The B2B sales cycles for many companies can be upwards of nine months from initial interaction to conversion, depending on the industry. For business development and cash flow purposes, avoiding a gap in your new business pipeline is the name of the game. But devoting enough time to nurturing new leads while servicing your existing clients can be tricky, and inbound marketing often falls to the wayside.
When your team’s workload is heavy and your client roster is full, sometimes tunnel vision takes over and you’re just focused on the next step, the final deliverable, finishing the work at hand. The problem is that once you emerge on the other side of the tunnel, your neglected leads will have gone cold and you won’t have new business to replace the project you have just completed.
Don’t Let Leads Die in the Funnel
It typically takes anywhere from 5-10 touch points minimum with a brand before a customer is ready to make a purchase (some sources estimate that for eCommerce the number of touchpoints required is actually much higher).
This means that especially if your industry has an extra long sales cycle, it’s going to take a bit of time to build up familiarity with your brand on the buyer’s journey before someone is ready to pay for your product or services. Keep in mind that not every touch point should be a sales message—your potential customer will experience message fatigue and be turned off by the hard sell, eventually tuning you out completely or developing a negative opinion of your brand.
If you’re thinking, “That sounds like a lot of work,” we’re not going to sugarcoat it—it is. But here’s a strategic framework for how to use inbound marketing and reputation management to nurture leads in your pipeline:
- Use downloadable pieces of digital content like eGuides and whitepapers as ways to attract qualified leads or provide value to leads already in your funnel. By providing free access to exclusive content (you can create a landing page on your website or an ad on social media), you draw potential customers in and start to build awareness and familiarity with your brand.
We highly recommend requiring an email address in order to download the content to add potential customers to your CMS or lead database. Then, as your sales cycle begins to turnover, you can start to ramp up your outreach to these leads to maintain the flow of new business.
- Create engaging blogs, email and social media content to build brand awareness and recognition. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, 75% of all B2B transactions are made online. Further emphasizing the importance of digital content for inbound marketing, Propeller CRM reports that 82% of B2B customers view at least five pieces of content from the vendor they eventually select. Providing useful and engaging content can provide critical information on your brand’s products or services to help move potential customers along the buyer’s journey.
“…customers are doing their research before committing to a product. By sharing useful, relevant, and mobile-friendly content, you’ll easily differentiate from others who are not doing it. Teaming up with content marketing professionals might be a good idea if you don’t have an in-house content marketing team to help you deliver top-quality content,” Propeller CRM says.
Ways to use inbound marketing:
- Blogs—Provide educational content and tips. Show your expertise and provide value to potential customers.
- Emails—Nurture leads that are already in your funnel by providing updates, sales promotions, and driving recipients back to blog content on your website.
- Social media—Share links to blogs on your website, useful or interesting news and resources relevant to your industry, and photos and videos of your staff and/or customers or your work behind the scenes. Don’t be afraid to engage with your audience by responding to comments and questions and show a less formal side of your brand (within appropriate guidelines, of course!).
- Reach out to current or former satisfied customers to ask for reviews. Rounding up some positive reviews can help boost the public opinion and visibility of your brand by gaining traction on Google Business reviews, Yelp, Facebook, or other review sites. Be sure to provide a link directly to where customers can submit their review to make it as easy as possible for them.
With enough positive reviews, you can become a top recommended business when someone searches for a product or service online. It also may help keep your brand top-of-mind for former customers who may want to do business with you again or recommend your business to a friend or colleague. This type of reputation management can help ensure that you receive a healthy flow of leads from referral sources and online searches.
Word to the wise: be sure that the customers you ask had a good experience with your business. Ex-customers with an ax to grind might jump at the chance to gripe online, and a negative review works against your goal of raising your brand’s public profile.
Another tip: while it is illegal to offer to pay for positive reviews—as it is considered an undisclosed paid endorsement by the Federal Trade Commission—a nice thank you note and non-monetary token of your appreciation (some branded swag for example) given after the fact is a nice way to show gratitude and further solidify your relationship with the customer.
By leveraging an inbound marketing strategy and reputation management tactics, you can keep your funnel populated with potential customers and steadily move them along the buyer’s journey. SNR Creative can assist with content planning and execution as well as CMS-enabled targeting and tracking to help you maintain a healthy lead pipeline of new business. Contact us to learn more.