The line between lead generation and lead nurturing is often blurred. Are they one in the same? In short, no. These two processes are related but unique and require different attention and marketing focus to each. Before we delve into the differences and similarities between the two, let’s align on a common definition for what a lead is. A lead is a potential new buyer who has shown interest in your company’s product, services or content—by downloading content from your website, requesting a demo or inquiring about your offerings. If the individual matches the characteristics and criteria of your target audience, they can then be considered a qualified lead. So, what marketing efforts are key to lead generation and how can your organization turn these leads into buyers?
What Is Lead Generation?
Lead generation is the process of generating interest in a company’s products and services via its marketing efforts. The outputs of these efforts are potential new buyers the company can pursue a business relationship with.
Lead generation is driven by integrated marketing efforts that target and engage relevant audiences to establish a relationship and bring them into the business development process. These relevant audiences comprise primary and secondary users, influencers, buyers, and decision makers. Each plays a role and carries weight in purchase decisions.
Inbound marketing approaches where audience members determine when and how to engage are prevalent. Inbound marketing channels that commonly combine to generate the most leads include events (online and offline), content marketing and social media. Creating blog, eBook, video and related content and then promoting these assets on social media is a good example of these efforts. Producing and promoting the right content at the right time for the right audiences naturally supports higher volumes of qualified leads.
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What Is Lead Nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the progressive process of building a relationship with leads through different interactions over time with a goal of ultimately converting the leads into buyers. This typically does not happen overnight. It can be tempting to try and fast-track buying decisions but smart organizations understand the different aspects of the buyer journey and provide the right marketing support at each juncture.
So, how do you nurture a lead? Lead nurture activities are largely determined by where a lead is in the buyer journey. If they are in the awareness phase and downloaded gated content from your website, follow up periodically via email with relevant next-step blogs and articles they may find useful. They key is extending opportunities for them deepen their interest and strengthen the relationship. In the consideration stage, individuals are beginning to evaluate options for addressing their needs. For example, a prospect is interested in purchasing a marketing automation application and your company’s offering is on their list of possible solutions. Here, a more in-depth white paper or eBook showing key considerations and capabilities is appropriate. In the decision stage, individuals look to narrow their list of possibilities down to a selection they can be confident in. Providing a case study that showcases the success of others who use your product or service or sharing product comparisons that show how your brand stands above others is recommended.
Lead nurturing activities are commonly comprised of email marketing and related well-timed and targeted digital outreach (e.g., retargeting, social, etc.) . Use intelligent arrangements and progressions of these activities to keep your organization at the top of prospects’ minds. This could entail enrolling them in a drip email series of related follow-up content, sending them the organization’s e-newsletter and showing display ads promoting your offerings as they surf the internet.
Lead Generation + Lead Nurturing = Greater Success
If a business does a great job of generating leads but does little or nothing to turn leads into buyers, they are not likely to succeed. Conversely, if a business does a great of nurturing leads but doesn’t generate a high enough quantity of leads to support a sufficient sales pipeline, they are again unlikely to succeed. A business needs both lead generation and lead nurturing processes to work together, fuel one another and support sustainable business success.