Understanding the Customer Journey and Sales funnel
Today’s customers make their own purchasing decisions, based on research, relationships, and evaluations. It is no longer an option to simply sell to potential buyers and hope for the best. Leads can find hundreds of competitors, so you need to show them why your solution is right for solving their challenges. How do you do this? By guiding leads on a lead nurturing journey to educate them about the benefits of your services, so that when it is time for them to make a purchasing decision – your company is at the forefront.
This is why lead generation is just one part of the sales puzzle.
In this article, we will cover the differences between lead generation and lead nurturing campaigns, and why you need both to succeed.
The customer journey: Fuel for prosperous lead generation
The customer journey map is a must-have to enhance your lead generation capabilities and generate a list of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). An MQL is a lead that is considered more likely to turn into a sale but isn’t ready to buy.
A customer journey map is a visual representation of a leads journey and engagement with your organization. From awareness, to evaluation, and conversion.
There are many touchpoints throughout the customer journey, and you need to make sure you are using each of them to fuel your lead generation and lead nurturing strategies.
This is vital because studies show that around 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified (MarketingSherpa). And according to Gleanster Research, only around 25% of leads are high-quality and should advance to sales.
A strong customer journey map will help you scale your lead generation strategies, ensuring that sales are only receiving strong leads that are likely to convert into buyers.
And while you might have some success by generating masses of MQLs and converting a handful of them, you are missing out on the huge portion of leads that need to be educated and nurtured before becoming a buyer.
In fact, in a Foundry SDS survey, we found IT decision-makers are spending more time engaging with online content, with 49% of respondents increasing the time they read online and 48% increasing the time they watch online videos (Foundry). That is a heap of potential buyers you are missing out on if you don’t nurture them.
What touchpoints do you need to map out?
- Social media
- Online content, such as blogs, whitepapers, reports, and graphics
- Email marketing
- User-generated content
- Onsite events
- Feedback surveys
These are some of the most common touchpoints that influence leads and their perception of your services. By mapping key touchpoints, you can create opportunities to optimize the customer journey by sending new content for each data point.
Remember: To extract the most value out of lead generation, it needs to be supported by lead nurturing.
What is lead generation?
Lead generation identifies Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and potential customers for your products and services. In online marketing, this takes the form of a database full of lead contact information that has been obtained from a lead interacting with a data point. Lead generation efforts are owned by the marketing team.
Lead generation is fundamental to the success of your business, and many companies dedicate a lot of resources to this area. The more leads you generate, the more routes you have to make a sale. However, to make the most of lead generation, focus on quality rather than quantity.
A handful of leads that are engaged with your organization and match your products and services are far more valuable than hundreds of leads that don’t.
What are the benefits of lead generation? Through lead generation, your organization benefits by:
- Expanding your brand presence
Lead generation opens up more avenues to find and target leads of all types. You find opportunities to reach lead segments you wouldn’t consider otherwise. How? Through content. Content is a key part of obtaining new leads, so in your effort to find leads, you end up creating more engaging content.
- Growing your market potential
Every lead you generate is a potential sale. The more quality leads you have, the more opportunities there are to reach your business goals.
- Opening the doors to lead nurturing
As mentioned above, the true power of lead generation is within lead nurturing. Through lead nurturing you can transform an MQL into a Sales Accepted Leads (SAL), increasing the likelihood of a sale by ensuring leads match your ideal buyer criteria.
How to improve lead generation?
Lead generation strategies are constantly changing, so you should always be on the lookout for new ideas to generate high-quality leads. Here are a few tips:
- Use data to make personalized content
By qualifying leads, you will have a firm understanding of the intent of each lead segment. With this data, you can create personalized content that educates the lead on how to solve their specific challenges with your help. Read more about lead qualification here.
- Align Marketing and Sales
Businesses with strong Sales and Marketing alignment are 67% more effective at closing deals, according to LinkedIn Research, and with good reason. Winning teams always work together, and it’s the same with lead generation. Collaboration and a shared strategy are key. Sales and Marketing should understand what leads they are after and why in order to develop a coordinated strategy.
- Utilize all content types
Blog posts, guides, videos, infographics, social media posts, reports, webinars – and all other kinds of content have a place in your lead generation and nurturing strategy. Utilize all of them. Depending on the purpose of the content and lead segment you are trying to attract, one form of content may be more effective than another.
Automation can drive your lead generation capabilities to new heights. Forget about manually segmenting leads and manually sending content to leads as they make their way through the journey. You can automate this to make your lead generation process a lot simpler. Related: Learn more about lead nurturing automation here.
What is lead nurturing?
We’ve touched upon lead nurturing throughout this article, but let’s dive deeper into why it is so vital for your lead generation efforts. Lead nurturing is all about taking those MQLs and nurturing them into Sales Accepted Leads.
SALs are the next rung up the ladder. They have been assessed and nurtured by sales development and deemed to match your ideal buyer persona.
Why is this step important? Because 96% of visitors who come to your website or fall into your lead generation system are not ready to buy (Marketo).
Leads are market savvy and will buy from the organization they know and trust the most. You need to educate them in a natural and personalized way, so they conclude that your solution is the best choice for solving their business issues.
This is the stage where business development representatives (BDRs) can nurture leads from MQLs into SALs. This process is owned by the sales development team.
What are the benefits of lead nurturing?
- Consistent communication with leads
A lead nurturing strategy is the best way to engage leads predictably. Communication that is frequent and helpful results in expectations for your content. This positive feedback loop is invaluable for converting leads.
- Builds trust by addressing buyer challenges and pain points
Lead nurturing is about identifying specific prospect needs, based upon what you have learned from your data and lead qualification.
- It educates your prospects about the value of your services
The first time a lead lands on your website, the likelihood of them grasping the full offering of your organization is slim. Lead nurturing is your opportunity to show that you have the solutions to their challenges.
- More productive business development
A lead nurturing strategy puts a stop to counterproductive behavior by aligning Sales, Sales Development, and Marketing to a common goal. The messaging that marketing uses in lead nurturing content will match the messaging that sales and BDRs use when engaging prospects, creating a consistent and personal buyer’s journey.
Enhancing your lead nurturing strategy through sales development
Quick tip: Successful sales development is separated from sales and marketing
The key goal of lead nurturing is turning MQLs into SALs that have a high chance of becoming a buyer. And the most efficient way of doing this is through a sales development team that focuses on lead nurturing.
The purpose of a sales development team is to research, validate and nurture SALs so that they are ready to pass onto Sales.
Before we dive deeper into sales development, you might ask yourself: Why can’t Sales and Marketing do that? The answer is because it is a vast amount of work, and a well-organized team should focus on specialized roles.
Sales Development, Marketing, and Sales need to be aligned with what the ideal buyer is. That is largely where the overlap ends.
In terms of day-to-day activities, the focus of Sales is to close deals with high-quality leads. And the focus of Marketing is to generate leads. By asking those teams to also take on the role of Sales Development, you are taking time away from them to develop the skills they are trained for, by requiring them to switch between distinct skill sets in a non-linear way.
A functioning lead nurturing system has a clear linear path:
Step 1: Marketing generates MQLs through content.
Step 2: Sales Development nurtures MQLs to turn them into SALs.
Step 3: Sales converts SALs into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) This happens when a sales representative calls an SAL and confirms they have a clear need for your services and are likely to buy.
If Marketing or Sales have ownership of step 2, you are splitting their time, work capacity and diluting their ability to succeed in their primary roles. You might find that salespeople are filling their calendars with activities such as cold calling and sending out prospecting emails, instead of focusing on closing deals with high-quality leads.
As we all know, constantly switching between disparate tasks can be cognitively challenging.
So why ask your sales and marketing teams to do the same?
Sales development: Enabling Sales to focus on converting high-quality leads
We have covered why Sales Development needs to be separated from Sales and Marketing. Now let’s dive into what services Sales Development can deliver and how to integrate it with Sales and Marketing in a clear and coordinated strategy.
Sales Development is comprised of two core activity areas to determine if a lead is willing and ready to buy:
Nurturing inbound leads: This is the process of nurturing and engaging leads (MQLs) from lead generation efforts and marketing campaigns, and determining which leads are valuable to salespeople and match the ideal buyer persona.
Nurturing outbound leads: This involves researching and engaging new leads and potential buyers that haven’t expressed interest in your services but match your ideal buyer criteria. This is actioned through networking, social media outreach, cold-calling, and cold-emailing.
Sales development strategies include:
- Identifying high-value prospects and creating outreach lists
- Reviewing prospects to identify their specific challenges
- Utilizing tools such as CRMs to ensure lead handover from Marketing to Sales Development and Sales is seamless
- Educating leads and showing how your organization can resolve those challenges
- Regularly following up with leads to nurture them through emails and phone calls
- Setting up appointments for leads to talk with sales teams when the lead is ready to buy
The frontline of your lead nurturing: Business development representatives
BDRs are the key to lead nurturing and supporting sales by developing an inbound and outbound strategy. They find leads, qualify them and pass them to sales.
Here is what a working day of a BDR looks like:
- Lead research
BDRs scour untapped channels where potential leads can surface that aren’t picked up through marketing lead generation.
- Cold calling
Cold calling is often misunderstood as a one-and-done touchpoint. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Strategies and tools have changed and cold calling continues to be one of the most effective methods of generating hot leads.
BDRs view cold calling as a holistic approach to fostering trust. In fact, when BDRs “cold call” they have the data and research on hand to make strong, personal connections, by researching the lead and understanding their pain points.
Having an intelligent conversation to find out even more about the prospect’s requirements and challenges provides an even greater opportunity to accurately qualify leads and hand them to sales.
- Cold emailing
Similar to cold calling, BDRs approach cold emailing holistically to test the market and generate leads – backed up by lead research and data to create personalized cold-call emails.
- Building lead lists and setting up meetings
BDRs will build lists of key leads they have nurtured and give them to sales. They will also maintain a seamless handover by organizing meetings and communications to ensure consistent engagement between leads and sales.
- Networking and social media outreach and selling
BDRs live on social media and understand the importance of hanging around the spaces where top leads congregate. BDRs build trust with valuable leads through all key social media platforms and present themselves as industry authorities.
As we mentioned above, implementing all of this can be a huge amount of work to hand over to marketing and sales teams. Foundry SDS are lead nurturing experts and can create effective and unique lead nurturing workflows, leaving your teams to focus on their primary tasks
Thinking about outsourcing lead nurturing? See what Foundry SDS can do for you with our in-house team of lead nurturing experts.
The big mistake: Too much emphasis on lead generation and not enough on lead nurturing
- 72% of buyers are more likely to consider an IT vendor who educates them through each stage of the decision process (Foundry)
- 67% of tech buyers say that the vendor who responds to questions in a quick & thoughtful manner usually gets the business (Foundry)
Simply put, lead generation is the first rung of the ladder. Once you get your footing with lead generation, the next step is lead nurturing.
By focusing your resources on finding leads, you’re simply casting a huge net, but not reeling in the leads that will make a difference to your bottom line.
Through lead nurturing, you can find leads that are genuinely interested in what you offer. Without it, you are stuck with leads that are the wrong fit for your services, and that you will be hard-pressed to sell to.
Lead generation and lead nurturing go hand in hand. All too often, we see organizations chase leads, but to what end? They often find that sales teams miss their targets because they are trying to convince the wrong people to buy or spend their day prospecting inbound leads.
Not only does this bog down Sales, but it also dilutes the impact of the marketing team, as they end up pushing out content without a clear goal, and resorting to mass emails that aren’t engaging leads on a personal level.
Without a solid lead nurturing campaign and team in place, it is virtually impossible to find out who the right leads are.
In this digital age, where competitors are on every corner, and leads can conduct research with a few clicks, it pays to understand the needs of your target audience and build their awareness of your services.
According to Ascend2, 48% of businesses say most of their leads require “long cycle” nurturing with many touchpoints. Some studies also show that targeting users with content relevant to their needs and position in the sales journey results in 72% higher conversion rates.
Lead nurturing requires time, a team, and resources. MQLs have very limited buying intent after the first interaction and require more convincing. By putting in the effort to nurture them, you drive them to your services and not to one of your rivals.
How will Foundry SDS nurture your leads and turn them into leads that are willing to buy?
We will create a bespoke lead nurturing program, consisting of Inbound Lead Nurturing and Outbound Lead Nurturing, to deliver high-quality leads that fit the buyer persona of your business development strategy.
How do we know when we have nurtured leads that are ready for your sales team to close?
- They are decision-makers with clearly defined needs
- Their needs align with the services your organization offers
- They engage with your content and express interest in your services
- They are ready to make a purchasing decision
- They match up with your ideal buyer personas
We take an all-encompassing approach to lead nurturing and tailor each lead nurturing program entirely on your business needs. Our program nurtures leads for a minimum of 60 days, building their trust in your services and establishing your brand as an authority. We do this in 40+ languages and 24/7 in any time zone.
We save you time, energy, and ultimately your bottom line – as you will spend more resources converting high-quality leads and less time looking for new ones.
Working with Foundry SDS you will benefit from:
- Experience working with other companies in the tech market.
- Transparent services that offer you insight every step of the way
- Expertly trained team of experienced BDR’s that we will manage to meet your goals
- Inbound and outbound lead nurturing campaigns that are optimized in real time
- Execution of your workflows according to your business goals
- Deploying the right lead nurturing resources at the right time
So whether your company is looking to upsell, cross-sell, at post-event nurturing, or anything in between, Foundry SDS will use our experts to nurture leads
Outsourcing lead nurturing and sales development will take care of all the lead nurturing challenges and costs with a single package. And you gain the expertise and speed of the company that specializes in sales development. Learn more about our services here.
Lead generation is only half the battle. You also need to engage and build relationships with leads over time, so they are more likely to buy. You can only achieve this through a lead nurturing strategy and with a dedicated sales development team.
A handful of sales-qualified leads will always be more valuable to your company than a mountain of unqualified leads that have no chance of becoming buyers.
Whether you decide to bring sales development in-house or work with an outsourced partner, or a mix of both, you are taking a step in the right direction towards more lead conversions.