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Lead Nurturing is Coming of Age: But Where to Start?

Posted by Trish Bertuzzi on Wed, Dec 01, 2010

This is a guest post by Henry Bruce, the founder of Rock Annand Group, a client acquisition strategy consulting firm focused on the B2B software industry. 


Since 3 out of 4 new leads generated end up buying at some point in the next 18-24 months (according to MarketingSherpa), lead nurturing is no longer a wish-list program, but a competitive necessity. But for most B2B marketers, figuring where to start is always a daunting task.

To make matters worse, many approaches tend to over-complicate things. Marketers develop complex multi-touch campaigns that overwhelm their opt-in audience with too many communications and too many messages. Buyers become not only confused but suffer from subscriber fatigue.

So where do you start with a simple formulaic lead nurturing strategy?

To keep it simple, break down the problem you solve into 3-4 themes that relate to specific buyers. This thematic approach becomes the basis for the campaigns you will drive into your target audiences over a 9-12 month period.

Each quarter focus on one theme.
Why multiple themes? Because your target buyers each have their hot-buttons that draw them into a particular business problem. One buyer may be interested in Story A while another might be interested in Story B and it is all about delivering the right message to the right buyer at the right time.

The formula to developing great content lies in having a variety of media tactics to deliver the primary message of the theme.
For example, take one really good white paper (from a reputable 3rd party) then develop a webinar on the white paper topic and have a client participate in the webinar (be sure to record so you can repeat and use in subsequent campaign waves). Also, develop one or more case studies, again focusing on that theme that can be dispersed via different mediums.

The key to success lies in consistency so you then spend the entire quarter with bi-monthly outbound campaigns that highlight the theme each with a different deliverable;
first the white paper, then the webinar, then the case study, with links each time to other content on that topic. We then repeat this process for at least two more quarters with various themes. You can listen to this podcast to hear more about this thought leadership approach and the results it drives.

This process is not as overwhelming as it sounds. If you follow Brian Carroll and Ardath Albee's approach to repackaging and re-purposing content, you will find that you already have most of the content you need to work with. The trick is how to package (or re-purpose) correctly to feed it to your target audience thematically and on a regular basis.

REMEMBER - it takes 7 to 9 proactive communications to get your buyer to opt-in and read the message or theme you are trying to deliver. Once they do that, your other complimentary content will have more appeal and increase the likelihood of launching the sales process.


Trish here: I love Henry’s process of simplifying the lead nurturing process into something that is focused and meaningful to your potential buyers. Too often lately we have seen companies purchasing marketing automation systems and using them as spam cannons.

Taking a thought leadership approach to lead nurturing will move the prospect down the qualification path and that is our objective, isn’t it?

What process have you found that works for lead nurturing?

(Photo credit: fauxto_digit)

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this makes perfect sense and I appreciate simplicity in lead nurturing. The Science of Lead Generation by Dan Zarella has shown that creating buy now calls to action (and subsequent nurturing) and introductory calls to action (with different lead nurturing messages) can close business today and build your pipe for the future

posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 9:51 AM by Dan Tyre

Great blog. Nurturing can be different in every industry. We are in the enterprise software business and our prospects are at all levels of an organization. Point three above talks about nurturing by a whitepaper, a webinar then a case study. Great levers to pull, but I will recommend looking at it from higher up. What about Education, then Reference, then Product. It almost acts like a pre-sales funnel. Education will grab a large bunch of prospects, some of which might not be a true target or yours, Reference acts as a 'see here is someone that does or has this type of tool, system, etc'...then product...this product of ours can help you solve your problems. 
Now if we can just get our marketing automation tool to understand this..ha

posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 10:18 AM by Jeff Constable

Henry -  
Terrific post. You're getting at the heart of it with the idea of themes and stories. The key to nurturing is to keep building the story by providing information prospects need across their buying process. By focusing on themes, you'll have ties from one content asset to the next that extend attention, rather than one-off shots from the cannon. 
(Trish - I laughed out loud at spam cannon!) 
The other thing to consider is that, as part of your theme, shorter articles, blog posts, videos, worksheets, etc. can also be incorporated. It doesn't all have to be high-production content like white papers, webinars and case studies.  
The focus on themes that matter to your prospects is really the important part. Plus, it consolidates research and development time. 
Just a few thoughts. Henry - thanks for the mention! 

posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 10:36 AM by Ardath Albee

@Dan Tyre, John Constable and Ardath, 
Thank you all for your comments and feedback. Simplicity IS the key here with lead nurturing.  
A few more anecdotes to share. I came up with this formula over 5 years ago back when I first started working with Vtrenz (Silverpop). I cover this in the referenced podcast in the blog post, but the client was small (<$5mm) and sold logistics SW. At the time, they had 5 themes they had developed that they backed with 5 high production white papers. We kicked off the quarterly campaigns (one for each theme) with one outbound email per month (whitepaper promo, followed by webcast followed by newsletter promos).  
After 3 quarters that were very successful, they realized 5 themes was too much for their audience to consume and that 3 was a better number. Their investment in original content went down, lead quality AND quantity went up significantly. Once their permission-based house list topped 10K (took less than 10 months), they no longer needed expensive 3rd party sponsorships (eg Aberdeen, ARC) to drive readership.  
Ardath, your suggestions would only add to the ROI of the program. Thanks again. 

posted @ Wednesday, December 01, 2010 2:26 PM by Henry Bruce

Hooray! It is clear that this crowd actually is thinking about what to say, how to say it, and when. 
We and our clients also overtly ask prospects for their communication prferences: "Mr/Ms Prospect, how would you like us to stay in touch? When? What sorts of content? In which media?" Works much better than random acts of e-mail. 

posted @ Thursday, December 02, 2010 7:49 AM by Michael A Brown

Great piece - I hear people talk about thought leadership, lead generation, 80/20 rule, content strategy, social media strategy etc in silos ... keep it simple forget all the confusing jargon and strategies, test & execute, as an old boss (you know him Trish) thought me "rinse, lather, repeat" that goes for marketing & the content as much as the product you want customers to buy.

posted @ Thursday, December 02, 2010 10:34 AM by Shane Lennon

Thanks Prugh for your comment. Understand that my point about multi-touch was not that it does not work. I find that many companies attempt to execute multi-touch auto-campaigns without first getting the basics in place and seeing what content and delivery tactic works. I feel you need to ease into lead nurturing because it is more of social media tactic than an outbound campaign tactic. BY that i mean, you are trying to establish a relationship FIRST before you try to sell them. B2B marketers need to listen and learn from their lead nurturing campaign processes and their audience's behavioral responses.  
We need to remember that these prospects are NOT sales-ready and can be easily scared off from developing that relationship until they feel some level of trust.  
I find that the campaigns you describe and most lead scoring models try to do too much too soon. I have yet to see a company implement marketing automation and turn on multi-touch lead nurturing and lead scoring int he 1st few months and see the results we all know are there to be had. 
I hope that helps clarify things. 
Thanks again, 

posted @ Friday, December 03, 2010 9:40 AM by Henry Bruce

Thank you Michael and Shane for your comments.

posted @ Friday, December 03, 2010 9:42 AM by Henry Bruce

Hi Henry, 
Thanks for your feedback and clarification. I agree that many organizations try to do too much too soon with multi-touch campaigns – and with lead scoring as well, for that matter – often stringing together a group of one-off emails as if combining them in a series will be a true multi-touch campaign. 
I do feel, however, that lead nurturing and multi-touch campaigns aren’t as complicated as they may appear to be. The real issue is having a lead nurturing methodology in place within which lead nurturing, multi-touch campaigns, and lead scoring will be executed. Without such a framework, all of these activities become very complex because there’s no rationale for how they should interconnect and interrelate. 
We haven’t done it with lead scoring – largely because our clients haven’t been interested – but we have, in fact, turned on MA and multi-touch lead nurturing campaigns and produced great results within the first few months for each of our clients. I attribute this to the strong methodology that drives the process and the campaign building. A major added benefit is that the approach builds in testing of offers and delivery tactics so we can communicate with leads and sort out the best ways to reach them at the same time. 
I was also intrigued by your distinction between social media and outbound campaign tactics. I completely agree that successful lead nurturing depends on building individualized relationships with each lead, but I’m not sure that disqualifies it as an outbound campaign tactic. Perhaps my perspective is skewed because we concentrate on B2B, but relationship-building has always been an integral – and successful – part of our outbound campaigns regardless of whether they’ve been social-, web-, email-, or direct mail based. 
Sounds like we should have a panel to talk about lead nurturing “from both sides now…” 
Thanks again. 

posted @ Friday, December 03, 2010 11:06 AM by Prugh Roeser

Henry and Trish, 
Very well done and to the point. Thanks for the great content. I love the cannon comment. I see that approach with both calls and e-mail campaigns. I think sometimes marketers and salespeople find it easier to talk a lot and send a lot vs. think a little then act. A little thinking goes a long way. Thanks – keep up the great content.  

posted @ Monday, December 06, 2010 9:13 AM by Ken Murray

Henry (and all) 
Something old and something new... something borrowed - wow, this post is like a wedding!  
I like the concept of being focused and meaningful to your potential buyers - This is a perennial marketing tenet.  
I also like the idea of a series of simple themes that reach into different areas of concern for the target market. Too often I've seen marketing that has looks like "man with a hammer" syndrome; originating from internal value prop rather than starting from the client's bag of problems. 
Good form! 
Don F Perkins

posted @ Thursday, December 09, 2010 10:44 AM by Don F Perkins

@Ken Murray and Don Perkins 
Thanks so much for your comments 

posted @ Thursday, December 09, 2010 12:14 PM by Henry Bruce

This is a great post. Could not agree more on focusing on a single theme and mixing content. Making it simple reduces receiver fatigue and confusion. Thanks for sharing it. 
Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor 
Find New Customers

posted @ Monday, January 03, 2011 8:56 PM by Jeff Ogden

Thanks Jeff for the comment. I like the idea of "reducing receiver fatigue". I am in the process of unsubscribing from a plethora (like that word?) of automated emails I keep receiving mostly from consumer-oriented sellers. All due to fatigue on my end and the sellers' incessant pounding me with emails. Seems to be a B2C thing, but I notice some B2B marketers copying the tactic, much to my dismay ... and their reputation. 
Happy New Year all. 

posted @ Tuesday, January 04, 2011 11:35 AM by Henry Bruce

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