7 Nurture Programs You Need To Have

Nurture ProgramsDespite the capabilities of modern marketing automation platforms, many B2B marketers still approach nurture with a short term mindset.

Your primary goal is to increase engagement, raise lead scores and pass a more active “lead” to sales as quickly as possible.

The result is often a series of short term “nurture” programs combined with campaign blasts sent sporadically to a huge list of inactive contacts.

Yes, it may be an improvement from when all you had were batch email blasts, but you can and should do so much more today.

The Right Way To Approach Nurture

Nurturing needs to be approached with a long-term view. After all, if someone was ready to talk to sales today, you wouldn’t need to nurture them!

Rather than just focusing on short-term programs that quickly drive engagement (likely from those that were already well into the purchase process), recognize many contacts will not be ready to engage anytime soon, but will become valuable opportunities in the future.

To handle these contacts and the ones you may already be nurturing successfully today, here are seven different types of prospect nurture programs you need to create.

Long-Term Nurture Programs

These programs reach potential prospects that are not in market today and may run for years. Rather than identifying every piece of content and communication that will be sent (which 24 months later may be completely out of date), you will need to define the structure and criteria for your content and communications and continue to update individual touches.

1. Background Nurture
People that have downloaded content, scanned a badge at your booth, or otherwise ended up in your marketing database but are not in the market today need to go into a background nurture program. For some businesses, this may mean six emails a quarter, for others it might only be two. Whatever it is, it will be the slowest cadence of all of your nurture programs and it will likely lean heavily on email.

2. Lost Opportunities
What happens when someone selects a competitor? You begin a fresh nurture program! Over a 6 to 12 month window for many companies, your content must be 100% educational and applicable to companies not using your solutions. If you are selling at this juncture, you will be tuned out and breaking back in will be difficult. When this nurture stream is complete, contacts should be rolled into your background nurture.

Long-term nurture programs allow you to establish awareness and educate tomorrow’s buyers (who may even be with another employer at that time!) outside of high cost advertising campaigns, events or other traditional marketing activities.

For many companies, simply maintaining visibility and increasing mindshare between buying cycles will be more valuable than actively pushing towards a change and the start of a new buying process.

Short-Term Nurture Programs

What happens once someone begins to actively engage with your long-term nurture programs? That’s when all of the short term nurture campaigns you have likely already created kicks in!

Here is a snapshot of the short-term nurture scenarios you will need to accommodate.

3. Welcome Track
Anyone that engages with you for the first time but that you have limited information about should be placed in a welcome track program. This should include a series of follow up communications to that first interaction with a range of content topics, stages and formats, allowing you to collect both implicit and explicit information about likely buying stage and content preferences.

This is a good place to include direct mail as part of nurture for contacts that fit your high value firmagraphic profile.

Contacts that do not engage in your welcome track should be added to your background nurture.

4. Event Followup
Tradeshows, local events, even webcasts often warrant a specific series of followups that build on the topic and content from the event.

Depending on the type of event and information you have on each person, contacts that don’t engage at all may be moved into the active prospect program or put into your background nurture.

5. Active Prospects
Until now, nurture content hasn’t actually been mapped to the buyers’ journey. That’s because you don’t actually know where someone is in the buyers journey from a form or a single interaction! Engagement in long-term, welcome track and event followup programs helps you to identify where a prospect is in their buying process.

However, once prospects are engaged (or you identify a clear pattern of behavior at the prospect company level), contacts should be moved into a nurture stream that specifically maps too and moves through the buyers journey.

Consider moving contacts that have disengaged to your lost opportunity program instead of your background nurture.

6. Sales Triggered
Marketing automation isn’t just for marketing programs. Your sales team can use a nurture program to augment their own contact with a prospect and provide additional educational material around a key topic they have identified.

Without excellent sales and marketing alignment and integration, your sales team likely will not use these programs. However, in the right environment it can significantly improve the prospect experience versus a single email with a series of links or attachments from a salesperson.

7. Warm Up
What happens when a lead passed from marketing isn’t accepted or qualified by sales? To often these contacts fall into a communication black hole!

You need to bring these contacts back into a nurture program that keeps you in front of them and provides the information they need until they are ready to connect with sales. Similar to the welcome track, this nurture program will need to offer an array of content in order to reassess where someone is in their buying process.

In Summary

Take a long-term view and add long-term nurture programs to your current mix in order to meet the needs of contacts that are not in a purchase process today.

Although you will be able to consolidate some of these programs, with multiple communication touches, branching logic and flavors for various audiences and initial touchpoints, this will still look like a lot more than seven different nurture streams in your marketing automation platform!

By covering the requirements for each of these programs, your communications will be appropriate for warm and cold contacts, short-term and long-term purchase horizons and new contacts that you simply don’t have enough information about yet.

Your Turn

When you consider all of the permutations, this list can become overwhelming. Are there components you feel are simply never needed and you would remove? Alternatively, What would you add to this list? Share your view in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: pontman via Flickr cc

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  • Great post, Eric. Could not agree more on the need to tailor your lead nurturing programs to the source of the lead and to have both short and long term programs. The more you personalize your nurturing programs to the specifics of the person, the more effective you will become.

    Thanks for sharing it, Eric.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor

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  • Carlos Hidalgo

    I believe there is a danger in looking at the nurture programs in a silo approach as stated above. One of the reasons the majority of organizations struggle with nurturing is there is no continuity. Nurture needs to be used within the context of a greater Demand Generation program, not as a separate activity all together.

    If you look at the macro stages of a buying process, a buyer engages, then enters nurture (after being engaged) and then moves on to the conversion stages. It is not about what “type” of nurture program, but rather where the buyer is in their purchase path.

    Would also add that there is a fundamental difference between true nurture – buyer behavior driven and “drip” which is time based.

    Organizations that truly want to succeed need to be sure that the develop an end-to-end demand generation strategy that has nurturing as a key component.

    • Carlos, I would agree. The intent wasn’t to put nurture into its own silo, but to consider some of the realities that are often missed.

      Too often, I am dropped into a nurture program that assumes I am in an active buying process. Because I did one thing, a marketer has assumed they know about my process. In reality, they don’t. I wanted to specifically cover scenarios where stages aren’t known yet, and nurture is an opportunity to educate and learn more about someone’s needs.

      The other common problem I see is seeing nurture as a buying stage driven communications only. We should be nurturing opportunities that aren’t in market yet, as well as active buyers. Instead of just looking at this as a traditional drip program, when we bucket it into nurture marketers will take advantage of the opportunity to trigger, to tailor to communication preferences, in short, to be smarter about the right content for the recipient, even in these longer term drip programs.

      I agree, we need and end-to-end view. These are areas I keep seeing marketers miss in that view.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and add to the discussion here, I appreciate it!

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  • Kim Hayes

    I love this article! Some time ago I was bombarded by heavy sales after I made an inquiry with a company – the sales team was very aggressive for about three months and then -poof!- Now, a year later, I want a quote and guess what – I don’t remember their name. If they had kept me in a nurture program (and frankly, also in a less aggressive short-term sales program bc I hate hard sells) I would be a customer instead of doing a google search and likely ending up with a competitor. Too bad they didn’t read your post!