As we first wrote in this space several years ago, we are seeing a lot of our clients getting more sophisticated with lead nurturing. Most of our clients have shifted away from a primary focus on batch and blast outbound emails and have started filling the top of the funnel through inbound engagement and driving conversion with lead nurturing. It’s a major milestone in the journey to transform into a Revenue Marketing organization.
We are now seeing organizations get even more sophisticated in using integrated multichannel nurturing to drive results. Where email used to be the singular nurture channel for most, more marketers are integrating their nurture efforts across paid social, search, display ads, and even Revenue Acceleration Platforms like Drift and Intelligence Content Platforms like PathFactory.
For those of you who are not quite there with your multichannel nurture execution, you might be struggling with how to progress to the next stage.The 3 x 3 x 3 rule is a simple but effective framework we use to help clients consider how to expand their lead nurturing efforts.
The first 3: Who to target with lead nurturing?
There are three key questions to ask yourself to determine which target audience(s) to start nurturing. This could be for personas, industries, geographies, or other ways that you segment your ideal client profile (ICP).
- The money trail – where will we get the best pipeline and revenue lift? This one should be pretty easy to answer. The great part about this question is that it should involve a conversation with your sales peers. Ensure that you are aligned with them on your target(s).
- Data – so we think that the CFO in Financial Services companies is where we should get the most lift. But how many CFOs in Financial Services companies do we have in our database? How many are entering the top of the funnel? Is there enough critical mass to warrant putting our nurturing efforts into this audience? You should consider using Intent data from platforms like 6sense to accelerate your funnel performance.
- Content – okay, we have enough CFOs in Financial Services in the database and entering the top of the funnel. Two check-marks – good! But do we have enough relevant content to actually nurture them? Content is the oxygen in a lead nurture program. If you don’t have enough, can you buy it, build it, or curate it fast? Or should you decide on another audience that you can support right away and the potential lift is still acceptable?
The second 3: Which type of lead nurturing program should we run?
The second part of the equation is which type of nurture program will give us the most lift?
- Lead Nurturing – this is your classic nurture program, and it’s where most organizations start. It involves nurturing early stage leads through to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) stage or beyond. Nurtured leads can produce a ten percent or higher lift in sales opportunities.
- Recycle nurturing – less than ten percent of B2B marketing leads are sales-ready today, yet as much as 80 percent buy within two years. If you aren’t continuing to nurture them during these two years, which one of your competitors is?
- Customer nurturing – I think of this as the forgotten nurture stream. On the whole, most of us marketers are focused on customer acquisition. There is gold to be mined from driving education, cross-sell, and up-sell nurture communication to existing customers. The key – relevance. Don’t waste your time if you are going to send undifferentiated communication across your customer base.
The final 3: which channel should we use?
The right answer is all three of the following. You want to be driving targeted, relevant nurture messages to your prospects and customers in all their digital touchpoints.
- Email – this is the obvious channel that most marketers are using today. They are driving lead nurturing efforts out to early stage prospects using the email capabilities in Marketo or other marketing automation platforms. The key here is to use the nurture functionality in your platform, such as Marketo’s Engagement Engine, to drive ongoing emails that are contextual to the stage in the buyer journey, reading fields such as lead score, lead status and opportunity stage to progress the messages and content prospects are sent.
- Your website – your website should be used to deliver targeted messages to distinct personas, tied to their buyer journey stage. But how? There are three core types of technologies that we recommend to clients here. The first is by using an Intelligent Content Platform like PathFactory to serve up contextual, relevant content to active visitors, enabling them to binge educate themselves. The second is by ensuring your web chat is a true Revenue Acceleration Platform and not a Walmart greeter. Drift’s pre-built connector to Marketo enables you to easily leverage behavioral, demographic, firmographic, and opportunity information to drive hyper-targeted conversations with your prospects on your website. And the third is using the real-time personalization capabilities found in a solution like Salesforce’s Interaction Studio or Marketo. These technologies read the known lead information (such as lead score and opportunity stage) in your marketing automation platform to serve up content tuned to who they are and what buying stage they are in.
- Paid media – similar to #2, the integration of AdTech applications such as AdRoll and marketing automation enables you to deliver targeted nurture messages in paid social (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), paid search (Google Search and Display networks) and display ads..
But how often should I engage my audience?
A final question our clients ask us often is about frequency. How often should I email my prospects? Most worry that they are sending too much. Interestingly, the data analysis we do for clients often reveals two patterns. There is a subset of their database who are not at all engaged with their brand. Even one communication per month is too often for these people. They should be recycled or purged. The second pattern is that for those who are engaged, active prospects or brand advocates, they want a lot of communication. Our data reveals that even sending 10 or more emails per month to these individuals is not too much. Their engagement only increases the more you send to them (as long as your content is relevant and valuable).
One of the core reasons is that for people who are in an active buying process, they binge educate themselves to learn as much as they can about your products or services as quickly as possible.
The following tables provide rough guidelines for nurturing prospects by stage in the client lifecycle. As always, you should test and measure carefully to find the frequency that’s right for you. Our Data Science team is happy to help you here.
|Lifecycle Stage||Recommended Email Frequency||Other Recommended Channels|
|Active Buying Stage – Top of Funnel||3 times per week – people “binge” educate in an active buying process.||Web personalization, Retargeting, Social Connectors, PathFactory, Drift.|
|Active Buying Stage – Middle of Funnel||2 times per week – continue with highly targeted lead nurturing NOT broadcast emails||Sales, Web personalization, Retargeting, Social Connectors, PathFactory, Drift.|
|Active Buying Stage – Bottom of Funnel||Rep-driven communication, using Marketo Sales Insight. Frequency as needed.||Web personalization, Retargeting.|
|Recycle Leads (leads/contacts that were interested but did not buy)||1X month. When interest is triggered, initiate TOFU or MOFU nurture depending on interest.||Web Personalization. Retargeting, PathFactory, Drift.|
|Lifecycle Stage||Recommended Email Frequency||Other Recommended Channels|
|Customer Onboarding||Onboarding insights that match the intensity of the onboarding process. Consider 2X week.||Web personalization.|
|Customer Education||1X per week – targeted and relevant based on persona insights.||Web personalization. PathFactory.|
|Customer Cross-Sell/Up-sell||Broadcast emails (no more than 1X per month) & inbound engagement initiate. When triggered, treat like a MOFU nurture program (2X/week)||Web personalization, Retargeting.|
|Customer Advocacy||1-2X/month – mix of gives, asks, and fun.||Web personalization. Advocate Marketing platform (e.g., Influitive)|
So there you have it. A simple 3 x 3 x 3 guide to consider as you look to expand your nurture efforts in 2021 and beyond.