There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to lead nurturing - explore 3 ways to structure a program and the pros and cons of each.
As a marketer, I’m sure you understand the concept of lead nurturing and why it’s important. However, as we’ve discovered over the years in working with large and small organisations, this understanding doesn’t always translate to building a really effective lead nurture program (LNP) – it is a skill that needs to be developed just like any other marketing skill.
A big challenge when designing and building an LNP is the lack of a “standard” approach. You can configure and build them in numerous ways depending on factors such as:
With these factors in mind, we’ll outline 3 common lead nurturing approaches and discuss the situations in which they might be used along with the pros and cons of each.
If you’re a larger enterprise with a number of discrete, unrelated product families, then a specialist stream approach might be a good fit. In this scenario, you define and build separate nurture “streams” or communication pathways around specific product families that prospects follow in order from a common starting point to an end point.
Product Line A – Nurture Stream A with 5 Emails
Product Line B – Nurture Stream B with 7 emails
Product Line C – Nurture Stream C with 6 Emails
All your prospects need to be segmented around a product interest area so they can enter the stream at email #1. They then move through your stream at a set cadence, receiving each email in turn until they reach the end of the stream.
Not the catchiest name I know, but this approach works best when you have relatively complex product or service offerings with a lot of crossover. i.e. the product or service families are closely related and/or work together to form a comprehensive portfolio.
Unlike the specialist streams approach, you don’t want to spend too much time nurturing around a single product family. You want to be able to educate prospects about your overall portfolio, but you also need to keep it relevant to a prospect’s particular interest area at a specific point in time.
In this structure, we think of knowledge levels as separate nurture streams. At the start (or Level 1), we send emails in series by rotating the topic of each email across each of the products or services you have.
For example, if you have 4 products you might have:
Level 1 – 8 Emails sent in order – Product A, Product B, C, D then back to Product A, etc.
At this level, you’re “fishing” for interest areas, trying to understand where a prospect’s main interest lies. You keep the communication relatively high level focusing on benefits which prospects can relate to.
Once a prospect engages with a particular email, you know they’re interested in that topic, so you automatically drop them out of Level 1 and down to Level 2 which explores that topic in more detail. You would have a Level 2 topic stream for each product area that increases the level of detail being provided. This is the progressive education component of this approach.
Once they’ve finished the Level 2 topic, you have a choice:
You choose the option here depending on how well they engaged in the Level 2 topic. If they showed little interest, send them back to Level 1. If they showed a lot of interest, send them to Level 3.
This option is a bit of a hybrid approach combining a little from each of the other 2 methods discussed and is ideally suited to organisations with a single product family.
The main scenario here is that you have a strong inbound program automatically capturing interest in your product or service. There may be too many for you to follow up on individually and you need a way to quickly identify MQLs from all these inbound leads before they continue being nurtured.
The “on-ramp” component is a fixed email stream, consisting of 3-4 emails that logically follow-on from your website in a buyer’s journey format. These emails would consist of your highest converting content over the past 6 months (regularly refreshed) with prospects starting at Email 1 and moving through according to your email cadence.
When they reach the end of the on-ramp, you use their lead score to route high potential prospects into a follow-up queue for an inside sales rep to call, looking for opportunities. If a prospect doesn’t hit the required lead score, they move on to the “point-in-time” stream.
Prospects don’t enter this stream at some pre-determined starting point, they line up to receive the next email that is due to be sent, hence the point-in-time name. This stream is a never-ending ad-hoc stream where newly created content is added on a just-in-time basis and sent to everyone at the same time – everyone moves through the stream at the same pace.
There is no one “best” approach to lead nurturing. The beauty of marketing automation software is the power it gives you to customise and automate your marketing communications and lead generation efforts in almost unlimited ways.
However, this is also a sword that cuts both ways. As marketers, we’re always tempted to over complicate things and try for that extra level of personalisation or automation. If you make your nurture program too complicated, then it quickly becomes unmanageable in the long term. You’ll find that you run out of content or data too quickly and all your grand ideas grind to a halt.
You need to keep it simple where possible yet still providing opportunities for customisation and personalisation. But don’t forget the age-old IT rule – garbage in = garbage out. As powerful as marketing automation software is, it can’t suddenly make poor marketing practices brilliant. It can only be as good as the people operating it and there’s always something new to learn.