If you work for a B2B company, I’m betting you already have a lead nurture program in place. It’s no wonder why: Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects see a 451% increase in the number of qualified leads.
But lead nurturing takes more than just a great Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) and some clever distribution tactics. If you want to keep leads engaged with your brand and cultivate interest in your products and services, you need carefully planned and compelling content for your nurture streams.
If you’re new to lead nurture content development, or simply want to see how another marketer’s process compares to your own, this article is for you. Let’s explore 6 key steps you can follow to engage your database, build trust, educate potential buyers, and convert your prospects into customers.
Step 1: Identify Your Key Personas
Source: Oho Interactive
Before you can develop a program that effectively uses content to nurture leads down the funnel, you need a clear understanding of who those leads are and what they care about. This is where buyer personas come in handy. With these carefully researched profiles in place, you can design content that speaks to those individuals’ challenges, needs, and threats.
While most personas focus on product messaging, editorial personas that focus purely on content consumption are useful, too. They can help you identify powerful stories to share with your audience that may or may not have direct ties back to your product. And for top-of-funnel leads, this is the kind of content they want to consume.
Step 2: Identify Your Key Funnel Stages
Now that you know who you’re creating content for, you then need to figure out what marketing/sales funnel stages your audience goes through and what their mindset is during each. These stages will differ slightly from company to company, but for most SaaS businesses (including Ceros), they usually look something like this:
- Lead: A contact in your database who’s either newly generated from top-of-funnel activity or disengaged with your brand.
- Marketing-Qualified Lead (MQL): A lead who’s met a certain scoring threshold based on demographics, firmographics, and behavioral data.
- Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL): An MQL that sales deems to be a solid potential buyer.
- Opportunity: A potential deal your sales team is actively working.
- Customer: A prospect who’s given you money.
Step 3: Choose Your Topics
Once you have your personas and funnel stages locked in, you can then begin to brainstorm topics that will integrate with this framework. A great place to start with topic ideation is the key challenges, hopes, fears, and threats you’ve identified for each of your personas. You can also discover new and highly relevant ideas by surveying your existing customers or subscribers. With just a few questions, you can find out what they want to learn, what they’re interested in, and which content they’ve liked most from your previous campaigns.
Step 4: Pin Down Your Formats
Source: This Advertising Life
So you’ve developed a solid set of topics that will resonate with your audience at every step of the funnel. Sweet! Now you have to decide how you should package up those ideas for online consumption.
Most content marketing formats can work for pretty much any topic or stage of the funnel, but here are a few common types I’ve found successful for the lead nurture programs I’ve developed content for:
Top-of-Funnel Content Formats
- Interactive articles and eBooks
- Quizzes and assessments
- Entertaining and educational videos
- Custom social images
- Infographics and interactive data visualizations
Mid-Funnel Content Formats
- Interactive comparison charts
- ROI calculators
- Standalone microsites
- Buyer guides
- Long-form landing pages
Bottom-of-Funnel Content Formats
- Media-rich case studies
- Original research reports
- Detailed FAQs
- Interactive pricing guides
Step 5: Develop a Distribution Model
In tandem with developing great lead nurture content, you should also determine how you’re going to transmit all of that information to your audience. Distribution is dependent on all of the stuff we’ve already talked about so far: personas, funnel stages, and content types.
For example, say you’ve developed three pieces of content on the same topic: an interactive E-book for top-of-funnel engagement, a mid-funnel microsite that explores solutions, and a bottom-of-funnel case study from someone using your product. Even though they share the same theme, the way you should promote each of those pieces would be very different.
Every content program is different, but here are some of the common channels I use for distribution here at Ceros:
- Top-of-Funnel Promotion: Organic social, paid advertising, blog, newsletters, earned forums.
- Mid-Funnel Promotion: Website, landing pages, nurture emails, review sites.
- Bottom-of-Funnel Promotion: Personal touch emails from individual sales reps.
Step 6: Test All the Things!
The last step in creating effective lead nurture content is… you guessed it… testing. Not only should you be testing what content you share when, but you should also be testing your content itself. Using granular web analytics or an interactive content platform with tracking on the backend, you can learn more about how your prospects engage with individual pieces and optimize them as you go. These learnings can also inform your future lead gen content strategy.
The Bottom Line
Creating a killer lead nurture program takes more than just smart tech and well-timed messaging. The content you share with leads at all stages of the funnel can have a big impact on your conversion rates and overall brand perception. Following these 6 steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a stellar content journey for your prospects.
Ashley Taylor Anderson is Director of Content at Ceros, an interactive content marketing software startup. She’s a writer and marketer who’s spent her career knee-deep in the B2B technology space. In previous professional lives, she worked as a science textbook editor, interactive media producer, and pastry chef. When she’s not in front of a computer typing, you can usually find her nose-deep in a book, strolling a museum, or cursing at her sewing machine.