Potato-Potahto – Is there a difference between lead progression and lead nurturing?

In inbound marketing circles, you often hear people use the terms “lead progression” and lead nurturingsomewhat interchangeably. Are they different phrases for the same thing or are they related, but different concepts?

Ardath Albee, author of the book, “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale“, is a true thought leader in the field of eMarketing and lead nurturing. I posed this question to Ms. Albee recently, here is her reply:

“Good question. Here’s the subtle difference:

Lead progression is the act of persuading leads to take next steps that create transitions forward in their buying journey. It’s actually the art of creating pipeline momentum.

Lead nurturing is the process you use to do that by providing the right content at the right time based on the lead’s stage in their buying process.

It’s the quality of the execution of lead nurturing that will produce lead progression. Nurturing executed as “just keeping in touch” generally isn’t designed to produce progressive reaction, only sustained awareness. So there can be a big difference if nurturing is executed without being intentionally designed to produce progression.

For example, if your lead is researching best practices, sending them an article about why they need to solve the problem will not move them forward because they’ve already decided the problem is a priority that needs to be solved – otherwise they wouldn’t be researching best practices. In my book this would be the difference between the status quo stage of the buying process and the research stage.

Does that help?”

It sure does Ardath. Thanks for the thoughtful explanation. Follow Ardath’s Marketing Interaction blog by clicking here.

So why does this matter? One of the fundamentals of inbound marketing is the idea of offering prospects engaging content. The goal is not just to nurture or educate the prospect. The goal is to progress the prospect forward through their buying process. You do that by offering them content that matches the stage of the buying cycle that they are currently in and providing a series of call to action steps that guides them through the buying process. You are trying to satisfy their need for information so that they will, so to speak, check the box and move along to the next stage in their process.

Determining which stage of the buying cycle that a prospect is in is not always easy. And buyers don’t always progress forward in a nice orderly fashion. Some buyers skip steps. Others take a step forward, and then a step backwards. Each buyer progresses at their own individual pace.

This is why it’s important to have a system to track and score each lead, based on the actions (or inactions) that they have taken in response to your own marketing actions. Depending on your volume of leads and marketing activities, you might get away with tracking leads and activities in a spreadsheet. But it you have over a hundred prospects and a robust set of campaigns designed to nurture your prospects along, then you’re more likely to need a system that will handle lead tracking and scoring.

Here at Espresso B2B Marketing, we use HubSpot for tracking and scoring leads. It’s cost effective and easy to use.

What system do you use to track and score your leads? Use the comment form below to share your own experience with lead progression, tracking and scoring.

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