by Joy Milkowski
Nurturing is a well-known practice in marketing and business development where software tools such as email engines, CRM systems or marketing automation platforms are used to maintain and grow a relationship with prospects and customers. Commonly known as “lead nurturing,” the applications are wide ranging, from to top-of-funnel audiences, to active leads, existing customers and even lost opportunities.
In a perfect world, companies could have individual, tailored conversations with every prospect and customer in order to form strong relationships and constantly move them toward a sale. But time, money and limited resources prevent such a one-to-one approach. Fortunately, digital tools have helped establish a feasible middle ground where semi-personalized interactions with large numbers of leads are scalable and, when done right, profitable.
The most compelling lead nurturing campaigns start with the human side and end with technology. Too many companies, however, attempt nurturing with the opposite approach – by starting with the platform first. The keys to effective nurturing involve understanding your customer types, focusing your messaging, integrating various channels and reinforcing the right content and offers at the right times. When marketing automation tools are used to deploy programs designed with an empathetic approach, the combination can greatly increase the connections with your prospects and clients and result in a steady stream of closed business over the long-haul.
Segments: People First
Each prospective and current customer is a person with unique attributes and motivations. The more you can group people into segments, the better your nurturing strategy will be. Nurturing programs that take into account who the individual recipient is, what they’re most interested in and where they’ve interacted with your company can greatly inform how you market to them and nurture a relationship. While demographic segments are a great start, segmentation that goes deeper into an audience’s needs and actions is even better.
For example, if your company is selling sunglasses, you may identify at least three different persona segments: athletes, parents and the fashion-conscious. For athletes, the associated campaign might communicate the benefits of improved performance, while the parent-oriented messages could highlight scratch-resistant surfaces or protection from sun glare while driving. And for the fashion-conscious, showcasing sunglasses in lifestyle content, describing similar styles on celebrities and using vivid imagery could be the best approach. The important takeaway is that effective nurturing avoids one-size-fits-all messages and instead speaks more intimately to recipients according to their segment.
In addition to demographic or persona-oriented segments, a nurture campaign can also tailor messaging according to a prospect’s trackable behavior. Great lead nurturing campaigns are built on a platform that can react to data like the website pages a person visits, how long they viewed a certain page, which emails were opened, and the links they clicked on. These behaviors help you understand your audiences’ true interests and indicate how “hot” they may be. The guidance for a winning relationship building strategy can be found in the behavioral data as well as a company’s ability to understand its key audience personas.
Buying Stage: It’s All About Timing
The old adage “ABC: Always Be Closing” may work in sales, but it’s not a good approach in lead nurturing. How you communicate with your audiences should be a direct reflection of their buying stage. Your messages and content should change and evolve as someone progresses through their buying decision (and your customer funnel). Here are common phases a buyer transitions through and what they typically need from you in the way of information:
- Unaware = Tell me something I don’t know or highlight a latent issue.
- Aware = Help me commit to change; establish the benefits of me taking action.
- Evaluating options = Why is your solution the best; why should I buy from you?
- Justify decision = Show me the value I’m receiving for the price; what’s my ROI? How can I get support from other stakeholders?
Too often companies start (and end) at #3 with series of promotional drip emails that are largely ignored by audiences or lost in all the noise. With a well-planned lead nurturing campaign, you can adapt the message and engagement strategy as your lead progresses through the buying stages and give recipients what they want in the way of information, education, offers, case studies, etc. The more you connect with prospects and customers with a meaningful approach, the more engaged they’ll be and the more likely they are to take the next step toward an eventual purchase.
Scratching the Surface
Highly developed audience segmentation and carefully mapped buying stages are just two elements of effective lead and customer nurturing. Other important aspects of your nurture strategy include the right technology, a well-balanced library of content in a variety of formats, multiple channels to help reinforce your messages plus relevant offers and calls to action that intersects with the point on the journey your prospective buyers are at.
What makes lead nurturing campaigns work well is looking at the strategy not as a simple series of emails, but rather as a dynamic experience for your audiences that spans online and offline activities relevant to their specific stage. When companies align human empathy for their audiences’ motivations and timing with their technology platform, they see engagement grow, brand reputation improve, and sales increase.
About the Author
Joy Milkowski is an avid proponent of empathetic marketing and loves to marry the soft side of marketing with the hard data and innovative technology available today. As founder of Access Marketing Company, a Blytheco marketing partner, she loves to tackle projects with companies that are ready to re-think their marketing using the right tools and a customer-centric approach to their messaging, tactics and content. Connect with Joy on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/joymilkowski or follow her on Twitter @joym.
Article reprinted from the Spring 2016 issue of Bellwether.
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