David Kirkpatrick

Email Marketing: The importance of lead nurturing in the complex B2B sale

January 19th, 2012

While gathering presentation material for the upcoming MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012 (February 7-10 at Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas), I had the chance to reach out to Jen Doyle, Senior Research Manager, MarketingSherpa, to get some additional background on lead re-engagement and nurturing.

Jen was the lead author of the 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, and was very helpful in finding a couple of relevant charts for me, providing some additional comments on what this research means for B2B marketers.


73% of all B2B leads are not sales-ready

The first lesson Jen offers is almost three quarters of all B2B leads are not sales-ready. This means Marketing needs to engage with those leads in some fashion to move them down the buying funnel. This also means it’s possible for leads to “go cold” somewhere between entering the funnel and becoming sales-ready. Those are the leads Marketing needs to reengage with.

Here is the first chart of MarketingSherpa research Jen provided:


Chart: Average percentage of total lead volume that is sales-ready


Click to enlarge


And here is Jen’s commentary:

The above chart is the demonstration of why all leads cannot go directly to Sales.

At the time of original lead conversion, an average of 27% of those leads will be qualified to the point where they are ready and willing to engage with Sales.

The remaining 73% are not there yet. When these leads are prematurely sent over to Sales, they are not receiving the experience they desire and will look elsewhere for it.

Besides, do you really want your Sales team spinning their wheels making dial after dial where nearly three-quarters of those leads are not ready?


So, a large majority of B2B leads are not ready for Sales. This is where lead nurturing campaigns come into play.

The usual touch point for lead nurturing is email. These campaigns are greatly enhanced by utilizing marketing automation software to track and score those leads, and send triggered email based on demographic, firmographic, and probably most importantly as the lead moves closer to be becoming sales-ready, behavioral information. Behavioral information would include website visits, whitepaper downloads, webinar participation, and similar activities that indicate the lead is getting ready to buy the product or service.

With that in mind, this second chart is not good news for many B2B marketers:

Chart: 65% of B2B marketers have not established lead nurturing campaigns


Click to enlarge


Here are Jen’s comments on this dismaying bit of research:

Despite the increasing challenges marketers are facing today, the adoption of latest best practices to address them is sluggish.

For example, 65% of our survey respondents indicated that they have not yet established lead nurturing campaigns, despite a demonstrated 35% lift in lead generation ROI (2011 MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey).

Our buyers have changed and in order to succeed in attracting and converting them, we must adapt the way we market to them.


The big lesson here is that our research shows that most leads are not ready for Sales, and because of that reason, need nurturing.

Unfortunately, our research also shows that most B2B marketers are not taking advantage of lead nurturing activities, and because of that are most likely leaving promising prospects somewhere in the buying cycle, but not getting to the point of a closed deal.

Let us know what sort of lead nurturing you do in your marketing efforts. Also, are there any nurturing case studies or how-to guides that might best help your campaigns in 2012? Tell us what you would like to see and we’ll do our best to track those stories down.


Related Resources:

B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified

Email Marketing: Anti-newsletter strategy nurtures $1.5 million in leads in 4 months at Citrix

Lead Nurturing and Management Q&A: How to Handle 5 Key Challenges

Email Marketing: Global telecom combines email and content strategy to segment database

Trigger Happy: Why emails are the magic bullets of marketing automation and shopping cart recovery

Funnel Optimization: Why marketers must embrace change

Marketing Funnel: How to optimize your Sales and Marketing funnel in 5 steps

David Kirkpatrick

About David Kirkpatrick

David is a reporter for MarketingSherpa and has over twenty years of experience in business journalism, marketing and corporate communications. His published work includes newspaper, magazine and online journalism; website content; full-length ghosted nonfiction; marketing content; and short fiction. He served as producer for the business research horizontal at the original Office.com, regularly reporting on the world of marketing; covered a beat for D/FW TechBiz, a member of the American City Business Journals family; and he provided daily reporting for multiple LocalBusiness.com cities. David’s other media and corporate clients include: USA Today, Oxford Intelligence, GMAC, AOL, Business Development Outlook and C-Level Media, among many others.

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