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How To Convert More Sales Leads with Lead Nurturing

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Lead Nurturing

Are you converting enough of your sales leads to customers?  A study by the CMO Council estimated that companies waste up to 80% of sales leads because they don’t follow them up effectively.  Sales teams do a good job pursuing hotter leads that look like they will buy in the next quarter.  But a lot of other contacts are lost, ignored or discarded.

Lead Nurturing” is a way to automate your follow-up so that more of your sales leads become customers.  You can convert an extra 20% to 30% of your leads by automating your follow-up this way, and it has other benefits too, like more efficient use of your sales team’s time.

In this post I’ll look at how to get your first Lead Nurturing program up and running.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing means automating communications, usually via email, with your sales leads. The goal is to keep your company ‘front of mind’ with prospects until they are ready to engage with your sales team. You define a chain of communications you want to send out to leads and specify the time intervals between each email or call. Then you automate the sequence using a marketing automation tool or your CRM (if it supports nurturing).

Lead Nurture Track example

Goals and Principles

The main goal of lead nurturing is to convert more leads to sales by being consistent in the way you follow-up. I think it is also useful to set out some principles before you start lead nurturing for your company, spelling out what you want to achieve:

1. Ensure we respond to all leads (i.e. that none of them go un-contacted).

2. Make sure this response happens faster than at present (e.g. minutes or hours rather than days).

3. Ensure we respond to all leads consistently.

4. Ensure this response is based on information we have about the lead (who they are and what they show interest in).

5. Ensure that our lead nurturing communications convert leads to customers – that each communication increases their engagement, not decreases it.

6. Record sufficient information about how we manage leads so that we can analyze our activities and draw accurate conclusions about how to improve our approach.

Getting Started – Lead Capture

The first step is to make sure you capture leads from your website and blog. (This is because four of the five top sources of sales leads are online, according to research from DemandBase and Focus.com). You set up lead capture using registration forms next to “calls to action” on your web pages. For example, you can ask visitors to register their email address in exchange for a white paper or video. When they register you automatically record their details.

Landing page example

Score Your Leads

Some leads are more likely to convert than others. For example, you may find that leads from particular industries or countries are better quality. A lead score is a number you use to represent how ‘hot’ you think the lead is. You base the score on a mixture of information you can gather about the person (such as their job title and company) and on their subsequent behaviour (such as repeat website visits and response to emails). A lot of this information can be gathered automatically.

Lead Scoring Example

Categorize the Leads as “Personas”

You can categorize your leads into different “Buyer Personas”. A persona is a simplified description of your target buyers. For example, one of your target personas could be “IT Managers at Engineering firms”, or “Finance Directors at mid-size software firms”. Different personas will have different interests. When a new lead is created, you decide what kind of persona matches that lead. This helps you choose what kind of information they will be interested in during your follow-up.

Lead nurturing and personas

Choose What Kind of Content to Use for Lead Nurturing

Content is just another word for information that your buyers use when they are researching a product or service. Content includes case studies, white papers, presentations and videos. Your sales leads will be interested in different kinds of content depending on their role, their business and their stage in investigating a product or service. Typically prospective customers move from “awareness”, “interest” and “evaluation” through to “decision”. As they learn more they require different types of information. For example, at an early stage a general overview of a product might be useful. As someone gets closer to making a purchase decision they may want to see technical specifications and pricing information.

Use a ‘Content Table’ to map out the kinds of content you think will appeal to the Personas you are targeting as they move through the buying process.

Content Matrix

Setting Up Your First “Nurture Tracks”

A Nurture Track is a sequence of emails and phone calls executed to a pre-defined schedule. For each persona map out which emails and content you want to send and specify the delay between mails. For instance, for a “Sales Director” persona you can start with a ‘Thank You’ email, followed by sending them a link to a white paper. Then a week later you could send out a link to a blog post or case study.

Lead Nurture Track example

You can automate these follow-up steps using a marketing automation system. Now as people register on your website the system automatically scores them and allocates them to a nurture track, and they receive a predefined sequence of emails. Where a phone call is required the system will notify your sales or marketing staff who they have to call and when.

Monitoring Progress

Once you get up and running you can check how your leads respond to your nurture. For example, are they opening the emails and responding to your offers? If they respond positively e.g. by visiting your website and downloading more content then you can automatically increase their lead score. Your goal is to get them to a point where they become “sales ready” i.e. they fit your target profile, they have shown serious engagement with your emails and website and they have given some indication that they are in a buying process.

As you monitor your nurture tracks you will find that some emails work and others don’t. Identify emails or content that get a good response and eliminate emails that don’t get opened.

Automate Your Follow-Up to Convert More Leads

Lead Nurturing is a straightforward way to convert more sales leads. By defining your target buyers, identifying content that interests them and then running a series of automated emails, you can increase sales conversions by 20% to 30%. Getting started now could give you an edge over your competition.

What Is the Business Case for Marketing Automation?

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Business Case for Marketing Automation

Marketing Automation systems help you automate repetitive tasks linked to acquiring new customers. In this post I give a quick definition of what marketing automation systems do, and then put together a business case for implementing the technology.

What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation systems automate steps for acquiring new customers, usually focusing on online channels like your website, email and social media. They automate activities required to make potential customers aware of your products and services and then communicate with those customers over time until they are ready to purchase.
For B2B companies, Marketing Automation systems can help you

  • Generate more sales leads and
  • Convert more of those leads to sales.

How does Marketing Automation relate to CRM systems?

Marketing Automation systems usually integrate with a CRM system. Both types of technology have a different focus and different types of users. Marketing Automation systems are focused on getting an initial contact or sales lead in the first place, and then ‘warming it up’ until the lead is ready for a sales person to take over. CRM systems are usually focused on managing live sales opportunities, managing your sales team, creating sales forecasts, and managing ongoing customer support. This diagram via David Raab shows the relationship:

Marketing Automation and CRM

How do Marketing Automation systems work?

For B2B companies, Marketing Automation systems help in 3 overall areas:

  • Lead Generation –generating leads online via your website and social media, and managing leads from other sources like trade shows
  • Lead Profiling – marketing automation systems automatically help you profile your leads, building a history of their previous online interactions and pulling information in from 3rd party sources. This helps you decide which leads match your target profile.
  • Lead Nurturing – based on the lead’s profile, marketing automation systems put them into a follow-up sequence, usually based on personalized emails with some phone calls and other touches in between. This is known as ‘Lead Nurturing’. These Lead Nurturing sequences are based on sending high quality information – ‘content’ – to your prospective customers. For example eBooks, reports, white papers, blog posts, videos and industry analysis.

In practical terms, most Marketing Automation systems have these features:

  • Lead capture forms – online registration forms that you can plug into web pages and your blog to collect visitor’s registration details.
  • Landing Pages – a web page designer that lets you design and publish special web pages – ‘landing pages’ – with integrated registration forms that collect a visitor’s details
  • Lead Profiling – capture and recording of information on web visitors’ locations, where they have been on your website, what they have downloaded, their social media profiles, the company they work for etc.
  • Lead Scoring – creating a numeric “score” for each lead to indicate how “hot” it is, based on their job title, their company, the number of times they visited your site, what they downloaded etc.
  • Lead Routing – rules for sending a new lead either to a sales person or to an automated follow-up sequence.
  • Lead Nurturing – the ability to design one of those follow-up sequences, usually by defining a sequence of emails and phone-calls over a period of weeks or months.
  • Reporting and Analytics – tools and reports to help you identify which of your web marketing activities generate leads, and which kinds of leads are likely to convert to customers. This helps you figure out which activities to increase or drop.

So, What’s The Business Case?

To build the business case for any new system you need to identify the potential benefits and balance these against the potential costs.
The key potential benefits you can get with Marketing Automation include:

  • Greater volume of leads – generate more leads, mainly through online web-based lead generation
  • Better quality leads – because you profile and score the leads automatically, you should be able to improve the quality
  • Reduce the cost per lead – by reducing the manual steps and generating more leads online
  • Drop fewer leads – because the process is automated, leads won’t get dropped or mishandled
  • Increased automation / less manual steps – automation of processes for lead capture and lead management means you can scale up without adding staff.
  • Better insight – automated reporting to give you better insight into what activities generate good quality leads that are likely to convert to customers.

Business Case inputs

You normally start by looking at your existing performance without the new system. You collect indicative numbers such as

  • Average number of new leads required per year e.g. 6,000
  • Average number of new customers needed per year e.g. 120
  • Average value per new customer e.g. €10,000
  • The number of marketing and lead management tasks per customer acquisition
  • Average cycle time to acquire a customer from start to end e.g. 90 days
  • Number of staff engaged in lead generation and qualification and their % utilisation
  • Average employee salary
  • Number of customer leads that fail to convert

Benefit assumptions

Now you make some reasonable assumptions about the improvement you could achieve by standardizing and automating your processes:

  • Number of customer acquisition tasks could be reduced by 30%
  • Improved end-to-end process can reduce cycle times by 20%
  • Number of staff engaged in manual lead generation tasks can be reduced by 30%
  • Average utilisation of lead generation staff is reduced by 40%
  • Number of leads who convert to sales is improved by 20%
  • Improved throughput capacity increases the number of good quality leads by 10%
  • Successful cross-selling opportunities will increase customer revenue by 5% annually

Example RoI case

  • 6,000 sales leads generated per year
  • 120 paying customers generated per year from those 6,000 leads
  • 5,880 leads do not convert to paying customers
  • Average new annual revenue per customer is €10,000
  • Average start-to-end customer acquisition cycle time is 120 days
  • Customer acquisition cost per new customer is €2,000
  • 20 distinct steps in the lead generation and follow-up process

Assumptions for Calculation

  • A seamless marketing automation lead management process would convert an additional 10% of leads to customers
  • 30% of the lead management costs could be eliminated
  • An employee costs €35,000 per annum

Cost / Benefit Figures

  • Increase in customer conversion – assuming a 20% increase in the number of leads who convert means 40 extra customers, at 10,000 each = €400,000
  • 30% reduction in customer acquisition costs is 30% of (240 x €2000) = €144,000
  • 10% additional leads because of the automated process generates 10% extra customers i.e. 10% of 200, which is a value of 20 x €10,000 = €200,000
  • Staff costs will stay the same or reduce on introduction of the new system

So the Total benefit is €400k + €200k + €144k = €744,000

Potential costs are:

  • Annual cost of new system
  • Once-off cost of implementing new system
  • Once off cost of linking new system to existing CRM system


These example figures illustrate the kind of benefits you can gain from implementing a marketing automation system to streamline and automated your lead management processes. To gain these benefits you still need to apply effort and time to implementing and using the system – it won’t drive itself.
But there is a clear business case – if you adopt marketing automation you will generate and convert more leads than you do today, and you will be able to scale-up that lead generation without scaling up staff numbers.

Calculating The ROI for B2B Social Media Marketing

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Marketing budget - coins

B2B firms are increasingly using social media liked LinkedIn, Twitter and other channels to drive sales. But how do you justify the time and effort? And how much should you spend on social media in comparison to your other sales and marketing activities?

B2B Technology Marketing research firm MarketingSherpa published a report in 2011 that answers the question.

To calculate the potential Return on Investment, they suggest you use the formula

(Value Gained from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment = RoI

Social Media Return on Investment

For example:

  • Allocate marketing time and effort of $15,000 to a social media marketing campaign
  • Generate 500 qualified leads from this effort at a value of $150 per lead, giving a total value of $75,000
  • then your RoI = (75k – 15k)/15k = 400% return on investment.

You can read more in the MarketingSherpa report “CMO Perspsectives on Social Media RoI

How to Automate B2B Lead Generation

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A quick overview of how to automate B2B Lead Generation including:

  • what problems are we trying to solve;
  • how can you generate leads in B2B – inbound and outbound;
  • most effective lead generation methods;
  • why you should automate as much as possible;
  • which tools you can use to automate Inbound Lead Generation;
  • which tools you can use to automate Outbound Lead Generation.

Care and Watering of Your Google Ads Campaign

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Motarme Google Adwords maintenance

Google Ads should be a good source of leads for B2B companies. But to succeed you need to give your campaigns regular care and attention. That’s because after your new Ads campaign runs for a few days you will see things that need to be fixed.

Typically some of the problems with a new campaign include:

  • Some ads are bringing in poor quality visitors who have searched on phrases irrelevant to your business.
  • Your ads are not being shown because your bids are too low.
  • People aren’t clicking on your ads.
  • People start to click but when these visitors arrive on your landing pages they don’t register or convert.

To fix these problems requires that you regularly review and update your campaigns to achieve your desired results – good quality leads registering on your landing pages.

This is how we recommend you do it. Use a systematic, iterative approach – you keep circling through campaigns, then ad groups, then keywords and then ad text, making adjustments in a logical order.

1. Choose a Campaign

Login to your Google Ads account and choose a time period to review e.g. past 30 days.

  • Choose a Campaign you want to improve.
  • Sort the Ad Groups in that campaign by Click Through Rate (CTR) – to do this click on the column marked CTR and it will sort the table from high to low.
  • Target the lowest CTR Ad Group – this is the first one you will either improve or delete.

2. Select Ad Group within Campaign

Choose the Ad Group with the low CTR

  • In the Ad Group, first look at Keywords.
  • Sort the keywords by Clicks to see which keywords are getting most clicks.
  • Sort by CTR to see which keywords perform the best.
  • Look at the search terms that have actually triggered keywords in this ad group.

3. Revise Keywords Within the Ad Group

  • Remove any ‘broad match’ keywords – change them to ‘Phrase’ or ‘Exact’.
  • Look for keywords not being displayed due to low bids and either increase the bid, try a different match type, or a closely related phrase.
  • Look for keywords not being displayed because of poor Quality Score. Google thinks these keywords / ads / landing page combinations are not working so think why this might be the case. After 3 to 4 days either change or remove low QS keywords or they will damage the performance of your ad group and campaign. One option here is to separate low QS keywords into their own ad group where you can work on them in isolation e.g. give them special ad text and landing pages.
  • Consider whether more keywords can be added – click on the ‘Add keywords’ option or use the Google Keyword Planner to look for some additional ideas.
  • Check recent searches to see if some keywords should be excluded using ‘negative keywords’ – typical keywords to exclude include “free”, “jobs”, “vacancy”, “vacancies” etc.
  • Check the number of impressions for your keywords overall – are you getting enough impressions in this ad group? If the number of impressions is low then it means not many people are searching on your keyword phrases in your target geography. The choice here is to (a) add keywords or (b) change the campaign settings so your ads run in more geographies / countries.
  • Additional Keywords – do you have enough keywords in this group? Can you add more?
  • Too many keywords / Create New Ad Group – if you have more than 80 or 90 keywords in an ad group then they usually could be separated into 2 or more ad groups. If that is the case then split some of your keywords into a new ad group.
  • Review the Relevance of your keywords – do you still think they will bring in your target buyers? Are they too general – could they be bringing in unwanted traffic? Alternatively, are they too restrictive? Could you be missing out on some potential customers who are looking for related but different terms?

4. Revise Ad Text Within the Ad Group

  • Next, look at your Text Ads for that Ad Group
  • Sort the Ads by Click Through Rate.
  • Ads with a click through rate of less than 0.5% are performing badly. (We look to get to 1.2% or above as quickly as possible).
  • A CTR this low indicates that (a) the ad text is simply not compelling and /or (b) the ads are not clearly connected with the keyword in the mind of a visitor – the visitor who searched on the phrase does not expect to see the ad you show in response so he doesn’t click on it
  • Have you got at least 2 ads running in competition in the ad group? You need at least 2 running in parallel in order to draw conclusions about what does or does not work.
  • Have you selected ‘ad rotation’ at the Campaign level so the ads are being shown evenly over time to enable you to measure one against the other? To use ad rotation, you may have to go to settings and beside the ‘Type’ setting, choose “Search Network only – All features”, rather than “Search Network Only – Standard Features”
  • Have you got more than 4 ads in the ad group? Generally any more than 4 becomes difficult to analyse and manage, particularly in the context of a larger overall Campaign with many other ad groups.
  • In this ad group, take the lowest performing ads first – is there any obvious problem? Does the ad closely relate to the set of keywords it represents?
  • Is there a compelling offer, statement of value and call to action? Is there some other reason people might not click on it?
  • Can you do comparative searches in a target geography to see what other ads are displayed for your types of keywords? How do those ads compare to yours?
  • Are you using Keyword Insertion on any ads? If you try using keyword insertion, do those ads perform better than other ads?
  • Is the display URL that shows at the bottom of your ad clearly related to the keywords and call to action? E.g. www.mycompany.com/keyword-related-term

5. Revise Landing Pages Within the Ad Group

  • Click on the blue line at the top of each of each of your text ads to open the corresponding landing pages.
  • What is the Conversion Rate on your landing page – how many visitors register per 100? As a rule of thumb in B2B web marketing, we want a 4% to 8% conversion rate for landing pages when they have been running and tested for a couple of weeks. That means for every 100 clicks through to this page we expect to see 4 to 8 people registering. You won’t achieve this immediately but if after 2 weeks it is not working you need to reconsider the page and corresponding ads.
  • Is there a clear linkage between keyword -> ad text -> landing page?
  • Does the landing page header text clearly relate back to the ad and the keyword?
  • Does the landing page follow standard best practice e.g. ‘hero shot’ of item or document on offer, encapsulated registration form, directional cues, text on the download button, bulletpoint text, summary of benefits, customer or partner logos and other trust anchors, social proofs such as ‘100,000 customers use product X’ etc.

6. Repeat for all Ad Groups with Campaign

  • Repeat this process for all Ad Groups within your campaign, then move on to the next campaign.

7. Check Campaign Settings

  • Your campaigns settings control the overall budgets, default keyword bids and, perhaps most importantly, target geographies.
  • Periodically look at these settings to confirm they are still valid for your campaign.
  • You usually have to test and change geographies and budgets quite a lot in the first few weeks of a new campaign.

Written by Michael White

Michael White is co-founder and CEO of Motarme, the Sales Technology and Services vendor. You can find him on LinkedIn .


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