored posts have become so seamless—so good at identifying users’ interests and providing content to match—that they feel inevitable, even necessary.

If you click one of those posts, you’ll be whisked to an experience plane, instantly personalized based on your profile, online browsing and search habits, and global engagement preferences. Here, at the moment of first contact with a brand, you’re being moved down the sales funnel. Lead generation and lead nurturing are collapsing into one.

This isn’t science fiction. Some of this technology is already being used, with varying degrees of sophistication. (For example, our article focused on the do’s and don’ts of dynamic content and personalized landing pages.

As the tech gets more sophisticated, approaching that seamless ideal, the gap between companies that know how to take advantage of lead-nurturing opportunities, and those that don’t, only widens. There’s a fundamental disconnect between what many companies consider nurture and what they can actually achieve, and getting a grip on what’s available now is critical to staying on top of ever-emerging tech that will bring us to that vision of 2025.

Let’s look at what we can do today to prepare for tomorrow.

An email address is a gift. Don’t waste it.

Email is too often the sole focus of a lead-nurturing strategy. That’s not surprising, as it’s relatively simple to execute. It’s not enough on its own, but it is highly effective, and many companies aren’t leveraging email to its fullest capacity.

The most common mistake? Blasting out identical messaging to every lead at regular intervals. A sophisticated campaign doesn’t present the same information to the CEO, Director of Engineering, and an Engineer. Everyone is overwhelmed by information every day, and to stand out—whether in a social feed or an email inbox—companies need to quickly and effectively communicate solutions to specific problems faced by individual buyers.

That means putting thought into mapping out buyer journeys for a variety of customer personas. One size most definitely does not fit all, and once you discover which pieces of marketing content a lead is interacting with, you have powerful information. Rather than simply placing all your leads on a drip campaign of timed emails with identical content, segment them into new campaigns based on their expressed interests. Recent research from Mailchimp shows segmented campaigns see up to 100% higher click-through than non-segmented campaigns, and the reason why is simple: relevance. If you want to keep a lead hooked, you need to keep speaking to their problems and needs.

Another critical aspect of lead nurture is to ensure you’re monitoring and responding to the lead’s actions. For example, maybe they watched a short video about a particular product, then clicked a link to a landing page offering a free trial. But maybe they never signed up for the trial—they got distracted, or the process seemed too complicated. 24 hours later, they get an email, suggesting they finish the sign-up, or offering more information on why they should.

And so on, down the funnel.

Multi-channel isn’t optional

As important as email is, it can’t be the only channel in a successful marketing strategy. Consider this report by Oracle, in which nearly 80% of marketers surveyed said their email open rates don’t exceed 20%. Multi-channel strategies are more challenging but potentially much more rewarding, involving email, social media, paid re-targeting, dynamic content and direct sales outreach, among others.

This comes back to segmenting buyer personas: on which channels are target audiences found, and at which stage in the sales funnel is each most effectively reached? To identify the most effective channels, a lead nurture strategy should consider every channel that your target audience uses to engage with your business, and segment leads depending on their stage in the customer life cycle, preferred channel, and behavior.

Companies can then deliver the most appropriate lead nurture content for each lead, through the most relevant channel.

Qualify, qualify, qualify

Like multi-channel nurturing, lead scoring is often under-used. In a world where most sales people don’t reach out to MQLs, lead scoring is a great way to start the conversation in order to align sales and marketing around what a qualified lead looks like.

In short: lead scoring ranks potential buyers on a scale that represents the likelihood of eventually converting that lead to a sale. Values are assigned to web-browsing habits, engagement with marketing materials, social-media interactions and more. The resulting score helps determine whether to nurture or engage with sales.  

Today, it’s more critical than ever that marketing and sales teams are on the same page. They should agree upon which buyer personas they’re targeting, and what a qualified lead looks like.

Align sales and marketing behind a common vision

It used to be that bringing a buyer through the sales funnel was 10% marketing, 90% sales. Today, the information explosion has completely transformed the buyer’s journey. The marketing-sales split is closer to 50-50, with marketing creating multiple touch points on the buyer journey aiming to inform and influence prospects towards consideration and sales engagement.

 

We talk more about the sales-marketing split in a recent article titled, Convert more Prospects into Revenue with a Codified Lead Management Framework. Click this graphic to read more!

 

This isn’t ground-breaking stuff, but effective lead nurture depends on the crucial alignment between sales and marketing. Despite everything we know about marketing and sales in the 21st century, old habits die hard. Marketing strategies are still too often focused on one-size-fits-all messaging, better suited to an era when marketing was all about gathering up as many unqualified leads as possible and passing them along to sales.

When sales and marketing align their definitions of a qualified lead and share responsibility for nurturing, conversion goes up — way up, according to a study by market-research firm CSO Insights, which found that 89% of companies aligning sales and marketing saw improvements in their nurturing.

As we look to the future, those walls between sales and marketing are only going to tumble further. And companies that can navigate the landscape left in the wake will be those best positioned to take on the future.


 

Interested in learning more about effective Lead Nurture?

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