Lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship over time through an interactive dialogue that shares information a prospect needs at specific stages of the buying process to help them make a purchase decision.

Somehow, that definition has translated for most B2B companies to be more like:

Lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship over time that marketing controls with prospects in their database while tracking their behavior to determine when they’re ready for a sales conversation.

This last version works. It’s enhanced with marketing automation technology that adds visibility, but it’s also limiting your potential.

Consider the associated behaviors that make a lead nurturing program successful:

  • Response
  • Continuous click through when new content is offered.
  • Exposure to additional, related content at the site.
  • Lengthening attention spans.
  • Increasing time spent with your company.
  • Growing credibility and trust for your company as a valuable resource.
  • Recognition of your company as an expert in a particular subject matter.
  • Willingness to explore doing business with your company.

Is it possible to achieve these behaviors by nurturing outside of your database?

Yes, it is.

Every time you share a Tweet, LinkedIn Discussion Post or Facebook post that includes a link to your company’s content, what do you think you’re doing? Same with community platforms like Focus.

Yes, you’re nurturing. Every impression you make with someone who could become a customer is a valid example of lead nurturing—whether they are in your database, or not.

78% of marketers say they use social media. Nearly that many say they use articles in their marketing programs. Only 61% say they use a blog but, thankfully, the gap is closing.

With buyers in control of their buying process, delaying self-identification and pushing salespeople toward the later stages, you’re missing opportunities if you only focus on the leads you know about.

Instead, start thinking about how to turn those “anonymous” interactions into dialogues that result in shared identities. Start thinking about what will make prospects that encounter your content anonymously proactively self-identify by reaching out to ask for more information.

You’re not nurturing the number of leads in your database, you’re potentially nurturing many more that just need the right bit of enticement to show themselves.

If you start thinking about lead nurturing from a much broader perspective—let go of the need to control a list—how would your marketing content and online programs change?