Lead Nurturing

What is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of maintaining relationships with potential customers who aren’t yet ready to buy. Successful lead nurturing initiatives anticipate buyers’ needs based on customer segmentation, who the buyer is on an individual level (i.e., position, location, industry, department, etc.), and where they are in the customer journey.

Essential lead nurturing activities include:

  • Segmenting sales leads based on their specific needs, interests, and behavior
  • Delivering targeted content and offers to address each lead’s unique pain points
  • Maintaining regular communication to keep leads engaged
  • Monitoring lead engagement and adjusting strategies accordingly

In B2B environments, the buyer is almost never ready to make a purchase right away. The point of lead nurturing is to bridge the gap between initial contact and purchase decision by creating a personalized buyer experience and building relationships that eventually lead to sales.


  • Lead nurturing automation: The use of software to streamline the lead nurturing process and reduce the need for manual intervention.
  • Lead nurturing funnel: The process of building relationships with prospects and treating each touchpoint as a conversion, similar to a sales funnel.
  • Lead nurturing software: Digital technology used to optimize the lead nurturing process.
  • Lead nurturing workflow: A repeatable process for engaging with leads over time and providing them with relevant content or offers.

Importance of Lead Nurturing

It takes sales reps an average of eight touchpoints just to land an initial meeting with a prospect.

And the average sale takes nearly three months to complete, and complex B2B sales can take well over one year.

In other words, one meeting doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.

When businesses build strong relationships with their customers through lead nurturing, they:

Overall, lead nurturing makes the selling experience more fulfilling while delivering more value to the buyer.

Lead Nurturing vs. Lead Generation

Lead generation is the process of identifying and attracting potential customers (or leads) who have shown interest in your product or service. Its primary is to create a pool of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) that the sales team can engage further and eventually convert into paying customers.

This process often involves content marketing, social media advertising, search engine optimization, and email marketing to reach a wider audience and encourage them to provide contact information or engage with a brand.

Critical aspects of lead generation include:

  • Attracting a broad audience through various marketing channels
  • Capturing contact information and gauging interest levels
  • Qualifying leads based on their likelihood to convert
  • Passing MQLs to the sales team for further engagement

Lead nurturing focuses on building relationships with already-qualified leads to guide them through the buyer’s journey and ultimately convert them into customers.

Although there are some elements of lead nurturing that overlap with lead gen (e.g., buyer enablement content might be used to attract new leads), the focus is on existing relationships rather than expanding your reach.

Types of Leads

Understanding the different types of leads is critical to maximizing sales efforts and focusing on those with the highest potential to close deals.

There are seven different types of leads:

1. Cold Leads

Cold leads haven’t shown any interest in a company’s product or service yet. They may fit the ICP but haven’t actively engaged with the brand.

Since they’re usually derived from sales prospecting efforts carried out by individual reps, cold leads don’t even know it exists.

These leads require initial outreach to gauge their interest. Cold calling, cold emailing, and targeted advertising are the most common strategies for reaching cold leads.

Personalized content that addresses their potential pain points can help pique their interest, but that is usually only a possibility after the first contact.

2. Warm Leads

Warm leads have shown some level of interest in the product or service but are not yet ready to make a purchase.

These leads generally make the first move — they either visit the company website, subscribe to its newsletter, or follow its social media profiles.

Warm leads benefit from nurturing through educational content, such as blog posts, webinars, or case studies to help them understand the company’s products and visualize for themselves where they fit into the picture.

Buyers are usually further along in the buyer journey before they’re ready to talk to the sales team, so sales outreach isn’t always the best strategy for warm leads.

3. Hot Leads

Hot leads are highly interested in a vendor’s product or service and are ready to make a decision soon. They may have requested a sales demo, attended a sales presentation, or engaged in detailed discussions with your sales team.

Hot leads require immediate attention and personalized follow-ups. Sales representatives should maintain close contact, answer questions, and provide tailored solutions to their specific needs.

4. Information Qualified Leads (IQL)

An IQL is a potential customer who has provided their contact information in exchange for educational content. They are in the early stages of the buyer’s journey and may require more information before deciding (hence their decision to request information).

Companies can nurture their IQLs through ebooks, whitepapers, documentation, product pricing documents, and other forms of relevant content.

In some cases, the information provided might need additional context that could warrant outreach from the sales team.

5. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)

An MQL is a lead who has engaged with marketing materials (such as joining an email list or downloading content) and has met certain criteria (e.g., job title, company size, etc.) that make them a good fit for the product or service in question.

MQLs benefit from targeted campaigns that showcase the product’s unique value proposition. This can include email campaigns, retargeting ads, and personalized offers that encourage additional engagement.

6. Sales Ready/Accepted Leads (SRL)

SRLs are leads deemed ready for sales engagement by the marketing team. They have met specific criteria, such as a lead scoring threshold, and show a strong interest in a company’s product or service.

Marketing teams should promptly pass SRLs on to the sales team for follow-up. Sales representatives should address any remaining concerns, provide tailored solutions, and move through the buying cycle.

7. Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)

Sales qualified leads (SQLs) are leads that the sales team has vetted and determined to have a high likelihood of deal closure. They have clearly demonstrated purchase intent and meet the company’s ICP.

SQLs require personalized attention from the sales team, which should focus on overcoming any final objections and closing the deal.

Frequent communication, customized proposals, and negotiation are requirements for securing SQLs’ business.

Top Lead Nurturing Strategies

Lead nurturing goals are simple: build relationships, keep customers engaged and informed, and move potential buyers through the sales pipeline.

To accomplish these goals, sellers use a variety of strategies that focus on providing helpful content and personalized experiences to leads.

Email Marketing

Email engagement is one of the easiest ways to build relationships with customers — it’s easy to automate, everyone uses it, and prospects are guaranteed to check their email multiple times daily.

For warm leads and MQLs, a drip campaign is the best bet. Sending engaging content that’s relevant to the buying journey will keep them engaged (and potentially pique their interest).

For lead nurturing initiatives, email segmentation is critical. Categorizing leads based on their preferences, interests, and buying stage will ensure the content sent to them is tailored to their needs.

Content Marketing

Content marketing describes the practice of delivering valuable content to a company’s target audience via the omnichannel.

This includes:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Social media posts

Content should be tailored to each stage of the buyer’s journey and focus on educating and entertaining potential customers.

Social Media

Aside from websites, social media is the most used communication channel for buyer research. At nearly every stage of the buyer’s journey, customers are using social media to stay informed and connected with brands.

Social media is a powerful tool for lead nurturing — it can be used to build relationships, engage prospects, and introduce leads to new offerings.

Marketers should use posts, videos, polls, memes, and other types of social media content to keep audience members engaged.

Conduct Surveys

Businesses usually see surveys as a customer data source for current customers, the last opportunity to learn more about a past customer’s experience, and a way to keep a pulse on their market as a whole.

Surveys can also be used as a lead nurturing strategy. Prospects who engage in them demonstrate high levels of interest in the company’s product, and certain answers to survey questions may warrant outreach from a sales team member.

Sales Calls

Sales calls are the ultimate buyer engagement strategy. Even though 80% of prospects say they prefer personalized emails, sellers have the opportunity to handle objections, answer questions, and provide more personalized service during a call.

Additionally, sales calls can be used to build relationships — something that emails and an email thread simply can’t do in the same way.

Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Gather Customer Data

Customer data is the first step in any lead nurturing initiative — without it, sellers and marketers don’t have much to go off beside their intuition.

There are several ways to gather customer data for lead nurturing campaigns:

  • Website visits
  • Form submissions
  • Social media engagement
  • Email signups
  • Previous cold outreach response

Lead nurturing relies on data because sales and marketing teams need to understand the optimal cadence to use, the types of content to send, and the channels to focus on.

For the collected data to be valuable, it has to be current, accurate, organized, and actionable.

Examples of actionable data include a lead’s purchase intent, job title, company size, industry, and location — all of which can act as groups for different customer segments.

Understand Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are hypothetical profiles that represent a company’s ideal customer based on data collected through research. They highlight target customers’ motivations, interests, and challenges, making it easier to group them together.

Personas belong in a company’s sales playbook, where sellers can easily refer to them whenever they’re looking into a new lead.

Outline the Customer Journey

Buyer personas are a helpful North Star, but they aren’t the only tool required for a successful lead nurturing strategy. Organizations must also understand their customers’ journey to better anticipate their needs and pain points throughout each stage.

Over time, this can be done by mapping out customer touchpoints — e.g., website visits, emails, and phone calls.

It helps to create a visualization of the buyer’s journey. A series of phases with different touchpoints and contingencies will help sales and marketing teams stay organized and prepared for virtually any scenario.

Use Lead Scoring and Segmentation

Lead scoring is a quantitative process that assigns a numerical score to each lead, considering demographics, online behavior, and engagement with a brand.

When sales reps prioritize leads with higher scores, businesses can focus on those with the highest potential to close, shortening the sales cycle and allowing a higher degree of personalization.

Lead segmentation uses shared characteristics like industry, geography, and job title to group similar leads together.

Having separate groups for each lead type allows sales and marketing teams to personalize their approach according to generalizations for that customer segment.

Create a Targeted Content Strategy

Before publishing the content, consider what channels will be used to distribute it. Most businesses use the following framework:

  1. Identify your target audience and their unique needs to ensure your content resonates with potential customers.
  2. Map out the buyer’s journey, addressing pain points and providing valuable information at each stage.
  3. Prioritize bottom-of-funnel (BoFu) content, since it targets leads who are ready (or nearly ready) to buy. These are quick wins for your business.
  4. Use a content calendar to maintain consistency and align your content with marketing objectives and key events.
  5. Utilize various content formats, such as blog posts, ebooks, webinars, and case studies, to cater to different preferences and learning styles.
  6. Continuously measure and analyze content performance to refine your strategy to ensure your leads actually connect with your content.

Use Multiple Channels

The growth of digital channels has made it easier for companies to run marketing campaigns, but it’s also caused a shift in customer needs.

B2B Pulse research from McKinsey shows that B2B buyers now use ten channels throughout the sales process, double the amount used in 2016.

But that’s what they want — 94% of them say it’s as effective or more effective than sellers’ previous models.

This underscores a simple yet crucial point: Meeting buyers where they are is essential, and companies have to use multiple channels to reach them.

Timely Follow-Up

Time kills all deals. A difference in response time of just five minutes can tank the probability of qualifying a lead by 400% — a shocking statistic even by today’s standards.

Responding to every lead that comes through in five minutes or less is fairly unrealistic, which is why most businesses use marketing automation platforms.

Automation lets sales and marketing teams set up emails, SMS messages, and other outreach as part of a lead nurturing program. This way, leads can get timely follow-ups even when reps are unavailable.

Retarget Based on Buying Journey Stage

Consider the Rule of 7, a marketing rule that states a potential buyer must hear or see a message at least seven times before they take action.

Retargeting involves displaying ads and email communication to leads who have already interacted with your business in some way. It keeps businesses top-of-mind and gives them the extra “push” needed to make the sale.

Use Personalization

Across the board, every buyer wants personalization. B2B buyers expect the same level of experience as B2C — they want sellers to know their needs before asking.

Using personalization in lead nurturing can be as simple as adding a customer’s name to an email’s subject line or body, but it goes beyond that. Sellers need to truly understand who their buyers are, which entails active listening, fast response times, and tailored solutions.

Leads will appreciate it, and businesses should take advantage of every opportunity to build trust with potential buyers.

Lead Nurturing Metrics

1. Conversion Rate

The lead conversion rate is the percentage of leads that progress through the sales funnel and ultimately become customers. This metric helps assess the effectiveness of your lead nurturing efforts and identify areas for improvement.

The conversion rate can also be looked at on a micro level to gauge the success of certain lead nurturing initiatives.

For instance, an email drip campaign can be evaluated for customer engagement without connecting it to a closed deal.

2. Sales Pipeline

The sales pipeline represents the number of leads at various stages in the sales process. By tracking the progression of leads through the pipeline, businesses can evaluate the success of their nurturing strategies and forecast potential sales revenue.

3. Lead Engagement Score

The lead engagement score quantitatively measures a lead’s interactions with your content and brand. A higher score indicates greater engagement, which can help prioritize leads and tailor your nurturing efforts accordingly.

4. Contact-to-Customer Ratio

The contact-to-customer ratio compares the number of leads generated to the number of customers acquired. This metric helps evaluate the efficiency of your lead nurturing process and informs decisions on resource allocation.

5. Customer Retention Rate

The customer retention rate measures the percentage of customers who continue doing business with your company over a period. A high retention rate suggests successful lead nurturing and strong customer relationships.

6. MQLs vs. SQLs

Comparing the number of MQLs and SQLs can help gauge the effectiveness of your marketing and sales alignment. A healthy balance between the two indicates a well-coordinated lead nurturing process.

7. Lead Score per Channel

Lead score per channel evaluates the performance of individual marketing channels in generating high-quality leads. This metric can guide channel-specific optimizations and inform decisions on marketing budget allocation.

8. Customer Responsiveness

Although customer responsiveness is not as easily quantifiable as other metrics, it is still an important measure of success. Lead nurturing efforts that show high response rates usually indicate accurate targeting and positive experiences.

Lead Nurturing Technology


Customer relationship management (CRM) systems play a crucial role in the lead nurturing process by organizing and managing lead data.

CRMs enable businesses to track leads’ interactions with their brand, segment leads based on specific criteria, and automate follow-up tasks.

By providing a centralized platform for storing and analyzing lead information, CRMs help sales and marketing teams collaborate more effectively and tailor their nurturing efforts to each lead’s unique needs.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation tools streamline and automate various aspects of the lead nurturing process, including email campaigns, social media scheduling, and content distribution.

These tools help businesses maintain consistent communication with leads, personalize content based on lead behavior and preferences, and track engagement metrics.

Marketing automation automates repetitive tasks and provides valuable insights that help organizations focus on strategy and optimization while ensuring leads receive timely and relevant information.

Lead Nurturing Software

Lead nurturing software is specifically designed to facilitate and optimize the lead nurturing process.

It scores and segments leads based on predetermined criteria, automates drip campaigns, and delivers analytics that help businesses identify high-potential leads, deliver targeted content, and monitor engagement.

Usually, lead nurturing software is sold as an add-on or is automatically configured in marketing automation or CRM, but it can be available as a standalone product as well.

Sales Enablement

Sales enablement technology empowers sales teams with the resources, tools, and training needed to effectively nurture leads and close deals.

Enablement tools include sales collateral, presentation materials, CRM integrations, and analytics to help sales representatives better understand and engage with their leads.

Sales enablement software makes these resources available on demand, enabling sales teams to respond quickly and deliver tailored solutions to each prospect.

People Also Ask

What is lead nurturing in B2B?

In B2B, lead nurturing involves the following activities:
* Prospecting, qualifying, and tracking leads
* Delivering personalized content to different kinds of stakeholders
* Keeping multiple decision-makers in communication and on the same page
* Ensuring consistent communication throughout the buyer’s journey

How long should you nurture a lead?

The exact amount of time required to nurture a lead will vary depending on the context. It can take months for leads to convert, so additional outreach fair game as long as the company has content to send and there is no predetermined threshold for dropping them (e.g., 12 months of nonresponse).

How does a lead become a customer?

Leads become customers by moving through the sales funnel and completing a purchase or subscription. This typically involves various steps, which include building relationships, delivering personalized content, and providing incentives to take action. In some cases, this is a short process. Usually, leads take months to decide and become customers, making lead nurturing the most critical part of the process.

What is lead scoring?

Lead scoring assigns numerical scores to leads based on their interactions with a brand. These scores indicate how likely they are to convert, and sales reps can use it to prioritize outreach efforts. Lead scoring helps marketers identify high-potential leads, target them more effectively, and nurture them through the pipeline.