Too many brands are obsessed with the bottom line. Just as consumers demand products and services when and where they want them, businesses want to see instant sales from their marketing efforts. But is this the right mindset?

No.

Sixty-eight percent of companies spend less than 20 percent of their marketing budgets on building loyal relationships with consumers, yet the majority of those businesses admit that their spending accounts for a disproportionate number of sales. The sales process starts as soon as a lead interacts with your brand. From that point on, it’s imperative to appeal to their interests and build trust.

What we’re talking about is lead nurturing — a digital means of forming a relationship over time with a prospect. It will help you understand the individual pain points of each potential customer, providing you the opportunity to give each consumer the materials she needs to make a purchasing decision.

Connecting With Consumers

More and more often, people are taking advantage of the digital world by taking their business transactions online. Without face-to-face time with clients and consumers, it can be difficult to form a strong bond with them. Such bonds are essential, especially if you’re targeting Millennials who are far more brand loyal than their older counterparts. If you can foster relationships that lead to brand loyalty with potential customers, you’ll likely see lifelong benefits in the form of repeat business and raving fans.

Suppose you run an auto dealership. If somebody comes in and tells you he’s interested in learning more about your cars’ safety features, you don’t instantly start on your sales pitch about mileage and comfort — you talk about safety.

The same should apply online. If a potential customer expresses the same interest in a form on your website, try sending him customized, relevant information — in a whitepaper, an e-book, or even a video — outlining the ways specific models would keep his family safe. By providing this information, you start building a tangible relationship, and that relationship will become even stronger if it’s fostered by a real person rather than an automated response.

Building these relationships not only means a better deal for your consumers who get the information they need, but it also gives you a lot more data to work with.

You can’t treat all leads the same, but if you don’t nurture them, there’s no way to know the best way to handle each one. By engaging openly, you learn about their backgrounds, interests, and stages within the sales process. You offer value to consumers, and consumers get to passively interact with your brand before they feel comfortable talking to a salesperson.

The Value of Lead Nurturing

The benefits all seem so obvious, yet 65 percent of B2B marketers don’t nurture their leads, and 79 percent of marketing leads never convert into sales because potential customers haven’t been cultivated effectively. It can be time-consuming, but the value can’t be beat. According to a survey by ANNUITAS, 47 percent of nurtured leads make larger purchases non-nurtured leads.

So how can you avoid these pitfalls and build better relationships with your customers? Here are six simple tips to set you on your way:

1. Get in Early

You have to get in quick to establish credibility. The majority of users browsing online aren’t ready to talk with your sales reps, but by developing a lead-nurturing processes, you can build customer value much earlier on. Between 35 and 50 percent of sales go to businesses that respond to consumer queries first, so being communicative and focused on consumers’ interests gives you a major advantage over your rivals.

2. Keep Your Messenger Consistent

Everyone knows the importance of consistency when it comes to your message, but what about your messenger? If a consumer sends a series of inquiries and receives emails from a different person each time, he’ll assume he’s being passed around the office. If the same sales representative maintains contact throughout the entire process, however, he’ll feel like a more valued consumer.

Don’t just send emails from generic email accounts, either. While that initial inquiry might go to a generic account, all subsequent communication should go through a named and personal business account.

3. Extract Relevant Knowledge

Set up marketing automation workflows that are based on interests. When contacts fill out a form on your website, make sure you have a field asking about their specific interests and challenges. This knowledge will allow you to direct valuable collateral information their way, which could sway their decisions.

Solicit feedback, too. Follow up to ask whether the information you provided was helpful or whether the lead still has unanswered questions. Not only will this help improve your relationship with the potential customer, but it will also help with your future lead nurturing efforts, too.

4. Personalize Your Communication

Consumers can smell standardized emails from a mile away, and they’re not impressed by them. Send emails that are as personalized as possible. That could mean something as small as changing the subject line, or it could mean writing a fresh and specifically tailored message.

Personalized emails have click-through rates that are 14 percent higher than standardized ones, and they convert at a rate that’s 10 percent higher. Cut the auto-responses, forget about copy-and-paste jobs, and treat consumers like people.

5. Create Value

More and more brands are becoming publishers to create valuable content for consumers. This approach allows lead nurturing to start much earlier in the sales process. According to HubSpot, 54 percent more leads come from inbound rather than outbound communication — and those consumers are cheaper, too.

The more valuable your content is, the longer people will spend on your website and the more informed they’ll be about your product or service. When you create value for them, they’ll create value for you.

6. Segment

Comb through your customer relationship manager. You’ll likely have a lot of data on prospects already, and by further segmenting your lists based on last contact, original import, marketing channel, and so on, you can push for better communication.

The more segmented and contextualized your data is, the higher your engagement will be. Businesses that have adopted this automated approach have experienced a 451 percent increase in qualified leads.

While lead nurturing can seem like a lot of work, your business will thank you for it. According to Forrester Research, when you successfully nurture your leads, you can generate 50 percent more sales-ready prospects at 33 percent lower cost.

So don’t just focus on sales. Instead, concentrate on getting to know potential customers and developing relationships with your leads. Through personalized and consistent engagement, you’ll get to know your customers better and position yourself to profit.