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Everything You Know About ‘Lead’ Nurturing is False. (And How To Fix It)

Where to even start with nurturing efforts?

Lead Nurturing is one of the primary features of Marketing Automation and it’s one of the biggest initial drivers of why we originally got in bed with Marketo all the way back in 2006 before most of the modern-day experts honestly knew what MA was. The notion of Lead Nurturing feels REALLY good. Leads go in one end and they come out as engaged buyers with checkbooks ready to explode. Nurturing is a selling point that has moved a lot of software licenses.

It’s also a complete falsehood.

Now, before we have to hide the sharp objects or field a barrage of nasty tweets, let me clarify that what has traditionally been sold as nurturing is wrong and let me explain why.

First, leads (and more accurately, buyers) don’t just appear. You acquire interest and then you attempt to have a digital conversation with them in an automated manner based on what we know of their needs, desires, background and mental state. At least that’s what is supposed to happen. In actuality, most time, anyone with an email address gets thrown into one general bucket and starts receiving a cadence of pre-timed, pre-generalized emails until they unsubscribe, leave the company or die. And yes, sometimes it does result in a sale – but a disproportionately small percentage of this group at that.

So, what’s the fix? When I shared that glimpse of how nurturing was supposed to work, I wasn’t exaggerating. The problem is we really need to understand the buyer at a deeper level in order to have an effective conversation. Often times in the early marketing and sales stages that’s just not possible, and so efforts at that stage are best spent collecting and organizing the data we need to develop a true two-way exchange.

So, what to do while we campaign and interact with these would-be buyers, where can we find a group of individuals we already know intimately, a receptive group who not only want to hear our message, they NEED to hear from us?

If you haven’t already guessed it, Customer Nurturing is the most immediately valuable exercise you can conduct with a marketing automation tool – and it’s also the most overlooked.

Define Goals

Decide what goals you’re looking to achieve with this new nurture. Are you looking to streamline onboarding? Are you looking to upsell/cross-sell? Is it for education and retention? Or is it for customer loyalty and satisfaction? Likely it’s a combination of each of these important functions and should be built in an intelligent, multi-threaded manner designed to mimic the ideal customer lifecycle.

Setting goals will help define how you will determine successes and what the structure of the program looks like. Once defined, be sure to benchmark where you are currently at so you can show movement and improvement once this is built!

Things to Consider

Now that you know what you’re going to build, the more in the weeds HOW comes into play. Some things you will need to think about, include:

  • What defines a customer in your database? Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have great, reliable processes in place when it comes to using contact roles and ultimately reflecting “Closed Won” deals in MKTO. Maybe you have it down, great! If you don’t, consider other elements (fields, values, types) that indicate customers.
  • Are there subsets of customers you want to target differently?
  • What content will you use to promote your goals? Content for customers is very different than prospects, even in the wording and cadence. The good news? You have a receptive focus group right in front of you that will be happy to tell you what they need.
  • What should move leads out of the program? Again, what is your ideal call to action? A well-orchestrated customer nurture ends in advocacy. Don’t forget to give your customers a chance to share the love.
  • What sales efforts or relationship efforts already happen? Instead of stepping on toes, you want to work together to build something very well-rounded. Now is the chance to get rid of that age-old “stop sending my customers email” request from sales because when properly designed, a customer nurture will be requested by sales, not stifled.

As always, more options/capabilities will pop up during the build but it’s good to at least get a handle on some of it up-front.

Winter is Coming

Winter is ALWAYS coming in Game of Thrones and they are always re-evaluating how to best prepare. With customer nurtures, you also must put a great deal of work into the prepping (maybe just not so gory). But it doesn’t stop there – it will be an ongoing “battle” but will prove worth it!

Set up reports that support your successes and goals. From there be prepared to constantly re-evaluate this automated nurture. It may be automated but things change (business needs, customer-base, goals) so be ready to adjust.

Also, be prepared to toot your own horn and show off all of this work! It’s largely about numbers (revenue, retention, etc.) but it’s also about customer feedback and sentiment! A well-designed customer nurture can do everything from decrease onboarding time (we’ve seen 50% or cuts gains here) to increasing customer retention. These are the type of results you’re going to want to advertise and frankly, they’re the type of results you wanted to achieve with Marketing Automation in the first place.

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