Senior Director, Research and Education| NextAfter| LinkedIn
The Psychology of Lead Nurturing
Highlights from this Episode
How to Increase Conversion Using Buyer Psychology in Lead Nurturing
On today’s episode of the B2B Marketing Jukebox we welcome a good friend and marketing expert, Jon Powell. Jon has read more case studies, more academic work about buyer psychology, and conducted more marketing tests than anyone I know. He is here today to talk primarily about lead nurturing and the way in which he sees it as useful in the current climate. We look back briefly at the growth in prominence the method has experienced in the last decade or so and then get right into the ins and outs with Jon. He tells us about relationships between the sales and marketing teams and what really determines the success of your lead nurturing campaigns. We talk data analytics and finish off the discussion looking to the future of marketing and the role of lead nurturing in this. For a fascinating and insightful chat, be sure to tune in!
Key points from this episode:
- Defining lead nurturing and why it is important.
- Identifying the critical factors in successful lead nurturing.
- Using data analytics a next nurture step
- Clarifying the specific role of each step of communication
- Repurposing white papers and ebooks into nurture touches
- Predicting the future of lead nurturing
“Nobody is going to engage with somebody or with an organization that they do not feel like they have some sort of connection with.” — @JonPowell31 [0:03:39.2]
“So where I’m trying to land the plane here is the reason why we need to nurture is we need to communicate to the subconscious. We need to communicate to this additional layer.” — @JonPowell31 [0:14:43.1]
“We’re trying to speak to this subliminal and we’re trying to create a position in their minds.” — @JonPowell31 [0:06:10.2]
Links mentioned in today’s episode:
LeadCrunch — https://www.leadcrunch.com/
Jon Powell on Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonpowell31
Jon Powerll on Twitter — https://twitter.com/jonpowell31
MarketingSherpa — https://www.marketingsherpa.com/
Dreamforce — https://www.salesforce.com/dreamforce/
Dr. B.J. Fogg — https://www.bjfogg.com/
Blind Spot — http://blindspot.fas.harvard.edu/
Mahzarin Banaji — https://psychology.fas.harvard.edu/people/mahzarin-r-banaji
NextAfter — https://www.nextafter.com/
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[0:00:33.8] DG: I am here today with Jon Powell. Jon is a good friend of mine who has done an enormous amount of analysis on thousands of experiments and case studies. He and I worked at MarketingSherpa. We had access to their vast library of case studies. And MarketingSherpa, if you don’t know, when we were there was writing about 250 case studies a year. As I recall, and Jon used those to put on webinars and to speak at conferences. He was a top-rated speaker at Dreamforce. He’s written multiple courses or re-engineered multiple courses, three of which are free, and he has experience both in B2B, B2C, for profit, and nonprofit.
Jon, thank you so much for joining us today.
[0:01:26.1] JP: Pleasure.
[0:01:26.8] DG: I thought what we would do is talk about lead nurturing. I have this feeling it’s undergoing a little bit of a revolution. I’d love to get your thoughts, because you have such great insights around messaging in particular and how it works. What is lead nurturing? You want to define it for the audience and the way you think about lead nurturing?
[0:01:49.5] JP: Sure. When I think of lead nurturing, and I don’t really have a textbook, formal sounding definition, but when I think of lead nurturing, I think of I am trying to communicate or I’m trying to build a relationship in such a way that I want to influence a desired action, right?
I’m nurturing somebody to a higher purpose or calling, and that desired action might be for them to purchase something very complex, a complex service from me. Maybe it’s a complex product. Something that takes time, and it takes familiarity and understanding. Nurturing is process by which I help them to – I influence them to make that decision in my favor as opposed to, say, a competitor or an alternative.
[0:02:36.1] DG: Great definition. This may seem like a crazy question, but why do people – Why do they need to do this? Why not just give all the leads to the sales team?
[0:02:46.0] JP: Well, I got a really good piece of advice at one point from a friend, and it was actually a piece of advice that we’d given to him. He was volunteering in an ambulance in his very affluent neighborhood, and they pick somebody up and he was just really nice to this guy and the guy said, “You know what? I’ll tell you what. I’ll tell you anything you want to know. Just ask me anything.”
So my friend asked for a single piece of advice. He’s like, “We’ll, give me the best piece of advice for a business or whatnot.” I think he was an aspiring business professional. In the end he said, “In order for them to buy from you, they’ve got to like you.” You know what I mean? Before you can manage their money, before you can manage that, you have to manage their ego.
What he was really getting at though, if you want to go down to the foundation, is relationship. Nobody is going to engage with somebody or with an organization that they do not feel like they have some sort of connection with. I truly believe that people, they really don’t buy from organizations, they really buy from people.
The funny thing is, what people do, and this is actually not me saying it, it was Dr. B.J. Fogg. What people do is they kind of humanize an organization whether we like it or not, based in the way in which we communicate. People are always looking for these queues. They’re always evaluating us on this different level, not just on this level of, “I’ve got a thing that will help them in their story.” But also who we are to them and how we relate to them, right? I guess one really good way to say it is people will forget what we said and did but will never forget how we made them feel.
So where I’m trying to land the plane here is the reason why we need to nurture is we need to communicate to the subconscious. We need to communicate to this additional layer so that when it’s their time to make a decision and the time is right and the time is ready, because we don’t know when that is, especially in these complex sales, right? Especially if they have to go chase after budget and things, we want to be on the top of their mind.
What creates that position in their minds and their hearts is not just the fact that we’re the best for them on a very logical, broken kind of thing, but also that they’ve got a connection with us, with our organization. They feel like they know us. There’s a way which nurturing helps you to achieve that.
[0:05:18.7] DG: Well, that is a great answer. For all of you marketers there that have all kinds of arrows in your body right now because you threw too many leads over to your sales team and they’re not happy about it. I think what Jon is saying is something that you should take to heart and see how to build relationships with people so that when your sales people call, they’re received a little bit more warmly than they would be otherwise.
What are the most important, the critical success factors from a lead nurturing standpoint?
[0:05:50.7] JP: I can think of three, off the top of my head based off of a lot of experiments that I’ve seen in lead nurturing and a lot of the practice that I have. Let me just kind of go into them.
It does have a lot to do with – remember, the core thing that we’re dealing with here is we’re trying to create a feeling. We’re trying to speak to this subliminal and we’re trying to create a position in their minds. Because, again, people, they’re really good, they’re really good at making their own memories, but those memories aren’t necessarily going to be super accurate. We need to help them get that general gist. They’re going to fill in the blanks. So we’ve got to help them.
There are a couple of things that we can do. The first thing that’s really important is timing. For example, if you know there’s a specific – Initially, when you’ve captured this, I guess captured the if that’s what you want to say. Once you’ve gotten their attention, you receive their information in some sort of an opt-in, right? If you know kind of the time table they’re operating on and you know they have to make a decision at a certain point, it’s better for you or more effective for you to actually nurture them closer to that decision point than it is farther. Meaning, you want to have nurturing that’s closer.
Let me tell you why. People, it’s been studied – I actually pulled this from a book called Blind Spot. It’s really interesting. It’s about hidden biases. One of the authors is Mahzarin Banaji and they talk about predisposition. They talk about preexisting association. You have to imagine that somebody has a way of thinking and you or your organization may or may not have impacted that way of thinking when you first got them to opt-in on to your list, right? Or you may have influenced it.
Here’s the thing. This author says that preexisting associations and dispositions are like rubber bands, and when those associations are modified, they soon return to their early configuration. The reason why they know this is that a lot of their book, a lot of their study and primary research had to deal with, actually, racial bias and they had a way of measuring it even for the people who are strong advocates for diversity and completely eliminating racial bias as we should. They notice that even those people, when they were not properly primed before taking this test that measured it subliminally, they actually showed bias and it was just shocking to them. They were horrified. They wanted to throw up. You know what I mean? That’s what they were describing.
The question is, is for those people that are strong, they’re very passionate. They have values that they know something is right but then they have the predisposition to go another direction or do something else. Now, think in terms of our people. They have a predisposition. Maybe they choose an alternative to not choose us or whatnot, and we’ve attracted them to our list with something genuinely, right? We have modified their predisposition. We have to nurture them to keep the rubber band stretched. If you know that you’re in close proximity to a time period where they need to make a decision, that’s when you need to nurture them. That’s when you need to do that.
Another great quote. Such elastic changes can be consequential, but they will require reapplication of intervention prior to each occasion. So if you know somebody is generally thinking this way and, you can assume that maybe, “Oh, this is interesting. This is different.” You want to keep that rubber band stretched. You want to keep them thinking differently. The only way you can do that is to keep in front of them. The timing is really important. It’s not just consistency, but it’s also within a close timeframe of when you know they’re going to have to make that decision. If you don’t know that, you could just be consistent, but if you do know that, that’s really critical for you.
The other thing that you need to do really is – and this has a lot to do with value proposition, but I don’t want to just say give your value proposition, because that’s only half the answer, right? Value proposition is the thing that makes you different. They already kind of have a sense of what makes you different. You’ve already attracted them somehow in your list and you’re probably already telling them.
The second thing that I noticed though that you really probably need to do is you need to create feeling. You can just send them contents, any kind of content that you want. You want to send them content that you know is going to be kind of relevant to the thing they’re trying to figure out, and that doesn’t have any kind of implication of, “I want you to make your buying decision now,” because you’re going to send that email anyway. You’re going to make that call. You’re going to say, “Okay. Hey, are you ready? Are you ready –” You’re going to get to that point or somebody on your sales team is going to get to that point, right?
What you want to do is you want to send an information that’s going to help them make a better decision and it’s going to help them do that. I remember one case study where somebody had just – It was actually B to C. They had just acquired – Their whole thing is acquiring leads for contractors that were doing improvements. The thing is, is they had an opportunity to nurture these leads to increase quality or to maintain the quality for the people picking them up or buying them. What would happen is, is they sent one response email that was just kind of a random article, but they got smart and they said, “What would happen if we sent them a response email that was directly related to the form that they came in on?” The form was like, “Find out how much it’s going to cost to get windows replaced.”
So they realized that for each major city they had benchmarks for certain types of replacements. It’s not just something that random email on that random topic and just random nurturing. They actually sent an email that was totally related. It was like, “How much does this type of replacement cost in the city?” Now, it wasn’t an exact thing. That’s what the contractors were – That’s where the lead is going, but it prepped them. It was relevant. They had like 150% increase in clicks and engagement into that content. The more engagement, then you know they’re being primed. You know that they’re being prepared, right?
So don’t just send them any content. You got to send them content that creates some sort of a feeling or has some sort of a relevance to them and you have to look for clues in the way in which you’ve acquired them, right? Do your forms. If it’s a rental or something else or you require them through that. You got to figure out what it is that brought them there in the first place and use that as a way to figure out, “Okay. How can I create a feeling in them? Oh! Okay. This is relevant. Oh, I like these guys.”
If you’re talking about the not for profit sector, for them it’s about sending a thank you note maybe a couple of weeks. It’s about sending thank you notes and something that helps somebody to feel appreciated without any indication that you’re going to ask for money, right?
But do you see the principle how it transfers in those situations? It’s going to create a feeling. It’s going to speak to that subliminal part of them. It’s not just your value proposition. It’s relevant. It’s your value proposition that’s also relevant to their story.
[0:13:12.6] DG: Yeah. Let me ask one question on that, because I think you’re making a really fascinating point. A lot of the people in the audience are creating white papers and e-books and across different channels it’s that content that has attracted people into becoming an opt-in in their lead database.
Given that pretty broad-based common scenario, as an example, what would be the sort of thing that you would do to try to figure out what that next relevant communication might need to be?
[0:13:45.8] JP: It really kind of depends on the toolset a little bit too, right? This is where data and analytics come into play. So let’s imagine that you attracted somebody in through a specific – let’s say you have five white papers. Number one; which white paper did you bring in? Then you’re going to adjust the topics of your emails around that white paper. Because I know people think – There are some people that are like, “Oh, no. Nobody reads white papers or e-books.” No. They do. Even consumers who want to donate their money, they’re really interested in that stuff because it’s related to the things that they like, right?
That’s how a not for profit world build their list so that they can get donations, right? In the for profit world, same exact thing. It’s, “I want to attract them with something that seems really relevant to them,” and it doesn’t matter what format that it’s in. It’s really the topic.
Number one; if you’ve got a set of five different white papers – Number one; look at which one and match. So that’s a little basic segmentation. Match the one that they came in with that messaging. Now, if you have a little bit more analytics, if you have kind of like a nature-based where you can actually see how much they’ve engaged, you could see what different parts that they’ve accessed or where they’re spending their time. That data is going to be incredibly valuable.
It really comes down to clues. Each of you probably have different levels of analytics, different levels of access, different measurements. This is where you want to go in, and you want to look at it not from amount and result perspective, but, “Okay. Where are they coming from? What keywords, if any? If I have access to them, are they showing up? Which white papers are they signing up for? How are they engaging into those things? How much time are they spending in there?” Because that will also tell you maybe how far that they’ve gone down, things like that. You really want to go into the data and look for clues so that you can kind of begin to see.
I notice there’s a lot of people, just by matching their nurture series content to the content that they came in on subjective-wise, that makes a big difference, because I guess that’s something that a lot of people still aren’t doing.
[0:15:55.3] DG: Right. So in other words, let me just play this back so I understand it. Let’s say that the tool was some sort of email marketing tool for e-commerce, right? It would go get abandoned shopping carts and get them back. So you wrote some white paper about shopping cart abandonment. The subsequent email messages should all be around some aspect of shopping cart abandonment because that was their area of interest.
Within that, there was a specific thing about the first email that comes after they’ve abandoned their shopping cart versus the 30th email that you might send. That would be the kind of thing that, again, you would hone in on if you had that level of analytics. Did I understand it correctly?
[0:16:43.3] JP: Yeah. You know what’s interesting too is that you can take your white paper, let’s just say you don’t feel like you have a lot of time. You can take your white paper. Chances are if it’s long, if it’s like 10 pages, they might not have read all of it. You can actually break it up and create your nurture emails with just small chunks of your white paper. Then you know what’s best, is you can look and see which emails are getting the most clicks and then you can even adjust your white paper, order and things like that to match that.
So that was a case with an organization that I worked with on a for profit space in the last six months quite literally took their white paper and I broke it up into nurturing emails, the seven of them, and these were long form nurturing emails and we were able to see which topics people – Which aspects of the white paper, people were most interested in.
Here’s the funny thing that I’ve noticed, is that sometimes to get the value, to build some sort of value to somebody, they don’t necessarily have to lead the actual white paper. If you don’t believe me, let me tell you. In the not for profit sector, which is really weird. This particular thing is that you can offer somebody an e-book about how some aspect of life that they’re interested in or how to do something. Maybe it’s how to parent somebody in the tablet and digital age. They can say, “Yes. I want that.” Give you their name, their email, even their address. Before they even read it, they’re willing to give you money to help others get back.”
Do you get value for it even before they engage in it? But it also tells me that most likely people won’t necessarily engage all of it so you can retake that content and break it up. That’s at all times what I’ll find myself doing on both sides of the coin, for profit, not for profit. Break up the thing that they indicated interest in, because chances are they didn’t go through all of it, and that’s where you can begin to see too where the greatest potency is that you can begin to refine your nurture series based off of that with maybe a mixture of that content and then personal messages. Where you just check in and say, “Hey, I noticed you said this. Have you had a chance to check on it?” That kind of thing.
Does that make sense?
[0:19:01.5] DG: Yeah. That is fantastic. Let me ask you a final wrap up question before we go. Where do you see lead nurturing going? It kind of came out – I don’t know, 10 years or so ago in terms of really being formalized and it’s evolved and there’s been different theories and all of that and it’s had different levels of success by different people. Where do you see it going in the future?
[0:19:25.0] JP: I think what I really see is I see – right now I see people are very hungry for the personal communication. It’s strange, because if you think about email, email started off as a very personal thing and now all of a sudden emails are landing pages. Now, not to say that you can accomplish something with that format, but people are hungry for personal conversations and personal interactions. All the technology that’s being built in the B to C space for the really big players, it’s about personalizing offers. It’s about making somebody feel as if they’re important enough to have something customized for them as long as it doesn’t feel creepy, right?
So when it comes to lead nurturing, I feel like it’s moving towards that, again, very, very personal. The more technology you get, the more personal you’re able to make it at scale, right? One of the things that you can do to help scale that personal feeling is to write your lead nurturing emails like they’re actual emails to somebody, all text, with HTTPF links, right?
People eat that stuff up. They love it. I see this on both sides of the coin, right? And it’s so strange because that’s the way we started out. Yes, people are eating it up. They are loving it more and more. Then when you customize the content for them in that, in that format, now all of a sudden it’s even better.
You know what? The funniest part about all of that nurturing is, is that I’ve sent mass emails, I wouldn’t call them mass, but into large segments, right. They’re not truly one-to-one. Where I would actually talk to them as if I expected a reply. Would you believe it? Not only I would see like a 20% or 30% increase in engagement in clicks and/or conversations, like if I’m trying to progressively profile them and get more information from them. Maybe get them into a webinar, from the e-book to the webinar. Try to get them to a different intensity level.
I would get personal replies. People would actually hit the reply button and I would respond to them, because I’m training that segment to believe that when I write like that, it’s genuine, right? I noticed that it’s really big. Considering your audience too, especially older audiences. If you’ve got an older audience, you’re not dealing with necessarily millennials. You’re dealing with more of the Gen-Ys, boomers, things like that. Again, these people are hungry for that. They love technology, but they also love that personal connection.
If you ask me where is lead nurturing going? It’s moving more and more towards that. It feels personal. It feels like it’s made for me. This person really want – Again, that whole thing about people want to like – you got to get people to like you as well as to want your thing. It’s as almost as if we’ve become so – We’re trying to kind of get, get, get, get, get, materialism, right? But there’s that other aspect that we’re hungry for. Those are relationships.
Especially with social media and all the directions we’re going. Life is becoming less personal. So the more personal that we can begin to make it, I think the more response we’re going to get, just because unless it becomes so impersonal it’s so easy to get lost in the fray. If you were to ask me, at least that’s what I’m seeing in my own practice.
If you were to ask somebody else they might say, “Oh! Really awesome – Play videos in your emails and all of these.” That’s cool. I like that, but where the results are, it’s with bringing back the personal connection and speaking to that subliminal need and not that part of somebody. That’s where I would see it going.
[0:23:14.7] DG: Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, we’ve seen an uptick in engagement with people when we send out what appears to be a handwritten note that’s actually going through the mail. So going back in time, an earlier time when people used to do things like that and it’s so unexpected. It’s so personal that it– At least it’s the kind of response you’re talking about.
Thank you so much for joining us here today. I’d love to have you come back sometime. If anybody hasn’t been to see any of his courses, you really should. He’s got some – even though I know our audience is purely B2B, I’m telling you, these are many transferable principles around human psychology that you can take right to your lead generation, lead nurturing. He’s doing that at a company called NextAfter and all the stuff is free. There you go.
Jon, thanks again.
[0:24:06.1] JP: Thanks Dave, really appreciate it.
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