Commercial Concepts

Nurturing leads

By Chip Burnham

Earn more out of your contacts by doing the math and not burning through opportunities

FFJ 0718 commercial lead2November 2018 - Approximately one-third of all leads obtained by B2B manufacturers never receive a follow-up. They are, effectively, burned. When a lead is hot, your team happily follows up; it’s fun. But prospects not yet in the buying cycle can be forgotten. These lower quality leads showed some level of interest in your offering, they provided you with their contact information, and then they went about their day. If you forgot them, they forgot you.

You spend real money to generate leads. If you are a mid-sized manufacturer you likely spend between $150 and $350 per lead. Do the math and you’ll be surprised. Divide your annual marketing budget by the number of leads you generate per year to determine your cost per lead.

Lead nurturing keeps your brand in front of potential buyers so that when they begin to enter the buying cycle, they think of you. Nurturing low quality leads can increase the number of hot leads by 20 percent and shorten the sales cycle by 25 percent.

FFJ 1118 commercial lead

Figure 1: Three distinct funnels comprise your overall commercial system.

Funnel system

A company has three funnels—marketing, sales and customer. Contacts with interest only (leads) reside in the marketing funnel; contacts considering or in the buying cycle (sales-ready opportunities) reside in the sales funnel; and contacts who have bought from you (customers) reside in the customer funnel. The goal of lead nurturing is to move people from the marketing funnel to the sales funnel.

Start by identifying your target end markets. Most companies have many end markets they serve, but only a handful delivers bottom line profits and contain enough prospects to make the pursuit worthwhile. Then, create strong messaging. Your core messages should be based on satisfying customer needs and should be present in all of your materials, and your team should know and use those messages. Strong, consistent messaging builds brand and helps your audience remember you.

The majority of your nurturing activities will be outbound emails. Email blasts are inexpensive and offer the chance to deliver a variety of digital content including case studies, white papers, technology updates, operational tips; brochures, flyers, videos, buying guides; and promotions for equipment, service or events such as trade shows, webinar or open houses.

Call to action

Your emails must include a call to action (CTA). A CTA might tell leads to download, sign up or “click here to learn more.” The CTA link should send the person to a website landing page where you track and learn from their behavior using Google Analytics, and use gated content. Gated content is where the visitor can only obtain your desirable content by providing their contact information. Even though you already have their contact information, this is a way to find out their interest is heightened.


Business-to-consumer marketers recommend two to four emails per week. That seems a bit excessive for B2B interaction, especially among manufacturers. Manufacturers want value over volume. One to four times per month should suffice to keep your company front of mind.

Let’s say a B2B fabricator serves many markets, but considers farm equipment and oil and gas to be the end markets where they want to focus most of their efforts. They send all leads in their database generic nurturing content at the beginning of each month, and the two target markets  receive an additional email in the middle of each month. See the plan laid out in Figure 2.

FFJ 1118 commercial image1

Figure 2: An example where a fabricator sends generic content to all leads once a month, and then mid-month sends end market specific content to two target end markets.

Content provider

Creating attractive content is the tough part of launching a nurturing program. Repurposing existing content is a must. Collect existing content and new ideas from experts in sales, service, marketing, engineering, production and management.

A B2B audience responds best when you deliver to them valuable, educational content. Don’t sell too hard; educate. Today’s buyers engage more often when they receive valuable educational content, not sales pitches.

You will need an email client service to help you create, send and manage your email campaigns such as MailChimp, iContact, Campaigner, Constant Contact, GetResponse or Benchmark Email. Service providers help ensure you have an “opt out” for each recipient and automatically remove them from your list. Make sure to follow email regulations specific for each target country.

You’ll create your email templates within the email client. Use both text-based and HTML-based (graphical) emails. Text-based emails are usually from an individual such as a salesperson and are more casual in tone. HTML-based emails are more formal, attractive and should be professionally designed. Different members of your audience will respond to different formats.

Concentrate on mastering the email subject line. It is the most important phrase in all of your content.

Launch and be patient

Prepare and schedule at least two months of content in your email client system. That way you have a buffer so you don’t miss a send date. Today’s email clients make it easy to have many email blasts ready for automatic send on specific dates and times. Also post your nurturing content on social media platforms.

You are after an open rate of over 9 percent with your first few sends, and over 14 percent open and 2.5 percent click-through thereafter. Your first sends will have a spike in unsubscribes, but that is OK. If you obtained the contact information legitimately, as opposed to purchasing a list, you do not need to fear being blacklisted by your email client or internet service provider. If you have concerns, contact your email client provider for advice before launch.

It typically takes four to six emails before your message persuades some of your audience to engage, so be patient. Over time, you’ll learn what resonates with your audience.

A lead nurturing program takes some effort to create, but companies find effective and sustainable. Sure beats burning your leads. FFJ

Chip Burnham is author of “MarketMD Your Manufacturing Business” and is co-founder of Fairmont Concepts, which helps manufacturers maximize the performance of their commercial engine. Fairmont Concepts, Maple Valley, Washington, 833/667-7889,

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