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New Era Of Lead Nurturing Focuses On Segmentation, Targeted Content

  • Written by Fatima Lora, Associate Editor
  • Published in Demand Generation

Nurturing imageFor many marketers, lead nurturing still consists of drip email campaigns that spit out the same series of messages to everyone no matter who they are or where they are in the buying cycle.

Progressive B2B marketers are moving toward lead nurturing campaigns that offer tailored content based on the buyer’s stage in the purchasing process, industry, role in the organization and product of interest, among other factors. Some industry experts are dubbing this best-in-class strategy “Lead Nurturing Version 2.0.”

This new era of lead nurturing is all about taking a “more strategic approach to understanding where leads are in the process,” said Cari Baldwin, Partner and Founder of BlueBird Strategies. “This comes with nurturing leads and seeing successes, and getting more qualification information in your database. As we continue to discuss the 2.0 approach with our clients, we’re starting to realize it’s more about looking at the entire lifecycle of the customer and expanding beyond the relationship of just marketing to customer engagement. Marketers are realizing that customer onboarding, customer cross-sell and upsell, and customer nurturing all have tremendous value.”

Baldwin added there is a growing interest in “nudge campaigns” to re-engage buyers who have stalled in the process. “Marketers are able to create very targeted nudge campaigns to move these stuck buyers,” Baldwin noted. “It’s a very powerful way to engage with leads and move them through the opportunity.”

Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD, confirmed that it is becoming more essential to quickly get buyers off of the “default” nurture path and onto a more specific journey based on their needs. “We don’t base those needs off of job title, role or products,” he said. “We base them off of the buyer’s trust path.”

Tony Zambito, a buyer persona consultant, explained that the automated nurturing process needs to have a human element. “Companies will need to find ways to bring in true human nurturing interaction into the process, which recognizes when potential buyers are not ready to buy,” he said in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Over time, the human nurturing interaction begins to create loyalty before an actual buying process even begins.”

Gray added: “All buyers need specific information in order to educate themselves, but it’s even more important to establish trust in your company, your solution and everything in between. By beginning with a buyer persona exercise, we ensure we know how that buyer buys and what they need. We then can tailor our content pipeline around those specific needs and make the conversation much more insightful.”

However, successful lead nurturing hinges on sales and marketing alignment, according to Toyin Adon-Abel Jr., Marketing Operations Manager for The Pedowitz Group. “Lead nurturing won’t work if sales teams aren’t aware of leads being nurtured and qualified by marketing, Both teams should be aligned in all aspects of lead nurturing strategy, content development, lead qualification and reporting. Too many companies dive right into lead nurturing without taking a step back and looking at the big picture.”

Segmentation Supports Targeted Messaging

Segmentation is another critical factor in lead nurturing, noted Adon-Abel Jr. “It is essential to lead nurturing success — and only works if marketers send targeted, relevant, personalized messages. Updated data and segmentation in the marketing automation system enables marketers to send targeted campaigns offering education and/or services that we know the prospect needs based on their online behavior.”

Having these three structural pieces — alignment, segmentation and measurement — in place makes the lead nurturing process easier, according to Adon-Abel Jr. “Then it’s a matter of writing compelling content.”

Zambito explained that both content and human interaction need to be incorporated into the structure. “On content, it is important to understand the goals specific to audiences and potential buyers who are in the ‘not ready to buy’ mode. Your content must enable exploration and options.”

Baldwin noted that marketers connect with buyers multiple times through different formats. “Lead nurturing really has to be part of an integrated marketing strategy. Typically, if you’re integrating lead nurturing with social media and an event strategy, those types of things require about six to eight touches or interactions. These interactions help prospects see the value your product or service can offer, and really get them to engage in a salesworthy conversation.”

Leveraging Content To Move Buyers

Buyers are searching online, consulting their peers, looking to influencers, visiting web sites, consuming research reports and engaging with their social networks. With this plethora of sources, 90% of buyers say they feel overwhelmed by the amount of content available, according to the 2013 Content Preferences Surveyfrom Demand Gen Report.

To stand out and be seen among a sea of competitors, organizations must embrace new, more compelling content formats, observers noted. For example, video is beneficial because it can fit into just about any channel, explained Michael Litt, Co-Founder of Vidyard. “Video and visual content, for instance, is fantastic on social media or in email. They are also critical as web site and blog assets, and are being used increasingly to amplify other content types.”

Unlike text-based content, using video in a nurturing program enables marketers to measure engagement based on interest and attention span — specifically how many times and for how long someone watches a video — Litt explained. “If someone watches a nurture video the whole way through then this is one of the strongest indicators of deep interest and even more so if they watch it multiple times.”

Lead Nurturing Key Takeaways

Nurturing is a two-way conversation, noted Gray. “In other words, you should be learning more about the buyer through behaviors, and by asking questions along the way that are based on the buyer personas you’ve established. When there is a solid buyer profile in place, it’s easy to develop questions that provide the necessary insight to route leads to the appropriate content track.”

Baldwin added: “The goal is for marketers to get into the mindset that everybody — prospects, buyers and opportunities — in your database need to be nurtured based on who they are and where they are in the buying cycle.”

Gray advised marketers to align content with buyers needs. “There’s nothing worse than spending time and money creating content that your buyer hates and doesn't find valuable. Even worse, you rarely get another opportunity to establish yourself as an expert once you’ve been given the proverbial boot. These are important to keep in mind when jumping into the lead nurturing ocean.”