SMB Lead Nurturing Vs Lead Generation, Done Right 2023

image of lead nurturing

Remember the television commercial where a boy goes to a Porsche dealership? Though he obviously can’t buy the car, he’s given the full treatment, as if he were a real prospect. The boy leaves captivated, promising, “I’ll be back in twenty years.” That ad is a great illustration of the importance of lead generation and lead nurturing.

Every business intuitively recognizes the importance of “lead generation” — jargon for, “attracting potential customers.” But most overlook the importance of nurturing those leads, especially when a sale isn’t immediately on the horizon. But such an approach leaves a lot of money on the table.

In this article, we’ll delve into why you should care about nurturing leads for your business, and how you can elevate your lead nurture and generation to the next level. We’ll go over actionable steps and insights — beyond the obvious — that will let you stop losing money, reduce your conversion costs, and get ahead of your competitors.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Lead Generation Versus Lead Nurturing

As with most things in marketing, people use these terms to mean different things. In our context, lead generation refers to the process of attracting a prospect who has an interest in your company’s products or services. This includes everything from superbowl commercials and sign spinners, to content marketing, Google ads, and social media campaigns.

Lead nurturing, on the other hand, refers to the process of facilitating the flow of prospects from that initial point of being interested in your business, to the point where they finally become customers. Of course, for most businesses, customers might come back to make repeat purchases, so the lead nurture process may continue well beyond first purchase.

Whether it’s running a superbowl commercial, buying up billboards across town, opening a flashy new store in a high-visibility location, hiring a skywriter, or what have you, every business has some kind of process in place to generate new leads. But as much as marketers would love for every lead to convert into a sale instantaneously, the truth is that it often doesn’t happen in the first interaction.

Lead Nurturing and the Sales Funnel

You’ve already seen the sales funnel model that categorizes customers as moving through three stages: the awareness, consideration, and decision (or purchase) phases. You may have also come across an oft-cited statistic that it takes, on average, eight interactions with a brand (or “touchpoints”) for a consumer to go from being a cold lead to a customer.

Well, this statistic is completely false.

We’re not sure exactly where that urban legend originated, but recent research shows that consumers may need as many as 250 touchpoints for a single sale, spread over as long as 75 days, even on relatively low-value purchases like a pair of jeans.

In a sense, focusing on lead generation without effective lead nurturing is like buying 100 potted plants and throwing 99 away because only one had flowers and the rest weren’t yet flowering. Why not just water the rest of the plants until they start flowering too?

How Lead Nurturing Can Shorten the Sales Cycle

In addition to helping you convert more prospects into customers, lead nurturing can also reduce the length of the sales cycle, helping you get from first contact to first sale much quicker. In recent years, the sales cycle for most industries has been getting longer, and the cost-per-lead has been getting higher, as shown in the table below.

Industry B2C / B2B Sales Cycle Approximate Cost per Lead
Enterprise Software B2B 6-9 months $100 – $200
Web Development Services B2B 1-3 months $20 – $100
Commercial Real Estate B2B 9-12 months $200 – $500
Industrial Machinery B2B 6-12 months $150 – $300
Construction and Infrastructure B2B 12-24 months $150 – $350
Pharmaceuticals B2B 24-36 months $200 – $500
Aerospace and Defense B2B 24-48 months $500 – $1000
Automotive Fleet Sales B2B 3-6 months $50 – $200
Automotive Retail B2C 1-3 months $20 – $50
Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) B2C Days to weeks $5 – $20
Luxury Goods (e.g., Jewelry) B2C 1-2 months $100 – $300
Residential Real Estate B2C 1-3 months $20 – $100
Consumer Electronics B2C Weeks to months $10 – $40
Travel and Hospitality B2C Weeks to months $5 – $30
Table Comparing Sales Cycles and Cost per Leads Across Industries

As you can see, the sales cycle in many categories lasts months or even years. Letting go of a lead completely wastes the marketing dollars you spent on acquiring that lead in the first place. On top of that, it also usually means that you lost a lead to a competitor.

Studies show that effective lead nurturing can bring down the cost of sales by a third, increase conversions by 50 percent, and even increase order value by 47 percent.

Anonymous Versus Known Leads

Before we delve into lead generation and lead nurturing tactics, it’s important to understand the distinction between anonymous and known leads. Anonymous leads are individuals who have interacted with your brand in some way, such as visiting your website or seeing your ads, but have not yet provided their contact information. Known leads, on the other hand, are individuals who have identified themselves in some way, such as filling out a form or making a purchase.

Lead nurturing is not just about known leads. While known leads can be nurtured through personalized emails and other direct communication, anonymous leads require different tactics. Content marketing, social media marketing, and retargeting are all effective ways to nurture anonymous leads, guiding them towards becoming known leads and, ultimately, customers.

Techniques for Nurturing Leads

Here are some of the most effective ways to nurture leads, and how to implement each method.

Email Marketing

This is your direct line of communication with your leads. It has one of the highest ROI of all marketing methods available today.

    • Use an email automation platform such as MailerLite or Brevo, and integrate it with your website.
    • Send a personalized welcome email when a lead first signs up.
    • Develop a regular schedule for sending emails.
    • Provide value in each email with updates about new products, special offers, or interesting blog posts.
    • Personalize your emails based on the lead’s previous interactions with your business.
    • Use engaging subject lines to improve open rates.
    • Include a clear call to action in your emails.

Personalized Content

Each lead is a unique individual. If a particular lead has been eyeing, say, an amethyst necklace, sending them an article on the “Healing Properties of Amethyst” might just be the push they need to make a purchase.

    • Track the behavior of your leads on your website and use this data to create personalized content.
    • Tailor the content you send to each lead based on their interests. For example, if a lead has shown interest in a specific product, send them related content.
    • Use segmentation to categorize your leads based on their behavior and tailor your messages accordingly.

Engaging on Social Media

This is an important part of building a relationship with your audience.

    • Respond promptly to comments and queries from your followers.
    • Regularly post content that is both relevant and engaging to your target audience.
    • Run contests or giveaways to increase engagement and reach.
    • Use social media to share customer testimonials and positive reviews.


These ads are a powerful tool for keeping your products at the top of your leads’ minds.

    • Use retargeting ads to remind leads of products they viewed but didn’t purchase.
    • Make sure your retargeting ads are personalized and relevant to the lead’s interests.
    • Use different retargeting strategies for leads at different stages of the sales funnel. For example, offer discounts to leads who abandoned their shopping cart.
    • Test and optimize your retargeting ads based on performance.

Next Steps

It’s fairly clear by this point that lead generation without lead nurturing is like running a marathon while wearing only one shoe; you might make it to the finish line, but it will be a lot slower and more painful. If you’re getting started on your lead generation and nurturing journey, don’t miss our comprehensive, free guide to Google Ads, as well as website best practices for the coming year.