A Few Simple Steps to Start Lead Nurturing

This week, I’ve asked Missy Heilman, a longtime colleague and friend to offer up some thoughts on Lead Nurturing. Missy is an expert (and I don’t use the term lightly) in the areas of Lead Management, Lead Nurturing, Strategic Sales & Marketing Process Integration and Lead Management Analytics. She has a deep understanding of Marketing Automation and CRM technology, and works with her clients to build repeatable, scalable and measurable strategies resulting in increased revenue. You can learn more about Missy via her LinkedIn Profile.

Lead nurture, turn-back, re-market.  Personas, buying process, stages. Content, buyer-driven, qualification.  If you are a marketer (and are breathing) you’ve undoubtedly heard all the lingo.  Overwhelmed?  You’re not alone.  Lead nurturing is one of the most complex and time consuming pieces of the lead management puzzle.  Yet, effective nurture programs don’t have to be complex, overwhelming or take 6 months to develop.  Here are a few steps you can take to accelerate the creation of effective nurture programs:

  1. Talk to your customers – Effective nurturing begins with understanding your customers’ point of view.  Ask them about their key challenges, pain points and triggers.  Understand where they go to find information, how much time they are spending consuming information and what type of information they find appealing.   This is the information critical to understanding your buyer. If you spend the time to uncover this information, then building a content plan becomes much less arduous.
  2. Don’t try to boil the ocean – Crawl, then walk, then run.  This should be your mantra when developing nurture programs.  Many organizations I work with have ambitions of multi-persona, branched programs using dynamic content.  Don’t get me wrong, these types of programs work.  But, if you are just starting out, creating a single program for the lowest hanging fruit is acceptable.  Focus on developing an effective strategy for one market segment.  Use the information you obtained in suggestion #1 (Talking to your customers) to build a highly targeted buyer-driven program.  Once you have it built, move on to the next market segment.  Another way to crawl-walk-run is to develop a ‘general’ nurture program to start, and then add elements to the general program to cover specific market segments.
  3. Design for engagement – template considerations – The design of the nurture program should have purpose.  Best practices typically include a two column format, personalization, concise messaging that highlights the key points of the content offer,  and a personalized signature line. The second column should display a thumbnail of the offer plus a Call-To-Action (CTA) button.  An additional consideration is adding  secondary and sometimes tertiary offers.  These content offers should be designed  for later stages of the buying process. A download of these offers should indicate that the buyer is in a later stage of the purchase process, and will help determine if a buyer should be qualified for sales follow up.
  4. Analyze, Optimize, Repeat – As with any marketing initiative, reporting on your nurture programs is important.  Engagement rates, i.e. standard email reporting, remains critical for understanding email performance.  By using this data you can determine if the offer, subject line, design, or messaging needs to be massaged. However, to fully understand the nurture effectiveness, you’ll need more than just top line data.  Full Circle CRM put out a report, “Top 5 Reports CEOs Want from Marketing” with #4 and #5 being Total Pipeline Influenced by Marketing and Marketing to Sales Hand-off & Funnel Conversion Rates, respectively.  Nurture programs make a direct impact on the pipeline, increase conversion rates and accelerate the buying process. Pulling these reports and comparing against benchmarks will help you determine necessary optimizations.

Lead nurture programs need not be complicated and overwhelming to be effective.  These tips can help you as you begin your nurture journey. Remember to dream big, start small and scale appropriately. If you do, you’ll have an effective lead nurturing in place before you know it.