* This post has been updated as of March 2016*
Lead generation and conversion are the main priority for many companies, including those within the construction industry.
Leads turn into prospects, prospects turn into customers, and eventually these customers become brand advocates.
But what exactly are we doing to drive these conversions?
How are we attracting people to our website?
More importantly – how are we keeping people who visit our site coming back for more?
What we should be focusing on is lead nurturing: the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy products or services.
After all, studies show that 50% of qualified leads do not feel ready to immediately purchase a product or service [Gleanster Research, as noted by Hubspot], meaning that lead nurturing is a crucial factor to construction marketing success.
Changes in customer behaviour
Today’s customer is now consuming more digital content than ever before, meaning that a huge number of resources are available at their fingertips through a range of devices. This means that for both B2B and B2C companies, it is less about a quick sell and more about building relationships, as the customer takes more time to independently research, connect and understand the long-term value of your business before making a purchase.
“Personal experiences increasingly define the consumer-to-brand relationship. That means we need to stop shouting at customers and start listening to what they want and need right now.”
– Charles Nicholls, SVP of Product Strategy and Marketing Solutions, SAP Hybris [DMNews]
Marketers must understand that this means many new visitors to their site will still be in the early research and browsing phase, and so bombarding them with sales messages will only chase them away.
And with the vast amount of competition out there, prospects are overwhelmed with companies claiming to be the best at what they do. Therefore a focus should be placed upon building credibility and trust by providing and distributing content that fulfills a prospect’s needs and requirements, in order to convert them into profitable customers.
This involves making their lives easier in the following ways…
- Answering commonly asked questions
- Providing downloadable product guides
- Providing CAD drawings and datasheets
- Providing specification tools and U-Value calculators
- Providing technical information
- Discussing updates to building regulations and standards
- Blogging about industry news
Position your company as a thought leader and trusted advisor in your field. Prospects want to believe that your construction company understands their problems and can offer a solution. This allows prospects to feel more confident when considering, and finally purchasing your products and services.
Download our Content Marketing E-book here for more information on effective content strategies.
All marketing strategies should be formulated with business goals and objectives in to give our marketing a focus and a purpose.
To do this effectively you have to plan, and the same goes for lead nurturing.
After understanding that a large proportion of website visitors will eventually end up buying a product or service (either from you or a competitor), but not necessarily right away – you can plan how you are going to push them down that funnel.
A few questions to consider before developing and implementing a lead nurturing strategy are:
- Do I understand my prospects’ buying cycle? It can be slightly different depending on your construction company and whether you are selling a product, a service or both. An effective lead nurturing campaign will involve the sales team to make sure that relevant content is produced to satisfy buyers’ needs at each stage of the purchase decision making process.
- What quality content is actually needed at each stage? What do my buyers expect and what added value can I provide that my competitors can’t? Timing is also important so if buyers are simply looking for product information, make sure your product landing pages are optimised and relevant. If buyers want more in-depth information or need answers to a problem, a downloadable product guide or an online specification tool will satisfy this need. These are all pushing prospects further down the funnel without using the ‘hard sell’ approach.
- Educational pieces of work well during the early awareness stages. With this information you are simply educating people and sharing best practices.
- Industry-oriented articles work well when prospects start looking for companies and are evaluating their options. It is good to be up to date with the latest news and technology.
- Solution-oriented and company-focused materials (such as case studies) are appropriate for prospects engaged in an active buying cycle where they want to search for the company offering the best solution to their problem.
Read our post on creating effective case studies here.
- Why am I nurturing leads? Identify objectives first so that you can determine the purpose of your actions. Is your main aim to increase sales or build customer relationships? The answer to this question will shape your campaign.
- How will you measure your results?
- What goals are you trying to achieve?
- What links did your prospects click on?
- What did they read and how long did they spend on your website or landing page?
- Did they download your brochure or sign up to your newsletter?
These are all goals and outcomes to be measured in order to determine how effective a campaign is. Success is measured according to outcomes, and so objectives need to be set before implementation. Read our post on measuring your marketing campaign performance here, or read more on how to create an effective web report.
The key to executing a successful lead generation campaign is getting the frequency of communication right.
This is different for every company but as a general guideline, contacting prospects more than once a week is too much and less than once a month is not enough.
For many construction marketers email marketing is still the preferred communication choice. There is nothing wrong with this but bring it up to speed by implementing social share and measure functionalities. Prospects can then distribute your messages to their peers and you can track and measure the success of the email campaign. View our post here for more information on developing an effective email marketing strategy.
Random Acts of Marketing
One of the best places to focus your lead nurturing efforts is your existing database, especially when marketing budgets are tight. These prospects already know who you are but haven’t been convinced to buy any of your products or services. This might have been due to ‘random acts of marketing,’ which were not effective in turning leads into customers. Examples of these activities are:
- Sending out irregular and poorly thought out emails
- Randomly calling leads to see if they are sales ready
- Contacting your database with self-promotional company news of no value to them
- Offering content that is not relevant or useful instead of researching what prospects actually want
- Inconsistent messages and confusing offers
Executing a lead nurturing campaign
A typical campaign can use a number of different communication methods like email, case studies, whitepapers, specification tools, webinars, social media and many others.
Depending upon the strategy and goals in place, a combination of these can be implemented or just one or the other.
Prospects at different stages of the buying cycle will require different marketing messages and materials, so segmenting audiences into different groups will give each segment what they are looking for.
An example of a simple lead nurturing campaign:
Day 1: Lead visits website and downloads product brochure in exchange for email address. Gets auto respond email thanking him/her for download and includes link to company blog/newsletter.
Day 8: An e-mail is sent to the lead inviting them to a webinar on product installation and specification.
Day 15: If the lead attended the webinar, send a thank you email and give him/her access to a relevant case study or whitepaper. Ask if they would be interested in any of your products or services. If yes, hand over to sales team (qualified lead), if no carry on nurturing.
Day 31: Email a ‘touching base’ message such as a blog post or article that might be useful. Encourage them to sign up to newsletter to receive industry information.
Day 45: Lead has been following your online activities, reading your blog and articles. Calls up when they need to purchase a product or service (qualified lead).
**note: this is not a real campaign example and communication timings should be based on the length of your average sales cycle and take product/service complexity into account. This is just a simplified example of how it could work.
Two types of lead nurturing campaigns:
Depending on your business objectives there are two different types of lead nurturing campaigns that you can execute.
One focuses on new visitors to your website and acts as an introduction, whilst the other aims to keep your company ‘top-of-mind’ for prospects when they are ready to purchase.
- Incoming Lead Processing Campaign
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This is the purpose of such a campaign – to give new leads the best (most positive) first impression of your company and its products/services.
This includes building trust and respect, keeping things interesting and being a good listener. This type of campaign usually has 3 main objectives:
– Identify what stage of the buying cycle prospects are currently at to determine if they are sales-ready or not. Track visitor behaviour such as what pages they looked at, if they downloaded something or if they filled out your registration or subscription form.
– Permission marketing – give leads the option to opt in or out of communication. You do not want to be marketing to people who are not part of your target audience or who are not interested in your company.
– Establish the type of communication and the frequency – This can be in the form of quick check boxes so leads are able to tell you how often they want to hear from you, using which medium and what type of information they are interested in. This ensures that your campaigns remain targeted and relevant.
- Stay in Touch Campaign
This type of lead nurturing campaign aims to ‘reconnect’ or ‘touch base’ with leads who are already on your mailing list or in your database. They know who you are and what you do but are not necessarily ready to buy yet.
These campaigns are designed to drip-feed your leads by educating them and gaining their credibility; by regularly keeping in touch your brand remains top of mind so that your lead will contact YOU (and not your competitor) when they are ready.
The B2B buying process is just as emotional and irrational as the B2C ones and therefore building relationships is crucial. Businesses try to minimise purchase risk as there is more at stake, so these campaigns help to build trust and reduce this feeling of risk. Even small adjustments like including the prospects’ name in communications instead of ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ is a good start and your company aim should be to become a trusted advisor in the buying process.
Using social media for lead nurturing
Social media is a valuable addition to your lead nurturing campaign. It allows prospects to engage with you on another level and instantly keep up to date with company and industry updates. Interacting on social media is more personal and can further deepen the relationship.
Read our post on social engagement here.
If you are new to social media however, start with the basics first before implementing lead nurturing campaigns. Here are a few essentials:
- Create corporate social media accounts that are active and updated regularly. Find members of your target audience and other influential industry professionals to connect with. Share interesting news, updates, questions and engage in relevant conversations.
- A LinkedIn group and company account is a great way to connect on a more professional level. Start discussions and participate in existing ones because it’s a great way to share knowledge and leads have more insight and understanding of your company, what you do and how you work.
- Do not be afraid to show a bit of personality on the platforms. People do business with people not robots. Join similar groups to the ones your leads are in to gain exposure and further demonstrate your expertise by helping out with questions and discussions. Have a read of our post on developing an effective Pinterest strategy.
- Be quick with responses; people do not like to be ignored. Use platforms such as Hootsuite to keep on track of all social media platforms.
- Keep an eye on what leads are talking about online and jump in if you can help them. This helps to refine and target your other lead nurturing programmes because you get an insight into what they are interested in.
Interested in how UK contractors use social media? Read our latest project here.
The objective of a lead nurturing campaign is to offer prospects a better understanding of your company offerings and assist them along their research and decision making process.
- Define objectives first so that campaigns are focused and measurable.
- Decide which communication vehicle is appropriate for a specific target audience
- Interact in order to build relationship and trust – avoid hard-selling.