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Inbound marketing places a huge emphasis on generating great leads; after all, the word “inbound” itself refers to catching leads when they’re out there looking for something. We’re all about building effective, SEO-optimized, marketing-enabled websites to attract, entice, inform, and convert them, but what you do with the leads you’ve got is as important as getting them to begin with.

Because 95% of the time, your leads aren’t gonna be ready to buy yet. So if you don’t focus on nurturing them down the sales funnel, all you’re doing is playing with averages and hoping volume will do the rest.

It won’t.

When you spend time nurturing your leads, you see an average of 20% more sales opportunities on top of 50% more sales. That means that not only are more people buying – they’re buying more.

So why isn’t anyone taking the time to do lead nurturing? Because it’s not as clear cut – or as easy to measure.

Lead nurturing is a matter of keeping your leads engaged – and providing them with the information they need at that moment. It should function in a holistic way across multiple channels and platforms, stretching from email to social media and beyond.

The key is to know where your leads are on the buyer’s journey, and provide them with appropriate content along the way.

There are all kinds of ways to talk about the buying process, but it really has three steps for the prospect:

  1. Performing research
  2. Figuring out what you want
  3. Checking out vendors

So if you structure your content the right way, you’ll know exactly what stage they’re at – and what you need to do to move them down the sales funnel.

At the research stage, people are just looking at their problem, thinking about it, and trying to learn what they can. Content to appeal to this stage is a lot of general-level information to help them figure out what sorts of solutions they might want to consider – ebooks, checklists, informational videos. Nothing too specific and nothing that’s trying to sell them anything. They just wanna know.

But as they move down to the “figuring out what you want” stage, they’re actively looking for a solution. And that means they’re interested in content that helps them make that determination. They’re weighing practical options; should they use this method or that? That means they’re looking for more specific information – case studies, whitepapers, anything that talks to their need for an immediate solution.

And when they’re in the decision stage, checking out vendors to buy from, that means they’ve made a decision, and are just looking for content that helps them evaluate specific suppliers. These can include product spec sheets, direct comparisons, and user testimonials. They’re so close to buying; all you have to do is get them to talk to your sales department.

And moving people from one stage to the next is a matter of keeping track of when you came to their attention and providing them with appropriate content along the way. If someone first converts on a later stage of the journey, you don’t want to send them content that doesn’t push them down the funnel; you want to use targeted email marketing to push them in the right direction (which brings us to list segmentation, which is a topic we’ll be tackling in coming weeks).

Lead nurturing, in short, can’t be neglected; it encourages sales and increases customer investment in you as they continually engage with your content. Done right, you increase the number of people that finally get to the point of purchasing and create more highly-educated, motivated buyers.