Why Nurture Should be Much More than a Three-Email Drip
The conversion rates in SiriusDecisions’s B2B Demand Waterfall suggest that, on average, you need to feed 224 leads into the funnel to generate one sale. The most shocking figure in the waterfall is the Inquiry to MQL conversion rate of 5%. We at Just Global believe the quickest way to improve marketing’s contribution to sales is to focus on improving that figure. That means challenging your marketing teams to improve your nurture process, looking beyond email to omnichannel nurture – and making sure that your people are aligned in their approach to the nurture journey.
So, 95% of those stating an interest in your products or services – leads in which budget and resource were invested to achieve – will not make the next step along the sales funnel. That figure doesn’t even include those that were considered good enough to be classed as an MQL but failed to make it to Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) status (and who will probably be recycled through the same nurture journey they have just MQL’d in).
For marketers wishing to make a positive, immediately provable difference to the success of their organization (which is all of us, right?), this represents both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for B2B demand generation. Improving our lead nurture journey is the fastest route to improving results; yet our biggest downfall as marketers is that we fail to define what our lead nurture journey actually is and we apply too little ambition to the journey that it might become.
There is an over-reliance on email as a nurture mechanism: the fact that, as an industry, we have defaulted to referring to all nurture as ‘email nurture’ only serves to illustrate the problem. However, with office workers receiving an average of 141 emails per day, using the inbox as a means of grabbing their attention is problematic. And the worst-case scenario is that engaging regularly in this way will simply encourage leads who want to streamline their inbox to unsubscribe from your mails – undoing all the efforts you made to capture them in the first place.
Put very simply, email alone is not the smartest way to engage with your prospects.
Don’t Settle for a Drip
The concept of omnichannel nurture – where a variety of different marketing channels are used to covert enquiries – is hardly new; but B2B examples of it being used well remain in short supply. It’s easy to understand why – marketers have invested heavily in marketing automation platforms in the hope that they can improve their MQL conversion rate; but the complexity of these platforms – and the volume of programs set up – often means that marketers settle for simple ‘three-email drips’ (awareness, solution, sale) that don’t really move the needle.
But email is far from the only game in town. To get the best results from any of your marketing activities, it’s important for you to show up in the channels in which prospects are naturally engaging on a regular basis – this could be social, search or industry publications. And yet these channels are so often only earmarked for the initial acquisition of a lead – not for subsequent nurture.
Your marketing teams should be looking at the 95% that have yet to become MQLs and treating them as distinct audiences based on their interaction with your content – and engaging with them accordingly. This means bringing together the marketers that look after all your marketing channels with your content and web teams; as a group, you can then identify how to use all available touchpoints to drive each lead closer to becoming an MQL. You can approach this in one of two ways: looking at what worked in the original lead generation campaign and using the same channels to re-engage them in a nurture program; or showing up at the locations in which they frequently consume content.
For example, you can connect your marketing automation platform with LinkedIn and serve up social content (this is particularly relevant if the lead was captured via that platform). You can leverage chatbots on the website to lead them to material you believe to be relevant to them. You can use retargeted display ads to show up when they’re browsing their favorite news sites and direct them back to a landing page. You can, of course, also use triggered emails to share new assets with them based on their patterns of content consumption – and all this can be done to support a well thought out email nurture program.
Conversion rates further down the sales funnel are far higher than the initial inquiry-to-MQL stage: typically, almost 60% of MQLs become Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) and almost a third of those become wins. As a marketing leader – and with sales/marketing alignment having been such a hot topic for the last few years – I’m sure you’ve been working closely with your sales teams to maximise the proportion of MQLs that becomes SALs: improving the conversions rates from inquiry to MQL is therefore your biggest opportunity to improve your team’s contribution to the sales pipeline.
So, get your teams thinking outside the in-box, embrace as many channels for nurture as you would for lead-generation – and make sure they are all aligning to the same nurture journey. Those 95% have already expressed an interest in what you have to offer – don’t let the three-drip nurture be your only hope of an MQL.