Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the B2B marketing world about lead nurturing. The basic idea is to develop communications programs that issue content addressing customers’ informational needs at key moments during their journeys toward making purchases.
Essentially, lead nurturing is an evolution of permission-based marketing that rigorously maps out personas and decision-making processes. Potential customers are then managed using automation platforms that dispense targeted content based on customers’ behaviors and their places in the overall buying cycle. Once a contact is deemed to be on the verge of making a decision, the marketing team relays them to the sales team as a qualified lead.
Numerous publications explain why this is an excellent strategy for general B2B marketing. But for those who understand the industrial buying cycle, lead nurturing is an even more powerful marketing strategy that, in a way, is just what industrials have been waiting for.
The Industrial Buying Cycle
IHS GlobalSpec’s white paper, “Understanding the Industrial Buy Cycle,” does a great job mapping out the industrial buying cycle in overview. It also provides some useful survey information about the content needs of industrial buyers, including engineers, technicians, manufacturers, and executives.
The report breaks down the buying cycle into four widely recognized steps:
1. Needs Awareness: when buyers first realize they need a product or service to fulfill the needs or requirements of a specific project or task.
2. Research: when buyers begin an investigation into what’s available in the marketplace and which vendors potentially offer a product or service to meet their needs.
3. Consideration & Comparison: at this stage, buyers begin the weeding out, eliminating vendors who don’t meet their needs or who they don’t want to do business with for one reason or another, and coming up with a short list of potential vendors.
4. Procurement: the final decision among the short list of vendors, ending with the purchase of products or services.
This cycle can take anywhere between one month and nine months or more, with the length of time generally lengthening as the price of the purchase increases.
According to IHS GlobalSpec’s survey results, most industrial purchases greater than $10,000 require more than three months to complete. During those 90-plus days, potential customers will move through the Needs Awareness, Research, Consideration & Comparison, and Procurement phases of the buying cycle. They will each have their own pace and specific concerns, but they will likely share information needs as they progress through each stage.
Lead Nurturing for the Industrial Buying Cycle
Addressing customers’ information needs as they progress through the four-stage industrial buying process is where a lead nurturing marketing program can be incredibly effective. With a properly mapped process that monitors where each potential customer is in their decision-making process, industrial marketers can time communications — generally delivered through automated email notices triggered by customer actions — to address customers’ information needs, helping them along their journey and steering them toward a preferred partner.
According to the IHS GlobalSpec report, most industrial buyers intent on making purchases greater than $10,000 look at five or more pieces of content before making a decision. This means there are at least five opportunities to connect with the majority of industrial buyers looking to spend five figures or more. That’s at least five opportunities to raise brand awareness and build trust by providing useful information, nurturing prospects in the marketing pipeline before they are delivered to sales for closing.
Nuances of Lead Nurturing for Industrials
Of course, lead nurturing for industrials is not simply a matter of delivering a preordained sequence of content to customers in order to lock in a sale. Each customer’s journey is going to be different, and each industry and company will dictate what sort of information will be useful to its buyers.
A true lead nurturing program will:
- Create a well-defined lead scoring process that establishes when leads should move from marketing to sales (as well as when they should be kicked back to marketing by sales).
- Provide content that addresses the needs of multiple decision makers. (Per IHS GlobalSpec’s report, most purchases over $10,000 involve three or more stakeholders.)
- Rigorously map out customer types and their specific journeys, creating content to meet their needs during each phase of the buying cycle.
- Include a wide array of content that can be automated based on customer actions. (For example, a customer in the Research phase who goes to the “About Us” page on an industrial website might receive a general email about the company in question, while someone who visited a product detail page would receive an email about the product under consideration.)
Hopefully this overview of the way the industrial buying cycle fits with lead nurturing has proven useful. If you have anything to add or would like to ask a question, please leave a Comment. Or, give Industrial Strength Marketing a call at 1-866-529-8908 and we’ll be happy to discuss.