Why lead nurturing is surprisingly like dating ... and what to do about it

12 years ago   •   5 min read

By Marcia Kadanoff

I’m a happily married lady. Have been married to a terrific man for 25 years now. Which dates me. Speaking of dating. It occurred to me recently, that many business-to-business marketers don’t “get” how lead nurturing is a lot like dating.

Whether you are a man or a woman, gay or straight, it is unlikely that you’d feel great about a first date where the person you just met got down on one knee and proposed. Right?

Precisely. So why do some B2B marketers go straight from ‘Hi we are Company X’… to ‘Get started today with a free trial. Our product is great!’?

Okay, so marriage is a slightly bigger decision than investing the time to try a product/service but the principle is much the same.

Unlike some B2C buyers, B2B buyers aren’t impulsive; they buy on their own timing, and go through a multi-step process we and other thought leaders in business-to-business marketers call the buyer’s journey. You can’t hurry buyers through the steps on their journey but you can lean in, given them encouragement, reassurance, and the information they need to feel like investing in a free trial or evaluation is worth their time. And for most business-to-business buyers, time is as precious a resource as money. After all, a B2B buyer spends their own time when evaluating your product. They spend their company’s money when purchasing a product. Both “spends” are critically important to them but the spend of time is – because it hits closer to home – a difficult step to get an enterprise buyer to make.

So what’s a smart B2B marketer to do. Stop asking for marriage when what you really want to do is encourage your date to spend some quality time with you. Lead nurturing is how you do this and just like dating, doing this well does need to follow the narrow confines ofa a formula to be successful. There’s lots of room for creativity so long as you understand the basics.

Here is a step by step process to lead nurturing:

1. The Introduction

So, assuming you have already mastered the basics of driving the right kind of traffic to your site using inbound marketing .. the next crucial step in the dating/lead nurturing process is the introduction.

The first thing a prospect sees is your website content. So making sure your high heels are on and your lips are glossed (or stubble trimmed and aftershave splashed) is essential. The goal of the introduction is securing a first date, so remember two things: look gorgeous and be interesting.

A professional website which is easy to navigate, with visually and intellectually appealing content, will get results. So get your website to function well on a technical level, and then fill it with the many insights you have to share.

But don’t overdo it. If you provide too much content too early in the relationship, you risk overwhelming your prospect, and won’t turn them from a prospect into a lead and from a lead into a buyer. Entice your prospect with information that is oriented towards the top of the funnel, where the prospect is getting their problem in focus, understanding what solutions exist, and beginning to form a short list of companies that could solve their problem. This is not the time for you to wax poetic about the features and benefits of your product versus the competitive. It’s way too early in your nascent relationship for that.

2. Can I Have Your Number?

Many first dates go no where. Why? Well the introduction may have gone well but there was no follow up. And before you get too excited, an appropriate follow up for a first date is not: would you like to come upstairs and see my etchings. Instead, focus on learning more about your date, so you can tailor your next interaction to meet their interests, needs, and wants. The single best way to do this. A form that asks the right questions. Capturing prospect data on a form is just like asking for someone’s phone number. It gives you the information you need to follow up and shows you are interested in getting to know the prospect better, so as to meet their needs.

Of course, you’ll want to keep your “ask” here short and to the point. Although you may be excited (you’re already walking down the aisle in your mind) a phone number and name will suffice. How many kids you both want can wait until a later date. In the same way, long and overly nosy forms on a website are a turn off, and will cause your volume of leads to dwindle.

3. Dating
Dating, although filled with fun and excitement, is basically an ongoing assessment of compatibility. Putting your best foot forward, showing that you can be fun, loyal and caring, whilst looking for signals and waiting for the right moment to ask those unanswered questions like ‘are we an item?’. Timing is everything.

In the realm of B2B marketing, dating rules can apply to your lead-nurturing campaign. Disseminating carefully crafted information that keeps the audience interested, whilst building a bigger (positive) picture of your company. The goal here is to get to know the prospect and allow the prospect to get to know you, warming them up until they are ‘sales ready’.

Email nurturing is an art – a balancing act, and they can also make or break opportunities for future communications (think an inbound call from a hot lead prompted by one of your emails vs an unsubscribe from a lead who is thoroughly annoyed with your constant messages).

Common faux pas

  • Doing nothing and hoping the prospect will make all the moves
  • Going for the kill too early assuming the prospect is sales ready

Warning! A ‘one size fits all’ approach is also risky business. Play it safe and observe the behavior of the other person – you have got this far, don’t ruin it now! An excellent way to do this is by ‘lead scoring’, based on prospect demographics and behavior on your site. Once a lead reaches a certain score, you can move them along in the sales funnel and adapt your communications accordingly.

5. The marriage proposal
If you have been listening properly and looking for signals, you will have a pretty good idea whether or not your partner is ready for your marriage proposal.

Marketers, if you have triggers set in place based on lead scoring, you can just sit back, let your excellently designed automated systems do the analysis, and pass it on to your amazing sales team to seal the deal.

6. The wedding
So, your sales team did their thing and now you are getting married. Congratulations. It is important to remember that just because you have sealed the deal, you don’t begin to slack. Divorce is common. Similarly with marketing, the conversation doesn’t end with their business card details.

Build positive relationships that encourage loyalty, build a good reputation through word of mouth and up-sell when the time is right. Keep in touch with your customers so that they don’t feel neglected over time – make them feel special (lest they leave you for a competitor).

So now you can go and secure the man/woman of your dreams and make lots of sales too!

Spread the word