All marketing people have done it: turned a lead over to sales without really qualifying it.

Marketing is often accused—and rightly so—of generating and/or providing poor quality leads to the sales team. Much of the recent past has been abuzz with the intrinsic promise of Marketing Automation and much of that is centered on lead nurturing. Though using a one-trick pony like email nurturing is often the fallback for Marketing Automation platforms, this narrow approach will leave your ROI flat and your sales team frustrated. Simply said, an over-reliance on email will not develop and deliver sales-ready leads.

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So how do you build a lead nurturing process that uses the right mix of restraint and intent?

Don’t get me wrong… marketing automation is certainly a key tool for modern marketing. Unfortunately, I see many B2B organizations use MA without success, for many of the same reasons:

  • Failure to implement and, more importantly, integrate
  • No clarity around lead scoring or lead management process between sales and marketing
  • Failure to engage with prospects on a human level
  • Lack of resources like SDR’s to properly vet and profile with scoring
  • Turning over leads too early in the sales process
  • Not having a long-term strategy for maintaining a conversation with prospects across a mix of channels
  • Drip campaigns are focused around email without consideration of other triggers or methods of engagement

Identifying and understanding some of these common mistakes is key to the success of any marketing automation platform. Effective marketing automation implementation amplifies demand generation and increases the linkages between sales and marketing success.

Think outside the email box for lead nurturing.

Likewise, for this type of marketing to succeed, your lead nurturing efforts need to incorporate more touch points beyond a landing page form, and email follow-up. Lead nurturing is all about engaging your B2B leads with relevant content, while further qualifying your lead toward a SQL. It allows for top-of-mind engagement that accelerates the buyer journey. It also provides valuable insight into how you can solve their problem.

“According to recent, insights, – it may take as many as 10 touches to progress a lead through the pipeline.”

-Aberdeen Group

Many inbound and outbound marketing efforts are developed around a particular focus and therefore incapable of delivering sales-ready qualified leads. Marketing must accept the new methods that discourage running multiple disjointed projects, programs, and channel approaches. The way to get things done is through a more focused campaign with true multi-touch nurturing efforts. These efforts need to include some human elements such as tele-prospecting to improve qualifying and match target attributes to prospects identified.

A common theme we see from companies needing assistance is an over-reliance on one particular channel to drive leads. Mostly it is centered on the marketing automation campaigns that are email-centric.

Sirius Decisions reports that the average sales cycle has increased 22% in the last five years. Much of this is attributed to more decision makers being involved in the sales process. Any campaign or programs that are developed to turn leads over to sales immediately after first interaction will fail without proper lead nurturing. Automation only approaches will work in the short term but does not sustain over the long haul.

Lead nurturing is essential for industries with longer buying cycles. As such, B2B companies should be making consistent contact with the prospect at all stages of the buying journey—and not exclusively through email.

5 Key outcomes of Lead nurturing that surpass email-only approaches:

  • Increased conversion rates
  • Improved Sales Qualified Leads to Sales Accepted Leads
  • Better lead processing
  • Accelerated pipeline
  • Improvement in overall lead insights, lead scoring and lead quality

Marketing’s method for MA success should be focusing on the entire lead nurturing effort to more fully qualify leads before passing any to sales. If an email marketing automation campaign triggers automated sales steps, it’s probable that sales are going to ignore them. Scoring through electronic conditions and means it is not the same as a human SDR trained in lead nurturing, lead qualifying, and talking with the lead.

While marketing automation reliance on email may reduce your costs, reliance on it as your only method for nurturing is going to leave your overall results flat. Sure, you can create leads but creating leads is not the same as creating an actionable pipeline.

“Companies who excel at lead nurturing
generate 50% more sales leads at 33% lower cost

-Forester

So, while the lead sales cycle might be lengthening your effort to reach them through a nurturing effort, which is supported with alternate touches and interaction beyond email alone.

Lead nurturing is a continuous process of improvement. It requires a commitment from marketing and sales to align their process and efforts in order to get the best results, insights, and quality of leads.