Is B2B Lead Nurturing Just Hype?

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

B2B lead nurturing is a hot topic these days. You can’t swing a stick around the marketing internet and not find content on it. Everyone’s telling you how to drive folks down the funnel faster and better.

You can get B2B lead nurturing examples. Strategies. Best practices. Frameworks. Tactics. Hundreds of them.

If you want get a business-to-business marketer’s attention on Tinder, wear a shirt that says “lead nurturing.” They’ll swipe right.

But there’s a problem.

Doesn’t all this sound like that old adage about how to make money on a gold rush? You know: Selling shovels.

If everyone is “nurturing” every lead, how could anyone possibly break through?

In other words, is B2B lead nurturing just hype in 2020?

The answer is: Kinda, yeah.

Thanks for reading.

OK, fine. I’ll explain.

The set-it-and-forget-it B2B lead nurturing model of 2015 is just hype in 2020. You’ll still read a lot about it, sure. It’s easy to peddle because it’s a get-rich-quick scheme that appeals to big rewards for little work.

There are B2B lead nurturing models that work today. But they’re going to require a little more work than the old …

  • Form completion
  • Automated email string
  • ???
  • Profit
B2B Lead Nurturing: Is it just hype?

B2B Lead Nurturing in 2020

The core lies in the fact that many folks aren’t fully grasping the essence of lead nurturing. Folks are doing it because it’s “the thing you do.” They never stop and say “Wait, are we making any strides here?”

Until that happens, lead nurturing won’t be effective.

Most of the content around “B2B lead nurturing” comes from people with a vested interest in it. (Call it the Lead Nurturing Industrial Complex, or LNIC™ for short.)

The folks creating content are the ones selling the tools, systems and training that all but guarantee results.

They have a monetary interest in convincing marketers that better B2B lead nurturing is their ticket to riches. Offer a simple download, write a few automatic emails and see more, better conversions.

It’s so simple!

Thing is, lead nurturing isn’t simple. (I’ll get to that in a second.) If you assume that following the steps in some “definitive guide” is going to unlock easy leads, you’re going to be disappointed.

You can nurture leads down the funnel. But it’s not going to be easy.


Because of the spread of lead nurturing, that’s why.

Everyone has adopted the strategy. And most are taking the easy way out – spamming TOFU leads with with worthless junk. These half-baked automated emails aren’t getting results – and they’re filling up inboxes.

While they juice their vanity metrics, you get less attention. It’s a lose-lose.

Lead Nurturing’s Inbox Problem

Look at your email inbox right now. If you’re a decision-maker at a B2B company, I guarantee there’s at least one “nurture” email in it right now.

Are you going to open it? Or care?

The odds say “no.”


Because you know what you’re going to get! It’s someone buttering you up with fake “personalization.” And you know a human never touched it – particularly when they screw up and address it to %%FIRSTNAME%%.

In other words, you have been trained to ignore B2B lead nurturing. And the rest of the world is no different. The popularity of the strategy has proved to be its effective demise.

B2B buyers are becoming more and more transactional. They go looking for something, they find it, and they convert. Low-quality “nurturing” materials aren’t influencing decisions the way they used to because the buyers are trained to ignore them. They get a ton, and most of it sucks.

Again, it’s not impossible to nurture prospects. But it takes effort.

What you can’t do is let your ego get in the way. Buyers won’t care about you because you’re you. The effort you put into a campaign or email means nothing to them. It’s about what you give them.

Nobody’s impressed by the bare minimum anymore

If you’re sending stuff to send stuff, you might as well not bother. B2B lead nurturing in 2020 absolutely depends on your ability to add value.

Remember: Your prospects’ inboxes are full. And they’ve learned to ignore just about everything that looks like “marketing.” If you don’t do something to break through the noise, you’re wasting your time.

So … that sounded bleak. Sorry about that.

But I promised there would be a silver lining here. And there is! If you want to get beyond the B2B lead nurturing hype machine, follow these steps.

Tips for Effective B2B Lead Nurturing in 2020

Tip #1: Provide Content That’s Actually Good

Nobody needs your marketing content, where you’ve sat around coming up with what you think the best idea is and what your ideas are and what your spin on things looks like.

You probably get the point, but let us hit it home: Nobody cares about what you feel like writing about.

Think about the prospect. Would they care about the content? Would it do anything for them?

(If it’s one of these blog posts, you’re doing it wrong.)

You have to take a step back and look at the content from an outside perspective. Ask yourself: Is this of value to readers? Will the subject entice them – and actually deliver on its promise? Or is it purely self-serving?

Look at it critically. If it exists for the sake of existing, it’s not worth sending.

Tip #2: Focus on Relevance, Not ‘Personalization’

Personalization in most B2B lead nurturing systems is sticking a first name into an email.

The truth is, personalized emails aren’t fooling – or impressing – anybody. (And like we mentioned before, the code has a tendency to blow up.)

Instead, focus on relevance.

Your leads aren’t going to be tricked into thinking that you understand their situation. You actually have to understand their situation. You need to know your audience and what makes them tick. They want something interesting, useful and relevant.

Give them that, and they’ll be more likely to stay with you. Give them generic content with their name stuck in, and you’re going to lose them.

Tip #3: Consider the Buyer’s Journey

Or more accurately, don’t.

The “buyer’s journey” is the fool’s gold of the B2B lead nurturing world.

On its face, it sounds so simple! That’s why the “definitive guides” push it so heavily.

First you make the prospect aware of you. Then you nurture them with content as they consider solutions. Finally, you send them stuff to support their decision. It’s all so linear and basic – why would you not follow it strictly?

Here’s the thing: You aren’t the only thing going on in your prospect’s life.

Think about a marketing email you opened and read yesterday. Can you recall who sent it? What it said? What it offered?

Probably not. You had to feed the dog, get the kids to school and deal with 47 different fires at work.

In other words, you weren’t on a linear journey with the company that was trying to nurture you. Their interaction with you represented a specific moment in time, isolated from their other interactions. That nurture email wasn’t a sequel or a prequel – it was a standalone film.

If you’re strictly adhering to the “buyer’s journey” in your B2B lead nurturing, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. And when you succeed, it will be because you got lucky.

Once a lead enters your sales funnel, they’re not on a linear path. They’re going to go at different speeds and have different needs. And they’re not actively looking to you; you – the marketer – are the one trying to insert yourself into their life.

If you’re strictly adhering to the “buyer’s journey” in your B2B lead nurturing, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. And when you succeed, it won’t be because of that adherence – it will be because you got lucky.

In fact, the most successful examples of B2B lead nurturing we’ve seen lately completely ignore the buyer’s journey. They’re delivering good content that’s broadly relevant to the buyer.

Most important, these lead nurturing campaigns give the leads a broad range of options. They don’t try to force a linear flow – or ask the lead to remember what they’d been sent the week before. Instead, they invite the lead to proceed how they want, not how they were told to.

The Bottom Line

No matter what you’re told online, B2B lead nurturing is not easy. Sending a strict series of emails to a top-funnel lead isn’t going to create conversions at scale. You might get one or two, but they’re mostly luck.

You can nurture leads. It’s completely possible. But it takes effort and a complete lack of ego.

To drive business-to-business leads down the funnel, you need to:

  • Provide content that’s actually good and valuable
  • Deliver relevant information, not rote personalization
  • Remember that prospects only have a few seconds of attention for you
  • Let buyers choose their own adventure and engage how they want

No, it’s not as simple as what the LNIC™ is pitching. But I wouldn’t be telling you this unless I knew you could do it.

Put in the time. Put in the thought. Don’t cut corners. And watch the SQLs flow.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.