Best Practices

How To Cultivate Better Results From Your Garden Variety Lead Nurture Program

Lead nurturing programs are the garden from which some of the best sales opportunities grow (well, that’s every B2B marketer’s dream at least!). They have long been considered a main driver of the marketing funnel, and a key source of data about our prospects. They also motivate marketers to craft increasingly compelling calls to action, all in the hopes of earning those highly-coveted clicks. However, as with any marketing program, building a nurture strategy that bears fruit takes planning, testing, and time.

The garden variety nurture campaign model is really quite simple, in theory:

  1. Send email #1.
  2. If contact opens it, score X amount of points.
  3. If contact clicks through the call-to-action, score Y amount of points.
  4. Send email #2.
  5. So on, and so forth…

Sounds familiar, amirite? But the challenge of using this traditional nurture model to develop opportunities and pipeline for your sales team is this:

It’s not enough that someone opens your email. It’s not even enough that they click through the CTA. Nurture programs are only truly effective when someone actually consumes your content, becoming more educated on your subject matter, and you can measure exactly how much of your content they’ve consumed.

So, how can you get more from your garden variety nurture program? During a recent webinar, marketers from Thomson Reuters shared their experience addressing this challenge and described how they won a 2017 Killer Content Award for their multi-touch nurture campaign in the process.

Thomson Reuters breaks down their success into 3 key takeaways so that you, too, can generate meaningful, measurable engagement, and ensure a significant increase in conversion rates.

1. Feed your traditional nurture program the proper nutrients

Traditional email drip campaigns are often not as effective as we would like them to be. Yes, email open and click-through rates are declining across the board, but the experiences that marketers push their database through are often impersonal, repetitive, and static.

Your nurture program needs the proper inputs in order to thrive. If you wanted your garden to grow faster, you’d probably sprinkle on some Miracle-Gro®. Well, efficient program logic is like Miracle-Gro® for your nurture program. With some careful thought put into program design, you can give your database a better nurture experience from start to finish. For example, you could try moving prospects into nurture tracks tailored just for them, such as faster- or slower-moving buyers, or tracks focused on specific topics, industries, or needs based on their content consumption behavior.

Another effective, albeit less traditional, method of accelerating leads through the funnel is to avoid hard gating every piece of content. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out! Although ungating content is practically sacrilegious for many demand gen marketers, consider this: if you make content easier to access, prospects will self-nurture on it and, in turn, accelerate themselves through the funnel faster. If email is the primary channel you’re using in your nurture program you probably know a lot about these prospects anyway, so why introduce a friction point by adding an unnecessary form? Ultimately what’s more important, form fills or better-educated buyers?

Award-winning nurture tip: Plan your nurture programs intelligently and make content as easy as possible for your prospects to access. Take some risks with program design, such as ungating content and creating custom streams for buyers who are more or less sales-ready.

2. Think outside the [in]box

Since ordinary email nurture programs generally don’t produce extraordinary results, how about we shake things up with some different ideas?

Ask yourself some questions to start thinking outside the garden variety [in]box. For example:

  • How often do you perform a channel analysis? Taking a deep dive into which channels are working better than others can help ensure you’re using resources wisely and that you aren’t missing opportunities to explore new ones.
  • What does ‘high quality content’ actually mean? Dig deep into analytics and uncover what your prospects truly find valuable.
  • Which (if any) pieces of content should be gated?
  • And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, do you and your team critically measure, evaluate, and update the frequency with which you communicate with your database?

Now that some seeds have been planted, consider expanding your channels beyond the status quo email. For example, Thomson Reuters moved away from the rinse-and-repeat email to offer tailored experience across multiple channels like blog posts, a LinkedIn group, and direct mailing, to name a few. With an omni-channel approach like this, you’ll gain more data and be able to iterate for an optimized experience that turns more prospects into customers.

Award-winning nurture tip: Drive results beyond the traditional drip email with multi-channel strategies that will help you get the most out of your nurture strategy.

3. Nurture campaigns need to be…nurtured

A garden doesn’t grow overnight—it takes constant care, attention, and the odd prune. Your nurture programs require the same upkeep.

Keep your nurture programs healthy with regular reviews and content audits. Then, use that data to refresh your programs at regular intervals.

And above all, recognize that nurture programs are living creatures and not stagnant experiences. Stay agile; look for opportunities to remove under-performing content from the mix and add new pieces of content that better fit with the story you’re telling.

Yes, it takes time, but in order to get the most out of your strategy, you have to ditch the “set it and forget it” attitude and adopt a mindset shift.

Award-winning nurture tip: Nurture streams should be dynamic. Look at the data regularly and make adjustments—add what’s missing and remove what isn’t working.

Ultimately, if you look at your garden variety nurture model with a fresh perspective and take the time to tweak and prune your nurture programs, slowly but surely you’ll reap the rewards by watching your list of qualified leads grow.