The Game Has Changed: A New Paradigm for Lead Nurturing

July 23, 2018 By Alan Chatfield

Are you stuck in the past with traditional email nurturing? Marketing has shifted, so it’s time to step up your game. With an abundance of channels now at your fingertips, lead nurturing must go beyond email to deliver prospects an integrated brand experience across multiple touch points. Get the lowdown on nurturing in a multi-channel world, from CRMT’s Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, Alan Chatfield.

People are notoriously bad at articulating what they actually want. Steve Jobs built the world's most successful company off the back of that belief. For Marketers, this means it is much more effective to segment campaigns based on a prospect's buying signals rather than by blasting everyone who meets a set of demographic criteria.

This is what email nurture was supposed to be about - building a dynamic engagement engine that reacts to a specific set of buying signals by automatically sending a relevant communication at the right timeframe. Nurturing has never been about scale. It is instead a method of achieving one to one personalisation in a B2B environment.

This ideal is something few companies have achieved because it requires a very data-driven approach backed by a strong tech stack and constant evolution. Doing it well at scale is extremely difficult, so many companies opt-out of the challenge altogether, and design email nurtures as a linear campaign instead. They might set up an automated feeder for new leads to enter the campaign, thus making it always on. Yet it is still a regular campaign, just with stale content because it was set up last year and you don't have the budget to refresh it. Companies are beginning to discover that this approach requires a lot of care and constant attention, and are consequently reducing the scope of their email nurture programs.

Instead, online content marketing programs are taking up the slack. This is a false dichotomy. Your nurture campaigns should be as omni-channel as your events or your promotions. Every successful event is promoted across every successful channel. The same is true of nurtures.

Online Journeys

A good nurture journey starts on the web, but not on your website. Your website is a sales tool. One that your leads know about and can find on their own. You don't need to link to it unless you're actively talking about product. Most nurtures are about promoting content, so should link directly to a dedicated content landing page, even if that content is product related.

The second common mistake is to use your content hub as the landing page for paid media or social campaigns. For one thing, your content hub is probably part of your website. It also includes all your content, not just the one the lead clicked through to see. There are plenty of studies out that that show that additional links on a page reduce the number of clicks on the primary link. You're looking to get the requested asset in front of the visitor as soon as possible. Your content hub is what you present your visitors with after they've consumed that first piece of content.

Once someone has finished with one asset, the link to the next one should be immediately apparent on the page. Always present multiple alternative options, just in case the intended next asset is not of interest but make the preferred asset clear. Relevance is important here. You will have designed a nurture journey, with assets displayed in a desired order. Content hubs have traditionally suffered from the problem that they're too unfocused. There's no obvious priority to the content and no clear content, so confused visitors end up consuming nothing.

Prioritise Content Consumption

The goal in content marketing is to reduce the barriers to content consumption, without sacrificing the data collection needs of the business. You give them the first piece of content for free to get them hooked, and then gate the rest provided it’s sufficiently valuable. The registration form you want them to complete is displayed on the second or third asset, or perhaps if they click through to an especially high value white paper. The typical inbound visitor would never have registered for that first asset anyway, so ungating it makes no difference to your conversion numbers. The minority who click through to a subsequent asset are the ones who would have registered and will be more inclined to convert because they've already consumed something of value from you. Registration becomes a more equitable trade, because you’ve already proven your content is worth reading.

The standard PathFactory or Uberflip user experiences are a good example to follow. The great thing about these tools is the fact that you can present the content straight away and then have links to related secondary content alongside, but not be distracted from the current asset. You can even time the related content list in these tools to appear only once the visitor has been on the page for a few seconds.

Tell a Story

In PathFactory, the content list is presented in a linear manner with no more than 6 to 10 assets. Each asset stream you publish should be topic based, even if it is intended to fit a particular persona. Like any good story, it has a definite beginning, middle and end.

This is a good middle ground between the chaos of a content hub and the rigidity of email nurture, particularly if you also include a link back to your full content library for those who want to see more. The goal here is to facilitate binge consumption to the point where someone qualifies as a lead and gets a sales call.

Few people will get to this point on the first visit. So, you need a method for getting people back once they leave your content and get on with their day. If they filled in a form, you'll have sent them an auto-responder email with links to the next content stream, as well as a sales trigger. If they opted-in, add them to an email nurture which prompts them to complete the stream and then move to the next one.

Generate Repeat Engagement

Email nurtures have always suffered from the issue that the recipient has no possibility of choosing what they consume and when. The prospects schedule is entirely dictated by you. In a world of time poor executives and fully booked calendars, this simply isn't sustainable as the primary touch point in a marketing campaign. Instead, your email is a re-engagement strategy to get previous visitors back into your nurture program. These could also be disqualified or inactive leads rejected by sales. Email nurtures have always worked best as a strategy for reactivating potential leads who are not yet ready to buy, so this plays to the strength of the email channel.

For colder prospects, social and contextual advertising are a much better method of outreach. Retargeting works well here as a mechanism for promoting new content streams to people who have consumed a previous stream. Unlike with email, there is less scope to promote subsequent content in the stream they've just consumed. This avoids the Amazon effect, named after the online retailer's early retargeting efforts which involved showing ads for the last item the user viewed on their site. This annoyed people who had already decided not to purchase the product in question. Do remember that retargeting requires consent under GDPR, as it involves sharing personal data with a third party.

When designing your nurtures always remember the defining principle of data protection legislation - one that will be familiar to Marketers everywhere. The customer is king. They decide who has their data and how it is used. Our job as marketers is to send the customer the content they like through the channels they want to see it, at the time most convenient to them. Nurture is your opportunity to put this into practice.

Written by Alan Chatfield - Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, CRMT.