Blog series part 2: mastering lead nurture: engaging prospects at each stage of the funnel with marketing automation

By Dodge Communications (not verified) on November 12th, 2015

If you read our first blog post in the series on finding prospects, you already know how to use marketing automation to generate leads. Now it’s time to move those prospects through the funnel with lead nurture. Research shows that 50 percent of leads are qualified but not ready to buy when they first inquire about a business. Lead nurture plays a critical role influencing whether those leads will turn into a sale. 

An effective nurture program guides prospects through the sales funnel with timely and relevant content tailored to each stage of the buying cycle, and marketing automation is the vehicle used to deliver that content. But before you start automating your campaigns, it’s important to map your nurture content to each stage of the funnel. Just as a well-timed, informative message can move a prospect forward, irrelevant content can hinder (or completely halt) the sales cycle.

Keeping prospects engaged at each stage starts with understanding how their needs evolve as they progress through the funnel.

Top funnel. In this stage, leads are either aware or in the process of deciding whether a problem or need exists. Early stage nurture content should help define that problem and address a particular need or pain point.

Blog posts, research reports, whitepapers and other educational content is typically used in this stage. The objective is to inform prospects on their need, rather than your solution.

Middle funnel. Leads in the evaluation stage have a clear understanding of their need or problem, and are researching and comparing possible solutions. These prospects are more knowledgeable on their options, and are evaluating whether your company is the best alternative.

Offer high-value content that positions your company as a viable solution and provides information prospects need to persuade key decision makers. Product and service information is appropriate at this stage, along with case studies, product videos or eBooks that demonstrate how you can fulfill their need.

Bottom funnel. Prospects nearing a purchasing decision have narrowed down their solutions and are comparing their top vendor options. Special offers, such as free trials or live demos, may be incorporated at this stage to help persuade prospects to take the additional actions needed to complete the transaction.

Vendor or product comparison sheets, benchmarking reports and in-depth case studies are also appropriate late-stage content. These prospects are seeking validation that they are making the right purchasing decision.

Mapping your content. Once you understand the type of content prospects need at each stage of the funnel, you can begin mapping your individual content assets. Consider both the topic as well as the content type, as you determine which stage each asset belongs.

While the content format is an important consideration, the topic and messaging should always take priority. Early stage content should be vendor-neutral and focus on educating leads on their problem or need, while mid-stage nurture content should position your product as the solution to that problem and late-stage content should include compelling offers to drive a response from potential buyers.

After you’ve mapped your content assets to each stage of the buying cycle, identify gaps where additional resources are needed and prioritize content development in those areas. Taking the time to develop a well-thought out campaign will help ensure your content is effectively guiding prospects through each stage of the funnel, closer to the sale.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series to learn how to convert engaged nurture prospects into customers.

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