And more importantly, what can marketers do to be more successful? Automate or prospect? While much of that work can be outsourced, it does increase customer acquisition costs and eat into margins—which can present problems for companies attempting to scale their marketing machine. Lead scoring The difference between an effective and an ineffective lead nurturing strategy often comes down to good lead scoring. to study the behaviors of your existing customers as they went through the buying process,” Paley said. Others may subscribe and read for months before taking the time to look at your product. There will also be people in your market who never buy from you but still want to consume your content. It’s important to plan for each of these segments. The key is making sure those messages stay relevant to their needs. “If your nurture programs generate lots of leads but you can’t tell whether those leads are becoming customers, it’s difficult to call those programs successful,” Paley said.
When you’re a content marketer who writes about content marketing, you start to see marketing analogies everywhere.
I was reading about the glacial history of New York City the other day. Fifty thousand years ago, a sheet of ice one thousand feet thick sat right on top of the five boroughs. It’s far end extended down across Brooklyn and Queens, pushing soil, boulders, and anything else in its path up into a huge mound.
It’s fascinating how a glacier that disappeared tens of thousands of years ago still affects millions of people today. When the ice melted, the ridge of debris at its far end remained and is now the home of neighborhoods with names like Crown Heights, Bay Ridge, and Jamaica Hills.
Here’s where my marketing brain kicks in:
The way a glacier moves feels a bit like lead nurturing. (Or at least, lead nurturing in a perfect world.) In this metaphor, the ice serves as our nurturing efforts, pushing leads along with the overwhelming weight of our email prowess. The process might be slow, but the boulders in our path are powerless to our brilliant marketing.
But, truth be told, we’re less like a glacier and more like a wave crashing on the shore. Sure, we pick up a few shells as we move, but a vast majority of the sand we roll over stays put. A good number of the shells we push forward get sucked back out to sea as the next wave rolls in.
Marketing automation software if a powerful tool, but many of the companies that use the software to create nurture campaigns attempt to turn leads into customers through brute force.
Ultimately, consumers are the ones paying the price. Nurture emails that are barely distinguishable from seedy spam messages stuff our inboxes. In a must-read piece from Velocity Partners, Doug Kessler said we shouldn’t even call it “nurturing,” since that’s not what we’re doing:
“For the rest, you may call what you’re doing ‘nurturing’ but
it’s really just blabbing, spamming, small-talking and, at best,
Conventional wisdom tells us to put new subscribers in a drip campaign, send some product-focused content, wait for them to click on a pricing page, then have a salesperson cold call them as they’re about to eat lunch.
But is that working?
The answers seems to be a resounding “meh.” Only one-fifth of B2B marketers consider their lead nurturing efforts to be “very successful” and content effectiveness consistently ranks as a top challenge for marketers.
This would seem to indicate a disconnect between desired and achieved outcomes.
So what does a successful nurture program look like? And more importantly, what can marketers do to be more successful?
Automate or prospect?
Nothing warms the cockles of a CEO’s heart like hearing the words “automate” and “scale.” Lead nurturing lends itself well to automation; many of the tasks involved are repetitive, and an automated process allows you to test hypotheses and improve your methods.
“The biggest benefit of automated lead nurturing is the mass personalization that it enables across the entire lifecycle of a prospect or customer,” said Gabe Paley, former senior manager of marketing operations at InsightSquared and current deputy data director for the Colorado Democratic Party.“It’s no secret that you’ll have more success getting someone’s attention if you can market to them as individuals.”
For most companies, some form of automated nurturing is a necessary part of a sustainable business model. With constant pressure to keep acquisition costs down, a well-planned nurture strategy is a great way for marketers to free up time. Automated nurture campaigns can also react to customer behaviors instantly, and we know that timing matters with leads generated online.
Still, an automated process has its drawbacks.
“The downsides to automated lead nurturing come in their complexity and the potential for error that that complexity causes,” Paley said, “Creating hyper-specific segments in your email marketing program is great, but when you have twenty to thirty segments, it’s nearly impossible to make sure everything is going swimmingly and everyone is getting the right emails.”
Low barriers to entry mean that more brands, from Etsy shops to multinational corporations, send automated nurture emails. Prospects are inundated with automated messages from brands, so their guard is often up when checking email. Besides giving marketers a bad name, this impersonal touch can make things a bit tricky for salespeople when it’s time to connect.
“The good thing about automated lead nurture is that it actually gets done, versus leaving it to chance that you remember it,” said Scott Britton, sales expert and co-founder of the CRM chatbot tool Troops, “But sometimes, it can come off as impersonal and canned, which...